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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addresses joint session of Congress

NATO secretary general addresses Congress

Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), is addressing a joint session of Congress Wednesday morning. Stoltenberg met with President Trump in the Oval Office on Tuesday.

In his speech before Congress, Stoltenberg emphasized NATO's importance in preserving peace during the post-World War II era. He noted that NATO was created almost exactly 70 years ago to secure democratic alliances and offer a counterbalance to the Soviet Union.

"Ever since the founding of NATO 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," Stoltenberg said. "Through NATO, the United States has more friends and allies than any other power."

His appeals to American support for NATO come as Mr. Trump has taken a somewhat combative stance with its members. The president has repeatedly questioned NATO's efficacy and insisted that fellow members spend more on defense. Stoltenberg alluded to these disagreements in his speech.

"Questions are being asked on both sides of the Atlantic about the strength of our partnership," Stoltenberg said. "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."

Mr. Trump made waves during his appearance at the NATO summit in Brussels last July, where he gave a speech slamming allies. Mr. Trump said at the summit that he wanted ally nations to spend 4 percent of their GDP on defense, double the 2 percent NATO members have committed to paying by 2025.

In his meeting with Stoltenberg Tuesday, the president again said NATO allies will have to spend more on defense, suggesting the 2 percent figure "may have to go up."

Stoltenberg said in his speech Wednesday that European and Canadian allies had agreed to spend more on defense, which is "making NATO stronger." He also discussed the need for NATO to take a stronger position against Russia, particularly given its annexation of Crimea in Ukraine in 2014. This drew a subtle contrast to Mr. Trump's pursuit of a friendly relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Stoltenberg provided the case for the U.S. remaining involved in NATO, despite Mr. Trump's "America first" foreign policy. Before he became president, Mr. Trump declared NATO "obsolete." He later revised that statement, saying he no longer believes that to be the case. "I said it was obsolete. It's no longer obsolete," Mr. Trump declared during Stoltenberg's visit in 2017.

Stoltenberg concluded his address Wednesday by emphasizing how the U.S. is politically, militarily and economically tied to its NATO allies.

"Our alliance has not lasted for seventy 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 countries," Stoltenberg said. "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."

Stoltenberg received multiple standing ovations during his address from both Republicans and Democrats.

When NATO was founded in 1949, there were 12 member nations. Now there are 29. Last month, Mr. Trump suggested Brazil could be a part of NATO, although Brazil is largely in the southern hemisphere.

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