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Obama: U.S. Commitment to European Security is Unwavering in Pivotal Time for NATO

WASHINGTON, 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.

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 said.

“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 defense.”

Common Defense

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 president said.

“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 obligations.”

Fighting ISIL

NATO also will do more also to fight terrorist networks, Obama said.

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.

Stepping Up

“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 in Wales.

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.

Strengthening Alliances

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)

Distribution channels: Military