US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin is meeting his counterpart Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer in Berlin on Tuesday, with the aim of settling defence ties after a tumultuous four years under the previous US administration.

Former US president Donald Trump repeatedly criticized Germany for not spending enough on defence, and late in his term announced the withdrawal of thousands of US troops from the country.

President Joe Biden’s policies have changed little from Trump’s, however, with the US still demanding that NATO countries spend 2 per cent of their gross national product (GDP) on defence. Germany in 2020 spent 1.56 per cent on defence, but has promised to increase it.

A key sticking point likely to arise in Tuesday’s discussions is the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, a megaproject that also has security implications.

Washington believes the undersea gas pipeline between Russia and Germany will make Germany – and Europe – too dependent on Russian energy. The pipeline is almost complete, and the German government has refused to call a halt to the scheme.

Germany and Washington are also looking to find a common position on international troops in Afghanistan. Berlin wants to make the withdrawal of troops dependent on the progress in peace negotiations between Taliban militants and the Afghan government – but it is not clear whether the US will agree to this.

After meeting Kramp-Karrenbauer, Austin is due to visit US troops in Stuttgart. He will continue his European trip with talks in Brussels.

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