The US, Britain and the rest of the NATO alliance are expected to sharpen their language on the challenge posed by China, keep up pressure on Russia and for the first time make tackling the impact on security of climate change a key task.
President Joe Biden will touch down in Brussels on Sunday evening ahead of a summit on Monday of all 30 alliance leaders, including Boris Johnson, at NATO‘s giant, glass headquarters on the outskirts of the Belgian capital.
It comes ahead of Mr Biden’s first face-to-face meeting with Russia‘s Vladimir Putin in Switzerland on Wednesday and follows a three-day summit of the G7 in Cornwall – all designed to display democratic unity to the Kremlin.
Russia’s president told NBC News in an interview ahead of his meeting with Mr Biden that relations between Moscow and Washington were at their “lowest point”.
Speaking ahead of the NATO summit, its chief, Jens Stoltenberg, said it was a “pivotal moment” for the alliance.
“We are in an age of global competition and we must respond to many threats and challenges at the same time,” he said in a press conference on Friday. “We will also address the security impact of climate change, for the first time, making this an important task for NATO.”
The atmosphere at the summit is set to differ from the previous two gatherings in 2017 and 2019, when then-president Donald Trump stole the show.
He upturned what is usually a carefully choreographed and planned piece of diplomatic theatre, berating allies as “delinquent” for failing to pay their fair share of the bill towards collective defence and instead overly-relying on the US military.
Mr Trump even threatened to pull the US out of NATO – a move that would have dealt a hammer blow to what is regarded by its members as the cornerstone of their security.
All eyes this time will be on Mr Biden.
In a return to the language normally expected from US leaders, he is expected to affirm his country’s “unwavering commitment” to the alliance and to Article 5 of the NATO treaty, which requires all allies to come to the defence of any member state if attacked.
But allies remain under pressure, even without Mr Trump’s threats, to meet previous commitments to move towards spending at least 2% of national income on defence by 2024 – a pledge made at a NATO summit in Wales in 2014.
Failure to do so would send the wrong signal to the Biden administration and to NATO’s adversaries, a European source said.
The summit on Monday will be relatively short, taking place just in the afternoon.
In terms of concrete outcomes, allies are expected to sign up to a communique which looks set to include a toughening of language about the challenge posed by China, according to three European sources.
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China was mentioned for the first time in a NATO leaders’ communique after the previous summit, hosted by the UK, in 2019 – when it was described as a challenge and an opportunity.
Eighteen months later, this language will remain balanced but is expected to give more of a sense of how Beijing, with its growing military power, poses a challenge to the world’s democracies.
The allies will still stress areas of co-operation, including climate change.
But there is concern particularly in the US about the threat posed by a rising China, with officials accusing the ruling Chinese Communist Party of human rights abuses and attempting to undermine international rules established since the Second World War.
NATO allies will also finalise what is being called the NATO 2030 initiative – a plan to transform the alliance to meet emerging and future threats. It includes plans to better exploit emerging technologies, enhance cyber defences, and combat climate change.
The initiative was devised after Mr Trump and France‘s President Emmanuel Macron questioned the relevance of an alliance that was established at the start of the Cold War to tackle the then-Soviet Union.
Body of missing boy, 2, found in alligator’s mouth in Florida
A missing two-year-old has been found dead after his body was spotted in the mouth of an alligator.
Taylen Mosley was reported missing on Thursday after his mother, 20-year-old Pashun Jeffery, was found dead in her apartment in St Petersburg, Florida.
She had been stabbed multiple times, police said on Friday.
The child’s father, Thomas Mosley, has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder, police chief Anthony Holloway said.
The child was found near Dell Holmes Park, which is close to Lake Maggiore, almost 10 miles from his mother’s apartment, the police chief added.
A detective shot and killed the alligator.
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“We didn’t want to find him this way, but at least we can bring some closure to that family now,” Mr Holloway said at a news conference.
Family members saw Jeffery and her child on Wednesday, and on Thursday, they asked an apartment manager to check when they couldn’t reach her, police said.
A search for the boy included dogs, a drone, and federal and state law enforcement agencies.
The boy’s cause of death will be determined by the medical examiner.
Thomas Mosley checked himself into a hospital and had cuts on his arms and hands, the police added.
He was still in hospital on Friday but did not speak to detectives and requested a lawyer, according to police.
Person killed after tornado causes roof collapse at Illinois heavy metal concert
One person has died and 28 were injured after the roof at a heavy metal concert in Illinois collapsed during a storm.
Police in Belvidere, about 50 miles west of Chicago, believe a tornado was to blame and described the scene as “absolute chaos”.
It happened as a violent storm system hit the US south and Midwest, causing widespread damage to homes and businesses and killing at least six other people.
Belvedere fire chief Shawn Schadle said there were 260 people at the Apollo Theatre when the collapse happened at about 7.48pm local time on Friday.
He said emergency workers had to deal with downed power lines outside the venue and also had to rescue someone from a lift.
“I was there within a minute before it came down,” Gabrielle Lewellyn told local station WTVO-TV.
“The winds, when I was walking up to the building, it went like from zero to a thousand within five seconds.”
Ms Lewellyn said people at the gig helped rescue victims from the debris.
“They dragged someone out from the rubble and I sat with him and I held his hand and I was (telling him) ‘It’s going to be okay’,” she said. “I didn’t really know much else what to do.”
Another witness told NBC5 Chicago: “Everybody tried to leave the whole venue through the fire door.
“It was a lot of chaos, so I looked around and saw people in the rubble, and tried to help as many people as possible.”
Five of the 28 people hurt sustained severe injuries, authorities said.
It is unclear which – if any – of the bands on Friday night’s bill had started playing when the collapse happened.
Morbid Angel said they were “sheltering in place” in the aftermath, while Crypta band member Taina Bergamaschi said on Instagram that all the acts were “safe and sound”.
The roof collapse happened as thunderstorms and tornados caused dozens of injuries and damaged homes in states including Arkansas – where a state of emergency was declared – as well as Iowa and Indiana.
It came a week after tornadoes with winds up to 200mph also flattened parts of Mississippi, killing at least 21 people and destroying many homes.
US tornadoes: Three dead and dozens injured as twisters causes widespread destruction including roof collapse during concert
Two people were killed and dozens of people injured after a tornado ripped through the Arkansas capital of Little Rock and surrounding US towns on Friday afternoon.
Elsewhere, a third person died after a theatre roof collapsed in Belvidere, Illinois, during another tornado with 28 people injured as the Midwest struggles with intense and destructive storms.
The collapse happened during a heavy metal concert at the Apollo Theatre in Belvidere, which is about 70 miles northwest of Chicago.
The governor of Arkansas, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, confirmed that two people had died in the twister with several other people reported to be trapped in the destruction.
The tornado also caused widespread wreckage of homes, overturned cars and uprooted trees.
The total number of people injured is unknown. Around 90,000 customers experienced electricity outages in the state.
The mayor of Little Rock, Frank Scott Jr, said on Twitter: “At this time, we know of 24 people who have been hospitalised at Little Rock hospitals and we are not aware of any fatalities in Little Rock.”
The Baptist Health Medical Centre in the adjoining town of North Little Rock separately reported it was treating 11 patients from the storm, with one in a critical condition.
Other towns further away from Little Rock have also reported mass destruction and injuries.
Richard Dennis, the police chief in the town of Wynne – around 100 miles east of Little Rock, told a local television station there was “total destruction throughout the town” with dozens of people trapped.
The twister was caused by one of several violent thunderstorms that have battered the south and Midwest regions of the US – home to some 85 million people.
The destructive storm system has also caused other tornados in Iowa, damaging hail in Illinois and wind-whipped grass fires in Oklahoma.
People were urged to evacuate in parts of Oklahoma City to escape the fires.
Meteorologists are forecasting another batch of intense storms next Tuesday in the same large area.
The fatal tornado came as President Joe Biden toured the aftermath of another deadly tornado that struck Mississippi a week ago. It killed at least 21 people and damaged around 2,000 homes.
Governor Huckabee Sanders activated 100 members of the Arkansas National Guard to help local authorities respond to the damage throughout the state.
“Praying for all those who were and remain in the path of this storm,” Ms Hucakabee Sanders, who declared a state of emergency, said on Twitter.
“Arkansans must continue to stay weather aware as storms are continuing to move through.”
In Little Rock, local Niki Scott took cover in the bathroom after her husband called to say a tornado was headed her way.
She could hear glass shattering as the tornado roared past, and emerged afterward to find that her house was one of the few on her street that didn’t have a tree fall on it.
“It’s just like everyone says. It got really quiet, then it got really loud,” Ms Scott said afterward, as chainsaws roared and sirens blared in the area.
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