President Joe Biden arrived at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit for the first time Monday, vowing to reaffirm the US commitment to a military alliance that his predecessor despised.
“I want to make it clear: NATO is critically important for US interests in and of itself. If there weren’t one, we’d have to invent one,” he said shortly after arriving during a meeting with NATO’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg. “I just want all of Europe to know the United States is there.”
During his first international trip as President, Biden hopes to reassert American leadership and strengthen global partnerships at the NATO summit. He arrived in Brussels after several meetings with US allies and the annual Group of Seven summit in Cornwall, England, where one of the main topics was America’s return to the global stage.
Biden is expected to urge western allies to better align themselves against China and Russia, which are his administration’s top foreign policy concerns, just as he did at those meetings.
“I think that there is a growing recognition over the last couple years that we have new challenges, and we have Russia that is not acting in a way that is consistent with what we had hoped, as well as China,” Biden said at the start of the summit.
The summit began with all 30 NATO leaders posing for a family photo in a hall, demonstrating social distance. They were told to take off their masks and stare at the cameras for 15 seconds via an overhead announcement. They were then directed to a futuristic, columnar screen in the room, which displayed a video promoting the alliance and was accompanied by soaring music.
At the end of the video, Biden appeared to say, “Cool.” Before leaving, the leaders were told to put their masks back on.
While at the summit, President Trump will place a greater emphasis on cyber threats than ever before, including allowing NATO members to invoke Article 5 collective defense in the event of a cyber-attack. His national security adviser said on Sunday that a final communiqué would say that in the event of an attack, a member state could request technical or intelligence assistance from other members.
Biden’s meetings this week are aimed at preparing him for a high-profile meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin scheduled for Wednesday. According to the White House, while in Brussels, he’ll meet with leaders of the Baltic states on NATO’s eastern flank to discuss the “threat posed by Russia.”
Biden said on Sunday that the US would reaffirm its commitment to NATO’s collective defense clause and inform allies that Article 5 is a “sacred obligation” for the US. “We don’t see NATO as a protection racket,” Biden told reporters in Cornwall on Sunday, emphasizing the importance of the intergovernmental military alliance between the 30 European and North American nations.
The President continued: “We believe that NATO is vital to our ability to keep American security for the next … remainder of the century.”
The President intends to take a very different approach to NATO than his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, who frequently railed against the organization, questioned its necessity, and claimed the US was contributing far more than its fair share.
According to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, NATO leaders will meet on Monday to discuss future threats and “ensure effective burden sharing.”
According to a press release issued by the White House on Sunday, NATO members will announce a new “strategic concept” at the summit that will guide the alliance’s approach moving forward as the strategic environment changes, including threats from China and Russia. According to the press release, they expect it to be adopted at the NATO summit next year.
“Allied leaders will recommit to (an Obama-era pledge) in its entirety and to providing NATO with cash, capabilities, and contributions of ready forces,” the statement said, highlighting increased defense spending among member states.