by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Mark Esper, US Secretary of Defense
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]:
So Secretary Esper, dear Mark,
Welcome back to NATO Headquarters.
It’s great to see you a few days after we met virtually at the NATO defence ministers.
And thank you for your strong commitment to NATO. And also many thanks for the vital contribution of the United States to our shared security.
We have many issues to discuss.
Our preparations to deal with a possible second wave of COVID-19 are on track.
With an operation plan, a stockpile of medical equipment, and more funding.
Across the Alliance, our armed forces have been supporting civilian efforts day and night.
Our countries must continue to invest to keep them strong.
And ensure that this health crisis does not turn into a security crisis.
Because the security challenges we faced before the pandemic have not disappeared.
We are working together on a balanced response to Russia’s new missiles,
which are dangerous and destabilising.
We welcome the talks between the United States and Russia on arms control.
And we agree that, as a rising global power, it is high time for China to take part in global arms control.
At last week’s defence ministerial meeting, we also discussed US military presence in Europe, particularly in light of the US plan to reduce its presence in Germany.
I welcome that the US is consulting with Allies.
While making clear that the US commitment to European security remains strong.
In recent years the US has been increasing its military presence in Europe.
Leading the NATO battlegroup in Poland; present in Romania and Norway;
and with Ballistic Missile Defence-capable destroyers in Spain.
The US military presence in Europe is important for Europe,
and it’s also important for North America.
Because only by working together can we address the great challenges we face.
We will also follow up on our discussion on Afghanistan.
NATO will continue to adjust our presence in support of the peace process.
This will be done in close coordination with Allies and partners.
So once again, Mark, it’s great to have you here. And welcome.
MARK ESPER [US Secretary of Defense]:
Thank you Jens.
So I want to once again thank Secretary General Stoltenberg for his superb leadership of NATO. He’s done an outstanding job and we greatly appreciate it. I look forward to the chance today to speak with you and Ambassador Hutchison to talk about all the many issues you discussed.
To follow up on a very successful virtual ministerial meeting we held last week. So we'll be discussing everything from Afghanistan to COVID response to the important issues. Also, it means improving NATO readiness. And then continue to urge all of our allies to meet their target goal of 2% of GDP.
We've moved a good distance here in the last few years, but there's much, much more we need to do to ensure our collective security. So, as you know, the United States remains committed to NATO and to the Alliance.
And I look forward to a very good discussion today to do everything we can to continue to strengthen the Alliance and our partners, and our way forward.
So thank you very much.