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Austin tells NATO allies US re-engaged but warns of Russian threat




“The secretary reaffirmed the president’s message that the United States intends to revitalize our relationship with the alliance,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters about the message Austin conveyed at a NATO virtual ministerial meeting Wednesday. and Thursday.

“Secretary Austin stressed that the most important task of NATO is to protect our population and our territories by presenting a credible deterrent and a strong army,” Kirby added.

Austin went beyond traditional issues by stressing that NATO needs to protect supply chains and technologies from “strategic competitors,” Kirby said. The implication was clear that it was time to worry more about China and especially Russia.

Prior to the meeting Austin used a Washington Post published to underline that the U.S. if back to full NATO support and the traditional U.S. role in defending Europe after President Donald Trump had spent his time in office criticizing the alliance.

“For the Department of Defense, that means deploying a credible force, ready to support the hard work of diplomacy. It also means working closely with our allies and partners to ensure our common interests and “Simplify our common values ​​abroad. Simply put, we can not fulfill our responsibilities alone nor should we try,” Austin wrote.

He is also telling NATO that the US is grateful for increased defense spending commitments by member nations but is not expected to offer commitments on issues such as the future of the US military. presence in Afghanistan, Iraq and Germany, as well as other issues that the Allies want clarity.

“I would not expect specific decisions at this meeting,” a senior defense official familiar with Austin told CNN. Instead, he plans to consult with allies before the US makes final decisions in contrast to Trump’s sole stance.

Warning for Putin

Austin is making it clear that he knows NATO’s main rival – Russia and Vladimir Putin – is not waiting. “Aggressive and coercive behavior by bold strategic rivals like China and Russia strengthens our confidence in collective security,” Austin wrote in his Washington Post article.

“Russia’s very visible threat to all NATO allies, including the United States. Russia erodes transparency and predictability. They are using military force to achieve their goals. They support proxy groups and sow chaos and suspicion, and undermine internationally based order rules, “said a second defense official involved in U.S. preparations for the minister. “So this administration has already made it clear that we will work with Russia to advance our interests while holding them accountable for their reckless and aggressive actions. And so we will look forward to discussing this with our allies. week.”

Austin focuses within the first few days as Pentagon chief

Cyber ​​attacks from Russia continue to top the list of concerns. NATO is now bringing other nations into its closed-door discussions on how to deal with that threat.

Reverse Russian military movements are also causing concern. Moscow is stepping up military activities in northeastern Syria, where the US still has 900 troops. There are concerns that the Russians may not abide by long-agreed procedures to stay away from U.S. areas, some defense officials say.

And the US and Russia are joking about their position and presence in the resource-rich Arctic. By the end of the month the B-1 bombers will begin flying from Norway for the first time off the west coast of Russia. Russia’s Tass news agency reported that two Russian Tu-160 strategic bombers flew over the international waters of the Barents Sea, Greenland and Norway earlier this month.

NATO also reported several air meetings with Russia in recent days. NATO fighter jets from Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey flew in response to several Russian Tu-22 long-range bombers and fighter jets flying near NATO territory over the Black Sea on February 10th. The Russian aircraft flew without transmitting a transponder code and did not indicate their position, altitude or submit a flight plan.

Keeping a large number of US troops in Germany and deeper on NATO’s east flank by lining up troops in Romania, Poland and even Ukraine for exercises and training would send a clear message to oppose Putin. , officials say. Biden has already stopped receiving troops from Germany pending a review, and Ukraine publicly says it will build two new naval bases.

US officials say the approach to the NATO summit was designed to send a clear message to Moscow that the US is back in the limelight and there are more moves to come.

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