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Immediate Release

Readout of Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper's Remarks at the NATO Defense Ministerial

Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper participated in and provided remarks during three sessions at the June 17-18, 2020, NATO Defense Ministerial. 

On day one, Secretary Esper noted that the security challenges that existed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic still exist today, and the Alliance must take steps to ensure the health crisis does not become a security crisis. He discussed the importance of the Alliance’s continued focus on strengthening defense and deterrence, and the continued emphasis on defense spending. 

Secretary Esper addressed missile challenges presented by Russia, and welcomed decisions by the Alliance to strengthen our defenses in response to Russia’s destabilizing behavior. 

Secretary Esper stressed the importance of a strong, modernized nuclear deterrent to preserve peace and deter aggression against the U.S., NATO, and our Allies and partners. He also talked about the urgency of engaging in meaningful trilateral arms control efforts with both Russia and China. 

On Afghanistan, Secretary Esper emphasized the continued U.S. commitment to helping Afghans create a secure and stable country, by supporting inclusive efforts to achieve peace. He thanked the Alliance for their continued efforts, welcomed recent steps taken toward intra-Afghan negotiations, and reemphasized the U.S. commitment to ensuring Afghanistan never again becomes a safe-haven for terrorists to threaten the security of the United States homeland, our allies, or interests overseas.

On Iraq, the Secretary stressed our commitment to the enduring defeat of ISIS and long-term regional stability. He welcomed NATO’s increased role for NATO Mission Iraq.

On day two, Secretary Esper highlighted NATO’s unique capabilities and contributions during the COVID-19 response. He expressed support for Supreme Allied Commander Europe U.S. Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters’ plan to prepare for a second wave. He also encouraged Allies to sustain military readiness, expose disinformation and propaganda, guard against predatory foreign direct investment, and increase resilience by reducing dependence on Chinese or Russian suppliers for medical equipment, telecommunications, and other necessities.  

Secretary Esper affirmed the U.S. commitment to European security, the Alliance, and the importance of confronting security challenges together.