Press Topper at the Pentagon Enhanced Honor Cordon by Secretary Mattis with United Kingdom Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson
Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JAMES N. MATTIS: Now, we have the members of the press here and Secretary Williamson, members of the delegation. Clearly as we sit here, we realize that the special relationship still thrives. It doesn't just exist, it thrives.
In June I had the pleasure, alongside you, sir, to observe the magnificent Trooping the Colour. We'll see if we can match that this evening at Lincoln Memorial with a Sunset Parade, and we do owe you our thanks because really those Marines were born out of a rather unhappy time with King George the III. (Laughter.)
And so then it's a reminder that for many, many years now, your Red Coats and our -- our forces have been happily fighting alongside each other. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder in defense of freedom and shared values, and as a prime example, I must thank you for your decision to nearly double your contributions to NATO's Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan. We are grateful for that commitment.
In the poet's words, your troops have "brave hearts from Severn and from Clyde and from the banks of Shannon," and they are living, breathing examples of our special relationship in action.
And not only in Afghanistan, for the U.K. military is a significant partner in global stability from the Sahel to the Indo-Pacific to Europe, and as seen in your continued commitment to the Defeat ISIS Coalition, your critical support for U.N. Security Council resolution enforcement on North Korea's ship-to-ship transfer, and in your leadership by example in NATO by spending more than 2 percent of GDP on defense, by serving as a framework nation for NATO's Enhanced Forward Presence Mission in Estonia, and supporting the EFP Mission in Poland.
And when developing our own national defense strategy in 2017, we welcomed the U.K.'s insights and you did not disappoint. In that same spirit, we reaffirm our support as we pursue your Modernising Defence Programme. We're glad to lend our insight as desired. We're optimistic your view will ensure the U.K.'s international moral voice rings out loud and clear, for the world needs your voice.
I will close with the words from the Bard of Avon, for they capture well the reality at the heart of our special relationship. "For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother." In this century, as in the past, we know those words to be true. So Secretary Williamson, members of the delegation, thank you again for coming.
We have many important issues to discuss. If you'd like to say a few words in front of the press, sir, please.
U.K. SECRETARY OF STATE FOR DEFENCE GAVIN WILLIAMSON: Of course. Certainly; Secretary Mattis, thank you firstly for having us here. And as your national defense strategy itself outlined, with the importance and value of allies, allies are the way that you can magnify your presence, magnify your reach, and have a much greater effect on rights around the world.
And we've been incredibly blessed, not just for the last few years, but over decades in a century and more where we've had the truest and best ally anyone could ask for in terms of our relationship with the United States.
Whether that was through the dark times of the -- the Great War into the troubles that Europe and the world faced in the Second World War; whether in Korea, whether in conflicts more recent, such as Afghanistan or Iraq, we've always been very proud to stand side-by-side with U.S. soldiers in order to make sure that our values of tolerance, democracy, and justice are ones that are actually shown right around the world.
I think there is no greater bond than two nations who are willing to fight for the same values, those common interests, and that's something that you see in the United Kingdom and the United States consistently. And it's something that I know that when I speak to Armed Forces personnel that have had the privilege of serving side-by-side with U.S. personnel, they put a value on, far and above than just the months or the -- the years that they've actually spent next to U.S. service personnel because they learn so much, but they build a friendship that lasts a lifetime.
I think the world is getting an increasingly darker place. We see the increasing threats as sort of emerging from, not just in ungoverned spaces that we've been tackling over the last few decades, but of increasing state-based threats: The challenges from Russia, increasing assertiveness of China, and continued problems, such as Iran, that will continue to dominate our thinking. But by dealing with this, the best way is actually with friends, with those common values, and I have no doubt that we can do so.
I was very proud that we are able to increase the amount of support we're deploying to Afghanistan, our support in terms of a mission against ISIL in Iraq and Syria will be ongoing, and we recognize that by working with you, we have the best possible chance delivering the aims that both our nations expect us to deliver for them, and that's to keep them safer.
SEC. MATTIS: Well, thank you very much. Mr. Secretary, and ladies and gentleman of the press, if you'll excuse us, we'll get down to work.
SEC. MATTIS: Thank you.
Q: Secretary Williamson, what is the average British citizen supposed to think about President Trump's rapprochement with Russia, given that the Kremlin is accused of killing or -- or wounding Britons in Salisbury?
SEC. WILLIAMSON: The United States has been the strongest ally of the United Kingdom. You saw the United States expel more Russian agents from -- from here than other country right around the world. You've seen the United States commit to the defense of Europe and the defense of NATO, not just through words but more importantly deeds in terms of investment, in terms of people and capability.
That is what the United States has consistently done for its NATO allies, and I think everyone is truly grateful for that. Thank you very much.
SEC. MATTIS: OK, thank you, ladies and gentlemen.