The Dallas Morning News

Pentagon chief starts inaugural tour of Europe

Trip will seek to shore up old partnershi­ps important to U.S.

- By ROBERT BURNS

BERLIN — Nearly a year after President Donald Trump ordered thousands of troops to leave Germany, capping a series of setbacks for U.S. relations with major allies, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Monday began an inaugural tour of Europe to shore up partnershi­ps that are a cornerston­e of the postworld War II order.

Austin arrived in Berlin against the backdrop of a newly emerging crisis with Iran, which on Monday blamed Israel for a recent attack on its undergroun­d Natanz nuclear facility. Israel has not confirmed or denied involvemen­t.

Also at stake in Austin’s visit is the future direction of U.S. defense commitment­s in Europe at a time of growing concern about Russian military interventi­on on NATO’S periphery, including a buildup of Russian forces near Ukraine’s border. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was headed to Europe to discuss with U.S. allies the Ukraine situation as well as the administra­tion’s thinking on further withdrawal­s of troops from Afghanista­n.

The United States also seeks European support for its approach to countering China around the world and for efforts to restore an internatio­nal agreement with limits on Iran’s nuclear program.

Austin arrived in the German capital on Monday night and will hold talks Tuesday with senior government officials. He will also visit NATO headquarte­rs later this week in Belgium and meet with British defense officials in London. He began his trip Sunday in Israel, where he underscore­d U.S. defense support in meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

Austin, a former fourstar Army general whose overseas military experience was primarily in Iraq, is likely to assure German officials of intentions by the Biden administra­tion to keep troops in Germany, though the number is subject to discussion.

 ?? Robert Burns/ The Associated Press ?? U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (left) with U.S. Marines laid a wreath during a memorial ceremony in the Hall of Remembranc­e at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem on Monday. He later traveled to Berlin to kick off his first European tour as defense secretary.
Robert Burns/ The Associated Press U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (left) with U.S. Marines laid a wreath during a memorial ceremony in the Hall of Remembranc­e at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem on Monday. He later traveled to Berlin to kick off his first European tour as defense secretary.

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