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Austin Says U.S. Supports EU Common Defense Plans That Strengthen NATO

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has welcomed plans for a more capable European defense saying it complements the NATO alliance.

Led by France, the European Union is pressing ahead with plans to jointly develop weapons and create an EU force that could intervene in crises.

Some European countries have said the chaotic U.S.-led withdrawal from Afghanistan highlighted the EU's need for greater "strategic autonomy," while others have argued any EU force would still need U.S. military capabilities.

Russia's expanding military presence has further heightened the need for synergy between the EU and NATO.

"What we'd like to see are initiatives that are complementary to the types of things that NATO is doing," Austin told a news conference at a NATO summit in Brussels on October 22.

He added that the alliance must create a "credible deterrence and defense."

Austin also said European and American strategy in the Indo-Pacific were in line to counter challenges posed by China's military rise.

French President Emmanuel Macron has used a new Indo-Pacific security alliance between Australia, the U.S. and the UK -- known as AUKUS -- that torpedoed a major French submarine deal to bolster his argument for greater EU defense efforts.

French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly told her NATO counterparts that the EU's defense plans will benefit the United States and strengthen the alliance.

"European defense isn't being built in opposition to NATO, quite the contrary: a stronger Europe will contribute to a strengthened and more resilient alliance," Parly said.

The EU aims to agree on a master military strategy document ahead of next year's NATO summit in Madrid, where the alliance is expected to agree on joint strategic objectives.

In an interview with Politico Europe, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said the parallel strategic reviews present a "unique opportunity" to bring EU and NATO policy into line.

"These processes must be linked," she said. "It makes no sense to conduct them separately and then look where there is common ground and where there are contradictions only afterward."

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also warned against duplicating NATO and EU efforts.

"What is needed are more capabilities, not new structures," he told a news conference.

Of the 27 EU states, 21 are also members of the 30-strong NATO.

Eastern European states are particularly wary of any shift away from NATO because of common concerns about Russia.

With reporting by Reuters and Politco Europe
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