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Biden underscores US commitment to NATO in sharp contrast to Trump

President Joe Biden is in Brussels, Belgium Monday night, trying to reassure NATO allies about U.S. support and discuss common concerns such as ending the pandemic, confronting cyberattacks and climate change, and the threats from Russia and China. White House Correspondent Yamiche Alcindor reports from Brussels about America's goals for the summit and the international response.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Biden is in Brussels tonight trying to reassure NATO allies about U.S. support and rally them against Russia and China.

    White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor reports from Brussels.

  • Man:

    We will now take the family photo.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Today at the NATO summit, President Biden got a warm welcome. The overwhelming feeling in the air? Relief.

    Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands: I think, with Joe Biden, it's more natural again.

    Xavier Bettel, Prime Minister of Luxembourg: We know that, with the American president now, we have someone who believes in multilateralism.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    After former President Donald Trump, NATO leaders are anxious for stronger relations with the U.S. Trump constantly threatened the alliance, initially declaring it — quote — "obsolete."

    Joe Biden, President of the United States: I just want all of Europe to know that the United States is there.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    This morning, during a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, President Biden tried to put to bed any uneasy feelings.

  • Joe Biden:

    I want to make it clear, NATO is critically important to U.S. interests, in and of itself. If there weren't one, we'd have to invent one.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Mr. Biden wants NATO leaders to instead focus on a host of growing challenges. They include ending the pandemic, confronting cyberattacks and climate change and the threats from Russia and China.

    This afternoon, at a press conference, Mr. Biden doubled down on those goals.

  • Joe Biden:

    At the same time, the democratic values that undergird our alliance are under increasing pressure, both internally and externally. Russia and China are both seeking to drive a wedge in our transatlantic solidarity. We're seeing an increase in malicious cyber activity.

    But our alliance is a strong foundation on which we can — our collective security and our shared prosperity can continue to be built.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The president also reaffirmed America's full support for NATO's mutual defense clause known as Article Five. It says an attack on one member nation is an attack on all.

  • Joe Biden:

    The U.S. commitment to Article 5 of the NATO treaty is rock-solid and unshakable. It's a sacred commitment.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Early on, former President Trump constantly criticized Article 5, saying America was paying too much for other countries' defense.

    But the only time NATO has ever invoked Article 5 came after the September 11 terror attacks on the U.S. NATO troops deployed to Afghanistan following the U.S. invasion. That NATO mission in Afghanistan will soon end, after President Biden ordered the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops there by September. The move took some U.S. allies by surprise.

    Today, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the leaders would discuss it.

  • Angela Merkel, German Chancellor:

    We will talk about the Afghanistan withdrawal, and I will return to the issue of what we have achieved and learned there and what we need to consider for our future concepts.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Ahead of his meeting with the Russian president in Geneva this week, President Biden is also pressing leaders of the world's democracies to present a united front against autocrats.

  • Joe Biden:

    There's a lot of autocracies that are counting on them being able to move more rapidly and successfully in an ever-complicated world than democracies can. We all concluded we're going to prove them wrong.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    It comes after President Putin denied in an NBC interview that his government had anything to do with ransomware attacks that have targeted U.S. oil, food and other infrastructure.

  • Vladimir Putin, Russian President:

    We have been accused of all kinds of things, election interference, cyberattacks and so on and so forth. And not once, not once, not one time did they bother to produce any kind of evidence or proof, just unfounded accusations.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    U.S. officials say the attacks have been carried out by criminals in Russia.

    Today, Biden also met with the president of Turkey to discuss the future of Afghanistan, among other topics. For years, relations between the allies have been at a low over President Erdogan's anti-democratic moves, over Syria and the Kurds, and Turkish purchases of Russian surface-to-air missiles.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Yamiche joins me now from Brussels.

    Hello, Yamiche.

    So, you — as you reported, President Biden did have that news conference delayed. It was tonight. You were there. Tell us what the main takeaways were.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, President Biden really came to underscore that the United States is fully supportive of NATO.

    And that, of course, is a difference from his predecessor, former President Trump, who questioned over and over again whether or not NATO should even exist. So you heard from President Biden today saying that Article 5, which says if one member nation of NATO is attacked, then all members are attacked, he said that that is a sacred obligation.

    That being said, the president still has some disagreements with member nations. Experts tell me chief among them is how strong to be against China. Also, there is a real question about whether or not President Biden, when he pulled out U.S. troops from Afghanistan, whether or not he included European leaders enough in that discussion, even though some experts also say that European leaders are excited about leaving Afghanistan, because they got in because the U.S. was attacked on 9/11.

    So, there are still a lot of issues there. But the main purpose and the main takeaway from the press conference was President Biden saying America is here to stay. We are here at standing strong with NATO.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Yamiche, as you reminded us, there is the meeting the president has with Vladimir Putin on Wednesday.

    At this point, what are — what are the main issues that are expected to come up in that conversation?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, President Biden has said a number of times now that he is planning to talk about the ransomware attacks that have disrupted American infrastructure over the last few weeks.

    He also has talked about the fact that he's going to push the Russian president on human rights issues. There's also a lot of talk today at NATO among some member nations, including Angela Merkel of Germany, that there really needs to be a discussion about disinformation campaigns and Russia meddling in elections.

    So, there's a lot on the agenda. That said, President Biden has also said that he's going to give us more details about how he's going to measure his success after this meeting. So, there's a real question about, what are the details? What do people want to see, especially American citizens who have had their lives at times disrupted from Russian attacks, it sounds like, at least criminals living in Russia?

    But the president is being a bit coy about that, but he is saying that he's going to take a firm stance against Russia. That has been something that he's consistently said.

    And I should also note that President Biden said today that every member that he's met with, every European leader he that he's met with has expressed support about meeting with Russia during this time period, because there's been a lot of questions about whether or not the meeting with Russia was too premature.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, as you and I were just discussing, Yamiche, the president saying Vladimir Putin has an opportunity to change impressions, if he chooses to do that.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    That's right, Judy.

    He — President Biden has said this is an opportunity for the U.S. and Russia to at least try to work out something that they can work out together, try to find some sort of common ground.

    That being said, experts that I talk to say Russia has really just been a bad actor on the international scene. But President Biden is saying he's going to just verify before he even gets to trying to trust. So, this is President Biden also doubling down on the idea that he does not trust the Russian president.

    And the White House and White House aides have said over and over again that this meeting is happening because of the differences between the U.S. and Russia, not in spite of them.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yamiche Alcindor, with President Biden on this trip to Europe.

    Yamiche, thank you.

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