New SecDef Lloyd Austin's First Foreign Leader Call Went to NATO Chief

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Richard Sisk
·2 min read
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New Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's first overseas phone call after taking charge at the Pentagon went to the head of NATO -- a sign of the Biden administration's intention to repair and strengthen the trans-Atlantic alliance.

Austin, a retired Army general, made the phone call to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg shortly after arriving at the Pentagon at noon Friday following his confirmation by the Senate, according to a Defense Department readout of the call.

"The two leaders discussed the importance of our shared values, the current security environment including maintaining a strong NATO deterrence and defense posture, and the ongoing missions in Afghanistan and Iraq," the DoD readout said.

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Stoltenberg and European Union President Charles Michel were among the first foreign leaders to make congratulatory phone calls to then President-elect Joe Biden after the November election.

In the calls, Stoltenberg noted that Biden was a "long-time supporter of NATO," according to a NATO statement at the time. Michel "proposed to rebuild" relations with Europe, according to his office.

Shortly after Biden took the oath of office Wednesday, Stoltenberg sent a congratulatory message stating that Biden's inauguration marked "the start of a new chapter for the trans-Atlantic alliance." That alliance was tested by President Donald Trump's frequent demands that NATO members spend more on defense and his July announcement that 12,000 U.S. troops would be withdrawn from Germany.

Stoltenberg also made clear that the 30-member alliance was ready to support the policy goals Biden outlined during the campaign.

"NATO allies need to stand together to address the security consequences of the rise of China, the threat of terrorism, including in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a more assertive Russia," Stoltenberg said.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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