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NATO Ministers Bolster Alliance Deterrence, Defense

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NATO defense ministers approved a plan that will make the alliance more responsive to the complex and changing security environment, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels, today.

The alliance ministers — including Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III — addressed NATO's deterrence and defense posture during the first day of the Defense Ministerial.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III shakes hands with another leader in front of NATO and U.S. flags.
Brussels Handshake
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III greets NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the NATO Defense Ministerial in Brussels, Oct. 21, 2021.
Photo By: Chad J. McNeeley, DOD
VIRIN: 211021-D-TT977-0109

"Today, ministers endorsed a new overarching plan to defend our alliance in crisis and conflict to make sure that we continue to have the right forces at the right place, at the right time to protect our one billion people from any threat," Stoltenberg said during a news conference.

The allies are spending more on defense and they agreed to increase the readiness of forces, he said.

Defense ministers also reviewed progress in the alliance response to the growing threat from Russia's missile systems. "We will not mirror Russia's destabilizing behavior, and we have no intention to deploy new land-based nuclear missiles in Europe," Stoltenberg said. "So we are implementing a balanced package of political and military measures to respond to this threat."

Men wearing face masks sit at a conference table.
Austin Conducts Meeting
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, right foreground, conducts meetings with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, left foreground, at the NATO defense ministerial in Brussels, Belgium, Oct. 21, 2021. NATO leaders are conducting their first in-person defense ministerial since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to chart the course for the alliance as it modernizes and adapts to a world dominated by strategic competition.
Photo By: Chad J. McNeeley, DOD
VIRIN: 211021-D-TT977-0127

This package includes significant improvements to alliance air and missile defenses. It also calls for strengthening conventional capabilities with fifth-generation jets, adapting exercises and intelligence, and improving the readiness and effectiveness of the nuclear deterrent.

The ministers also discussed Afghanistan. NATO nations went into Afghanistan together and departed together. "We exchanged views on how to preserve the gains and ensure Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists," he said. "We agreed we must remain vigilant. We will monitor any attempts by international terrorist groups to regroup in Afghanistan."

The United States is among the allies that have the capabilities to strike these terror groups from over the horizon, he said. "We will hold the Taliban accountable for their pledges on terrorism, safe passage and human rights," the secretary general said.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and other defense leaders sit at a large round table.
NATO Meeting
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III attends the NATO Defense Ministerial in Brussels, Oct. 21, 2021.
Photo By: Chad J. McNeeley
VIRIN: 211021-D-TT977-0503

He stresses that the alliance must learn the lessons from the almost 20-year war. The ministers were able to discuss the lessons learned process and some of the first reports from that process, he said.

"The crisis in Afghanistan does not change the need for Europe and North America to stand together in NATO in the face of growing global challenges," Stoltenberg said. "Our unity and our strength is what keeps us secure. It is vital that we continue to coordinate and stand together in the fight against international terrorism."

Deliberations will continue tomorrow at NATO headquarters including a meeting of the Global Coalition against the Islamic State, he said.

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