Trump, Stoltenberg Talk NATO in Advance of May Summit

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (L) with President Donald J. Trump

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Washington, DC – Following a White House meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg yesterday, President Donald J. Trump praised the alliance’s accomplishments, its partnership and its support in combating terrorism and confronting other pressing security challenges.

Since its establishment on April 4, 1949, “the NATO alliance has been the bulwark of international peace and security,” Trump told reporters at the White House during a joint news conference with Stoltenberg.

“NATO allies defeated communism and liberated the captive nations of the Cold War,” the president continued. “They secured the longest period of unbroken peace that Europe has ever known. This enduring partnership is rooted out of so many different things, but our common security is always No. 1, and our common devotion to human dignity and freedom.”

Productive Discussion

Trump said he and Stoltenberg had a productive discussion about what more NATO can do in the fight against terrorism.

“I complained about that a long time ago, and they made a change, and now they do fight terrorism. I said [the alliance] was obsolete. It’s no longer obsolete,” Trump said.

“In the coming months and years, I’ll work closely with all of our NATO allies to enhance this partnership and to adapt to the challenges of the future — of which there will be many,” the president said. This includes, he said, upgrading NATO to focus on today’s most pressing security challenges, including migration and terrorism.

Turning to Syria, Trump thanked the NATO allies for their support of the strike against the Assad regime’s chemical weapons facility. “The vicious slaughter of innocent civilians with chemical weapons, including the barbaric killing of small and helpless children and babies, must be forcefully rejected by any nation that values human life,” the president said. “It is time to end this brutal civil war, defeat terrorists, and allow refugees to return home.”

Trump said he hopes NATO will take on an increased role in Iraq in supporting Iraqi partners in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

The president also said he is sending National Security Advisor Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster to Afghanistan “to find out how we can make progress alongside our Afghan partners and NATO allies.”

Stoltenberg stressed that in a more dangerous and unpredictable world, it is good to have friends and allies. “In NATO, America has the best friends and the best allies in the world,” he said.

He noted that the 29 countries of the alliance represent half of the world’s economic and military power. “No other superpower has ever had such a strategic advantage,” Stoltenberg said. “This makes the United States stronger and safer.”

Counterterrorism Partnership

NATO invoked Article 5 of its charter after the 9/11 terror attacks, the secretary general said. Article 5 states that an attack on one alliance nation is considered as an attack on all.

“We launched NATO’s biggest military operation ever in Afghanistan,” he said. “Hundreds of thousands of Europeans and Canadian soldiers have served shoulder to shoulder with American troops. More than a thousand have paid the ultimate price.”

The president again stressed the need for more equitable burden sharing within the alliance, and Stoltenberg agreed that the European allies must do more.

“In 2016, for the first time in many years, we saw an increase in defense spending across European allies and Canada — a real increase of 3.8 percent, or $10 billion, more for our defense,” the secretary general said. “We are now working to keep up the momentum, including by developing national plans outlining how to make good on what we agreed in 2014. We know that we all need to contribute our fair share, because we need to keep our nations safe in a more dangerous world.”

Stoltenberg said the United States has stepped up also. He noted that thousands of American troops are deploying to the eastern countries of the alliance to deter Russia.

The meeting here was a prelude to a meeting in Brussels of all NATO heads of state scheduled to take place in May.

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