A few months ago, America was readying to pull troops out of Germany and was at odds with Pacific allies, including Japan and South Korea, over payments to subsidize the basing of American troops overseas.

But with tensions with Russia and China growing and a new administration running things, building tighter relationships is the top Pentagon focus. Now the U.S. is adding troops to Germany and has gone silent over the finances behind alliances.

The change was predicted, but not its rapidity. Most policy shifts at the slow-moving Pentagon take years or decades, but this one took months. And the effort was on display Friday as President Joe Biden met with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga at the White House.

Next up, Biden has a planned meeting with South Korea's Jae-in Moon. A fence-mending tour of Europe is in the works.

But while policies have changed, the difficult issues that President Donald Trump brought to light with allies have been simmering for years and surveys of attitudes overseas show that America's credibility requires repair.

Trump took on allies around the world for not pulling their weight in the security realm. He demanded that North Atlantic Treaty Organization members boost military spending and spurned old friends, including Germany, when they didn't measure up. In Asia, Trump shook allies by saying the U.S. had footed the security bill for too long.

On the financial side of the equation, Trump was effective. Most European allies bumped up defense budgets while Pacific allies opened their wallets. But it came at a cost, some experts say.

China and Russia viewed the financial haggling as an opportunity and stepped up their saber rattling. Russia has massed troops on its border with Ukraine, causing alarm, and China has grown more aggressive toward Taiwan.

And the Pew Research Center last fall found that the people inhabiting our allied nations increasingly view their American partners with skepticism.

France, America's oldest ally, had just 31% of its citizens view the United States in a favorable light. In the United Kingdom, where the U.S. has long had its "special relationship," just 41% had favorable views of America.

America's closest ally is Canada, where just 35% viewed their Southern neighbor favorably. Australia has long been one of America's most enthusiastic allies, but that had faded by last fall with U.S. favorability falling to 33%. Similar drops were recorded in Japan (41%) and Germany (26%), which have been among America's closest friends through the Cold War.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is working to build friendships to counter Russia and China. In Europe this past week, he pledged to be friendly and helpful to allies.

"And underscoring our strong commitment to allies and partners is at the forefront of my agenda," Austin said during a visit to Germany. "And this includes advancing our trans-Atlantic partnership and increasing cooperation with our NATO allies."

But Austin and Biden may have a difficult sales job ahead, even as overseas threats grow.

Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240

Twitter: @xroederx

City Editor

Tom Roeder is the Gazette's City Editor. In Colorado Springs since 2003, Tom has covered the military at home and overseas and has cover statehouses in Denver and Olympia, Wash. His main job, though, is being dad to two great kids.

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