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SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Good morning, everyone.  I really want to start by thanking Secretary General Stoltenberg for his friendship, his partnership, and especially his leadership of our NATO Alliance during one of the most critical times that I can remember in Alliance history.  Because of his strong and steady hand, our Alliance is stronger and it’s more unified than it’s ever been.

We had the opportunity today – and more importantly, the secretary general has the opportunity with the President – in a short while to talk about our plans for the Vilnius Summit next month, a very, very important milestone for the entire Alliance.  And I think we can say with conviction that you’ll see at the summit the Alliance reaffirm its commitment – of course, the shared commitment to Article Five and to defending every inch of NATO territory.

You will see us following up on our commitment to reinforce our defense investments, to strengthening even more the Alliance’s deterrent and defense capacity, and to operationalize many of the plans and programs that were put in place in the Strategic Concept and that continue to be elaborated right now in advance of the summit.

I anticipate as well that you’ll see a robust package of both political and practical support for Ukraine coming from the summit.  We believe as well that it is the time to welcome Sweden as the next member of the Alliance after having had an important and, I think, very appropriate process for its accession to address appropriate concerns of other Allies.

And we also look forward to strengthening even more our partnership with countries in the Indo-Pacific.  So there’s a broad and deep agenda, but of course the details are important.  We’ll continue to work on those in the weeks ahead, but I think the secretary general’s meeting here today, but especially with the President, is an important opportunity to make sure that we have good alignment heading into Vilnius.

So Jens, as always, welcome.  Great to be with you.

SECRETARY GENERAL STOLTENBERG:  Thank you so much, Secretary Blinken, dear Tony.  And let me thank you for our friendship, for our partnership, and for your strong leadership in a critical time for our security.  And I’d also thank the United States and President Biden for everything you do to strengthen the transatlantic bond, and of course the support you provide to Ukraine.

European allies are also doing their part with tens of billions of economic military support to Ukraine, and the support NATO Allies and partners are delivering to Ukraine is making difference on the battlefield as we speak because the Ukrainians have launched the offensive.  They are making advances; they are gaining ground.  This is still early days, but what we all know is that the more land the Ukrainians are able to liberate, the stronger their hand will be at the negotiating table and the more likely it is that President Putin will understand that he will never win this battle, they will never win the war of aggression on the battlefield.  So therefore, I’m extremely grateful for your personal commitment to the continued support to Ukraine, Secretary Blinken.

As you mentioned, we are now preparing for the upcoming NATO Summit in Vilnius.  We will there agree to sustain and step up the support for Ukraine, further strengthen our deterrence and defense, which includes a more – a stronger commitment to increase defense spending.  And I expect Allies to agree that two percent of GDP for defense should be a minimum of what we should all invest in our defense, in our collective security.

We will strengthen our partnership with the Indo-Pacific partners, and we’ll all, of course, look forward to welcoming Sweden as a full member of the Alliance as soon as possible.

So once again, Tony, thank you for our friendship and thank you for everything you do for the Alliance.  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thanks, Jens.  Thanks, everyone.

U.S. Department of State

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