Transcript

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg Opening Remarks at Pentagon Meeting

Oct. 4, 2021
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III; NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III: Well, Mr. Secretary General, it's great to welcome you back to the Pentagon. Again, thanks for making the trip. Let me also thank you for your continued leadership and for your ambitious efforts to strengthen the Alliance for the future.

NATO's power comes not just from its military might but from its unity and sense of common purpose. You have been an outstanding champion of those strengths and we're going to keep this Alliance resilient, resolute and united.

Now, you and I have worked closely -- excuse me -- closely together during the end of our military mission in Afghanistan, and on behalf of the United States, thank you for the vital role that you played during the drawdown and the evacuation.

NATO entered Afghanistan as a united Alliance after invoking Article 5 after 9/11, and 20 years later, NATO left Afghanistan as a unified Alliance, thanks in large part to your dedication. 

Mr. Secretary General, we met along with President Biden at the successful June NATO Summit. Allied leaders launched a bold set of initiatives to ensure that NATO continues to provide security to all of our citizens through 2030 and beyond. We need continued investment in NATO's deterrence and defense, as well as a revised strategic concept that will guide the Alliance's approach to the evolving strategic environment. So we've got a lot to do and I'm looking forward to working on these efforts with you and my fellow defense ministers at our NATO Ministerial later this month. 

Now, NATO remains the essential forum for consultation, decision and action on transatlantic security and defense issues, and NATO is a foundation on which we continue to build our collective security and shared prosperity. It's the most powerful and successful Alliance in history and we're going to keep it that way.

And so, Mr. Secretary General, thank you again for being here. I'm looking forward to some good discussions today and to even more soon at the Defense Ministerial. Thank you.

NATO SECRETARY GENERAL JENS STOLTENBERG: Thank you so much, Secretary Austin. It's good to be back in Pentagon and thank you so much for your warm welcome, but most importantly, thank you for your strong commitment to NATO, to -- for your leadership. And let me also pay tribute to all the men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces who, every day, work for our shared security and are part of the shared commitment we have in NATO.

NATO is as important as ever because we face a more competitive world -- we see Russia responsible for aggressive actions, we see a more assertive China using its economic and military might, and we also face cyber threats, persistent terrorist threats, and also the security impact of climate change.

So there is no continent, no country that can face this challenge alone. We have to stand together, North America and Europe, in NATO, and we need to adapt the Alliance to the changing security environment and that's exactly what we are doing.

Since we made the decision in 2014, all Allies have invested more in defense, European Allies and Canada have added $260 billion extra for defense over these years, and more and more Allies also meet the (inaudible) spending at two percent of GDP on defense. So NATO is adapting, responding to a more demanding security environment, and we need to maintain this momentum as we move forward.

We -- we stood together on Afghanistan for 20 years. It was a difficult decision to leave Afghanistan but it was a decision we made together, as 30 Allies. After extensive consultations, several ministerial meetings and many diplomatic consultations at the NATO Headquarters between Allies, we made the decision together to end our military presence there.

Our mission in Afghanistan was not in vain. For 20 years, we were able to prevent any terrorist attack being organized from Afghanistan against our countries and we will continue to work together to make sure that we preserve the gain we made in the fight against terrorism.

We will continue to modernize the Alliance, to demonstrate that we are stronger when we stand together, and for me, it -- it is obvious that the crisis in Afghanistan does not change the main message, does not change the need for Europe and North America to stand together strong in NATO.

So I look forward to our meeting and thank you so much again for your hospitality and for taking the time for this meeting. Thank you.