The Dallas Morning News
Pentagon chief starts inaugural tour of Europe
Trip will seek to shore up old partnerships important to U.S.
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.