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Mattis Meets Slovenian Defense Minister, Salutes Nations’ Close Partnership

April 06, 2018

This report originally published at defense.gov.

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During his meeting with Slovenian Defense Minister Andreja Katič at the Pentagon today, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis thanked the minister for her country’s friendship and security partnership with the United States and NATO.

Slovenia is a participant in the National Guard Bureau-managed State Partnership Program, which began in 1991. The program includes 73 security partnerships involving 79 nations worldwide. States’ National Guard organizations partner with the armed forces or equivalent of a participant country in a mutually beneficial, cooperative security relationship.

Slovenia declared independence from the former Yugoslavia on June 25, 1991. In 1993, the National Guard Bureau chose Colorado’s National Guard to partner with Slovenia as part of the State Partnership Program.

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On March 29, 2004, Slovenia joined NATO.

On Feb. 3, 2016, Katič approved the deployment of Slovenian troops to Irbil, Iraq, as part of the coalition’s campaign to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

American-Slovenian Bond

During his meeting with Katič, Mattis praised “the bond that’s been formed between Slovenia and the United States since your nation gained its independence in 1991. And I think that’s a bond that’s strengthened by our shared commitment to democracy, and of course, the trans-Atlantic unity is shown in the NATO alliance.”

Mattis thanked Slovenia for its participation in the defeat-ISIS coalition, and other cooperative security efforts between the U.S. and Slovenia.

American and Slovenia troops often train together at the Pocek Training Range in Postonja, Slovenia.

“We also appreciate access to Slovenia — that Slovenia provides the U.S. forces at the Pocek Training Range, and your commitment to extend an interoperability of the U.S. forces through our joint training together, whether it be in Colorado, or at the Pocek Range,” the secretary said. “And we are going to work together to ensure the next generation of Slovenians and Americans enjoy the same freedom, and the same good relationship that we do here today.”

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Enhancing Military-to-Military Relationship

During their meeting today, Mattis said he and Katič would “discuss ways to enhance further our countries’ military-to-military relationship in pursuit of these ends, and in pursuit of peace in Europe.”

Katič thanked Mattis for hosting her visit to the Pentagon, adding that “Slovenia and the United States are close friends, NATO allies and strategic partners.”

She added that she’d just completed a visit to Denver where she met with Colorado National Guard officials.

“We have a really, really very good cooperation with the Colorado National Guard,” Katič said.

The Slovenian defense minister also thanked the U.S. for its “help and support in education, training programs, joint exercises, also for all your financial support during these years.”

Mattis also thanked Katič for the leadership role that Slovenia has played in maintaining stability in the Balkans in the face of Russia’s malign influence, according to Pentagon chief spokesperson Dana W. White.

He praised the significant contributions Slovenia has made to global and coalition operations, amongst the highest in NATO by percentage of forces, White added.

Mattis urged Katič to impress upon the incoming government the need to meet the NATO Wales Summit Defense Spending Pledge by 2024.

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