U.S. Defense Chief Reassures Allies, Seeks More Spending in NATO Debut

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U.S. Defense Chief Reassures Allies, Seeks More Spending in NATO Debut

The Biden administration kicked off a round of high-level diplomacy with its European allies at a NATO meeting where it sought to soothe allies bruised by former President Donald Trump’s criticism and snap decision-making.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, in his first meetings with counterparts at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on Wednesday and Thursday, reaffirmed President Biden’s aim to revitalize ties and commitment to its mutual-defense pact, while urging allies to meet defense-spending targets, U.S. officials said.

Mr. Biden will on Friday speak via video link at the Munich Security Conference alongside European leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He will also meet virtually with leaders of the Group of Seven wealthy democracies to discuss the coronavirus pandemic, the global economy and dealing with China.

“We have a unique opportunity to open a new chapter in relations between Europe and North America,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday.

Mr. Biden took office last month saying he wants to rebuild U.S. alliances, starting with NATO. Mr. Trump launched frequent broadsides against other members, particularly Germany, for not meeting the alliance’s target of spending 2% of gross domestic product on defense.

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