NATO has met for the first time since the new US administration led by President Biden took office. New US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin first attended this video meeting.
Outgoing Dutch Defense Minister Bijleveld said after the meeting that Austin was adopting “a constructive and calm tone”, quotes the ANP news agency.
The American stressed the importance of unity in the alliance and the engagement of the United States, Bijleveld said. Austin adopted a more positive tone than the previous US administration, according to the minister.
“It is also very positive that President Biden has given guarantees on Article 5 of the NATO treaty,” Bijleveld said. This article specifies that an attack against a Member State is considered as an attack against all Member States.
Americans remain behind NATO’s standard that all member states spend 2% of their gross domestic product on defense, something Trump has hammered on several times during his presidency. So Trump announced part of the US military outside Germany because Berlin did not respect the defense budget.
Bijleveld said Austin was speaking on behalf of President Biden. “In the previous situation it was sometimes different and a lot more difficult. Then we saw tweets that didn’t always match what we heard.” Trump has also criticized his NATO allies on several occasions during his presidency. He would too have considered to get the United States out of NATO.
Bijleveld has not yet spoken personally with his American colleague. “He always does his rounds,” she said. During the first videoconference, he came out as a “calm and balanced man”. “He’s a former soldier and he has a lot of knowledge.”
Defense ministers will meet again tomorrow. Then, among other things, it will be a question of withdrawing from Afghanistan.