NATO and the European Union heralded a "new important era" of cooperation on December 6, endorsing an agenda for closer collaboration amid uncertainty over U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s foreign policy and approach to the alliance.
NATO foreign ministers in Brussels agreed on plans to combat cyberattacks, information warfare, sea operations, and improve defenses for neighboring countries.
"Today we start a new important era in EU-NATO cooperation," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters at the alliance's headquarters.
Trump, who is set to succeed outgoing President Barack Obama in January, suggested earlier this year that the United States might not protect fellow NATO members from attacks if they do not pull their financial weight in the alliance.
Washington has long demanded that NATO members meet the alliance's target of spending 2 percent of their GDP annually on defense, a threshold that only a handful of members are meeting.
Trump's comments during the campaign rattled NATO's easternmost members, who are wary of Russia's intentions in the region following its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and backing of armed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The Republican president-elect has also spoken positively about Russian President Vladimir Putin, expressing a desire to mend battered bilateral ties with Moscow and saying he would examine the possibility of lifting sanctions targeting Russia in response to its actions in Ukraine.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels on December 6 that he is "absolutely certain that the United States will remain committed to the transatlantic bond, will remain committed to NATO, and will live up to...security guarantees to Europe."
Speaking after talks with his NATO counterparts, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that "the change of the administration will not change the unwavering commitment of the U.S. to...our NATO obligations."
Appearing at his final NATO ministerial meeting, Kerry added that "unity is very, very important" for the alliance.
"We need to come together, to make sure there is a strong Europe, a strong NATO and that the values and the interests that we all share, we are continuing to work on together," he told reporters.
With reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, and dpa