BRUSSELS, Belgium –
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III arrived in Brussels today for meetings with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. It's the first in-person meeting since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Afghanistan, Russia and the future of the alliance are among the issues being discussed. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will join Austin for the meetings with NATO allies.
Austin's visit is part and parcel of the Biden-Harris Administration's pledge to re-invigorate America's foreign and security policies. "We view NATO as a cornerstone of Trans-Atlantic security," Austin told Stoltenberg at the beginning of the meeting. "I want to reaffirm our ironclad commitment to the collective defense under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, and … we have very important issues to talk about, not the least of which is Russia, and I certainly share your concern with the recent build-up of Russian forces on the Ukraine border."
"The fact that you are here to discuss important issues with the NATO allies demonstrates your personal commitment to the transatlantic bond, but also the strong U.S. commitment to our alliance," Stoltenberg said to the defense secretary.
Stoltenberg has always said that NATO is the place where North America and Europe routinely meet to discuss important issues.
He noted that the NATO allies went into Afghanistan after the attack on the United States September 11, 2001. It remains the only time Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty has been invoked. That article states that an attack on one NATO country is an attack on all.
"As we have stated again and again, we went in together, we adjusted our presence together and we will also leave together," Stoltenberg said.
He thanked Austin for the close consultations he has held with the NATO allies since taking office. "It is important that we stay united and together as we move forward," he said.
Russia's build-up in Crimea and along the eastern border of Ukraine is also a concern and will be discussed. "We have seen a massive military build-up with the largest massing of the force since 2014," the secretary general said.
NATO nations have called on Russia to end its military build-up and de-escalate the situation.
Finally, the NATO 2030 proposals will be on the agenda. NATO 2030 looks to the future of the alliance. Austin praised Stoltenberg's work on the proposal saying he believes the proposals have the allies moving in the right direction.