On his first international trip as Pentagon head, Patrick M. Shanahan entered NATO headquarters on Wednesday with a key question hanging over him: Would he be the stalwart ally and buffer against President Trump’s whims that the former defense secretary, Jim Mattis, had been?
He departed the NATO conference in Brussels on Thursday with the same question still lingering in the air.
When asked by reporters during a press briefing about his commitment to NATO, in light of Mr. Trump’s ambivalence toward the alliance, Mr. Shanahan, the acting defense secretary since Jan. 1, said that he did not see a divergence.
“As Mr. Trump said last month, we’re going to be with NATO 100 percent,” Mr. Shanahan said.
But the president’s habit of lashing out at allies and alliances, and uncertainty about what he might do or tweet next, complicate the job of addressing a long list of security issues facing NATO, including the nearly 18-year-old war in Afghanistan, the fate of a Cold War missile treaty, Russian aggression online and on the ground in Ukraine, and an increasingly assertive and powerful China.
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