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Austin heads to NATO defence ministers' meeting to ‘revitalise' relationships

US President Joe Biden’s administration is heading into its first NATO defence ministers’ meeting with the goal of ‘revitalising’ relationships while also preparing to prod allies to continue increasing their defence spending, according to two senior Department of Defense (DoD) officials.

The pair offered reporters a quick curtain-raiser of the message and tone Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will take this week when he participates in the virtual meeting set to begin on 17 February.

“The secretary intends to assure our allies of the United States commitment to the NATO alliance, and to Article 5, remains iron-clad,” one defence official said on 16 February. “He will reinforce that the United States is committed to consulting on issues that impact allies, including our Global Force Posture Review and the missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Article 5 stipulates that if one NATO ally is the victim of an armed attack, every other member of the alliance will consider this as an act of violence against all members and will take the necessary actions to assist the ally that was attacked. Former US president Donald Trump often chided NATO-member nations on a host of topics and repeatedly prompted questions about the US’s commitment to the defend a fellow member nation.

The Biden administration is now on a metaphorical clean-up duty and attempting to once again have Washington play a larger role on the world stage. Part of this push during the NATO meeting includes Austin detailing plans for a review of the US military’s footprint, resources, strategy, and missions around the globe. Afghanistan is also on the agenda, including the pending US decision of whether it will honour a deal with the Taliban to pull all troops out of the country by 1 May if certain benchmarks are met.

Lloyd Austin, the new US Defense Secretary, appears before the Senate Armed Service Committee on 19 January for his confirmation hearing. Austin is to attend his first NATO defence ministers’ meeting in his current role and is set to try to rebuild relationships. (DoD)

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