Remarks by Secretary Mattis at an Enhanced Honor Cordon Welcoming Minister of Defense Ursula von der Leyen of Germany to the Pentagon

Secretary Of Defense James N. Mattis; Minister of Defense Ursula von der Leyen of Germany


SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JAMES N. MATTIS:  Minister von der Leyen, good to see you, Excellency.  Officers, members of the delegation, thank you for coming back to the Pentagon.  I would note that today, it's a pleasure to host you on your first visit, but in your second term as the Minister of Defense, something that all of us on this side of the Atlantic, the trans-Atlantic bond are very, very pleased with.

We also know that you are visiting our 9/11 Memorial here shortly, and Arlington Cemetery to pay respects, and we deeply appreciate that.

And I would note, too, that we met just two weeks ago in Brussels, and three weeks ago, we were together in Singapore.  And I think it was very good to hear your voice, Germany's democratic voice being heard loud and clear on the international stage in both locations.

The frequent communications we share between us is simply one factor in the aspect of our enduring German-U.S. relationship, a sign of trust between two NATO allies.  Yet, for how often we communicate, the United States does not take this relationship for granted.  

Today, we welcome you and your delegation as representatives from one of the world's most respected nations, a nation that speaks with a powerful moral voice on a range of issues, and we thank you for exercising that voice in support of our NATO alliance, leading by example in Afghanistan, where Germany has determined to increase forces by 30 percent.  So your position as the framework nation there in Afghanistan's north and hosting NATO's new logistics command in your continued leadership, and NATO's enhanced forward presence mission in Lithuania.

And I note here that Germany hosts the largest U.S. troops presence in Europe, and the second largest in the world, and we thank you for your hospitality to our Armed Forces and to our military families.

I also note Germany's material and financial support for the U.N. stability mission in Mali, as well as France's G-5 Sahel joint force supporting the counterterrorism mission in North Africa.  Germany's responsible voice carries great weight.  Where it's exemplified, we see a unity of shared democratic values from Europe to the Far East.  

In that framework, we welcome the announcement that Germany will increase defense spending by 80 percent by 2024.  We believe the Wales pledge and Germany's increased spending sends a sobering, stabilizing message to those nations who threaten others, to those who would violate international law to change borders, or attempt to subvert other nations' democratic processes.  And we hope Germany's moral voice will continue to be heard by the combined strengths of your diplomats, your development funding, and your strengthening ethical military.  For as we discussed in Brussels, threats from the east and the south have not waned, and the united NATO remains the greatest bulwark against aggression.

Next week marks the 70th anniversary of the Berlin airlift flights.  We have come a long way, Madame Minister, from those desperate days when the U.S. Air Force flew food and fuel around the clock into isolated Berlin.  

Today, Germany is now a vital security provider, a powerful provider of development aid and a force for European and global prosperity.  Yet in a significant way, our relationship remains unchanged, for we remain united against shared threats to our people's safety and security.

So Madame Minister, thank you for coming to Washington, and for paying your nation's respects to our fallen.  Your thoughts and your insights are most welcome here.  Madame Minister, welcome.  If you'd like to say a few words in front of the press.

MINISTER OF DEFENSE URSULA VON DER LEYEN:  Yes, thank you very much, Secretary (inaudible) Ambassador.  It's wonderful to be back here in Washington, to be back with friends.  

And while listening to you, I could recall the many stories my parents always told me when I was a child.  They have been children during World War II, and they told me what it meant to them that after World War II, it were the United States to stretch out their hand towards Germany, and asked Germany back into the circle of democratic countries.  

Wise men and women at that time also introduced the Marshall Fund for Germany, knowing what it means to share values, to build up a world in peace and prosperity.  And since that day, since that time, as you said, 70 years now, this is the common foundation we stand on.  These are the values we share, and these are the values we fight for side by side, be it in Afghanistan, be it against terror, ISIL, or in other places.  

And therefore, this friendship is very dear to us.  And we know in Germany that we have to take on our share of the burden to defend our democracies and our values.  We're willing and committed to do so.  We've come a long way.  There's still a lot to do.  I am aware of that, but it's good to have friend -- friends at our sides like you, Jim, where we know that we're sitting on the same side of the table.

And therefore, thank you very much for having me again today.  It's good to be back.

SEC. MATTIS:  Yeah, thank you, Madame Minister.  You're most welcome, you and your delegation.  

And ladies and gentlemen of the press, if you'll excuse us, since I already gave you time out front -- do you remember that? -- we'll get down to work.

Q:  Could you just take one question, sir?  Governors are withdrawing troops from the national border due to the zero tolerance policy.  Is that something that's impacting the border security mission?

SEC. MATTIS:  Not right now, no.

Q:  Mr. Secretary, is the U.S. weaponizing space by creating Space Command?

SEC. MATTIS:  No, we are not weaponizing space.  We're dealing with space as it's developing.  

Now ladies and gentlemen, you'll have to let us get to work now.  We have work to do, but thanks very much for coming out today.