Mattis Reaffirms ‘Unbreakable’ Bond, Enduring Commitment to Europe

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis reaffirmed the “unbreakable trans-Atlantic bond” between the United States and Europe and underscored the enduring U.S. commitment to peace and prosperity on the continent during the U.S.-Adriatic Charter defense minister’s meeting yesterday in Zagreb, Croatia.

“I’m here today to reinforce America’s commitment to the security and stability of southeast Europe,” Mattis said.

Established in 2003, the U.S.-Adriatic Charter began with the United States, Albania, Croatia and Macedonia as founding members. It expanded to include Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro as members; Kosovo, Serbia and Slovenia are observers.

Mattis said many of those militaries “stand alongside each other shoulder to shoulder” to support critical missions across the globe. Those missions, he said, include NATO‘s regional support; the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan; operations in Kosovo; the enhanced forward presence in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland; and the coalition effort to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

The United States maintains strong state partnership programs with the U.S.-Adriatic Charter members and observers, he added.

Mattis reiterated U.S. support for each nation’s ability to choose its own path on the regional and global stage, whether NATO, the European Union, or both. Further, he reaffirmed U.S. support for NATO’s open-door policy, in which NATO membership is open to any European state in a position to further the principles of the alliance’s founding treaty and contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area.

Enduring Commitment to European Peace, Prosperity

Mattis traveled to Croatia following a NATO summit in Brussels, where the secretary joined President Donald J. Trump to reinforce U.S. priorities, including more equitable burden sharing, strengthening the alliance’s deterrence and defense capabilities, and enhancing NATO’s role in fighting terrorism.

In Zagreb, Mattis said he is reaffirming what Vice President Michael R. Pence said during last year’s U.S.-Adriatic Charter summit: that the regional group is a testament to the U.S. commitment to a Europe that is whole, free and at peace.

“Coming out of our highly successful NATO summit in Brussels, it is clear that the U.S. will continue to strengthen our alliances and partnerships in the region,” the secretary said, noting that fortifying those ties is a priority in the National Defense Strategy.

However, he said there is a keen awareness that “some elsewhere would wish to see us fail in our endeavors here today,” and that “those that seek to divide us for their own reasons will not enjoy our dedication to working together.”

But, America’s commitment to Europe remains steadfast, Mattis said.

“Our meeting today is proof of our enduring shared commitment to this region’s prosperity and security, and the unbreakable trans-Atlantic bond,” he said. “Together, we are building security, shoulder to shoulder through respect, trust and cooperation.”

Mattis traveled on to Oslo, Norway, for talks with Norwegian Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen and Foreign Affairs Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide.

(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)