At the start of a meeting with NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg at the Pentagon today, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan said he is encouraged by NATO’s operational progress its efforts to increase burden-sharing.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization ensures transatlantic security and, Shanahan reiterated President Donald J. Trump’s pledge to be with NATO 100 percent, which, of course includes the Article 5 collective defense guarantee.
NATO’s European allies have increased their contributions to the training mission in Afghanistan and to efforts in Iraq to establish a training mission aimed at ensuring the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria does not reestablish itself in that country, Stoltenberg said.
Shanahan praised Stoltenberg for his work in reaching an equitable division of the security burden. “Since President Trump took office, America’s NATO allies have stepped up defense spending by a total of $41 billion,” Shanahan said. “Allied defense spending increased by more than nine percent from 2016 to 2018 – the largest increase is 25 years. By 2020, our NATO allies are projected to increase defense spending by approximately $100 billion.”
This is money that goes directly to deterrence and defense. The increase means larger exercises, mobility and infrastructure improvements and investments in the alliance’s advanced response force and the revamped command structure. “This has allowed us to increase our force presence on the territory of our most vulnerable allies,” the acting secretary said.
“A few years ago, achieving these improvements and funds might have seemed impossible,” he said. “A few years from now, we will write the same success story on readiness. I’m encouraged that we are moving forward on our readiness initiative – 30 battalions, 30 air squadrons and 30 warships ready to fight in 30 days or less.”
More needs to happen, but the work is well started, he said. “We need to move from theory to practice, and from practice to results,” Shanahan said. “And results come from real changes to posture.”
Shanahan discussed Russia’s continuing violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. “This is unfortunate,” the acting secretary said. “After our collective efforts to return Russia to compliance, we’ve kept our part of the deal; Russia did not. Moscow refuses to honor its international obligations, eroding trust and security not only in Europe, but far beyond as well.”
Stoltenberg and Shanahan welcomed the recent talks with the Taliban in Qatar. The secretary general said the talks, led by U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, the special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, have the potential to work. “We are encouraged by what we see now and the progress in the talks with the Taliban” he said.
Stoltenberg noted that the alliance will “not stay longer than necessary,” but will not leave until there are assurances that Afghanistan will not become a haven for terrorists.