US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Brussels for his first in-person talks with NATO allies on Tuesday after four years of tension under former President Donald Trump.
The State Department said Blinken would focus on concerns about Afghanistan, China, Iran and Russia, climate change, cybersecurity, terrorism and energy security.
“The meetings in Brussels reaffirm America’s commitment to our European allies and partners on our shared agenda,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
Blinken’s trip focuses on the annual spring meeting of NATO foreign ministers, but will also include talks with top Belgian and EU officials.
The Biden administration has placed great emphasis on repairing relations with European allies, strained by Trump’s demands ranging from increased defense spending to trade disputes.
Withdrawal from Afghanistan
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday that “all options remain open” on Afghanistan as Europe waits for Washington to decide on an imminent withdrawal deadline.
Trump reached an agreement with the Taliban to withdraw the troops before May 1.
The current president of the United States, Joe Biden, is reviewing the agreement. He said last week that it would be “difficult” for Washington to meet that deadline.
The comment angered the Taliban, who warned that the United States would be “responsible for the consequences.”
NATO allies have said they are willing to stay longer in Afghanistan, if Washington decides to stay as well.
NATO has been in Afghanistan for nearly 20 years, but has reduced its presence from 130,000 troops to 9,600, including 2,500 Americans, responsible for training Afghan forces.
Russia and China
How to advance Russia-China relations will also be high on the meeting’s agenda.
“NATO has done a good job with its forces in Eastern Europe, blocking the conventional Russian threat,” Jamie Shea, former NATO deputy assistant secretary general, told Euronews.
“But the key question is what do we do with Russia’s activities below the radar screen, electoral interference, cyber attacks?” The United States is talking about a retaliatory cyberattack against Russia, “Shea continued.
China is a “big problem” for NATO, Shea said. “And I think it will take a little longer. Is NATO going to Asia or is it basically dealing with the Chinese challenge within Europe, in particular, for example, 5G networks and investments?”
No concrete decisions expected yet
Shea told Euronews that “concrete decisions were not expected” at Tuesday’s meeting, considering that the Biden administration was still “conducting many foreign policy reviews.”
The talks are intended to lay the groundwork for Joe Biden’s first NATO summit, which may take place in June if the coronavirus situation allows.
“I think it is the NATO summit later this year, particularly in the launch of a new NATO strategic concept, that will decide on the future of the Alliance,” Shea said.
“But it is important to get the discussion going on these very sensitive issues and give NATO adequate time to come up with really strong policies.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism