SECRETARY GENERAL STOLTENBERG: So, Secretary Blinken, dear Tony, welcome back to NATO. It’s really great to see you here again.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you.
SECRETARY GENERAL STOLTENBERG: You participated in the NATO foreign ministerial meeting just last week, and the fact that you are back again this month together with Secretary Austin, I think that demonstrates the strong U.S. commitment to NATO, to our transatlantic bond – and NATO is the only place where North America and Europe meets every day to address pressing security challenges. And today we will discuss our future presence in Afghanistan. We welcome this opportunity to closely coordinate and consult with all allies as we agree on our future presence in Afghanistan. So I look forward to the discussion with you and also with the foreign ministers and defense ministers later on today.
We will also discuss and address Russia’s aggressive actions in and around Ukraine. We are all concerned about the massive military buildup, and Russia must end this military buildup, stop provocations, and de-escalate.
I’m also looking forward to discussing the preparations for upcoming NATO summit and the forward-looking agenda of NATO 2030. So there are many issues to be discussed. Once again, very much welcome to you, Tony.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Jens, Secretary General, thank you. It’s very good to be back at NATO. We were here just a few weeks ago for a very good and important session with all of our colleagues, and it’s a pleasure to be back here today.
This is an important moment for our alliance. Almost 20 years ago, after the United States was attacked on 9/11, together we went into Afghanistan to deal with those who attacked us and to make sure that Afghanistan would not again become a haven for terrorists who might attack any of us. And together we have achieved the goals that we set out to achieve, and now it is time to bring our forces home. President Biden will speak to this in a few hours in the United States, and I’m here to work closely with our allies, with the Secretary General, on the principle that we’ve established from the start: in together, adapt together, and out together. We will work very closely together in the weeks and months ahead on a safe, deliberate, and coordinated withdrawal of our forces from Afghanistan, but even as we do that, our commitment to Afghanistan, to its future, will remain and we’ll talk about that today as well.
As Jens said, we’ll also discuss the concerns shared across the alliance and among allies about Russia’s actions in and near Ukraine, particularly the significant massing of forces, the largest since 2014, and we’ll talk about the future of our alliance. This, too, is a very important year for NATO. The work of the Secretary General, his leadership in setting out a vision for NATO 2030, and a strong agenda to make sure that NATO remains strong, effective, and united going forward, is vitally important and we very much look forward to working on that.
So a lot to discuss, a lot to talk about. It’s very good to be back here and I thank you, Jens, for having us here today.
SECRETARY GENERAL STOLTENBERG: Thank you.