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American Forces Press Service

Obama, Stoltenberg Discuss NATO Meeting Highlights

By Cheryl Pellerin
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, May 26, 2015 – President Barack Obama and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg discussed critical issues being addressed by the alliance during a press briefing here today after a bilateral meeting at the White House.

In what Obama called a "challenging and important time for NATO," the two discussed Ukraine, NATO's role in addressing global challenges, the way forward in Afghanistan and more this afternoon at the White House.

"We had a chance to discuss the situation in Ukraine and the increasingly aggressive posture that Russia has taken, and we affirmed that NATO is the cornerstone not just of transatlantic security but in many ways is the cornerstone for global security," Obama said in remarks after the meeting.

In Wales, he said, NATO officials affirmed the intentions of the alliance to uphold its Article 5 obligations and put in place a host of measures to reassure frontline states and the Readiness Action plan, which is now being implemented.

Responding Swiftly

According to NATO, the plan will insure the alliance is ready to respond swiftly and firmly to new security challenges, and it provides a comprehensive package of measures to respond to changes in the security environment in and near Europe.

"We also reaffirmed the importance of implementing the Minsk Agreement and ensuring that Ukraine is able to enjoy the same territorial integrity and sovereignty as any other country," said Obama, adding that the United States would continue to support Ukraine through the NATO-Ukraine partnership that predates the crisis in Crimea and now in eastern Ukraine.

In addition to its traditional roles, NATO is recognizing a range of global challenges, the president said.

"We are working closely with NATO allies to make sure that we are partnering with other countries to address issues of counterterrorism," he added, including providing assistance in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and addressing the challenges that exist in Libya.

Defense Capacity Building

Obama said such missions require increased defense capacity building with countries like Iraq or Gulf Cooperation Council countries, and the African Union.

"It also means that we have to think about whether we are deploying and arranging our assets effectively to meet that goal," Obama added.

Obama and Stoltenberg also discussed how NATO is positioned and how best to ensure that the alliance finishes the job with respect to Afghanistan.

NATO members will meet at the Warsaw, Poland, NATO Summit in July 2016, the president added, "[and] we'll have an opportunity to assess how we will continue to support the Afghan National Security Forces, now that we have transitioned out of our combat mission, to make sure that they can … secure and protect their own country."

Resources, Training, Assistance

Obama said that will require resources, training and assistance from the United States and from all NATO countries.

In his remarks, Stoltenberg thanked Obama for his leadership "in a time where we really needed U.S. leadership," and for launching the European Reassurance Initiative, which the secretary general said "has been of great importance when it comes to U.S. presence in Europe."

The U.S. military presence in Europe is the key to [reassuring] all allies, he added.

"I have traveled around the alliance, and all the places I have gone I have met U.S. servicemen and women," Stoltenberg said.

America Stands with Europe

The message they send is the same, he added -- that America stands with Europe, Europe and America stand together, and NATO will defend and protect all allies against enemy threat.

"This is even more important because we are facing new threats, new challenges, coming both from the east and from the south," Stoltenberg said. "And … we are adapting, we are responding, we are increasing the readiness and the preparedness of our forces."

Obama said there are many challenges ahead.

"The one thing that we know is that NATO is going to be a central component of [our ability] to meet those challenges," he said.

"And as the strongest alliance in the history of the world," the president added, "we need to make sure that each member-country is properly resourcing and committing to the NATO missions that have been set forth."

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