For the first time in its 45-year history, The Heritage Foundation hosted a presentation by NATO’s secretary-general.
“The Value of NATO in the 21st Century” was the subject Sept. 14 of remarks by Jens Stoltenberg of Norway. Stoltenberg is NATO’s 13th secretary-general and has held the role since 2014.
“I would like to thank The Heritage Foundation for the very important work you do, and for your steadfast support for many years for the values NATO holds so dear,” Stoltenberg said.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was founded in 1949, following World War II, to protect the territorial integrity of its members. It currently has 29 member states from North America and Europe.
“When thinking of the value of NATO to the United States, I am reminded of what [Defense Secretary James] Mattis once told me; that never in his entire career had he fought a war without NATO allies at his side,” Stoltenberg said. “The U.S. never has to fight alone.”
Looking forward to delivering a speech on the value of #NATO @Heritage this morning. NATO supports the prosperity, the values & the security of the US. Europe & North America are stronger together. pic.twitter.com/smLvWtncXz— Jens Stoltenberg (@jensstoltenberg) September 14, 2018
In her introductory remarks, Heritage President Kay Coles James applauded NATO’s actions after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. The alliance invoked Article V of the NATO Treaty, a collective defense clause, the first and only time to date.
“For the first time in the alliance’s history, our NATO allies immediately provided security, support, and resources to help patrol and secure America’s airspace and waterways,” she said. “For those of us who were living and working in Washington at that time, we will never forget it.”
In his speech, Stoltenberg further examined the strategic value of the nearly 70-year alliance between NATO and the United States, identifying three main reasons for the alliance.
- Peace and stability in Europe is of “vital interest to the United States.”
- NATO allies share and support fundamental democratic values that are “at the heart of American society.”
- NATO allies “boost America’s military power,” with a combined total of nearly 2 million active-duty personnel.
Stoltenberg laid out concrete steps taken at a NATO summit in July to respond to a more unpredictable world, including greater defense spending and fair burden-sharing.
“It is clear that allies need to invest more and better in our shared security,” he said. “All NATO allies have agreed to stop cuts to defense budgets, to increase spending, and to move spending [to] 2 percent of [gross domestic product] on defense by 2024.”
NATO is currently focused on deterring Russian aggression and fighting the terrorist organization ISIS.
“In an uncertain world, we have much more to do as we work together to safeguard the freedom and security of nearly 1 billion citizens on both sides of the Atlantic,” Stoltenberg said. “Yes, we have our differences and robust debates. But two world wars and a Cold War and an ongoing fight against terrorism [have] taught us that we are far stronger together than apart. We have always been united in our core collective defense mission.
“That is why NATO is the most successful and the most valuable alliance in history,” he said.