NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a pre-ministerial press conference in Brussels, Belgium, on Monday, Dec. 5, 2016.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a pre-ministerial press conference in Brussels, Belgium, on Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. (Courtesy NATO)

Top NATO officials will seek closer cooperation with the European Union on a range of security measures during a two-day meeting that opens Tuesday in Brussels.

It will be the final gathering of NATO leaders before U.S. President-elect Donald J. Trump, who has voiced ambivalence about the alliance, takes office.

“At a time when the peaceful order is being challenged in new ways, NATO and the EU need to work closer than ever before,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said during a news conference Monday at NATO headquarters.

Secretary of State John Kerry will be on hand for the meeting of the alliance’s 28 foreign ministers on Tuesday and Wednesday, where efforts against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, political turmoil in Turkey, ongoing violence in eastern Ukraine and concerns about a more aggressive Russia are all likely points of discussion.

Questions persist over how NATO’s positions on this range of challenges will square with the world view of Trump, who has sent mixed messages about the value of the alliance to the United States and its role in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

“This week’s meeting of foreign ministers is an important building block for our summit next year here in Brussels,” Stoltenberg said. “I look forward to welcoming the new U.S. President Donald Trump to the summit, and to working with him and his national security team as NATO continues to adapt to the challenges we face.”

The talks in Brussels also will occur at a time of political upheaval in Europe. NATO is seeking more cooperation with the EU even as the European political body struggles to maintain its own unity.

Still, NATO expects to endorse a plan to better collaborate with the EU in areas such as cyberdefense and maritime security. “Cooperation with the European Union is also an important way in which NATO projects stability beyond our borders,” Stoltenberg said.

Since Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election, EU nations have accelerated plans for closer cooperation on defense issues. NATO’s leadership is worried that such plans — which would make the bloc make less dependent on Washington — would ultimately undermine the alliance’s raison d’etre.

Stoltenberg said NATO was concerned about signs of increased violence in eastern Ukraine, where government and opposition forces have been at odds for nearly three years.

“The security situation in eastern Ukraine remains extremely serious. The cease-fire is being violated every day, sometimes hundreds of times,” he said.

Stoltenberg added that international observers are having difficulty to monitor the front lines, where heavy weaponry remains in place in violation of a cease-fire agreement.

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.

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