U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addresses a press conference after NATO foreign ministers' meeting at its headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on April 27, 2018. NATO foreign ministers agreed that NATO's dual-track policy of strong deterrence and defense combined with meaningful dialogue with Russia "is the right one", said Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg Friday. (Xinhua/Ye Pingfan)
BRUSSELS, April 27 (Xinhua) -- The new American Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, thrilled members of NATO Friday by arriving on time for a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels, having only just been sworn-in at the White House on Thursday afternoon.
Pompeo's speedy arrival to the NATO meeting, held in order to prepare for the bloc's next summit in July, showed a new attitude from the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, who in January of 2017 was quoted as calling NATO "obsolete" and criticized allies for not carrying their share of the financial burden.
NATO's European allies have spent more on defense for a second consecutive year in 2017 but the majority of them still failed to meet the target of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense.
"It was a great pleasure to welcome Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Brussels this morning," said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at a news conference on Friday.
"He actually jumped on a plane just after he was sworn in. I think that's actually a new record and it also shows his strong personal commitment to the alliance and it reconfirms the commitment of the United States and President Trump to the transatlantic bond," he said,
Allies also noted to reporters that Pompeo appeared to be in a listening mode, which was also a welcome demeanor.
Pompeo's first day on the job as Secretary of State showed that the sentiment remains.
At the news conference, Pompeo was asked by a reporter if Germany, as the richest NATO ally after the United States, was acting quickly enough to increase defense spending. "No," he replied.
"They should meet the goal that they agreed to," he replied.
"I think President Trump made that a priority," Pompeo said on the burden sharing issue. "I think many of the NATO allies have in turn made it a priority for their countries as well. I applaud that. I am thrilled with that. But the goal remains clear."
Friday's gathering of foreign ministers marked the last major meeting to be held in the NATO headquarters in Brussels, as the defense organization prepares to move to a new building after more than 30 years in the current one.
"The next time foreign ministers gather will be for the Summit at our brand new headquarters across the road," Stoltenberg said during a brief closing ceremony. "Our move signals that NATO continues to evolve as the world changes," he continued.
Accordingly, Friday's session continued with longstanding operations, dealing with NATO's support for Afghanistan, preparations for the new NATO training mission in Iraq, and working with the European Union to promote stability among Europe's southern neighbors.
Conflict in Syria, tensions with Russia, and the continued development of anti-terrorism capabilities were also discussed, as the foreign ministers lay the ground of July's summit.