Mattis: NATO is “is Under Threat on Multiple Fronts” just completed the defense ministerial, where I had the opportunity to engage in a bilateral discussion as well with a number of our fellow ministers, in there.  We all took part in a dinner last night, reaffirming our strong transatlantic bond , and it’s as strong as I have ever seen it.  I have some experience here at NATO, and I was impressed by how strong the bond is.

My intent was to affirm the full U.S. commitment to NATO and to gain an updated appreciation of the situation facing our alliance.  The burden sharing message I delivered was expected, and it was very well received.  And I depart confident that  the alliance will be unified  in meeting today’s security challenges.   I especially appreciate the leadership of Secretary General Stoltenberg and the clear alignment of our messages, as well as the messages delivered by so many of the unified alliance member nations and their ministers of defense.

As I noted yesterday, NATO is the fundamental bedrock for keeping the peace and defending the freedoms we enjoy today.  To quote Minister Le Drian of France, “NATO is a peerless alliance. It is a manifestation of our principles and shared values, and the U.S. commitment to Article 5 and our mutual defense is rock solid.”

In our meetings we discussed in detail the strategic situation facing the alliance.  Many allies, including Minister von der Leyen of Germany, recognized 2014 as a watershed year that awakened allies to a new reality.

My message to my fellow ministers was simple:  NATO arose out of strategic necessity, and NATO must evolve in response to the new strategic reality.  Our community of nations is under threat on multiple fronts, as the arc of insecurity builds on NATO’s periphery and beyond.

We thoroughly discussed the increased threats facing our alliance.  And unified by the threats to our democracies, I found strong alliance resolve to address these growing threats.  Russia’s aggressive actions have violated international law and are destabilizing.

Terrorism emanating from the Middle East and North Africa is a direct and immediate threat to Europe and to us all.  I’m mindful of the tragic attacks on our European allies and what they have suffered in Paris, Nice, Berlin, Istanbul, and right here in Brussels.  And the list, as you know, goes on.

We recognize as well that the imposition of stability has taken on new forms that we must now address, for example, in this cyber domain.  In response to these threats, NATO is reinforcing deterrence and defense, and adapting to more directly address terrorist threats along our southern flank from the Mediterranean to Turkey, and in the words of the Turkish MOD, a seamless defense from the Kola Peninsula all the way down to the Mideast and across the Mediterranean.

We also met with one of NATO’s closest partners, Georgia.  And I expressed appreciation and respect for Georgia’s contributions and sacrifices on NATO’s battlefields in Afghanistan.

The alliance faces not only these strategic realities, but also political realities.  I depart here confident that we have an appreciation of the burden sharing that we must all sustain for deterrence, peace and prosperity.  I am optimistic the alliance will adopt a plan this year, including milestone dates to make steady progress toward meeting defense commitments in light of the increased threats that we all agree that we face.

It is imperative that we do so to confront the threats as outlined by the ministers of defense of the last two days.  Those means — those nations already committing two percent of GDP for defense and the commitments other allies have made to commit the two percent give me the confidence that nothing can shake our unity and our commitment to defend our way of life.

We specifically appreciate Estonia, Greece, Poland and the United Kingdom, who have already met the two percent defense spending commitment.  These countries are leading by example, making real sacrifices.  All allies recognize that they are benefiting from the best defense in the world.

So, I’m optimistic that all nations are on a steady path to reach the level of commitments made at the Wales and Warsaw summits.  Ladies and gentlemen, the Trans-Atlantic bond built on common values remains very, very strong.  I see here in Brussels a quickened purpose in this alliance and a profound determination to stand together and honor our commitments to each other.

I have confidence that we will sustain the legacy that we have inherited and  do what is necessary to defend our freedoms.

Remarks by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis to the press at NATO headquarters, February 16, 2017.

Image: Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, February 16, 2017 (photo: Sgt. Brigitte Brantley/Department of Defense)