Blinken set to return to Brussels for more Nato meetings

Published Sat, Apr 10, 2021 · 08:28 AM

[WASHINGTON] Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to return to Brussels next week for more meetings with Nato officials, according to three people familiar with the matter, as the US grows increasingly concerned about Russian troop movements near Ukraine.

The meetings will take up most of the week, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing plans that haven't been made public. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will be in Brussels at the same time, for a meeting with Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Mr Blinken traveled to Brussels in late March on his first trip to Europe after being confirmed by the US Senate. That visit was intended to assure allies that President Donald Trump's "America First" era was over and the US was fully committed to Nato.

Trump often criticised the alliance and complained that European countries were not paying enough for their defense. The State Department declined to comment.

Earlier this week, Russia announced the beginning of mass military drills, heightening concerns about the risk of new clashes along the country's border with Ukraine that could lead to a broader conflict. Some 13,000 people have died in seven years of combat.

Ukraine is just one of the many foreign policy challenges facing President Joe Biden and his administration. China's latest threats against Taiwan have generated widespread concern.

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The US also faces a May 1 deadline to withdraw troops from Afghanistan under a deal the Trump administration made with the Taliban, though Biden has made clear he won't meet that timeframe.

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