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Blinken sees NATO support regardless of far-right gains in Europe

By AFP - Jul 02,2024 - Last updated at Jul 02,2024

WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday he expected European allies to keep up strong support for NATO despite a far-right victory in the first round of French elections.

Blinken steered clear of commenting directly when asked about the triumph of Marine Le Pen's National Rally party but pointed more broadly to NATO's strengthening since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

"The alliance is moving to make sure that we have the right defenses across the alliance where they're needed, where they matter," Blinken said at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

"This has been a clear trajectory for the last three-and-a-half years. I don't actually see that changing irrespective of the politics of the moment in Europe," he said.

"We have very strong allies, very strong partners," he said, pointing in particular to Italy — led by its most right-wing leader since World War II, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who has bucked some of her political allies by supporting Ukraine.

State Department spokesman Vedant Patel, asked about the election, called France "our oldest ally, with whom we have a long and proud history of democratic values".

"We have full confidence in France's democratic institution and processes, and we intend to continue our close collaboration with the French government across the full spectrum of foreign policy priorities," Patel told reporters.

Since Russia's invasion, NATO has added two new members — Finland and Sweden — taking its total to 32.

Twenty-three of them now meet a goal set a decade ago of spending 2 per cent of GDP on defence.

France's National Rally has long been tainted by its relationship with Russia but its leader Jordan Bardella, who could become the next prime minister, said in a recent debate that he would not let Russia "absorb an allied state like Ukraine".

NATO holds a 75th anniversary summit in Washington next week which comes in the shadow of criticism of the alliance from Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

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