from the Sydney Morning Herald

Former prime minister Paul Keating has branded NATO boss Jens Stoltenberg a “supreme fool” for seeking to deepen the alliance’s ties with Asia as Anthony Albanese heads to Europe to cement Australia’s blossoming relationship with the alliance grouping. The prime minister will meet with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin on Monday before attending the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Albanese and Scholz will on Monday announce an agreement for Australia to sell 100 Queensland-made Boxer heavy weapons carriers to Germany in a $1 billion deal that is believed to be one of the nation’s biggest defence export contracts.

“This agreement will boost Australia’s sovereign defence industry, secure local jobs and contribute to Australia’s economic growth,” Albanese said. French President Emmanuel Macron is seeking to kibosh a plan by NATO officials to open a liaison office in Japan, insisting the proposal would take the alliance too far away from its North Atlantic geographical boundaries.

“We are not in favour as a matter of principle,” an Elysee Palace official told reporters on Friday. “As far as the office is concerned, the Japanese authorities themselves have told us that they are not extremely attached to it.”

Albanese will attend the annual NATO summit for the second year running as part of the so-called “IP4”: a group of four non-member states in the Indo-Pacific comprising Australia, South Korea, Japan and New Zealand.

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