President Joe Biden's upcoming trip to Europe, including to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's summit in Brussels next week, will reopen a "new chapter" in the relationship between North America and Europe, NATO Secretary-General Jans Stoltenberg said Tuesday.
However, he was diplomatic on CNN's "New Day" when he was asked if it was easier meeting with Biden at the White House on Monday than it had been speaking with former President Donald Trump, under whom relations with the alliance had become strained.
"It was different," Stoltenberg conceded.
But now, Stoltenberg said he's looking forward to welcoming Biden, who "knows NATO" and Europe well.
"To welcome him to Brussels, to the NATO summit, will be a great thing," Stoltenberg said.
Trump had taken a tough stance on NATO, as he and his administration often slammed Germany and other member nations for not meeting a spending target of 2% of their gross domestic output on defense.
Stoltenberg said the most important thing that will happen now is an agreement on a "very substantial forward-looking agenda" on how to strengthen the alliance in an age of global competition.
"This is about the strengthening of deterrence and defense, about resilience, about technology and also for the first time in NATO's history to address the security consequences of climate change," said Stoltenberg. "There's a wide range of issues that we will agree on next Monday and then it's for all us to deliver. The message is that a strong NATO is good for Europe but it's also very good for the United States. No other major power has 29 friends and allies, and that's important in addressing almost all challenges, a stronger and more assertive China."
Afghanistan is of particular concern with the withdrawal of U.S. troops, and Stoltenberg said NATO has always been clear about the risks of ending its mission there.
"At the same time, there are always risks entailed or linked to a decision to stay, so we also have to understand what we're oing now is sort of a gradual withdrawal for many years," he said. "Not so many years ago we had more than 100,000 troops in the big operation. At the beginning of this year roughly 10,000 NATO soldiers and this year zero."
He acknowledged that the decision to withdraw has not been an easy one.
"There's a lot of uncertainty about the future in Afghanistan but as we end our military presence there, we will continue to broaden support with a civilian NATO mission to provide assistance to the security institutions," he said. "All NATO allies continue to provide funding for the security forces. We're also looking into the counter training. When we arrived two decades ago, there were hardly any Afghan security forces at all. We've helped to build a professional, dedicated African security force and at some stage, the Afghans have to take control of their future and we'll continue to support this process."
Biden will also be meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Stoltenberg said the message he needs to carry is one of strength.
"We need to be strong, firm, invest in our deterrence and defense," he said. "We have to talk to Russians because they are our neighbors...we need to manage a difficult relationship with Russia including on arms control. Therefore, I welcome the U.S. decision to extend the New START agreement with limiting long-range missiles and (its) call on transparency and predictability in order to increase military presence. Cyber, extremely serious, and, therefore, we have to step up what we do together in protecting our cyber networks."
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