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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, on Wednesday. Photo: Michael Reynolds/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin signaled a new era of cooperation during a NATO meeting Wednesday while warning of the threat from "strategic competitors," per a news conference with Pentagon press secretary John Kirby.

Why it matters: Austin's first meeting with NATO defense ministers marks a clear shift from the previous administration. Relations with European allies became so strained under former President Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron referred to NATO as "brain dead."

  • It's clear from the message that NATO leaders should become more concerned about the threat posed by not only China, but also Russia, which enjoyed friendlier relations under Trump, per CNN.

What they're saying: Austin reaffirmed President Biden's message that the U.S. "intends to revitalize our relationship with the alliance," Kirby said.

  • "Secretary Austin emphasized that NATO's most important task is protecting our populations and territories by presenting credible deterrence and a strong military."

The big picture: In the first of the two-day virtual meeting, the defense chiefs examined proposals including strengthening allied commitment to deterrence and defense by providing incentives to contribute more capabilities and ensure fairer burden sharing, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels, per a statement.

Go deeper

Updated Mar 24, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden Cabinet tracker: Which nominees have been confirmed

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on Jan. 16 in Wilmington, Delaware. Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

All of President Biden's Cabinet nominees have now been confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

The big picture: Biden now has known, trusted people around him, many from the Obama administration, to help implement his policies and turn away from the tumultuous Trump years.

2 hours ago - Health

Axios AM Deep Dive: Covid forever

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

It was 563 days ago that the WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic. This Axios AM Deep Dive, led by healthcare reporter Caitlin Owens, looks at our Covid future.

Federal judge blocks vaccine mandate for NYC teachers

Students are dismissed from the first day of school at PS 133 in Brooklyn on Sept. 13. Photo: Michael Nagle/Xinhua via Getty Images

A federal appeals court judge on Friday temporarily blocked New York City schools from enforcing a vaccine mandate for school employees, days before it was set to take effect, AP reports.

Driving the news: The vaccine mandate was set to begin on Monday, prompting concerns over staffing shortages in schools across the nation's largest school system.