by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd J. Austin

  • 29 Jan. 2024 -
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  • Last updated: 29 Jan. 2024 17:59

(As delivered)

Lloyd J. Austin III, US Secretary of Defense
Good morning, everybody. Let me start with my outrage and sorrow for the death of three brave US troops in Jordan and for the other troops who were wounded. The President and I will not tolerate attack on US forces and we will take all necessary actions to defend the US and our troops. Now, at this important time, I'm glad to be back at the Pentagon. I feel good and am recovering well, but still recovering. And I appreciate all the, the good wishes that I've received thus far. And welcome back Mr. Secretary General.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General
Thank you

Lloyd J. Austin III, US Secretary of Defense
It's great to see you. It's a pleasure to get the host to host you here today. You know, the past three years we've worked closely together and I want to thank you for your leadership and you've heard me say that a number of times and it is, it is heartfelt. I have really watched you lead, lead the Alliance through some very challenging times. You've kept NATO, united and resolute through the most serious threat to transatlantic security since the end of the Cold War. Over the nearly two years since Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, NATO has grown stronger and more united than ever.

NATO became even more capable last year when Finland joined and I'm very pleased that the Turkish parliament voted last week for Sweden to join NATO as well. And we're looking forward to welcoming Sweden to NATO soon. Now, we'll talk today about ways to further strengthen transatlantic security as we look to next month's Defence Ministerial meeting in Brussels, and to the 75th anniversary summit that we’ll host here in Washington later this year. Deterrence and defence will always be job number one for NATO. And we've always, and we've made excellent progress on implementing the decisions that our leaders made at the Vilnius Summit. With our approved regional plans, we're ensuring a theatre-wide multi domain deterrent. If any adversary challenges that deterrent, the Alliance is ready to fight and to win.

So I look forward to some frank discussions with you and our valued Allies about what we need to strengthen our collective deterrence and defence. That includes reaching and maintaining the levels of defence spending and production that we need to follow through on our commitments from Vilnius. That's vital so that we can continue to support Ukraine and to replenish our own stocks of weapons and munitions.

NATO is the most powerful and successful alliance in history. And we're going to keep it that way. So Mr Secretary General, we’ve got a lot to discuss today and I look forward to that discussion. And over to you sir.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General
Thank you so much Secretary Austin, dear Lloyd. It's good to see you again and thank you for your warm welcome. And it's great to see that you are doing well and I look forward to continuing to working with you. Let me start by express my condolences for the US troops killed and wounded in Jordan. This demonstrates once again, the risk that servicemen are exposed to when they stand up for our values and take part in missions and operations where we protect freedom and the values we all believe in. Iran continues to destabilise the region. This includes backing terrorists who attack our ships in the Red Sea and the US is leading international efforts to end these attacks.

We will as you mentioned, also discuss Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and the war is now nearing the two year mark. The situation, the situation on the battlefield is challenging but NATO Allies are providing unprecedented support to Ukraine. It is important that we continue to do so. Our support to Ukraine is not charity, it is an investment in our own security because the world will become more dangerous if President Putin wins in Ukraine. And this is also closely watched in China and Beijing so that makes it even more important that we continue to support Ukraine. And therefore I also welcome the leadership of you and President Biden in ensuring that we are going to continue to support Ukraine.

We will also discuss how to continue to adapt the Alliance in the future. NATO is now holding Steadfast Defender - our biggest military exercise in decades with 90,000 troops including many from the United States - demonstrating how NATO has adapted and how we have increased the readiness of our forces and how we also have deployed more forces to the eastern part of the Alliance.

We also see growing competition with China. Beijing is not an adversary but China is conducting a major military build-up, increasingly aligning with Russia and bullying its neighbours, not least Taiwan - and all of this impacts our security. So when we face a more dangerous world, we need to invest more in security. I commend you for your leadership on these issues and I welcome the fact that European Allies are now stepping up. All Allies across Europe and Canada have increased defence spending, added 450 billion extra US dollars for events demonstrating that they take this seriously and I look forward to the Defence Ministerial meeting next week and also the summit in Washington in July. Where we're going to celebrate the 75th anniversary of this Alliance but also work and agree on important decisions on how to continue to ensure that NATO is the most successful alliance in history.
Thanks so much Lloyd, it’s great to see you again.

Lloyd J. Austin III, US Secretary of Defense
Well, welcome back to the Pentagon Secretary General, I look forward to a great discussion. Thanks, everybody.