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Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis Hosts Enhanced Honor Cordon Welcoming Montenegro Defense Minister Predreg Boskovic to the Pentagon

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JAMES N. MATTIS:  Well, Mr. Minister, I would just tell you and your delegation, Ambassador, just a big, warm welcome to the Pentagon.  As I mentioned, earlier it’s good to see our two flags flying together on the steps of the Pentagon.  That's where they belong.  And since Montenegro regained its independence in 2006, our two nations have steadily fostered strengthened military to military relations.  And I think it's bolstered by the shared values of two countries that want to be and remain democracies in this world.  

And after seeing each other earlier this month at the NATO Defense Ministerial in Brussels, I would like to take the opportunity to welcome once again Montenegro to the NATO alliance.  We are very proud of it.  We were supportive of it, as you know.  And it's good to see you here.  As Secretary General Stoltenberg said during your accession ceremony last June, NATO is quote, a community of values.  

And your country has become an integral part of that community, reinforcing our trans-Atlantic unity.  The United States is proud to call you our ally as we stand shoulder to shoulder alongside our fellow NATO members against common security threats.  It is opposed by Russia as it seeks to redraw international borders by force and seeks veto authority over European diplomatic, economic and security decisions.  

In the face of such threats, the United States will continue to engage Russia to honor both the letter and spirit of its international commitments.  We appreciate Montenegro's plan to reach two percent defense spending by 2024, sharing the defense burden and ensuring that our militaries remain fit for our time.  We also appreciate Montenegro's promise to increase troop contributions to the mission in Afghanistan.  

And I must recognize that 25 percent of your land forces have served in Afghanistan during 16 different rotations.  And the poet Lord Tennyson's words on Montenegro from almost two centuries ago still hold true.  There are no mightier mountaineers, no braver soldiers than your country's troops.  So today, I look forward to discussing steps to strengthen our military to military relationship, including the signing of a general security of information agreement to enhance our bilateral cooperation.  

Mr. Minister, welcome.  It's good to host you on our soil this time and on your first but not your last visit, I trust, to the Pentagon.  So again, welcome, Mr. Minister.  If you'd like to say a few words with the press still present, the floor is yours.  

MINISTER PREDREG BOSKOVIC:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary of Defense.  It's a great pleasure to be today here and thank you for the time and opportunity to discuss about very important methods, I suppose for both sides.  And especially when it comes to our (inaudible) Montenegro is.  Balkan is very important region for Europe because unstable Balkan is unstable Europe.  So this is our opportunity to share the views and to see how to work together.  

It's always pleasure to stand beside you and to work with you and to show this partnership due to the fact that United States always understood small nations much better than others and understands how important to be the size and to wealthy of any of us.  We would like to as Montenegrins and those who are sharing the same values in the Balkans, we would like to be equal part of Europe, equal part of rest of the world.  

That's why we succeeded our first foreign priority goal, which is our NATO integration.  So thank you once again for your support, for your kind words and pretty sure today, we're going to have a lot to talk.  

SEC. MATTIS:  Absolutely.  I think we're going to start by signing some documents.  Yes.  OK, I guess the hard work is done now.  Congratulations.  

MIN. BOSKOVIC:  Thank you very much.  

SEC. MATTIS:  It's a pleasure.


SEC. MATTIS:  OK, ladies and gentlemen of the press, if you'll excuse us, we'll get down to work.  Thank you very much for coming out.