Turkey’s Russian air defense systems and U.S. response

(Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan this week flagged potential further cooperation with Russia on defense industry projects including fighter jets and submarines even as the United States warned it could respond with more sanctions.

Turkey received the first deliveries of the S-400 surface-to-air systems in July 2019, prompting Washington to begin removing the NATO ally from its F-35 stealth fighter program over security concerns.

The following timeline presents the main developments in the program and Ankara’s relations with the United States.

Dec. 29, 2017 – Turkey and Russia sign an accord on deliveries of Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile batteries, reportedly worth around $2.5 billion.

June 19, 2018 – A U.S. Senate committee passes a spending bill that includes a provision to block Turkey’s purchase of Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets unless it drops the plan to buy the S-400s.

March 28, 2019 – U.S. Senators introduce a bipartisan bill to prohibit the transfer of F-35s to Turkey unless the U.S. administration certifies that Ankara will not take delivery of the S-400s.

June 7, 2019 – The United States decides to stop accepting any additional Turkish pilots to train on F-35 fighter jets.

July 17, 2019 – The United States says it was removing Turkey from the F-35 program; Ellen Lord, Undersecretary of Defense for acquisition and sustainment, says Turkey would no longer receive more than $9 billion in projected work.

July 25, 2019 – Russia completes the first shipment of its S-400 systems to Turkey, according to Turkish military officials.

Sept. 15, 2019 – Turkey’s defense ministry confirms delivery of a second battery of S-400s.

Nov. 12, 2020 – Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar says Turkey is ready to discuss U.S. concerns about the technical compatibility of Russian S-400 defense systems and U.S.-made F-35 jets, renewing Ankara’s call for a joint working group with Washington on the issue.

March 24, 2021 – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, urges Ankara to drop the S-400 system. In the same meeting, Cavusoglu told his U.S. counterpart that its purchase was “a done deal.”

July 21, 2021 – U.S. President Joe Biden is committed to maintaining sanctions on Turkey under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) for buying Russian missile defenses and would impose further sanctions if Ankara bought further major arms systems from Moscow, according to a senior U.S. diplomat.

Aug. 23, 2021 – The Interfax new agency reports the head of Russia’s arms exporter as saying Russia and Turkey were close to signing a new contract to supply Ankara with more S-400s in the near future.

Sept. 26, 2021 – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey still intends to buy a second batch of missile defense systems from Russia.

Sept. 30, 2021 – Turkey is considering more joint defense industry programs with Russia including fighter jets and submarines, President Erdogan says after talks with President Vladimir Putin. Erdogan did not mention further S-400 purchases or U.S. sanctions, but said “Turkey would not back down.”

(Compiled by Oben Mumcuoglu and Berna Syuleymanoglu in Gdansk; Editing by Tomasz Janowski and Daren Butler)

NATO seeks more Afghan evacuations, vows to hold Taliban to promises

By Robin Emmott

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday that the alliance would seek to evacuate more vulnerable Afghans and maintain contact with the Taliban, but that Afghanistan’s new rulers would have to show themselves worthy of aid and recognition.

NATO member Turkey, which had run Kabul airport for six years, has offered to help keep it operational now that U.S. and other NATO troops have left, and Qatar has offered to help.

Stoltenberg said he had discussed the issue with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and the Qatari foreign minister.

He also said many Afghans who has cooperated with international forces and could therefore be at risk from the Taliban remained in Afghanistan.

“Operational contact with Taliban is necessary to get people out,” he told Reuters in an interview. “NATO has been able to evacuate most of the staff working for us. But there are still many people left, and we will continue to do work to get them out.”

He warned against expecting a swift recognition of a Taliban government, more than two weeks after the Islamist militia captured Kabul and brought an end to 20 years of war.

Stoltenberg said it was too early to pass judgment on Taliban co-founder Mullah Baradar’s designation as head of the new government.

“We have to judge them on their actions, not on their words,” he said. “We will hold them accountable to what they have promised – on preventing Afghanistan being a safe haven for international terrorists, on human rights, especially rights of women, and on free passage.”

Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister, echoed many Western governments in vowing to seek moderation from the Taliban, who enforced of a harsh version of Islamic law, including repression of women, when they were in power from 1996 to 2001.

“We will use our leverage, political, diplomatic and financial leverage on the new rulers in Afghanistan, and we will stand united,” he said.

He said diplomatic recognition would be discussed among NATO allies and the wider international community “to put as much pressure as possible on the Taliban government”.

(Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

NATO allies struggle to keep Kabul airport open for aid after withdrawal

By Stephanie Nebehay and Orhan Coskun

GENEVA/ANKARA (Reuters) – NATO allies are struggling to ensure that Afghanistan’s main gateway, Kabul airport, remains open for urgently needed humanitarian aid flights next week when they end their evacuation airlifts and turn it over to the Taliban.

The airport, a lifeline for tens of thousands of evacuees fleeing victorious Taliban fighters in the last two weeks and for aid arriving to relieve the impact of drought and conflict, was hit by a deadly attack outside its gates on Thursday.

Turkey said it was still talking to the Taliban about providing technical help to operate the airport after the Aug. 31 deadline for troops to leave Afghanistan but said the bombing underlined the need for a Turkish force to protect any experts deployed there.

Turkey has not said whether the Taliban would accept such a condition, and President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday his country was “not in a rush to start flights” again to Kabul.

But aid groups say there is an urgent need to maintain humanitarian deliveries to a country suffering its second drought in four years and where 18 million people, nearly half the population, depend on life-saving assistance.

The World Food Program said this week that millions of people in Afghanistan were “marching towards starvation” as the COVID-19 pandemic and this month’s upheaval, on top of the existing hardships, drive the country to catastrophe.

The World Health Organization warned on Friday that medical supplies in Afghanistan would run out in days, with little chance of re-stocking them.

“Right now because of security concerns and several other operational considerations, Kabul airport is not going to be an option for the next week at least,” said WHO regional emergency director Rick Brennan.

Brennan said the organization hoped to operate flights in the next few days into Afghanistan’s northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif with the support of Pakistani authorities.

“One of the challenges we have in Afghanistan right now is there is no civil aviation authority functioning,” he told a briefing from Cairo.

Insurance rates for flying into Afghanistan had “skyrocketed at prices we have never seen before” since Thursday’s attack, he added. “Once we have addressed that we will hopefully be airborne in the next 48 to 72 hours.”

LAST FLIGHTS

The United States says the Islamist Taliban movement had indicated “in no uncertain terms” that it wants to have a functioning commercial airport to avoid international isolation.

“A functioning state, a functioning economy, a government that has some semblance of a relationship with the rest of the world, needs a functioning commercial airport,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said. “We are in discussions with the Taliban on this very front.”

On Friday the Pentagon said several nations were willing to work with the Taliban to keep Kabul airport operating.

Still, as aid groups struggle to keep supply routes into the country open after the Aug. 31 departure of foreign troops, Afghans trying to leave the country are finding the few remaining exits slamming shut.

Several European Union countries say they have ended evacuation operations from Kabul, and the United States has said that by Monday it will prioritize the removal of its last troops and military equipment.

Germany ended evacuation flights on Thursday, although its former envoy to Afghanistan, Markus Potzel, has been in talks with the Taliban representative in Doha to keep Kabul airport operating after Aug. 31.

Potzel said on Wednesday he had been assured by the Taliban that Afghans “with legal documents will continue to have the opportunity to travel on commercial flights after 31 August.”

(Additional reporting by Emma Farge in Geneva and Ali Kucukgocmen in Istanbul; Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Edmund Blair)

NATO pledges to speed evacuations from Afghanistan as criticism mounts

KABUL (Reuters) -More than 18,000 people have been flown out of Kabul since the Taliban took over Afghanistan’s capital, a NATO official said on Friday, pledging to redouble evacuation efforts as criticism of the West’s handling of the crisis intensified.

Thousands of people, desperate to flee the country, were still thronging the airport, the official, who declined to be identified, told Reuters, even though the Taliban have urged people without legal travel documents to go home.

The speed with which the Islamist militant Taliban conquered Afghanistan as U.S. and other foreign troops were completing their withdrawal surprised even their own leaders and has left power vacuums in many places.

The Taliban called for unity ahead of Friday prayers, the first since they seized power, calling on imams to persuade people not to leave Afghanistan amid the chaos at the airport, protests and reports of violence.

Residents in Kabul and four other major cities said prayers appeared to have passed off with incident, though attendance was low.

A witness told Reuters several people were killed in the eastern city of Asadabad on Thursday when Taliban militants fired on a crowd demonstrating their allegiance to the vanquished Afghan republic, as the Taliban set about establishing an emirate, governed by strict Islamic law.

There were similar shows of defiance in two other cities – Jalalabad and Khost – in the east, with Afghans using celebrations of the nation’s 1919 independence from British control to vent their anger with the Taliban takeover.

Another witness reported gunshots near a rally in Kabul, but they appeared to be Taliban firing into the air.

A Taliban spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

Kabul has been largely calm, except in and around the airport where 12 people have been killed since Sunday, NATO and Taliban officials said.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in an interview with NBC News that the United States was “laser-focused” on “the potential for a terrorist attack” by a group such as Islamic State during the evacuation.

BLAME

Criticism of NATO and other Western powers has risen as images of the chaos and desperate fear of Taliban rule were shared around the world.

In one scene captured on social media, a small girl was hoisted over the airport’s perimeter wall and handed to a U.S. soldier.

U.S. President Joe Biden was set to speak about the evacuation efforts at 1 p.m. (1700 GMT) on Friday, having faced a torrent of criticism for his handling of the troop withdrawal, negotiated by the previous U.S. administration.

Biden is brushing off criticism of his administration’s chaotic Afghan pull-out because he and his aides believe the political fall-out at home will be limited, according to White House allies and administration officials.

Media in Britain reported its spy chiefs may face a grilling over intelligence failings. Several British officials remained on holiday as the Afghan debacle erupted, and Foreign Minister Dominic Raab has been fiercely criticized for his initial response to the unfolding crisis.

The governments of Germany and Australia have also faced calls to do more and speed up the evacuation of citizens and Afghans who fear possible Taliban retribution.

On Thursday, G7 foreign ministers called for a united international response to prevent the crisis from worsening, in comments echoed by countries including Russia.

China said the world should support, not pressure, Afghanistan.

A Taliban spokesman told Chinese state media that China has played a constructive role in promoting peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan and was welcome to contribute to its rebuilding.

FEAR OF REPRISALS

Since seizing Kabul on Sunday, the Taliban, who ruled with an iron fist from 1996 to 2001 before being toppled by U.S.-led forces for sheltering al Qaeda militants behind the Sept. 11 attacks, have presented a more moderate face this time round.

They said this week they want peace, will not take revenge against old enemies and will respect the rights of women within the framework of Islamic law.

As the Taliban work to set up a government, including talks with a former president, Hamid Karzai, they are discovering new problems including hundreds of government officials who have not been paid for two months, a Taliban official said.

“It’s too early to say how this problem will be solved but it’s an immediate challenge,” the official said.

A Norwegian intelligence group said in a report the Taliban had begun rounding up Afghans on a blacklist of people linked to the previous administration or to U.S.-led forces that supported it. Complaints by some Afghan journalists have cast doubt on assurances that independent media would be allowed.

Amnesty International said an investigation found the Taliban had murdered nine ethnic Hazara men after taking control of Ghazni province last month, raising fears that the Taliban, whose members are Sunni Muslims, will target Hazaras, who mostly belong to the Shi’ite minority.

A Taliban spokesman was not immediately available for comment on the reports.

A U.S. lawmaker said the Taliban were using files from Afghanistan’s intelligence agency to identify Afghans who worked for the United States.

“They are methodically ramping up efforts to round those folks up,” said Representative Jason Crow, who has been leading efforts in the U.S. Congress to accelerate the evacuation of American-affiliated Afghans.

(Reporting by Kabul and Washington newsrooms; Writing by Lincoln Feast, Robert Birsel; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Mark Heinrich)

Erdogan says Turkey still aims to maintain Kabul airport security

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that Turkey still aims to maintain security at Kabul airport, after Taliban fighters took control of Afghanistan’s capital.

NATO member Turkey, which has hundreds of troops in Afghanistan, had been discussing with the United States a proposal to keep those forces in the country to guard and run the airport after the withdrawal of other NATO forces.

Turkish sources told Reuters this week that those original plans were dropped because of the chaos in Kabul, but that Turkey would still offer the Taliban security and technical assistance at the airport.

Erdogan also said in a television interview that he was open to cooperation with the Islamist Taliban, and welcomed what he said had been their moderate statements so far.

(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Chris Reese)

Taliban risk military strikes if they host terrorists again, NATO warns

By Sabine Siebold

(Reuters) -The Taliban must not let Afghanistan become a breeding ground for terrorism again, NATO said on Tuesday, warning that the alliance after its withdrawal still has the military power to strike any terrorist group from a distance.

“Those now taking power have the responsibility to ensure that international terrorists do not regain a foothold,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in his first news conference since the fall of Kabul to the Taliban.

“We have the capabilities to strike terrorist groups from a distance if we see that terrorist groups again try to establish themselves and plan, organize attacks against NATO allies and their countries,” he added.

The fight against al Qaeda, the militant organization responsible for the 9/11 attacks whose leadership was hosted by the Taliban, was the main reason for the West’s intervention in Afghanistan in 2001 in what was to become NATO’s first major operation beyond Europe.

But as the alliance wrapped up military operations this summer after almost two decades, the Taliban rapidly advanced, capturing the biggest cities in days.

The sudden takeover of the capital, Kabul, caused thousands of people to flee to the city’s airport, which is still being held by the U.S. military, desperate to get on evacuation flights.

In Brussels, a female Afghan journalist on the verge of tears asked Stoltenberg what the West would do for all those vulnerable back in her country, leaving the NATO chief visibly moved.

Stoltenberg called on the Taliban to facilitate the departure of all those who want to leave the country, and said that Western defense allies had agreed to send more evacuation planes to Kabul.

At the same time, he expressed frustration with the Afghan leadership, blaming it for the Taliban’s easy success.

“Part of the Afghan security forces fought bravely,” Stoltenberg said. “But they were unable to secure the country, because ultimately the Afghan political leadership failed to stand up to the Taliban and to achieve the peaceful solution that Afghans desperately wanted.”

(Additional reporting by John Chalmers, Marine Strauss, Foo Yun Chee, Francesco Guarascio; Editing by John Chalmers and Jonathan Oatis)

Half of all Afghan district centers under Taliban control -U.S. general

By Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Taliban insurgents control about half of Afghanistan’s district centers, the senior U.S. general said on Wednesday, indicating a rapidly deteriorating security situation.

Insecurity has been growing in Afghanistan in recent weeks, largely spurred by fighting in its provinces as U.S.-led foreign troops complete their withdrawal and the Taliban launch major offensives, taking districts and border crossings.

“Strategic momentum appears to be sort of with the Taliban,” General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters.

Milley said more than 200 of the 419 district centers were under Taliban control. Last month, he had said the Taliban controlled 81 district centers in Afghanistan.

While the insurgent group had not taken over any provincial capitals, they were putting pressure on the outskirts of half of them, he said.

The government has accused the Taliban of destroying hundreds of government buildings in 29 of the country’s 34 provinces. The Taliban deny accusations of extensive destruction by their fighters.

Fifteen diplomatic missions and the NATO representative in Afghanistan urged the Taliban on Monday to halt its offensives just hours after the rival Afghan sides failed to agree on a ceasefire at a peace meeting in Doha.

Biden has set a formal end to the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan for Aug. 31 as he looks to disengage from a conflict that began after al Qaeda’s attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

Almost all U.S. troops, except those protecting the embassy in Kabul and airport, have left the country.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil StewartEditing by Chris Reese and Angus MacSwan)

U.S. and allies accuse China of global hacking spree

By Steve Holland and Doina Chiacu

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States and its allies accused China on Monday of a global cyberespionage campaign, mustering an unusually broad coalition of countries to publicly call out Beijing for hacking.

The United States was joined by NATO, the European Union, Britain, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and Canada in condemning the spying, which U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said posed “a major threat to our economic and national security.”

Simultaneously, the U.S. Department of Justice charged four Chinese nationals – three security officials and one contract hacker – with targeting dozens of companies, universities and government agencies in the United States and abroad.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Chinese officials have previously said China is also a victim of hacking and opposes all forms of cyberattacks.

While a flurry of statements from Western powers represent a broad alliance, cyber experts said the lack of consequences for China beyond the U.S. indictment was conspicuous. Just a month ago, summit statements by G7 and NATO warned China and said it posed threats to the international order.

Adam Segal, a cybersecurity expert at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, called Monday’s announcement a “successful effort to get friends and allies to attribute the action to Beijing, but not very useful without any concrete follow-up.”

Some of Monday’s statements even seemed to pull their punches. While Washington and its close allies such as the United Kingdom and Canada held the Chinese state directly responsible for the hacking, others were more circumspect.

NATO merely said that its members “acknowledge” the allegations being leveled against Beijing by the U.S., Canada, and the UK. The European Union said it was urging Chinese officials to rein in “malicious cyber activities undertaken from its territory” – a statement that left open the possibility that the Chinese government was itself innocent of directing the espionage.

The United States was much more specific, formally attributing intrusions such as the one that affected servers running Microsoft Exchange earlier this year to hackers affiliated with China’s Ministry of State Security. Microsoft had already blamed China.

U.S. officials said the scope and scale of hacking attributed to China has surprised them, along with China’s use of “criminal contract hackers.”

“The PRC’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) has fostered an ecosystem of criminal contract hackers who carry out both state-sponsored activities and cybercrime for their own financial gain,” Blinken said.

U.S. security and intelligence agencies outlined more than 50 techniques and procedures that “China state-sponsored actors” use against U.S. networks, a senior administration official said.

Washington in recent months has focused heavy attention on Russia in accusing Russian hackers of a string of ransomware attacks in the United States.

The senior administration official said U.S. concerns about Chinese cyber activities have been raised with senior Chinese officials. “We’re not ruling out further action to hold the PRC accountable,” the official said.

The United States and China have already been at loggerheads over trade, China’s military buildup, disputes about the South China Sea, a crackdown on democracy activists in Hong Kong and treatment of the Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region.

Blinken cited the Justice Department indictments as an example of how the United States will impose consequences.

The defendants and officials in the Hainan State Security Department, a regional state security office, tried to hide the Chinese government’s role in the information theft by using a front company, according to the indictment.

The campaign targeted trade secrets in industries including aviation, defense, education, government, health care, biopharmaceutical and maritime industries, the Justice Department said.

Victims were in Austria, Cambodia, Canada, Germany, Indonesia, Malaysia, Norway, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

“These criminal charges once again highlight that China continues to use cyber-enabled attacks to steal what other countries make, in flagrant disregard of its bilateral and multilateral commitments,” Deputy U.S. Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in the statement.

(Reporting by Steve Holland, David Shepardson, Doina Chiacu and Lisa Lambert; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Grant McCool)

Afghan civilians take up arms as U.S.-led forces leave

PARWAN, Afghanistan (Reuters) – Gun in hand, 55-year-old Dost Mohammad Salangi recites poetry as he leads a small group of men to a look-out post high in the rugged hills of Parwan province, north of the Afghan capital Kabul.

Heavily bearded and wearing a traditional circular pakol hat to keep off the sun, he has a warning for the Islamist militant Taliban movement, which has increased attacks on Afghan forces and claimed more territory as foreign troops withdraw.

“If they impose war on us, oppress us and encroach on women and people’s property, even our seven-year-old children will be armed and will stand against them,” he told Reuters.

Salangi is one of hundreds of former “mujahideen” fighters and civilians who have felt compelled to take up arms to help the army repel a growing Taliban insurgency.

The group’s ascendancy on the ground comes as the last U.S.-led international forces prepare to leave after two decades of fighting that ended with no clear victory for either side.

“We have to protect our country … now there is no choice as the foreign forces abandon us,” said Farid Mohammed, a young student who joined a local anti-Taliban leader from Parwan.

He was speaking as the German military concluded the withdrawal of the second largest contingent of foreign troops after the United States with around 150,000 soldiers deployed over the past two decades, many of them serving more than one tour in the country.

U.S. President Joe Biden and NATO said in mid-April they would pull out the roughly 10,000 foreign troops still in Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York that prompted the mission.

The United Nations envoy for Afghanistan said this week the Taliban had taken more than 50 of 370 districts and was positioned to control provincial capitals as the country looked increasingly unstable as foreign military support ended.

Armed mainly with old assault rifles, pistols and grenade launchers, men like Salangi and Mohammed have joined local shopkeepers and traders as part of a loosely-formed Public Uprising Force trying to reclaim some of those areas.

Ajmal Omar Shinwari, a spokesman for the Afghan defense and security forces, said Afghans keen to take up arms against the Taliban were being absorbed intro the structure of territorial army forces.

But some political analysts warn of the growing risk of a return to civil war as more groups took up arms.

Faced with rising violence, President Ashraf Ghani visited Washington in June to meet Biden, who pledged U.S. support to Afghanistan but said Afghans must decide their own future.

Talks to try and find a political settlement in Afghanistan have stalled, although the head of the Afghan peace council has said they should not be abandoned despite the surge in Taliban attacks.

(Reporting by Afghanistan bureau, Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

Quoting Irish poet, Biden ends EU trade war in renewal of transatlantic ties

By Steve Holland, Philip Blenkinsop, Marine Strauss and Robin Emmott

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden ended one front in a Trump-era trade war when he met European Union leaders on Tuesday by agreeing a truce in a transatlantic dispute over aircraft subsidies that had dragged on for 17 years.

The EU also lifted its tariffs on U.S. steel and aluminum for six months in the hope that the United States will do the same for Europe.

Quoting Irish poet W. B. Yeats at the start of his first EU-U.S. summit as president, Biden also said the world was shifting and that Western democracies needed to come together.

“The world has changed, changed utterly,” Biden, an Irish-American, said, citing from the poem Easter 1916, in remarks that pointed towards the themes of his eight day trip through Europe: China, the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.

Sitting at an oval table in the EU’s headquarters with U.S. cabinet officials, Biden told EU institution leaders that the EU and the United States working together was “the best answer to deal with these changes” that he said brought “great anxiety.”

He earlier told reporters he had very different opinions from his predecessor. Former president Donald Trump also visited the EU institutions, in May 2017, but later imposed tariffs on the EU and promoted Britain’s departure from the bloc.

“I think we have great opportunities to work closely with the EU as well as NATO and we feel quite good about it,” Biden said after walking through the futuristic glass Europa Building, also known as “The Egg”, to the summit meeting room with EU institution leaders.

“It’s overwhelmingly in the interest of the USA to have a great relationship with NATO and the EU,” he said, accompanied by European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and the EU’s chairman Charles Michel, who represents EU governments.

The EU and the United States are the world’s top trading powers, along with China, but Trump sought to sideline the EU.

JOBS PROVIDE DIGNITY

Biden also repeated his mantra: “America is back” and spoke of the need to provide good jobs for European and American workers, particularly after the economic impact of COVID-19. He spoke of his father saying that a job “was more than just a pay-check” because it brought dignity.

He is seeking European support to defend Western liberal democracies in the face of a more assertive Russia and China’s military and economic rise.

Biden and U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken earlier met with Belgian King Philippe, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes in Brussels’ royal palace. Biden will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday in Geneva.

“We’re facing a once in a century global health crisis,” Biden said at NATO, while adding “Russia and China are both seeking to drive a wedge in our transatlantic solidarity.”

NATO leaders for the first time said on Monday China’s military rise presented “systemic challenges”. China’s diplomatic mission to the EU on Tuesday called on NATO to “stop hyping up in any form the so-called China threat,” and accused the alliance of “slandering China’s peaceful development”.

TRADE TRUCE, STEEL DEADLINE

Biden and the EU side agreed to remove tariffs on $11.5 billion of goods from EU wine to U.S. tobacco and spirits for five years. The tariffs were imposed on a tit-for-tat basis over mutual frustration with state subsidies for U.S. plane maker Boeing and European rival Airbus.

Both sides committed to provide financing to their large civil aircraft producers on market terms and not to fund research in a way that would harm one another.

“I am happy to see that after intensive work between the European Commission and the U.S. administration, our transatlantic partnership is on its way to reaching cruising speed,” von der Leyen said.

In a reference to China, Washington and Brussels will “collaborate on addressing non-market practices of third parties that may harm their respective large civil aircraft industries”.

While Airbus and Boeing have factories in China, they accuse Beijing of massive state subsidies to try to develop rival passenger aircrafts, China’s home-built C919 jets.

However, Washington did not commit to ending another row over its punitive tariffs related to steel and aluminum, as the EU has demanded. The EU has now suspended its countermeasures for six months, von der Leyen said, effectively giving Washington a December deadline to remove its Trump-era duties. “Let’s sort out, within this time period, how we can get rid of this nuisance,” von der Leyen told reporters.

Resolving the steel conflict gives both sides more time to focus on concerns over China’s overproduction of metals, diplomats said.

There was no firm new transatlantic pledge on climate at the summit, however, and both sides steered clear of setting a date to stop burning coal.

(Additional reporting by Kate Abnett, Gabriela Baczynska and John Chalmers in Brussels, writing by Robin Emmott; editing by Philippa Fletcher)