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Austin Pleased With Discussions With NATO Leaders

Feb. 17, 2021 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III was pleased with the discussions held as part of the virtual NATO Defense Ministerial today, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said.

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Ministers from the 30 NATO nations discussed a wide range of issues. This was Austin's first ministerial in his position.

The press secretary also answered questions about COVID-19 vaccinations in the military and dealt with the aftermath of the attack in Erbil, Iraq, during the Pentagon news conference.

The first NATO discussion covered deterrence and defense, burden-sharing and other aspects of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg's NATO 2030 initiative. The second session "discussed 'trans-Atlanticism,' NATO-European Union relations, resilience of the alliance and emerging and disruptive technologies," Kirby said. "The secretary reaffirmed the president's message that the United States intends to revitalize our relationship with the alliance, and that our commitment to Article Five [of the Washington Treaty] remains ironclad."

A man at a lectern with two microphones gestures. The sign behind him indicates that he is at the Pentagon.
John F. Kirby
Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby briefs the media, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Feb. 17, 2021.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Jackie Sanders
VIRIN: 210217-D-XI929-3227

Austin emphasized his belief that NATO's most important task is protecting the people and nations of the alliance by presenting credible deterrence and a strong military, Kirby said. He also said Austin expressed support for "the overarching goals of the NATO 2030 initiative, which are to ensure the alliance remains strong militarily, becomes stronger politically and takes a more global approach," he said.

Kirby announced that within DOD, medics have administered 88.2 percent of vaccines on hand. The DOD has received 1,039,665 doses of the vaccines, and administered 916,575. "We expect … by the end of the week to be over the 1 million mark," he said.

Kirby broke it down further saying 644,762 DOD personnel have received the initial dose and 271,813 individuals in the department have received their second doses.

Kirby condemned the attack that killed one American in Erbil and wounded others. Austin spoke to his Iraqi counterpart and offered whatever help they may need to find the perpetrators. So far there has been no request for aid.