BRUSSELS (Reuters) – US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis arrived in Brussels on Wednesday seeking to appease European allies, finding himself in the familiar position of amending relations frayed by President Donald Trump's policies .
Trump angered members of the European Union, Canada and Mexico by imposing 25 percent tariffs on steel and 10 percent aluminum, which experts say could affect US safety relations. UU., Even among the closest allies in the United States.
While the meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels is a routine matter, it will be closely monitored in European capitals.
On his trip to Brussels as secretary of defense last year after Trump questioned the need for NATO, Mattis told members that while they must keep promises of military spending, the alliance was "the alliance most successful and powerful military in modern history. " "
" This ministerial meeting will be eclipsed by the issue of tariffs, "said a US defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
" Mattis will try to reassure allies, try to strengthen relations and continue to insist on the need to fulfill their commitment of 2 percent, "added the official.
The United States has been pushing NATO countries to achieve the goal of spending 2%. % of economic production in defense every year by 2024.
Speaking to journalists on the way to Brussels, Mattis suggested that while the talks with NATO partners be tough, he did not expect Trump's tariff decision to have an impact on defense issues at the moment.
"Along the road that goes there, it will undoubtedly be a bit rocky, a little bumpy at times, but so far I do not anticipate any effect on the domain of the security, "he said.
Barry Pavel, a national security expert from the United States in the Atlantic Council's expert group, said that while national security issues are generally not affected by politics, Trump's decision was too provocative to not have an impact
"I think it was a shock and the reactions of several allies are so unprecedented, so emotional and insulting, that I think some of that will seep into some of the geopolitical discussions," Pavel said.
In response to Trump's decision to impose tariffs, the EU threatened to apply tariffs to Harley Davidson motorcycles and bourbon, measures aimed at the political bases of the Republican legislators of the United States. UU
While in Brussels, Mattis will also meet his Turkish counterpart while Washington tries to balance Ankara's concerns about Kurdish fighters among US-backed SDF forces trying to retake the remaining territory of the Islamic state in Syria.
"How do we take the legitimate security concerns of Turkey and improve its security … at the same time, SDF was the only organization at that time that was able to throw ISIS off the track and defeat them in the field in Very, very tough fights and we will not simply discard that organization, "said Mattis.
Turkey and the United States on Monday endorsed a road map for the city of Manbij, in northern Syria, and underscored their mutual commitment to its implementation.
DO YOU WANT TO INFLUENCE?
The informal portfolio of soothing American American friends upset by Trump's often sharp comments and tweets about foreign policy is something the retired Navy general is getting used to.
Less than a week ago in Asia, Mattis tried to do the same with his allies, Japan and South Korea, where some officials are worried that Trump could put the security interests of EE. UU Ahead of theirs in the search for a peace agreement with North Korea.
In recent months, however, there have been growing questions about whether Mattis' voice in internal management debates could be increasingly stifled by those of other advisors and the president himself, who is increasingly confident your own instincts.
In one notable case, Mattis publicly suggested staying with Iran's nuclear agreement.
Dismayed European allies also sought to save Iran's nuclear deal and preserve its Iranian trade after Trump pulled the United States out of the historic agreement and ordered the re-imposition of sanctions on Tehran.
Additional report by John Walcott E; Edition of Leslie Adler and Alistair Bell