US President Joe Biden reaffirmed US commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, setting the stage for renewed transatlantic ties after his predecessor Donald Trump accused European members of not paying enough for the Western defence alliance.
Biden spoke by phone on Tuesday with Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to convey that Washington intended to work with Nato allies on shared security concerns such as in Afghanistan, Iraq and Russia. Biden said the United States was committed to collective defence under the North Atlantic Treaty and “underscored his commitment to strengthening transatlantic security”, the White House said in a statement.
Stoltenberg, who has invited Biden to Brussels for a Nato summit on an unconfirmed date this year, said the two had stressed the need to “maintain the momentum for increased defence spending to keep our nations safe in an unpredictable world”, according to a Nato statement. The Nato readout said the two also addressed “the implications for our security of the rise of China”, a matter which was not mentioned in the White House statement.
Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.
Biden has conducted a series of phone calls with close US partners since his inauguration last Wednesday, including with the leaders of Canada, Britain, France and Germany, in a bid to repair relationships that were strained under the “America first” approach of the Trump administration.
But observers have warned that it will be difficult for Biden’s administration to reassure US allies, with lingering concerns that Washington’s security priorities might change yet again the next time a new president assumes office.
During his presidency, Trump repeatedly accused Nato allies, including Germany, of not “paying their fair share”, and threatened to withdraw the US from the alliance. His administration took actions that ran counter to Nato positions, including the withdrawal of the US from the Treaty on Open Skies – a decades-old pact allowing unarmed surveillance flights over other member countries – and cutting the number of US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq at the end of his term.
Last year, Trump also announced he would pull back 12,000 American troops from Germany – where the US has maintained a significant security presence since 1945 – although the move has since been halted by bipartisan lawmakers.
Also on Tuesday, US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin spoke with his Australian counterpart Linda Reynolds to reaffirm the “enduring strength” of the alliance between the US and Australia and the importance of “maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific founded on existing international law and norms in a region free of malign behaviour”, the US Department of Defence said in a statement.
Reynolds said in a statement that the two had stressed that the Indo-Pacific was a key focus for their alliance to ensure the region was “secure, prosperous, inclusive and rules-based”.
Neither statement named China directly, but the reference to a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific by both the US and Australia was a clear nod to Beijing’s growing influence in the region, including through its belt and road development initiative and in its more aggressive approach to vast claims in the resource-rich South China Sea.
More from South China Morning Post: