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Transcript

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Opening Words at NATO Defense Ministerial, March 16, 2022

March 16, 2022
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg; U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III

Secretary General Stoltenberg: Secretary Austin, dear Lloyd, welcome back to NATO headquarters. It's always a great pleasure to welcome you here. Thank you so much for your engagement, your commitment, your leadership for our transatlantic alliance. This is even more important now in these dangerous times. I also look forward to welcoming President Biden and all the other NATO leaders next week for the Extraordinary NATO summit.

At our Extraordinary Defense Ministers meeting today we will of course address the brutal invasion of Ukraine by Russia. This is devastating for the Ukrainian people and it will also change our security environment. It will have phenomenal consequences for security for all NATO Allies.

NATO has responded in a united and swift way. NATO Allies having called for severe sanctions on Russia, Allies provide significant support to Ukraine. Military support, financial support, and humanitarian support. And we are reinforcing our collective defense. Hundreds of thousands of troops on heightened alert -- 100,000 U.S. troops in Europe. And then 40,000 troops under the NATO command, (inaudible) command, the most in the eastern part of the alliance supported by naval and air forces.

Of course the United States and you personally, Secretary Austin, you are playing a key role in these efforts to really increase and strengthen our collective defense. More U.S. troops in Europe is a strong message of transatlantic unity and we are extremely grateful for your support to what we do together in the eastern part of the alliance.

I have met U.S. troops over the last couple of weeks in Estonia, in Latvia, in Poland, in Romania, and I'm always struck by their commitment, by the professionalism of the U.S. men and women in uniform, and there's no stronger message of transatlantic unity than having forces from North America serving in Europe.

At the meeting today, we will also not only address the immediate consequences of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but we will also address the more long-term consequences, the long-term adaptation of our alliance, how to further strengthen our (inaudible) defense and to remove any room for miscalculation or misunderstanding in Moscow about our (inaudible), protection and defense of all allies. 

NATO has the responsibility to ensure that this crisis does not escalate beyond Ukraine and that is the reason why we have increased the presence in the eastern part of the alliance.

So once again, Secretary Austin, welcome. Always an honor to have you here and I look forward to the meeting of all the other ministers starting soon.

Secretary Lloyd Austin: Mr. Secretary General, it's great to be back in Brussels and let me thank you up front for your continued steady leadership, especially in this instance. We value that leadership, especially at a time like this and I think based on that leadership, we've been able to make some very quick decisions that were very well thought out and act upon those decisions very quickly.

I think our presence here sends a signal for the world that we remain united in our support of Ukraine, and we condemn Russia's unprovoked and unjustified invasion into Ukraine. And, so, Ukraine has a legitimate and sovereign government and certainly we support their ability to defend themselves and we'll continue to support them going forward.

We've been clear throughout that we believe that our commitment to NATO, our Article 5 commitment is ironclad, and you can expect that, as the President has said a number of times, that we will abide by that commitment. 

So Jens, it's great to be back here again. I look forward to a good day of discussions. And again, thank you for your leadership and thanks to all of my colleagues for what they continue to do to remain united in their support of Ukraine. And again, I look forward to a great day.