NATO affirms unity, tries to put Trump era behind it

BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO foreign ministers on Tuesday reaffirmed their commitment to defend each other against outside attack and underlined the strength of relations between North America and Europe, after four years of doubt and concern among some allies under the administration of former United States (US) president Donald Trump.

“We are now opening a new chapter in our trans-Atlantic relationship,” NATO-Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters after chairing the talks. He thanked US President Joe Biden for committing “to rebuild the strength of this alliance” and make it “future-proof in a more competitive world”.

In a formal joint statement aimed at turning a page on the Trump era, the ministers said: “We are meeting in Brussels to reaffirm the enduring transatlantic bond between Europe and North America, with NATO at its heart.” The ministers, including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, also committed to the collective defence clause — Article 5 of NATO’s founding treaty — under which an attack against one ally shall be considered an attack against them all.

It has only been activated once by NATO, after the 9/11 attacks on New York
and Washington. As US president, Donald Trump often criticised NATO partners for failing to pay their defense dues, claiming falsely that they owed the alliance or the US money.

Early in his tenure, he threatened not to come to the defense of any country that did not meet NATO spending guidelines, causing deep concern among member nations close to Russia’s borders, like Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

NATO foreign ministers wear protective masks as they pose for a socially distanced group photo. PHOTO: AP