MUNICH, GERMANY - U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has told European allies that American security is tied to that of Europe, describing NATO’s principle of collective defense as a ‘bedrock commitment’.
He made the comments at the Munich Security Conference, where heads of state and delegates from across the world are gathered at a time of global uncertainty.
“Transatlantic unity buttresses European unity. A fact we recognize in the context of cooperation between NATO and the European Union,” Secretary Mattis told delegates, adding that “American security is permanently tied to the security of Europe. Done correctly, European initiatives and NATO unity are mutually reinforcing.”
Watch: Mattis Reassures NATO on Collective Defense
U.S. President Donald Trump last month labeled NATO as obsolete. But Mattis said the president had now thrown his full weight behind the alliance – although he repeated the demand that Europe shares more of the financial burden.
Preserving international order
“Standing on the bedrock of our NATO alliance, 28 democracies help preserve the rules-based international order,” Mattis said.
It is that international order that many delegates in Munich say is at risk – and many pin the blame mainly on Moscow.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will speak at the Munich conference Saturday. NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed further dialogue.
"Russia is our biggest neighbor and especially in times with more military activity along our borders, with high tensions, I strongly believe that there is the need for dialogue between NATO and Russia,” he told reporters Friday.
More U.S. troops and military hardware arrived in Latvia and Romania this week, part of the biggest NATO reinforcement since the end of the Cold War.
European allies have been reassured by the warm words that Secretary Mattis had for the transatlantic alliance. But many delegates also say that they would like to hear those same words from President Trump himself.