U.S. allies search for clues on performing Pentagon chief in European debut

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – U.S. allies will use the chance of Patrick Shanahan’s first NATO ministers assembly this week to see whether or not the performing defence secretary will likely be as supportive of the army alliance as his predecessor was, defence officers and consultants stated.

FILE PHOTO: Appearing U.S. Secretary of Protection Patrick Shanahan speaks through the Missile Protection Evaluate announcement on the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., January 17, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque//File Picture

Shanahan, a former Boeing Co govt who has largely focussed on inside points since he joined the Pentagon in July 2017, took over on Jan. 1 from former secretary Jim Mattis, who give up over coverage variations with U.S. President Donald Trump.

In his resignation letter, Mattis laid naked what he noticed as an irreparable divide between himself and Trump, and implicitly criticized the president for failing to worth allies who’ve fought alongside the US in a number of wars. Mattis talked about NATO twice.

Shanahan, who served as Mattis’ deputy, just isn’t as well-known in international coverage circles, and allies are eager to see whether or not he’ll push again on rhetoric by Trump that has questioned the necessity for NATO.

Till earlier this week, Shanahan had by no means visited Afghanistan or Iraq, the place the US nonetheless has about 19,000 troops.

A European NATO diplomat, talking on situation of anonymity, stated the hope was that Shanahan can be somebody they may belief and work with.

“Mattis was one of many few remaining senior Trump administration officers we might depend on, so there’s a fantastic sense of loss,” the diplomat stated.

“Frankly, Shanahan is an unknown to us.”

Whereas Trump has stated Shanahan is doing a very good job, there isn’t a certainty that he will likely be formally nominated for the place, which Trump shuffled Mattis out of simply 11 days after he resigned.

Shanahan has been serving in an performing capability for the reason that begin of the 12 months. The longest-serving performing defence secretary, William Taft, did the job for 60 days.

In an indication of simply how precarious his state of affairs is, the chairman of the Senate Armed Companies Committee stated on Tuesday he didn’t suppose Trump would nominate Shanahan.

Requested about Senator James Inhofe’s feedback, Shanahan informed reporters in Brussels: “Whether or not there’s performing subsequent to your identify or not, it’s the identical job, I’ll do the job the identical approach. It’s a pleasure to serve on this function.”

Derek Chollet, a former Pentagon official now on the German Marshall Fund suppose tank, stated it was not truthful to anticipate Shanahan to have the ability to calm nervous allies by himself, particularly in an performing capability.

A senior U.S. defence official, talking on the situation of anonymity, stated Shanahan would again NATO throughout his talks in Brussels.

“The overarching message is one in all bringing reassurance and confidence to our alliance, that America stays deeply dedicated to the alliance,” the official stated.

However the official added that Shanahan would push allies on the necessity for burden sharing and assembly their worldwide commitments, a key demand of Trump’s.

Allies are more likely to search reassurances on quite a lot of key coverage areas, together with on the way forward for NATO in Syria and Afghanistan, and plans to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Vary Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia.

In December, Trump confounded his personal nationwide safety staff and worldwide allies with a shock choice to withdraw 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria. Shanahan will meet a small group of defence ministers in Munich to go over these plans.

On Afghanistan, U.S. officers have held a number of rounds of talks with the Taliban in Qatar in what’s extensively seen as essentially the most severe bid but for peace in Afghanistan, which has been at struggle since the US ousted the nation’s former leaders after the Sept. 11, 2001, assaults.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump (L) listens subsequent to Appearing U.S. Protection Secretary Patrick Shanahan throughout a Cupboard assembly on day 12 of the partial U.S. authorities shutdown on the White Home in Washington, U.S., January 2, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Younger/File Picture

Nevertheless, the talks have created uncertainty inside Europe about what it means for the NATO mission within the nation, and particular person international locations are reconsidering their troop presence.

The senior U.S. defence official stated Shanahan would additionally discuss to allies about arms management, after the US earlier this month introduced it might withdraw from the INF treaty in six months until Moscow ends its alleged violations of the landmark pact.

The official stated the NATO summit can be a chance to debate any potential new arms management structure and what’s wanted to guard the NATO alliance.

Reporting by Idrees Ali; extra reporting by Robin Emmott and Mike Stone; Enhancing by Sonya Hepinstall

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