Thank you very much, Director-General Schoberl, Ambassador Kowalski, Ambassador Lindsay, Ambassador Kacer, fellow diplomats, distinguished guests and friends assembled here. It is a pleasure to speak to you at this conference.
Thank you to the Polish Embassy and to IFAT for putting on this important event. I am especially pleased that I can speak to you today, before my own visit, tomorrow, to Warsaw, to meet with my fellow Ambassadors from the V4 countries. So today’s conference is well-timed. This week is all about our shared goals for Warsaw.
I’m excited to be making the trip to Warsaw. Why? Because NATO is exciting. It’s the greatest political-military alliance imaginable, plain and simple, the most remarkable force for justice, peace, and order in Europe, and beyond. It is the basis of security for every member, for 28, and soon 29, equal partners – for there is no second-class membership in this first-class Alliance. The United States relies on the guarantees of NATO absolutely, as much as every other member. We share the same commitment to NATO solidarity as Poland, as Hungary, and as Montenegro will. NATO is an Alliance of democracies, and in Warsaw, we are affirming the order and solidarity of a Europe that is whole, free and at peace.
And there is no more inspiring, no more exciting aspect to NATO than its policy of the Open Door – an open door to European nations that demonstrate the democratic values of the Alliance and can contribute to collective defense, as stated in Article 10 of the Washington Treaty. Article 10 also states that membership decisions will be taken by consensus, and that decision is based on the measure of the nation’s hard work to meet those standards, not on outside events or opinions. No third party has a veto on membership in NATO. Since 1949, 16 nations have come through NATO’s Open Door to join the original 12 founding members at the round table. Montenegro will make it 29.
The United States looks to the NATO Summit as a defining event in the Alliance as we face the biggest security challenges in a generation. It is an opportunity for all 28 members of NATO to reaffirm our commitment to our values, to our collective response to security threats, and to acknowledge that our responsibilities to each other call for upkeep and call for real investment. There is no prouder boast a nation can make than that it has shouldered its responsibilities while it enjoys the protection of the alliance.
That’s what the Summit offers us – the opportunity to demonstrate NATO has kept the promises made by our leaders at Wales and has taken addition steps to to protect our people and project stability beyond our borders. The Warsaw Summit is a chance to focus on new challenges and the unfinished business of our enduring support for the security of Afghanistan. It is a chance to chart the extraordinary progress in Alliance’s defense and deterrence, while balancing that strength with our consistent openness to dialogue with Russia, clear communications on NATO capabilities, and dedication to transparency in Alliance exercises.
We have a long-term commitment to Afghanistan’s stability and NATO stands ready to continue our support of the Afghan National Security Forces to defend their country and to push back violent extremism. The European Reassurance Initiative, also known as ERI, has enabled the U.S. to contribute persistent, rotational forces and equipment for bilateral and multinational exercises and training, to improve infrastructure to enhance the responsiveness of U.S. forces, and to help strengthen the defense and security capacity of our Allies, particularly in the Baltics.
In June, the United States will join the Polish national exercise Anakonda. More than 25,000 participants from 24 nations, including more than 12,000 Americans, will train and integrate national command and force structures into an allied, joint, and multinational environment.
And the U.S. commitment in the ERI budget for 2017 amounts to an increase by 400 percent in our spending on European security – from just under $790 million two years ago, to $3.4 billion. This translates into a division’s worth of equipment in Europe, a continuous heel-to-toe rotation of a rotational Armored Brigade Combat Team on the eastern flank of NATO, with a total of three fully equipped Army Combat Brigades and pre-positioned equipment for another brigade in Europe by the end of 2017.
Naturally, our relations with Russia play a critical part in our talks in Warsaw, but our strategy is to bolster the defense of our allies and give tangible demonstration of our commitment to Article 5. Through self-help and mutual aid, nations are strengthening their national defenses, making sure we have the right mix of military and civilian capabilities to meet our evolving security challenges, including cyber and hybrid warfare. With renewed strength, resources, and capabilities, our Alliance is meeting the full range of regional and global challenges that confront us. We look to Russia mindful of our mandate for a collective defense, of NATO’s commitment to the peaceful resolution of disputes, and of the need for dialogue. We look to each other, at the same time, for unity and solidarity.
The Warsaw Summit will mean coming together to make these commitments clear again for all of us. To belong to NATO is a privilege and a responsibility. From the first day a country is accepted into the Alliance, we undertake an ironclad commitment to Article 5. To keep that commitment, every member must step up and invest in defense.
So finally, one of the extraordinary things we will all do in Warsaw is to open our books, and share that budget and spending data, transparently, as a sign of our collective trust and mutual obligations. We calculate collectively how much we spend, and how much we will spend in future, to support the defense investment pledge made at Wales in 2014. These are not just aspirations. For the first time in years, defense spending is starting to trend upward. Poland sets an example for others as one of five Allies who meet the two percent benchmark.
I am pleased to be part of this conference, and to share the enthusiasm of the United States for the Summit taking place next month. As President Obama said two years ago – speaking, as it happens, in Warsaw, addressing all Europeans – “We stand together, now and forever – for your freedom is ours.”
Thank you very much. Köszönöm szépen.