by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers in Washington DC on 3 and 4 April 2019
Later this week, NATO Foreign Ministers will meet in Washington D.C. to mark the seventieth anniversary of the Alliance.
Tomorrow I will meet with President Trump at the White House.
On Wednesday, all the Foreign Ministers are invited to a joint session of the United States Congress. Where I will deliver a speech on behalf of the 29 Allies.
On Wednesday evening, we will gather in the Mellon Auditorium. Where the original twelve members signed the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949.
This will be an opportunity to celebrate seven decades of peace and prosperity for our nations. And it will be an opportunity to look to the future together.
On Thursday, we will begin by addressing NATO’s relations with Russia. Russia continues to violate the INF Treaty by developing and deploying SSC-8 missiles. These missiles are hard to detect, lower the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons, and make us all less safe. Russia continues to defy our calls to return to compliance with the INF Treaty. And time is running out. So we will discuss NATO’s next steps.
The Alliance remains strongly committed to arms control. But we must also continue to maintain credible and effective deterrence and defence.
NATO is also concerned by Russia’s pattern of aggressive behaviour. Including its ongoing actions against Ukraine, and the seizure of Ukrainian sailors and ships near the Sea of Azov. NATO has already stepped up its presence in the Black Sea. And we continue to work closely with our partners in the region. Just last week, I saw for myself this cooperation at the 2019 NATO-Georgia exercise. And today, ships from one of NATO’s naval groups are in Ukraine and Georgia. These ships will take part in exercise Sea Shield in the Black Sea.
I expect Ministers this week will agree new measures to improve our situational awareness in the region. And to step up NATO’s support for both Georgia and Ukraine. In areas such as training of maritime forces and coast guards, port visits and exercises, and sharing of information.
Ministers will also discuss NATO’s role in the fight against terrorism. And US efforts to reach a political settlement in Afghanistan.
Ambassador Khalilzad held consultations with Allies here at NATO just last week, for the fourth time. And our commander of the NATO Resolute Support Mission, and NATO's Senior Civilian Representative in Khabul, are closely coordinating with Ambassador Khalilzad. We are in Afghanistan together and we will take any decisions on our future presence together.
We also stand together in the fight against ISIS, and we have made major progress. Millions have been freed from oppression.
And this terrorist group no longer holds any territory. But we are not complacent.
We are now doing more training in Iraq to help ensure that ISIS can never return.
Hundreds of trainers from Allies and partners countries are in the country, providing support to the Ministry of Defence, the Office of the National Security Adviser and to military schools. Training local forces is one of our best tools in the fight against terrorism.
And we are committed to doing more, including with other close partners in the region, Jordan and Tunisia and other partners.
We will close the meeting in Washington, the Foreign Ministers meeting with a session to discuss burden sharing.
After years of cutting billions from defence budgets, now we are adding billions. And we have seen four consecutive years of rising investment in defence.
Since 2016, European Allies and Canada have added $41 billion dollars to their defence budgets. By the end of next year, this will rise to $100 billion.
Allies are also investing more in major capabilities, like missile defence, drones and new fighter aircraft.
And NATO has just agreed a new substantial investment in military infrastructure.
We will invest more than $260 million in a project to support US forces in central Poland.
This will fund storage and maintenance of pre-positioned military equipment – which will speed up reinforcement for Europe.
This project is part of a bigger picture:
Around $2.3 billion in NATO funding for military mobility projects over the last four years.
So Allies are really stepping up. Spending more, and better, on defence. But we still have to do more and we must keep up the momentum.
For seventy years, the bond between Europe and North America has made NATO the strongest alliance in history.
In an unpredictable world, we work together every day to prevent conflict and preserve peace for nearly one billion people.
And with that, I am ready to take your questions.