President Joe Biden’s administration will use a NATO defense gathering this week to begin what is expected to be a years-long effort to rebuild trust with European allies shaken by Donald Trump’s “America First” foreign policy.
U.S. officials, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity ahead of the event, said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin would emphasize U.S. commitment and appreciation for the trans-Atlantic alliance after Trump’s open hostility.
The NATO defense ministers’ meeting, to be held virtually on Feb. 17-18, is the first major European event since Biden’s swearing-in on Jan. 20. Biden will deliver remarks at a virtual gathering of the Munich security forum on Feb. 19.
After years of Trump’s public ridiculing of NATO allies such as Germany who failed to reach defense spending targets, Biden’s Pentagon will, without abandoning those targets, focus on progress made toward bolstering NATO’s collective defense, officials said.
“Trust is something that can’t be built overnight, is something that takes time. It takes more than words. It takes action,” said a U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the administration’s objectives for the NATO meeting.