U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James N. Mattis hosted Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and National Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan for what Pompeo called “a discussion among friends” at the State Department.
The yearly “two-plus-two” meeting is a forum that allows the nations to bring up the full range of cooperation and issues from the economy, trade and security cooperation to foreign concerns and maintaining international order.
“On the bilateral front, we discussed our joint efforts to ensure North America is vigorously protected by both our militaries in close cooperation with one another,” Pompeo said.
The leaders discussed a number of global issues as well. “We talked about our work in collaboration as members of NATO,” he said. “We discussed our response to the situation in Ukraine. I expressed my concern over Russia’s recent aggression in the Sea of Azov where [Russian ships] rammed and opened fire on Ukrainian vessels.”
The leaders discussed joint efforts in Iraq and the need to maintain pressure on Iran to get that country to stop its malign influence in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East and Central Asia.
Pompeo took the opportunity to thank Canadian leaders for their help in working to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.
Mattis said he and Sajjan continued a conversation started eight days ago in Ottawa, where the defense secretary attended a meeting to discuss efforts to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
“Today’s meeting signals how our two militaries work to stay closely aligned on a range of issues worldwide,” he said. “For Americans feel an enduring, almost familial kinship with Canada. In my case, it is familial. My mother’s family immigrated to America after my grandfather was wounded in action in World War I in the Canadian infantry.”
The secretary traced the military aspect of the alliance from the trenches of Flanders and the beaches of Normandy to the deserts of Afghanistan. “Today, we continue our cooperation in pursuit of our mutual security,” he said.
The United States and Canada are members of a unique military command – the North American Aerospace Defense Command. “We are united in NORAD, where Canadian and U.S. fighters together guard the skies above North America and our 360 million people,” he said.
“We are united in NATO, where we uphold trans-Atlantic unity and stand with European allies against the full scope of Russian malign influence, to include Moscow’s recent, brazen contempt of international law in the Kerch Strait and action against the Ukrainian people,” Mattis said. “Canadian and U.S. trainers in western Ukraine, and our battalions in the Baltics, represent our combined efforts to build stability and deter further provocative activity.”
On the military side, the two nations looked to enhance cooperation in a number of areas from foreign military sales to sanctions coordination.
“Regarding the Middle East, we affirmed the need to continue the fight against ISIS’s hardened core and to maintain support to our partners in Iraq, an approach endorsed as well by the 16 nations we met with last week in Ottawa,” he said. “Accordingly, we are evolving our defeat-ISIS coalition because we must not fall into complacency, recognizing ISIS remains a strong terrorist enemy as it adapts to the crushing loss of its physical caliphate.”