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Immediate Release

Statement From Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III on Today's NATO Defense Ministerial in Brussels

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III provided the following statement on today's NATO Defense Ministerial in Brussels:

I am pleased by the progress that the United States and its allies made at today's meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels. Almost two years after Putin's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine—the most serious threat to transatlantic security in decades—NATO has grown stronger and more united than ever.

NATO is the strongest military alliance in history, and it is crucial for America's continued security. As President Biden has noted, "NATO is built on the fundamental principles of freedom, security, and national sovereignty." A secure America is impossible without a strong NATO.  

The blunt military reality is that America's allies are a profoundly powerful force multiplier. Those who wish America harm have long sought to rupture NATO. This mighty alliance's continued unity is vital to meet the strategic dangers posed by Putin's unprovoked aggression and imperial dreams. 

NATO became even more capable last year when Finland joined our proud alliance. I again urge Hungary to support immediate NATO accession for Sweden, which is both a stalwart democracy and a hugely capable defense partner. The United States looks forward to welcoming Sweden as an ally to NATO's 75th-anniversary Washington Summit in July.

At the Vilnius Summit last year, our leaders made historic decisions that will strengthen NATO's deterrence and defense. Today, my fellow ministers of defense continued our work to fulfill our leaders' commitments and to provide the full resources necessary for our new regional plans. 

These plans will improve our ability to deter and defend against any threat, well into the future. But to do so, we need all of our allies to provide resources for the plans and allocate the necessary troops and capabilities. Allies also must continue to invest in their defense industrial bases, which is crucial to the future strength of the alliance. 

I welcome what Secretary General Stoltenberg yesterday called an "unprecedented rise" in defense spending across our European and Canadian allies, who have added more than $600 billion for defense since the Defense Investment Pledge was made in 2014, including a real increase of 11 percent in defense spending in 2023 alone. The Secretary General projects that in 2024, 18 allies will spend at least two percent of their GDP on defense—a major improvement over 2014, when only three hit that target. Any ally not spending at least two percent of GDP on defense this year should have plans to swiftly meet that target.    

The allies also reaffirmed our enduring commitment to a free and sovereign Ukraine, including a productive meeting among our allies, the European Union, and Ukraine in the recently established NATO-Ukraine Council. We stand behind NATO's continued support of Ukraine through the Comprehensive Assistance Package—NATO's multi-year program for critical, non-lethal aid. That effort complements the more than $87 billion in bilateral security assistance that the United States and countries around the world have committed over the past two years to help Ukraine defend itself from Putin's unprovoked aggression.

We are coming up on the two-year mark since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The United States and our allies and partners will stand by Ukraine for the long haul. 

The United States will continue to stand with our NATO allies and to defend the sovereignty and the territory of every alliance member—every inch of it, as President Biden has repeatedly made clear. Our commitment to Article Five remains ironclad. 

Our allies magnify our strength and expand our security. America's network of allies and partners worldwide—built and sustained by wise administrations of both parties in the decades since the nightmare of World War II—remains a core strategic strength that no rival can match and that none should doubt. 

U.S. leadership on the world stage will not diminish, and we will continue to strengthen our bonds with our deeply valued allies as we look toward NATO's historic 75th-anniversary summit in Washington. NATO remains the greatest alliance in history—and as President Biden said at the Vilnius Summit, NATO today is stronger, more united, and "more vital to our shared future" than ever.