Blinken in Europe to Boost Alliances

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is holding talks Tuesday with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels, then attending meetings with NATO foreign ministers and a separate session with his counterparts from Britain, France and Germany. Stoltenberg said ahead of the start of the two-day NATO session that ministers would look toward strengthening the alliance for the future and specifically consult about the situation in Afghanistan as well as what NATO can do to build stability in the Middle East and North Africa. For Blinken, the State Department said his trip to Belgium is aimed at boosting ties with NATO allies and partnering on issues such as climate change, counterterrorism and ongoing efforts in combating the coronavirus pandemic.  FILE – NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 15, 2021.”It’ll be an opportunity for the secretary and the foreign ministers to discuss the NATO 2030 initiative,” Philip Reeker, acting assistant secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, told reporters ahead of Blinken’s trip. “Proposals under that (2030 initiative) for alliance adaptation, concerns over China and Russia, as well as climate change, cybersecurity, hybrid threats, combating terrorism, energy security — clearly the global pandemic enters into this, and other common challenges that we face together.”   After four years of foreign policy under former President Donald Trump that focused only on prioritizing U.S. interests, Reeker said Blinken will deliver a speech in Brussels outlining a commitment to “rebuilding and revitalizing alliances,” while highlighting the importance of NATO.   “We know we’re stronger and better able to overcome challenges when we face them together, and we’re going to modernize our alliances, mend them as needed, and deal with the world as we face it,” Reeker said.  Blinken’s arrival in Europe on Monday came as the United States issued coordinated sanctions with the European Union on both China and Myanmar. The Myanmar sanctions targeted top officials who are linked to last month’s military coup, while the China sanctions were aimed at several Chinese officials accused of human rights abuses against the Muslim Uyghur minority in China’s Xinjiang province. FILE – European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell hold a joint news conference, in Brussels, Belgium, Jan. 8, 2020.Regarding Iran, Reeker said the top U.S. diplomat will consult with EU colleagues about the prospects of the United States and Iran mutually returning to the agreement signed in 2015 that limited Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.  Both the United States, which left the deal under Trump in 2018, and Iran, which responded by taking steps away from its commitments, have expressed a willingness to observe the agreement once again, but each has signaled the other side should start first.  The final part of Blinken’s trip agenda is bilateral talks with Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sophie Wilmès.