NATO begins the post-Trump era

Stoltenberg welcomes Biden now that relations with Russia are at their 'lowest' point since the Cold War

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U.S. President Joe Biden with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

BrusselsPolice and helicopters have been circling the Belgian capital of the European institutions since Sunday afternoon, in line with the media expectation of the arrival of US President Joe Biden. It is a protocol to which this small European city is accustomed, but which Covid had interrupted. So, just as Brussels has experienced a return to normality these days in the form of streets cut off and uniforms on the various corners of the European quarter and around the American embassy, NATO and the European Union are also celebrating the "reunion" with the United States. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said as he arrived at the summit: "I am delighted to have a US President who is extremely committed to NATO, and of course this is a good message for the allies".

"Our relations with Russia are at the lowest point since the Cold War". Stoltenberg has thus set the tone for the summit of the Transatlantic Alliance in Brussels, a special meeting because it is the first with Joe Biden as President of the United States after the era of Donald Trump, a dark stage for NATO and in general for relations with the European Union. This Monday, therefore, a "new chapter" in transatlantic relations has begun, according to Stoltenberg himself.

The meeting in Brussels has a broad agenda but will be brief. The aim is more symbolic and political than practical, even though it is precisely this political intention of sending out an image of unity and reinforcement of the Alliance, thanks to the renewed American pillar that carries more weight on a global chessboard, in which China and Russia are more assertive. The major milestone is to unite against these two powers. "Leaders will confirm our two-pronged approach with Russia: strong defence and dialogue", said the Secretary General. On Wednesday, right after this NATO meeting in which Washington has especially asked to put the Russian issue on the agenda, Biden will stop in Geneva to meet with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, a meeting that Stoltenberg interprets as a sign of "strength".

The other big item on the agenda is relations with China, a "security challenge", according to the alliance's Secretary General, given its "coercive behaviour". "Russia is not acting in a way that is consistent with what we expect, nor is China", Biden said upon arriving at NATO. "We don't have to err on the side of innocence with China, but we have to keep the dialogue and relations open", said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, when asked if NATO is preparing for a Cold War with China, as is suggested by Washington's blunt language. But relations with the Asian giant are especially complex within Europe, where flirtation with allies like Hungary must be taken into account. "We are against any Cold War. I am 58 years old and I spent 26 years in a Cold War," said Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

The end of the military mission in Afghanistan was also talked about during the leaders' lunch, because NATO plans to end the withdrawal on September 11th, 20 years after the attacks in the United States that motivated the allied operation. In fact, when he arrived, Biden stopped to talk for 10 minutes with Stoltenberg on television, in order to add another image of the President of the United States' commitment with Europe: "I want Europe to know that the United States is here, that we are back", said Biden after congratulating the Secretary General of NATO several times for his leadership and for having been able to maintain the unity of the institution even after the last four years. With Biden's arrival in Brussels, NATO begins the post-Trump era, in which Biden has some wounds to heal.

Sanchez meets Johnson with Gibraltar in the spotlight

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez arrived at the NATO summit this morning and held one of the first bilateral meetings with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, about whom he discussed the need to reach an agreement on Gibraltar. Sánchez is also scheduled to meet with the President of the United States, Joe Biden, and the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, although the agenda is not yet clear. A meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also scheduled. In addition, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda confirmed on Monday that Spain will host the NATO summit in 2022 and that Lithuania aspires to host the next one.