Pentagon chief to travel to Brussels, Slovakia, Bulgaria this week

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin testifies before the House Armed Services Committee on the conclusion of military operations in Afghanistan at the Rayburn House Office building on Capitol Hill on September 29, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will travel to Europe this week to participate in the NATO Defense Ministerial and make a number of stops in the alliance’s eastern flank, the Pentagon’s top spokesman said Monday. 

Austin will first travel to Brussels on Tuesday, where he will talk with NATO allies “about all the things we’re doing as an alliance to bolster and support our deterrence capabilities on the Eastern flank,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters. 

From there he will travel to Slovakia and Bulgaria to meet with “senior civilian and military leaders.” 

The Pentagon had previously announced Austin’s trip to Brussels and Slovakia, but the stop in Bulgaria is new. The extra location extends Austin’s trip by another day, Kirby said.  

Austin was previously in Europe last month ahead of Russia’s invasion into Ukraine, traveling to Belgium, Poland and Lithuania — the latter two countries being a landing point for part of the 15,000 American troops recently placed in Europe to shore up NATO’s defenses should the conflict spill over.  

Since then, Austin has ordered even more U.S. troops and military equipment to Europe, with about 100,000 personnel now stationed in the continent on either a rotational or a permanent basis. 

Tags Belgium Brussels Bulgaria John Kirby Lloyd Austin Russia Slovakia Ukraine

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