Jens Stoltenberg

Address to a Joint Meeting of the U.S. Congress

delivered 3 April 2019, Washington, D.C.

Audio AR-XE mp3 of Address


Madam Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Honorable members of the United States Congress, Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am really truly honored and grateful for the privilege of addressing you all today, and to represent the 29 members of the NATO Alliance.
Seventy years ago, tomorrow, NATO’s founding treaty was signed in this great city. On that day, President Truman said,

We hope to create a shield against aggression and the fear of aggression; 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 all our citizens.1

Our Alliance was created by people who had lived through two devastating world wars. They knew only too well the horror, the suffering, and the human and material cost of war. They were determined that this should never happen again. And they were also determined to stand up to the expansion of the Soviet Union, which was taking control of its neighbors, crushing democracies, and oppressing their people.

So, they founded NATO with a clear purpose: to preserve peace and to safeguard freedom. With an iron-clad commitment by all members of the Alliance to protect each other, they made a solemn promise: One for all and all for one. This commitment has served us well. Peace has been preserved; freedom maintained.

Yes, Allies have been involved in conflicts in different parts of the world. And Allies have suffered the pain of terrorist attacks. But no NATO Ally has been attacked by another country. The Cold War ended without a shot being fired in Europe. And we have experienced an unprecedented period of peace. So, the NATO alliance is not only the longest lasting alliance in history. It is the most successful alliance in history.

Ever since the founding of our Alliance in 1949, every Congress, every American President, your men and women in uniform, and the people of the United States of America, have been staunch supporters of NATO.
America has been the backbone of our Alliance. It has been fundamental to European security and for our freedom. We would not have the peaceful and prosperous Europe we see today without the sacrifice and commitment of the United States. For your enduring support, I thank you all today.

So NATO has been good for Europe. And NATO has been good for the United States. The strength of a nation is not only measured by the size of its economy, or the number of its soldiers, but also by the number of its friends. And through NATO, the United States has more friends and allies than any other power. This has made the United States stronger, safer, and more secure.

Madam Speaker, Mr. Vice President,

It’s good to have friends. Yesterday as I flew over the Atlantic, I looked out of my window at the ocean below, the great ocean that lies between our two continents. The Atlantic does not divide us. It unites us.
It binds us together.

And for Norwegians like me, the Atlantic Ocean defines who we are. Indeed, it was a Norseman, Leif Erikson, who was the first European to reach American shores almost a thousand years ago2 -- a fact that more people would know if he had not left so quickly --

-- and decided not to tell anyone about it. For adventurers like Leif Leif Erikson, the Atlantic Ocean was never a barrier. Rather, it was a great blue bridge to new lands and new possibilities.

For millions of Europeans, it has been a bridge to freedom, sanctuary, and hope. My grandparents were among them. My mother was born in Patterson, New Jersey. And I lived part of my childhood in San Francisco. This has given me a deep sense of kinship with this wonderful country, a kinship that has only grown throughout my life.

I remember well, during the Cold War, when I was a young conscript in the Norwegian army, our forces were trained and equipped to hold the line. And Norway is actually bordering the Soviet Union in the Cold War.
We knew that we could not take on the might of the Soviet Union alone.
But we also knew that we were not alone. We knew that, if needed, our NATO Allies, led by the United States, would soon be there with us. We enjoyed a level of security that only our transatlantic Alliance could provide. So, thanks to NATO, as a young man during the Cold War I felt safe. And that says something about the strength of our Alliance.

Madam Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress:

At the entrance to the NATO headquarters in Belgium, there are two monuments.

One, a piece of the Berlin Wall designed to keep people in and ideas out. It failed. It failed because the ideas and the values of those who built it were less compelling and less powerful than ours; because we, as NATO, were resolute. We stood together and would not back down.

The other monument is a twisted steel beam from the North Tower of the World Trade Center: a memorial to the ordinary people going about their business on an ordinary day when the unthinkable happened; a memorial to the 2,977 people who lost their lives on 9/11; a reminder of how all NATO Allies stood with the United States in its hour of need.

One monument is a symbol of freedom; the other a symbol of solidarity.
Both are symbols of NATO -- who we are and what we stand for, what so many of our brave men and women have fought and sometimes died for. But not in vain; and not alone. The men and women of our armed forces have served together over the decades. This includes, actually, also many of you in this room, in this Congress, and in my delegation. I pay tribute to you and to all those who serve in the defense of freedom. There is no higher cause than freedom.

And in these two monuments we see the challenges we have overcome as an Alliance: We deterred the Soviet Union during the Cold War,
stopped wars and atrocities in the Balkans, fought terrorism from Afghanistan to the Middle East, welcomed the newly free nations of Central and Eastern Europe into our Alliance
3 -- helping to spread democracy, peace and prosperity.

And NATO’s door remains open.

This year the Republic of North Macedonia signed the accession protocol.
And with your support, North Macedonia will soon become the thirtieth member of our Alliance. So, what started in 1949 with 12 members has proven a powerful force for peace, an Alliance that others strive to join, showing the historic success of NATO.

But as you know, success in the past is not a guarantee of success in the future. We have to be frank: Questions are being asked on both sides of the Atlantic about the strength of our partnership. And yes, there are differences. We are an Alliance of many different nations with different geography, history, and political parties: Republicans and Democrats,  Conservatives and Labour, Independents, Greens, and many more. This is democracy.

Open discussion and different views are not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength. So, we should not be surprised when we see differences between our countries. Today, there are disagreements on issues such as trade, energy, climate change, and the Iran nuclear deal. These are serious issues and serious disagreements.

But we should remember that we’ve had our disagreements before: the Suez Crisis in 1956; the French withdrawal from military cooperation in NATO in 1966; and the Iraq War in 2003, which was strongly supported by some Allies and equally strongly opposed by others. The strength of NATO is that despite our differences, we have always been able to unite around our core task -- to defend each other, protect each other, and to keep our people safe.

We have overcome our disagreements in the past, and we must overcome our differences now because we will need our Alliance even more in the future. We face unprecedented challenges, challenges no one nation can face alone The global balance of power is shifting. The fight against terrorism is a generational fight. We have only just seen the beginning of the threats in cyber space. Artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and big data could change the nature of conflict more fundamentally than the Industrial Revolution.

And we will need to continue to deal with a more assertive Russia. In 2014, Russia illegally annexed Crimea, the first time in Europe that one country had taken part of another by force since World War Two. We see a pattern of Russian behavior, including a massive military build-up from the Arctic to the Mediterranean and from the Black Sea to the Baltic; the use of a military-grade nerve agent in the United Kingdom; support for Assad’s murderous regime in Syria; consistent cyber-attacks on NATO Allies and partners, targeting everything from Parliaments to power grids;
sophisticated disinformation campaigns; and attempts to interfere in democracy itself.

NATO has responded with the biggest reinforcement of our collective defense in decades. For the first time, we have combat-ready troops deployed in the east of our Alliance. We have increased the readiness of our forces, tripled the size of the NATO Response Force, modernized our command structure, bolstered our cyber defenses. And we have stepped up support for our close partners, Georgia and Ukraine, sovereign nations with the sovereign right to choose their own path.

We do all of this not to provoke a conflict but to prevent a conflict, and to preserve the peace -- not to fight, but to deter; not to attack, but to defend. There is no contradiction between deterrence, defense, and dialogue. We do not want to isolate Russia. We strive for a better relationship with Russia. But even without a better relationship, we still need to manage a difficult one. So, we need to talk. And we do talk -- to reduce risks, to avoid incidents, accidents, and miscalculations.

We also need dialogue in order to work for arms control. My generation was shaped by the deployment of thousands of nuclear missiles in Europe in the 1980s, missiles capable of destroying our cities and killing millions of people in moments. Thanks to the vision and leadership of President Reagan and Premier Gorbachev, the INF Treaty put an end to all these weapons. But today, they are back. Russia has deployed new missiles in Europe. They are mobile, hard to detect, nuclear capable, cut the warning time to just minutes, and reduce the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons in an armed conflict.

NATO’s position is united and clear: Russia is in violation of the INF Treaty. There are no new American missiles in Europe, but there are new Russian missiles. I continue to call on Russia to return to compliance with the INF Treaty, but so far Russia has taken no steps to do so. And time is running out. We do not want a new arms race. We do not want a new Cold War. But we must not be naive. An agreement that is only respected by one side will not keep us safe.

So we must also prepare for a world without the INF Treaty. We will be measured and coordinated. We will not mirror what Russia is doing. NATO has no intention of deploying land-based nuclear missiles in Europe, but NATO will always take the necessary steps to provide credible and effective deterrence.

Madam Speaker, Mr. Vice President,

The fight against terrorism also demands our collective effort. The attacks on 9/11 made that clear. NATO’s response to those attacks was swift. Within 24 hours, and for the first and only time in our history, we invoked Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, the collective defense clause, which states, "an armed attack against one...shall be considered an attack against them all."

So, 9/11 was not only an attack against the United States but against all NATO Allies. Within days, NATO aircraft were patrolling American skies. And in the wake of 9/11, NATO soldiers went to fight side-by-side in Afghanistan to prevent that country from ever again becoming a safe haven for terrorists, who could attack us here at home.

Over the years, hundreds of thousands of troops from Europe and Canada have served in Afghanistan. Over a thousand have paid the ultimate price. And many more have been seriously wounded. We honor their service and their sacrifice. NATO remains in Afghanistan today to fight terrorism and to train Afghan forces. Our goal is not to stay there forever. We should not stay any longer than is necessary. We went in together. We will decide on our future presence together. And when the time comes, we will leave together.

NATO fully supports the peace process. It must pave the way for Afghan reconciliation. There can only be peace, if Afghanistan stays free from international terrorists. And for peace to be sustainable it must build on our achievements. NATO has created the conditions for social and economic progress, bringing education and human rights to women and girls. Their rights must be preserved.

NATO is not only fighting terrorism in Afghanistan. We are also part of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. The Coalition has made remarkable progress. Once, ISIS controlled an area roughly the size of Virginia and imposed their twisted ideology on millions. They beheaded people, burned people alive, and traded women as sex slaves. We should never forget their brutality. And thanks to American leadership and our collective efforts, we have stopped this brutality, and millions of people have been liberated.

But our work is not done. That is why NATO is stepping up our training of Iraqi forces, so they can better defend their country and make sure that ISIS can never return. That is also why NATO supports our partners in the Middle East and North Africa, helping them to build-up their intelligence services, border security, cyber security and special-operations forces. Training local forces and building local capacity are among the best weapons we have in the fight against terrorism. Prevention is better than intervention.

Madam Speaker, Mr. Vice President,

Some of you here today will have been directly affected by terrorism.
You may have lost friends and loved ones. You know the reality of terrorism. I know it, too.

I was Prime Minister of Norway on the 22nd of July 2011 -- a date that will live in infamy in the history of my country. That day a terrorist detonated a bomb outside my office, killing eight people and injuring many more. He then went to the island of Utøya, where young people were enjoying a summer camp. He killed a further 69 people, most of them teenagers with their whole lives ahead of them. It was the darkest day in Norway since the Second World War. It was the darkest day of my life.

Terrorism comes in many forms. Some perpetrators misuse religion. Others misuse political ideology. They claim to be different from each other, fighting for different causes. But they are all the same. They believe in hatred, violence, and killing innocent men, women, and children. They are nothing more than cowards.

Terrorists attack our freedom, our values, and our way of life. Our answer must be more openness and more democracy. Our values will prevail. Freedom will prevail over oppression, tolerance over intolerance. And love will always prevail over hate.

I see this in the flowers laid outside the mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. I see this in the lives led by the young survivors of the attacks in Norway. And I see this in New York and Washington, two indomitable cities, cities that were not intimidated, not defeated, but which rose stronger than ever from the horror of that September morning.

Madam Speaker, Mr. Vice President,

NATO is a strong alliance. But to remain a strong alliance, NATO must be a fair alliance. In an ideal world, we would not need to spend any money on defense. But we do not live in an ideal world. Freedom has enemies, and they need to be deterred. And if deterrence fails, we need to fight.

Hitler could not have been stopped with peaceful protest. Stalin could not have been deterred with words. ISIS could not have been defeated with dialogue. Future enemies of freedom may choose violence again. Our desire for a peaceful world is simply not enough. We must act -- and invest -- to make it so.

NATO Allies must spend more on defense. This has been the clear message from President Trump. And this message is having a real impact. After years of reducing defense budgets, all Allies have stopped the cuts, and all Allies have increased their defense spending. Before, they were cutting billions; now, they are adding billions. In just the last two years, European Allies and Canada have spent an additional 41 billion dollars on defense. By the end of next year, that figure will rise to one hundred billion. This is making NATO stronger.

That money allows us to invest in the new capabilities our armed forces need, including advanced fighter aircraft, attack helicopters, missile defense, and surveillance drones. This is good for Europe, and it is good for America.

America’s NATO Allies provide important capabilities, including tens of thousands of intelligence personnel and cyber experts, giving the United States better eyes and ears where you need them -- from tracking submarines in the Arctic to taking down the cyber network of ISIS.
And Europe provides the U.S. with a platform to project power around the world.

Last year, I was in Fort Worth, Texas. I saw how industries from many NATO allies are working together to produce next generation strike-fighter aircraft. NATO has always had a technological edge. To keep that edge, we must innovate and capitalize on the ingenuity of our industries and our best minds on both sides of the Atlantic. This will continue to provide us with advanced capabilities and create jobs in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

So, our transatlantic bond is not just about security. It is also about prosperity. It is not by chance that Article 2 of the Washington Treaty4 encourages economic collaboration between our nations. Europe and America have long been, by far, each other’s largest trading partners: creating millions of jobs on both sides of the Atlantic; generating more than three billion dollars a day in trade; injecting trillions of dollars into our economies. There is more wealth, greater health, better education, and more happiness, thanks to the bond between our two continents.

Madam Speaker, Mr. Vice President,

The ultimate expression of burden sharing is that we stand together, fight together, and, sometimes, die together.

I have visited Arlington National Cemetery to pay tribute to all those American soldiers who have given their lives -- many of them in defense of Europe. Two World Wars and the Cold War made it clear how important America is to the security of Europe. And equally, that peace and stability in Europe is important to the United States.

Our Alliance has not lasted for 70 years out of a sense of nostalgia or
of sentiment. NATO lasts because it is in the national interest of each and every one of our nations. Together, we represent almost one billion people. We are half of the world’s economic might -- and half of the world’s military might. When we stand together, we are stronger than any potential challenger -- economically, politically, and militarily.

We need this collective strength because we will face new threats.
And we have seen so many times before how difficult it is to predict the future. We were not able to predict the fall of the Berlin Wall, the 9/11 attacks, or the rise of ISIS, or Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.

Since we cannot foresee the future, we have to be prepared for the unforeseen. We need a strategy to deal with uncertainty. We have one: That strategy is NATO. A strong and agile NATO reduces risks and enables us to deal with surprises when they happen -- and they will happen.

NATO is the most successful Alliance in history because we have always been able to change as the world changes, and because, despite our differences, we are united in our commitment to each other.

NATO is an alliance of sovereign nations united by democracy, liberty, and the rule of law; by a person’s right to live their life in the pursuit of happiness, free from oppression -- values that lie at the heart of the United States, and at the heart of NATO. As President Eisenhower, NATO’s first Supreme Allied Commander, said, "We are concerned not only with the protection of territory...but with the defense of a way of life."5

Europe and North America are not separated by the Atlantic Ocean. We are united by it. And just like the Atlantic, NATO unites our continents, our nations, and our people. It has done so for 70 years. And today we must do everything in our power to maintain that unity for future generations. Because come what may, we are stronger and safer when we stand together.

Madam Speaker, Mr. Vice President,

It is good to have friends.

Thank you.

1 Truman, H.S. (4 April 1949. Address on the Occasion of the Signing of the North Atlantic Treaty [Source:]

2 The North American continent, strictly speaking, as evidence indicates that Erikson established a small settlement in what is now Newfoundland, Canada, some 500 years before Columbus's voyage.

3 Enumeratio

4 "The Parties will contribute toward the further development of peaceful and friendly international relations by strengthening their free institutions, by bringing about a better understanding of the principles upon which these institutions are founded, and by promoting conditions of stability and well-being. They will seek to eliminate conflict in their international economic policies and will encourage economic collaboration between any or all of them." [Source:]

5 Source confirmation pending

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Page Updated: 11/21/21

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