NATO allies have recognized the threats facing the world and are putting their money where their mouths are, plussing up defense spending by $100 billion, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan said at the conclusion of the alliance’s defense ministers conference in Brussels today.
The secretary praised NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg for his part in getting the alliance countries to contribute more to offset the threats posed by Russia, China and violent extremism.
This was Shanahan’s first NATO meeting in his new job, and he said the discussions were fruitful and illuminating.
“By developing NATO’s political guidance, we ensured our planning is focused on generating the right capabilities to remain focused on current and emerging threats,” he said. “We will lead; not lag.”
Must Translate Investments to Results
The allies discussed the way forward and described the progress they have made since the 2014 Wales Summit — where the countries agreed each should spend 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense. “Our responsibility moving forward, must be to translate these investments into real results,” the secretary said.
This is already translating into alliance readiness, Shanahan noted, praising the progress being made in the “4-30” initiative — 30 battalions, 30 aircraft squadrons, 30 ships ready to move in 30 days.
Money builds military capabilities and capacity, and these are being demonstrated in exercises such as last year’s Trident Juncture, the largest NATO exercise since the end of the Cold War. Shanahan said these exercises demonstrate alliance resolve and point to areas where the members can improve.
NATO is engaging threats beyond Europe, he said, confronting “cyber and hybrid threats, threats in space and threats to our military and civilian telecommunications infrastructure.”
The secretary said NATO remains the world’s most powerful alliance, and he reiterated President Donald J. Trump’s vow that the United States is with NATO 100 percent.
Coordinated and Aligned in Afghanistan
In Afghanistan, NATO is coordinated and aligned. “We are together,” Shanahan said. “We are helping to ensure a diplomatic settlement with [U.S. Special Envoy] Ambassador [Zalmay] Khalilzad in the lead. No outcome in predetermined, but as President Trump said in the State of the Union [address], after two decades of war, the hour has come to try for peace.”
Shanahan called the U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia a case study in alliance unity. “NATO maintained unity on a sensitive, critically important issue,” he said. “NATO stood united, recognizing that this is a simple case of U.S. compliance and Russian noncompliance.”
The public needs to know about the threats facing the United States and the rest of NATO, Shanahan said. “The public is not aware of the evolving threat,” he added. “I’m referring to Russia, I’m referring to China, I’m referring to the evolving situation we see with our infrastructure, cybersecurity, space.”
The threats warrant more money, attention, thought and resources, Shanahan said. He praised Germany for increasing defense spending by $30 billion, putting the country on a path to spend 1.5 percent of its GDP on security. “It’s not enough,” the acting secretary said. “The threat warrants more. In my previous experience, I wasn’t aware — to the same degree — of the emerging threats. I am now. With what I know now, I would spend more. That’s the challenge we have with reaching out and communicating strategic messages.”