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NATO Defense Ministers Aim for New Chapter in Alliance History

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Europe and North America have an opportunity to open a new chapter in the security relationship within NATO, and the alliance defense chiefs are examining proposals during their virtual defense meeting, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels today.

It's Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III's first ministerial in his current role. The secretary has said he wants to rebuild U.S. alliances around the world.

Five soldiers stand in front of flags.
NATO Allies
Spanish military members conduct a change of command ceremony at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, Jan. 18, 2020. The Spanish Patriot Unit works with other NATO allies at Incirlik to support defense operations in the region.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Joshua Magbanua
VIRIN: 200118-F-ZF730-0023

Today's discussions centered on proposals that could be part of the package presented to the alliance's heads of state when the NATO summit is held in Brussels later this year.

The defense chiefs examined proposals including strengthening allied commitment to deterrence and defense by providing incentives to contribute more capabilities and ensure fairer burden sharing, Stoltenberg said. "We also need to raise our level of ambition when it comes to resilience, which is our first line of defense," he said during a virtual news conference. "And we must do more to promote transatlantic cooperation on defense innovation so that NATO keeps its technological edge."

The ministers discussed increasing political coordination within NATO. Stoltenberg has said he favors using the organization more as a platform for consultation and coordination on more issues and in more formats. "At the same time, we need to enhance our political and practical cooperation with like-minded democracies around the world, so we can protect the rules-based order, which is undermined by countries that do not share our values, like Russia and China," he said.

Three paratroopers descend toward a field.
Airborne Ops
Army paratroopers, assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade, and Italian paratroopers, assigned to the Folgore Brigade, conduct airborne operations onto Nella Drop Zone in Italy, Oct. 15, 2020.
Photo By: Paolo Bovo, Army
VIRIN: 201015-A-JM436-1423

The ministers also discussed burden sharing. The secretary general noted that 2021 is the seventh consecutive year of increased defense spending by European allies and Canada. Nine allies will reach the goal of spending at least 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense this year; three met that goal in 2014. Since that year, European allies and Canada have cumulatively contributed an extra $190 billion. 

"We are making real progress," Stoltenberg said. "But we must all keep the commitments we have made and continue to invest in our defense and increase the readiness of our forces. This is the only way to keep our nation safe in a more unpredictable world."

Tomorrow, the ministers will discuss NATO operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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