The U.S.-NATO Alliance: The Bedrock of Transatlantic Security

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Secretary Tillerson shakes hands with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg during a NATO Foreign Ministers Meeting.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson shakes hands with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg before the NATO Foreign Ministerial in Brussels, Belgium, on March 31, 2017.

The U.S.-NATO Alliance: The Bedrock of Transatlantic Security

On March 31, Secretary Tillerson visited Brussels, Belgium to attend the NATO Foreign Ministers Meetings, continuing the United States’ high-level engagement with NATO. During this meeting, Secretary Tillerson aimed to engage in discussions on three important issues -- ensuring NATO has all of the necessary resources to fulfill its mission; building on NATO’s involvement in the fight to defeat ISIS and other counterterrorism actions; and NATO’s posture in response to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and elsewhere.

As he delivered an intervention during the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting, Secretary Tillerson underscored the importance of the United States’ alliance with NATO. “The U.S. commitment to NATO is strong and this Alliance remains the bedrock for transatlantic security,” he reaffirmed.

Secretary Tillerson continued, “This Alliance was forged from the ashes of World War II, and for more than half a century has been a necessary defensive measure against common threats. Our bond remains essential for facing national and international security challenges in an increasingly unstable world. At the top of this list is defeating ISIS, which is a threat to all member countries and partners.”

As the Secretary underscored the need to ensure that NATO has all of the necessary resources --  financial and otherwise -- to fulfill its mission, he made clear that is no longer sustainable for the U.S. to maintain a disproportionate share of NATO’s defense expenditures. “Allies must increase defense spending to meet their commitments in accordance with the Wales Pledge on Defense Investment. The Alliance’s ability to secure the transatlantic community depends on it,” he stated.

On fighting terrorism, Secretary Tillerson called on NATO to step up its efforts. “NATO can and should do more. Fighting terrorism is the top national security priority for the United States, as it should be for all of us,” he said. Secretary Tillerson made clear that while we do not believe NATO has to lead everywhere in the fight on terrorism,  the organization must add value where it can and provide greater support.

The Secretary pointed to NATO’s work in Afghanistan as a critical example of NATO providing essential support in the global terrorism fight. Secretary Tillerson stated, “The ongoing commitment of NATO Allies and partners to peace in Afghanistan, including to an eventual settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban, protects this Alliance’s interests, and, when successful, ensures that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists.”

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stands with NATO colleagues for family photo at the NATO Foreign Ministerial in Brussels, Belgium, on March 31, 2017.

The Secretary also addressed NATO’s important role in countering both non-violent, but at times violent, Russian agitation and aggression. The Secretary noted, “The United States is committed to ensuring NATO has the capabilities to support our collective defense. We understand that a threat against one of us is a threat against all of us, and we will respond accordingly. We will uphold the agreements we have made to defend our allies.”

Secretary Tillerson looked ahead to the upcoming NATO Leaders Summit as an opportunity to continue to address each of these issues and to take stock of progress that has been made. As he concluded, he reiterated the United States stalwart commitment to the alliance with NATO and to ensuring all members in invested in its shared responsibilities. “The United States will not abandon its allies or forget its friends. Many of the nations in NATO have been working together for decades to protect shared freedoms, shared values, and shared security. But we cannot keep protecting them without meeting our shared responsibility of financial and other resources.”

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