Defense Secretary Mark Esper visits NATO with assurance of U.S. commitment



June 26 (UPI) — Defense Secretary Mark Esper reaffirmed U.S.commitment to NATO during a meeting Friday with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Although videoconferencing has become standard meeting procedure because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Esper made the trip to Brussels, the Pentagon said.

The trip comes a week after a videoconference meeting of NATO member defense ministers in which President Donald Trump‘s decision to reduce U.S. troop strength in Germany was a topic of concern.

“At last week’s defense ministerial meeting, we also discussed U.S. military presence in Europe, particularly in light of the U.S.plan to reduce its presence in Germany,” Stoltenberg said in welcoming remarks. “I welcome that the U.S. is consulting with allies, while making clear that the U.S. commitment to European security remains strong.”

Esper and Stoltenberg each wore face masks as they approached their lecterns during the ceremonial greeting.

Esper and Stoltenberg discussed the importance of fighting an expected second wave of the pandemic, arms control, recent Russian actions regarded by NATO as destabilizing and “the importance of key partnerships,” a Defense Department statement on Friday said.

On Wednesday, Trump reinforced his interest in seeing U.S. troop deployment diminished, from the current level of about 54,000 to about 25,000.

“We’re going to be reducing our forces in Germany,” Trump said during a joint press conference Polish President Andrzej Duda at the White House. “Some will be coming home and some will be going to other places but Poland would be one of those other places.”

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