Remarks at the Reception to Celebrate NATO's 70th Anniversary
Secretary of State
I want to thank all the members of the United States Senate and the House of Representatives who are here, as well as all the former U.S. officials who have been able to join us here this evening. Thank you very much for being here.
And finally, I’d like to acknowledge Secretary General Stoltenberg for all that he has done to strengthen this amazing, important NATO Alliance. (Applause.) There’s no better marker for excellence than the fact that your colleagues extended your tenure. At the end of it, in 2022, he will be NATO’s second-longest serving secretary general. It is truly an honor to have him here with us this evening.
And I wanted you to note that to my right, if you look in the glass case, you will see the original NATO Treaty. It’s an enduring document. The alliance it created has been essential to the freedom and security of the West for seven decades now.
When the treaty was signed on April 4th in 1949, in this very room, President Harry S. Truman spoke of our collective aspirations. He called NATO, quote, “a shield against aggression” and “a bulwark which will permit us to get on with the real business of government and society – the business of achieving a fuller and happier life for every one of our citizens.”
At the time, not everyone agreed – not everyone agreed with the central notion that NATO would be a force for peace. Some thought the idea of NATO was too aggressive, more likely to increase conflict than to reduce it. But the 12 founding nations knew better, and over the years, their historic hopes have been vindicated. The “fuller and happier life for our citizens” that Truman sought has been realized.
Remember that in 1949, Europe was still reeling. It was walking a long road to full recovery from the war. The rationing of clothes, for example, was just ending in the United Kingdom. The Marshall Plan was barely 12 months old.
Compare that situation to today, when six of the 10 largest economies in the world are NATO Allies. NATO Allies together make up half of the world’s GDP. This prosperity is not by coincidence largely a result of the security that NATO provides.
NATO’s accomplishments, too, are many. It has deterred the expansion of Soviet communism in Europe. NATO, too, is responsible to ensure that the European continent is never engulfed in conflict in the way that it was during World War II. Then, of course, after the Cold War, the alliance adapted to new circumstances. NATO established the Partnership for Peace, and more nations were welcomed as members of this critical Alliance. NATO confronted ethnic conflict in the Balkans. And more recently, we have undertaken a joint fight against terrorism in places like Afghanistan and in Iraq. And all of us here remember September 11th, 2001, and we remember the day after, when NATO invoked Article 5 for the first and only time in its history.
These powerful moments are etched in everyone’s memories. They remind us of the clear benefits of the NATO Alliance.
And today, across the world, new challenges are confronting us – Russian aggression, mass migration, vulnerabilities inherent in new technologies, along with older, persistent ones. They’ve created a geopolitical environment that is increasingly unstable and even more competitive. Our task, like our visionary forebears’, is to meet these challenges through strategic renovation.
Thankfully, we have strength in numbers. NATO has grown to include 29 nations. This year, we’re preparing to welcome the 30th, North Macedonia, and I’m pleased to say that last week we formally submitted the documents for North Macedonia’s accession to our United States Senate for its ratification. (Applause.) Together, the members of the Alliance are enhancing our deterrence and defense posture. We have strengthened our forward presence in the Baltic and Black Sea regions. We are increasing our readiness of forces, and we are improving our resilience against hybrid and cyber threats of our modern times.
With these efforts, though, comes a need for further investments, investments by all of us in our collective defense. Canada, European Allies will, by the end of 2020, invest an additional $100 billion in our collective security. America is grateful for these efforts, but we can and must do more.
Let it be our mission this week to make sure the Alliance continues to live up to its promise, that it continues to function as the “shield” and as the “bulwark” that President Truman had imagined when he was standing here.
I want to thank you all again. I want to thank you all again for being here. Enjoy the rest of the evening, and now I will turn it over to Secretary General Stoltenberg. Thank you. (Applause.)
SECRETARY GENERAL STOLTENBERG: Secretary Pompeo, dear Mike, first of all, thank you so much for your strong leadership and your strong personal commitment to our alliance, and for your generous invitation. The fact that you are hosting us all here tonight is yet another example of how you are devoted to the idea of the transatlantic partnership, and this is really the perfect venue for celebrating the 70th anniversary of our alliance.
Ministers, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, 70 years ago, 12 sovereign nations gathered here to sign the North Atlantic Treaty we have to the right. And every time we have returned to celebrate NATO’s 20th, 50th, and now 70th anniversary, our family has grown bigger and stronger – from 12, and to soon 40 friends and allies. So I cannot think of any better place to celebrate 70 years of the world’s most successful alliance than in this room with all of you here together tonight.
NATO’s founding fathers were visionary leaders, architects of a global system that would bring 70 years of unprecedented peace and prosperity. One of them was Norwegian Foreign Minister Halvard Lange. Lange spent three years in concentration camps during the Second World War, so he felt deeply the value of freedom and democracy. On signing the NATO treaty, he said, “Our pact is a pact [for] peace, directed against no nation…solely against aggression itself.” His words rings just as true today as they did 70 years ago.
A copy of this treaty is written on the wall in the entrance of the NATO headquarters in Brussels, a daily reminder of the commitment that has kept us safe for seven decades. It is one of the shortest international treaties ever, but its reach is vast, and it has stood the test of time because we have united around our core commitment to protect and defend one and another.
Like all partners, sometimes we have our differences, but as President Truman said back in 1949, while we may “go about our business in different ways with different governments, economic systems, languages, and cultures, these differences present no real obstacle to the association of free nations, devoted to the common cause of peace.”
Time and again, Europe and North America have served together under the same flag for the same cause of freedom and democracy, deterring the Soviet Union, bringing stability to the Western Balkans, fighting terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan, changing as the world around us changes. And as we look together towards a more unpredictable world, we continue to stand shoulder to shoulder, investing more in defense, modernizing our alliance, addressing tomorrow’s challenges in cyberspace. But we can and must do more together to guarantee the security and prosperity of each and every one of our nations, our way of life, our common values, our mutual interests.
So tomorrow we will continue our discussions about the future of our alliance, to ensure we remain a modern alliance fit for future challenges. Thank you so much and congratulations for the 70 years. (Applause.)