by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with the US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd J. Austin III at the start of the Extraordinary meeting of NATO Ministers of Defence
Welcome back to NATO Headquarters.
It is always a great pleasure to welcome you here, and thank you so much for your engagement, your commitment, your leadership for our transatlantic Alliance.
This is even more important now, in these dangerous times.
I also look forward to welcoming President Biden and all the other NATO leaders, next week, for the extraordinary NATO Summit.
At our extraordinary Defence Ministerial Meeting today, we will of course address the brutal invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
This is devastating for the Ukrainian people and it will also change our security environment.
It will have long lasting consequences for our security, for all NATO Allies.
NATO has responded in a united and swift way.
NATO Allies have imposed severe sanctions on Russia.
Allies provide significant support to Ukraine; military support, financial support and inherent humanitarian support.
And we are reinforcing our collective defence.
Hundreds of thousands of troops on heightened alert.
One hundred thousand US troops in Europe.
And 40,000 troops under direct NATO command, mostly in the eastern part of our Alliance.
Supported by naval and air forces.
And of course the United States, and you personally, Secretary Austin, you are playing a key role in these efforts to really increase and strengthen our collective defence.
More US troops in Europe is a strong message of transatlantic unity and we are extremely grateful for your support to what we do together in the eastern part of the Alliance.
I have met US troops over the last couple of weeks in Estonia, in Latvia, in Poland and in Romania.
And I am always struck by their commitment, by the professionalism of the US men and women in uniform.
And there is no other stronger message of transatlantic unity than having forces from North America serving in Europe.
At the meeting today, we will also not only address the immediate consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but we will also address the more long term consequences, the long term adaptation of our Alliance.
How to further strengthen our deterrence and defence.
And to remove any room for miscalculation or misunderstanding in Moscow about our readiness to protect and defend all Allies.
NATO has a responsibility to ensure that this crisis does not escalate beyond Ukraine.
And that is also the reason why we have increased the presence in the eastern part of the Alliance.
So once again, Secretary Austin, welcome.
It is always an honor to have you here and I look forward to the meeting with all the other ministers starting soon.