European officials praised America’s new defence chief Lloyd Austin after he addressed senior Nato figures for the first time since US President Joe Biden took office.
Mr Austin was applauded for his country’s new approach to Nato after four years of unpredictable behaviour from previous US president Donald Trump, who frequently harangued the alliance and accused member states of a lack of military spending.
The US defence secretary said that Mr Biden’s administration was keen to “revitalise our relationship with the alliance” and protect member states’ citizens.
Florence Parly, the French Minister of the Armed Forces, spoke positively about Mr Austin’s contribution to the first day of talks between Nato’s defence ministers.
“Very constructive discussions. We share the same ambition of a revitalisation of the alliance. France will play its full part in this collective work of strategic reflection between allies,” she said.
Such positivity was a far cry from 2019 when French President Emmanuel Macron said that Nato was experiencing “brain death” and that the alliance could no longer rely on the US.
Pascal Heyman, Belgium’s Permanent Representative to Nato, said the highlight of the meeting was Mr Austin’s pledge “to turn a new page” and “revitalise alliances”.
Mr Austin reaffirmed US support of the principle of collective defence, the idea that if one Nato member is attacked it is considered an attack against all allies.
Mr Austin is a retired US Army general and held senior military positions in Iraq.