U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Brussels on March 22 to meet with NATO and European Union leaders as part of President Joe Biden's efforts to repair transatlantic ties.
Blinken will attend a meeting of NATO foreign ministers and consult with allies and the alliance's Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on March 23 and March 24, according to the State Department.
The meetings in Brussels are meant to "underscore the Biden administration's determination to strengthen the transatlantic alliance and reinvigorate our ties with allies through NATO," the State Department said.
Among the topics on the agenda are concerns over China and Russia, as well as NATO’s role in Afghanistan, cybersecurity, combating terrorism, climate change, energy security, and other common challenges, according to a State Department statement.
While in Brussels, Blinken will also meet with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell for talks on the COVID-19 pandemic recovery, climate change, and how to strengthen democracy.
In a briefing ahead of the trip to Brussels, Philip Reeker, acting assistant secretary of state at the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, said the United States remains committed to close consultation with NATO allies and other partners on the military mission in Afghanistan.
"We went in together. We will adjust together as we have over the years. And when the time is right, we will leave together," Reeker said.
There are about 10,000 troops in the U.S.-led NATO force in Afghanistan helping to train and advise Afghan security forces.
Biden has said a May 1 deadline set out in a deal with the Taliban for the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops will be "tough" for Washington to meet as peace talks between the militant group and Afghan government struggle to advance.
The relationship with Russia will also be a topic during Blinken's trip to Europe, Reeker said, noting that the Biden administration seeks a relationship that is predictable and stable.
"We will engage with our allies to discuss different views of Russia and how we can engage with Russia in ways that obviously advance our collective interests but remain very clear-eyed about the challenges that Russia poses," he said.
"Given Russia's conduct in recent months and years, there will also be adversarial elements, as the secretary has underscored, and we're not going to shy away from those," Reeker said.
Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, returned to Moscow on March 21 after being recalled for emergency consultations amid rising tensions with Washington following Biden's comments that he believed his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, was a killer.
Blinken's trip is another illustration of a foreign policy reset under Biden that stresses diplomacy and backing for long-standing relationships after former President Donald Trump pursued an "America first" policy that tended to treat traditional allies more as rivals than partners.
As the new Biden administration seeks to reassure NATO allies, it also has to coordinate with European partners on a host of issues, including the Iran nuclear deal, policy toward China, climate change, and lingering disputes over trade.