by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (hosted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office at Lancaster House)
Sir Mark, thank you so much for that warm welcome.
You have a long and distinguished connection with NATO.
You served as NATO’s Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan.
And now at the heart of the UK defence and security establishment. You work closely with NATO and I’m extremely grateful for our close cooperation and also for you hosting us here today.
Ladies and gentlemen.
It is really a great honour to be here at Lancaster House.
This place has hosted meetings that were instrumental for the creation of the NATO Alliance back at the end of the 1940s.
In fact, it was the United Kingdom that hosted the very first NATO headquarters.
Just the other side of Buckingham Palace.
In Belgrave Square.
And ever since then the United Kingdom has been a vital member of the Alliance.
You provide high-end capabilities. Conventional. Cyber. And nuclear.
And you are leading one of the battlegroups in the Baltics.
And the UK is central to our fight against terrorism, in Afghanistan and in Iraq.
You lead by example by spending 2% of GDP on defence.
And you have been vital to the forging of the transatlantic bond.
You are a European country. Facing the Atlantic. A bridge to North America.
As such, the United Kingdom has been instrumental in making NATO the most successful Alliance in history.
An Alliance that has kept us safe and secure for almost seven decades. And has helped to provide the foundation of our growth and our prosperity.
Our bond is strong.
But today, some are doubting the strength of that bond.
And yet we see differences between the United States and other Allies.
Over issues such as trade, climate and the Iran nuclear deal.
And there are disagreements within Europe too.
Over the future direction of the European Union.
Over values and populism.
These disagreements are real.
It is not written in stone that the transatlantic bond will survive forever. But I believe we will preserve it.
And let me give you three reasons why.
First, we have overcome disagreements before.
Differences of opinion is nothing new.
Some of them have been substantial.
The Suez Crisis in 1956. French withdrawal from NATO’s command structure a decade later. When the Alliance had to move from Paris to Brussels. And, of course, the Iraq War in 2003.
We are 29 democracies.
With different history, geography and culture. So of course sometimes there are disagreements.
But the lesson of history is that we have been able to overcome our differences. Again and again, we unite around our common goal.
We stand together. We protect each other.
Second, maintaining the transatlantic partnership is in our strategic interest.
Two World Wars and a Cold War have taught us that Europe and North America are stronger, safer and more prosperous together. That is why young American and Canadian soldiers fought on the Western Front in the First World War. And why their sons fought their way across the beaches of Normandy almost thirty years later.
After World War One, the Americans left Europe. That was not a success.
After World War Two they stayed. In NATO.
And that was a success.
The fact that we are stronger and safer when we are united is also why NATO Allies invoked Article 5 – our collective defence clause – just hours after the 9/11 attacks.
The first and only time in our history.
And it is why hundreds of thousands of European and Canadian troops have served shoulder-to-shoulder with American troops in Afghanistan. To defeat international terrorism. With more than a thousand paying the ultimate price. It is – and has always been – in our fundamental interest to stand together.
And that is as true now as it has been ever before.
Because we face the most unpredictable security environment in a generation. International terrorism. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Cyber-attacks.
And, of course, a more assertive Russia.
Which has used intimidation and force against its neighbours. Illegally annexed Crimea. Destabilised eastern Ukraine. Meddled in our domestic affairs.
And tried to assassinate a British citizen and his daughter in Salisbury using a banned chemical weapon.
These are our common challenges.
And it is in our common interest to face them together.
The third reason why we can maintain the transatlantic bond is that we are doing it right now. In NATO. There are many different ties that bind Europe and North America together.
We may have seen the weakening of some of them lately. But our ties on defence have grown stronger. After the Cold War, the US and Canada gradually reduced their military presence in Europe. And European Allies cut defence spending.
But now the United States and Canada are stepping up their commitments to European security.
Since coming to office, the Trump Administration has increased funding for the U.S. presence in Europe by 40%. The last US Main Battle Tank left Europe in 2013.
But now they’re back. With a whole new armoured brigade.
And for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Canadian troops are back in Europe.
Leading a NATO battlegroup in Latvia.
At the same time, Europeans are stepping up too. Spending billions more on defence.
Taking greater responsibility for Euro-Atlantic security alongside their North American allies. All Allies have stopped the cuts to defence. All Allies are increasing their defence spending in real terms.
European Allies and Canada have added an extra 87 billion dollars since 2014. And more Allies are investing 2% of GDP on defence.
When we made the pledge back in 2014 in Wales, it was only three Allies that spent 2% GDP on defence. Now we expect 8 Allies to spend 2% of GDP on defence.
This has underpinned the biggest increase in our collective defence since the Cold War.
We have deployed multinational battlegroups in the Baltic countries and in Poland.
We have tripled the size of the NATO Response Force.
We have established a task force ready to move in 48 hours.
And we have stepped up our efforts in the fight against terrorism through the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.
So both North America and Europe are doing more. And we are doing it together, for our shared security.
At our Summit in Brussels next month, NATO leaders will go further.
With more cash, capabilities and contributions to NATO missions and operations.
They will agree to increase the readiness of our forces.
With 30 mechanised battalions.
30 air squadrons.
And 30 combat ships.
Ready to use within 30 days or less.
They will decide on a new NATO Command Structure.
With two new commands.
One in Ulm in Germany.
Another in Norfolk in the United States.
To improve our ability to move and supply reinforcements.
We will also take decisions on integrating national cyber capabilities into NATO operations. An area where the UK is very much a lead player.
We will agree a new training mission in Iraq.
We will extend our funding for the Afghan forces.
And deepen our cooperation with the European Union.
All of this shows our determination to provide for our common defence.
Ready to respond to any attack.
From any direction.
So ladies and gentlemen.
We face a difficult security environment.
But when NATO is challenged.
When others would divide us.
We must stay united.
And rise to the challenge.
With strength, solidarity and resolve.
Just as we did after Salisbury.
Just as we did after Crimea.
Just as we always have.
NATO is an Alliance of 29 free and sovereign nations and almost a billion people.
We have been successful. And we must stay confident.
Where differences persist, we must continue to work together to preserve our security cooperation.
We must continue to protect our multilateral institutions, like NATO.
And we must continue to stand up for the international rules-based order that has served us so well for so many decades.
This will require political will, imagination and hard work.
Together, North America and Europe represent half of the world’s economic might and half of the world’s military might.
Together we are powerful.
Together we are strong.
And together, we are secure.
Thank you so much.