by the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the presentation of the American Academy of Berlin’s Henry A. Kissinger prize to James N. Mattis
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you Chairman Peterson and the American Academy for hosting this special event.
And as always, it is a pleasure to share a podium with you, President von der Leyen, dear Ursula.
I am delighted to be here to celebrate a lifetime of public service.
And it is my honour to pay tribute tonight to an outstanding ally, diplomat, Marine and friend.
Congratulations, General Jim Mattis, on receiving the Henry Kissinger Prize.
In November 2016, I had my first conversation with the newly-elected President Donald Trump.
He started the call by saying that he was a big fan of NATO. Huge!
And then he asked me about different candidates for his new administration.
He asked about Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State.
That was no surprise, because his name was already mentioned widely in the media.
And I knew Rex.
He had come to Norway many times as the CEO of ExxonMobil.
So I recommended Rex Tillerson for the State Department.
Then Donald Trump asked me about Jim Mattis for the Pentagon.
And I was taken by surprise.
His name hadn’t been mentioned so much in the media.
And apart from a brief encounter at a conference, I had never met General Mattis.
In fact, almost all of my knowledge about him came from an HBO series.
“Generation Kill” about the Iraq War,
that I had watched with my son.
In this TV show, Jim Mattis was a mythical character.
A much feared and revered General with the call sign “Chaos.”
Even though I liked the series,
I was not convinced it gave me enough of a basis to recommend him as Secretary of Defence.
So I didn’t really know what to say.
Then one of my team who was listening in to the phone call quickly passed me a note which read:
“Jim Mattis is great. He knows NATO.”
So I said: “Jim Mattis is great. He knows NATO.”
And I warmly recommended him.
Of course, I cannot claim that my recommendations made a difference.
But at least I was right.
Jim is great.
And he proved to be an outstanding ally.
A steadfast supporter of a strong transatlantic bond.
Over the years we worked together, I saw Jim’s commitment to our Alliance.
He reminded us on many occasions that the United States has never gone to war alone.
Because, as he said at his first Defence Ministers meeting in NATO,
“History is compelling.
Nations with allies thrive,
those without wither.”
Jim committed himself and the US completely to NATO and to European security.
But he always expected the same level of commitment in return.
Or, as he told us: “the American taxpayer… cannot care more for your children’s security than you do.”
Thanks, not least, to Jim’s style of plain talking, defence spending in NATO has continued to rise for seven consecutive years.
European Allies and Canada have added an extra 260 billion dollars for new capabilities.
So Jim Mattis is a steadfast ally.
And he is a skilled diplomat.
He always tries to find political solutions.
And considers military force a last resort.
As he reminded US lawmakers, the more money they cut from the State Department for diplomacy, the more money they have to give the Pentagon for bullets and battle tanks.
Still, you should never doubt Jim’s determination to back up his words with action.
Because, as the saying goes, there is “no better friend, no worse enemy than a US Marine.”
He might have made his reputation for creating chaos in enemy ranks.
But in turbulent times, Jim was a pillar of stability for our alliance.
At our NATO Summit in Brussels in 2018, we had some challenging discussions.
After which, Jim showed up at my office. Unannounced.
Not just to see me, but to walk the corridors.
And remind NATO staff of America’s unwavering commitment to a strong transatlantic bond.
So Jim is a steadfast ally and a skilled diplomat.
But in his heart, he is first and foremost a Marine.
In fact, in all of my years at NATO, I have never met anyone with greater respect for our troops.
Or known someone who is more highly respected in return.
I had the honour of travelling with Jim on a visit to Afghanistan in September 2017.
Shortly after we left the plane, it was targeted by rockets.
In the worst attack on Kabul airport in years.
I must admit, I was just a tiny bit concerned!
But Jim, of course, was as cool as ever.
On that trip we travelled to the Forward Operating Base Gamberi.
Normally in these hot, remote locations I would dress more informally.
But not with Jim Mattis.
We spent the whole day in dark suits and ties.
Because this was his way of showing respect to those in uniform who were sacrificing so much.
In his speeches to the troops, Jim showed a deep understanding of their daily hardships.
From being on dangerous patrols under a burning sun, to serving so far from home.
He reminded every one of them that they represented the very best of their nations.
From all races, genders, backgrounds and sexual orientation.
Within his praise for their service, he carried a very important political message.
About diversity, and respect.
During our visit, we both addressed crowds of soldiers.
We became quite the double act.
Although, I felt more like the local Norwegian band.
Warming up for Bruce Springsteen.
The troops politely pretended to applaud for both of us.
But clearly, Jim was the real star.
So, Jim, let me congratulate you again on receiving tonight’s award.
Thank you for being a steadfast ally,
a skilled diplomat,
a formidable Marine.
But most of all, thank you for being my friend.