Joe Biden to reinvigorate 'sacred' Nato after divisive Donald Trump era

Decision on Nato force levels in Afghanistan will be an early challenge for the alliance

U.S. President Joe Biden salutes as he boards Air Force One en route to the White House after a trip to Camp David, in Hagerstown, Maryland, U.S., February 15, 2021. REUTERS/Erin Scott
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US President Joe Biden's administration will use a virtual Nato defense gathering this week as a starting point toward rebuilding trust with European allies shaken by Donald Trump's "America First" foreign policy.

US officials who asked to remain anonymous said Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin would emphasise Washington's commitment to the trans-Atlantic treaty after Mr Trump's open hostility.

Mr Biden's Republican predecessor publicly ridiculed Nato allies such as Germany, who failed to reach defense spending targets.

Mr Trump said in 2018 that "Nato was not doing what they were supposed to be doing".

Officials said Mr Biden will not abandon those targets, but will focus on bolstering Nato's collective defense.

Underscoring Mr Biden's views on Nato, the White House took the rare step of releasing a video last month of the US president's first conversation with Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in which he used the word "sacred" to describe the America's commitment to the treaty.

The Nato defence ministers meeting comes as efforts to secure a peace deal in Afghanistan teeter amid rising Taliban attacks.

Nato chief Stoltenberg said on Monday that Taliban militants must do more to meet the terms of a 2020 peace agreement with the US if foreign troops are to withdraw by a May deadline.

"The Taliban must reduce violence, negotiate in good faith and live up to their commitment to stop co-operating with international terrorist groups," he said.

"While no ally wants to stay in Afghanistan longer than necessary, we will not leave before the time is right."