Obama: U.S. Commitment to
European Security is Unwavering in Pivotal Time for NATO
By Cheryl Pellerin, DoD News,
Defense Media Activity.
Washington D.C. — (DOD
News) — July 10, 2016 — As NATO faces an unprecedented range of security,
humanitarian and political challenges, the alliance always can count on the
United States, President Barack Obama said during a press conference yesterday
on the final day of the NATO Summit in Warsaw, Poland.
President Barack Obama meets with NATO Secretary-General and other officials at the NATO Summit in Warsaw, Poland
Multiple NATO nations -- the United States, Canada, France, Belgium, and Turkey
-- have endured terrorist attacks directed or inspired by Islamic State of Iraq
and the Levant. Russia has violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of
Ukraine and engaged in provocative behavior toward NATO allies. And European
borders and economies have been tested by millions of migrants, the president
“In this challenging moment,” Obama added, “I want to take
this opportunity to state clearly what will never change -- and that is the
unwavering commitment of the United States to the security and defense of
Europe, to our transatlantic relationship, to our commitment to our common
During the meetings this week in Warsaw, Obama said, NATO
nations reaffirmed their Article 5 obligations to the common security and agreed
to move forward with the most significant reinforcement of NATO’s collective
defense any time since the Cold War.
“First, we’re strengthening NATO’s defense and deterrence
posture. Building on our European Reassurance Initiative, which has already
increased readiness, from the Baltics to the Black Sea, our alliance will
enhance our forward presence on our eastern flank.”
The United States will be the lead nation in Poland,
deploying a battalion of U.S. soldiers. The United Kingdom will take the lead in
Estonia, Germany will take the lead in Lithuania, and Canada in Latvia. This
means that 4,000 more NATO troops will be in the region on a rotational basis,
the president said.
The additional U.S. Armored Brigade will rotate through
Europe, including an additional 4,000 U.S. troops, he added, and to the south
NATO nations agreed on new deterrence measures in Romania and Bulgaria.
“NATO is sending a clear message that we will defend every
ally,” Obama said.
The alliance also is strengthening the readiness of its
forces against a range of threats, the president said.
Range of Threats
NATO’s joint task force is now operational and can deploy
anywhere in Europe on short notice. With recent progress in Poland, Romania and
Spain, NATO's ballistic missile defense is coming online, and the alliance is
launching a new effort to boost the resilience of allies to better defend
against new kinds of threats, including cyber attacks, Obama said.
At a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, member nations
agreed on a new assistance package to improve alliance support for Ukrainian
forces, he added.
“[British] Prime Minister [David] Cameron, [French] President
[Francois] Hollande, [German] Chancellor [Angela] Merkel, [Italian] Prime
Minister [Matteo] Renzi and I met with [Ukrainian] President [Petro] Poroshenko,
and we reaffirmed our strong support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial
integrity, as well as the need to continue political and economic reforms,” the
“And even as the NATO-Russia Council will meet in Brussels
next week,” he added, “our 28 nations are united in our view that there can be
no business as usual with Russia until it fully implements its Minsk
NATO also will do more also to fight terrorist networks,
Every ally already contributes to the campaign against ISIL
and now the alliance will contribute airborne early warning and control aircraft
to improve intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance against ISIL, he said.
NATO training of Iraqi security forces will move from Jordan
to Iraq, where they can be more effective, Obama said. And building on his
decision to largely maintain the current U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan into
2017, he said 39 nations, including the United States, have committed more than
12,000 troops to NATO’s training mission. He also mentioned that 30 nations have
pledged more than $900 million to help sustain Afghan forces.
On NATO’s southern flank, the alliance will increase its
support to E.U. naval operations in the Mediterranean to stop arms traffickers
and go after criminals who are exploiting migrants, Obama said, and the alliance
will do more to help partners from North Africa, the Middle East and Georgia
strengthen their own defense capacity.
“Over the past two years, most NATO members have halted cuts
and begun investing more in defense. This means defense spending across the
alliance is now scheduled to increase. I especially want to commend our friends
in the U.K., Poland, Greece and Estonia, all who, along with the United States,
pay their full share of at least 2 percent of [gross domestic product] for our
collective defense,” Obama said.
Still, he said, most allies are still not hitting that 2
percent mark, an obligation alliance members agreed to at the 2014 NATO Summit
The members had a candid conversation about this, the
president said, and there’s a recognition that given the range of threats the
alliance faces and the capabilities it needs, everybody has to step up and
everybody has to do better, Obama said.
Noting that the NATO Summit in Warsaw was his last as U.S.
president, Obama said that one of his top foreign policy priorities has been to
strengthen the nation’s alliances, especially with NATO.
The United States has increased its presence in Europe, he
said, adding that NATO is as strong and ready as ever, and the presence of
Montenegro at the summit shows that the door to NATO membership is open to
nations that can meet its high standards.
“Nobody should ever doubt the resolve of this alliance to stay united and
focused on the future,” Obama said. “And just as our nations have stood together
over the past hundred years, I know that we’ll stay united and grow even
stronger for another hundred more.”
(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter @PellerinDoDNews).