Defense Secretary Austin says US, NATO prepared to defend ‘every inch’ of territory of member states

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday reaffirmed NATO’s mission to defend ‘every inch’ of territory of its members as Russia continues to pose a threat despite being bogged down in a war with Ukraine. 

The remarks came as NATO defense ministers met in Brussels to discuss a range of issues, including Moscow’s invasion and how to further strengthen NATO’s deterrence and defense.

‘The United States will continue to stand with our NATO allies and to defend the sovereignty and the territory of every alliance member — every inch of it, as President Biden has repeatedly made clear. Our commitment to Article Five remains ironclad,’ Austin said in a statement. 

Article Five refers to the notion that an attack on a NATO member is considered an attack on all members. 

Defense spending among the 31 NATO member states has been a point of contention. Each nation has pledged to spend 2% of its GDP on defense. 

In 2014, only three successfully hit that target. This year, 18 are expected to, said NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg.

‘Since the Investment Pledge was made in 2014, European Allies and Canada have added more than $600 billion US dollars for defense,’ he said Wednesday. ‘So we are making real progress.’

Former President Trump has railed against NATO members for not contributing their fair share to military spending and, instead, relying on the U.S. for assistance.

While addressing supporters on Saturday at a rally in Conway, South Carolina, Trump recalled his time as president when he told an unidentified NATO member that he would withhold U.S. support and encourage Russia to do as it wishes. 

‘‘You didn’t pay? You’re delinquent?’’ Trump recalled saying. ‘‘No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You gotta pay. You gotta pay your bills.’’

In response, Stoltenberg warned against the dangers of dividing the U.S. and Europe. 

‘Any suggestion that allies will not defend each other undermines all of our security, including that of the U.S., and puts American and European soldiers at increased risk,’ he said. 

Austin said the U.S. and its allies are prepared to stand by Ukraine ‘for the long haul’ and for NATO allies.

‘America’s network of allies and partners worldwide — built and sustained by wise administrations of both parties in the decades since the nightmare of World War II — remains a core strategic strength that no rival can match and that none should doubt,’ he said.  

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