Pentagon says Lloyd Austin will signal that after four years the alliance will find a responsive partner in the Biden administration
WASHINGTON – U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will meet Wednesday with members of the world’s most powerful military alliance for the first time since Joe Biden joined the administration.
At the two-day meeting, ministers from 30 NATO nations will discuss a range of issues facing the bloc.
The virtual meeting comes shortly after President Biden’s call to stand “shoulder-to-shoulder” with America’s closest allies and will provide more insight into the new American leader’s foreign policy agenda.
“America cannot afford to remain absent from the world stage,” Biden said, speaking at the State Department.
Biden’s message was in stark contrast to his predecessor’s “America First” policy, which sometimes seemed to irritate NATO members.
“I think the alliance is strong and unified, and everybody knows that the U.S. plays a very important role in NATO,” former U.S. representative to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison told CNBC.
Many of the issues concerning China that the Biden administration is trying to address are also in the general interest of the NATO alliance, she said.
“We’ve really paid a lot more attention to China in the last two years,” Hutchison said. – China has really come under the radar of NATO.”
Biden also said the U.S. would change its approach with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I made it clear to President Putin, in a very different manner from my predecessor, that the days are over when the United States was not resisting Russia’s aggressive actions, interference in our elections, cyberattacks, poisoning its citizens,” Biden said earlier this month.
“Our relationship with Russia will become more effective when we work in the same coalition and coordination with other like-minded people,” he added.
The White House is currently examining other Russian actions, including the hacking attack on SolarWinds, reports of Russian payments for killing U.S. soldiers and potential election interference.
“There’s never been a break in NATO policy toward Russia,” Hutchison told CNBC when asked about the alliance’s approach. – “I don’t think the course will change because I believe we have been tough on Russia.
Hutchison noted that shortly after Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was poisoned, NATO condemned Moscow’s actions.
“Our allies voted unanimously to condemn Russia in the Navalny situation when it became clear that Russia had poisoned him,” Hutchison said.
A high-ranking Defense Department official told reporters on the eve of the meeting that “it is very clear that Russia is a threat to all NATO members, including the United States.”
“Russia is undermining transparency and predictability,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. – They are using military force to achieve their goals. They support groups under their control and sow chaos and doubt, undermining the rules-based international order.”
The official said the U.S. “will work with Russia to advance its interests while holding it accountable for its reckless and aggressive actions.”
“We want to discuss this with our allies this week,” the official said.