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Sec. Blinken Hosts Dinner for NATO Allies, Partner Ministers

Sec. Blinken Hosts Dinner for NATO Allies, Partner Ministers

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, good evening, everyone. Welcome. Welcome to the Library of Congress. (Applause.)

So, in honor of Jens, we wanted to have a Nordic summit. And what better way to have a Nordic summit than to have a sauna? So I’m glad we could organize that for all of you in Washington. (Laughter.)

But I am so glad to see so many friends, so many dear colleagues here tonight. And what better way to celebrate, what better place to celebrate, than this magnificent institution. As President Franklin Roosevelt said during World War II, libraries – libraries are “great symbols of… freedom of the mind… essential to the functioning of a democratic society.” Places like these promote knowledge, the free exchange of ideas, creativity, innovation. And they’re open to everyone.

Not a surprise, then, that authoritarians burn books and police people’s thoughts. It’s no wonder that Russia has targeted so many libraries and cultural institutions in Ukraine because, so often, where there are libraries, there is liberty.

So I’m honored to welcome you to this space that reminds us of what we defend and why we defend it together. (Applause.)

To the Deputy Secretary General, my good friend of so many years, thank you. Thank you for everything you’ve done to make this summit possible, to make this Alliance stronger, for your work these past five years. Everyone in this room not only knows you, but knows the leadership that you’ve shown us. Thank you, my friend. (Applause.)

I also want to recognize all of the permanent representatives who are here with us today, who do the work day in, day out of representing all of us at NATO. And if you’ll forgive me a moment of personal privilege, I especially want to recognize the United States’ permanent representative, Julie Smith. (Applause.)

Julie’s leadership in Brussels is a major reason why NATO is bigger, stronger, more capable than it’s ever been. Now, as some of you know, Julie was recently nominated by President Biden to be the next under secretary of state for political affairs at the State Department – proving that no good deed goes unpunished. (Laughter.)

But, Julie, we are very anxious to have you back here in the United States. Now, you’re going to have to give up your modest accommodations. (Laughter.) But I know you’re willing to make that sacrifice.

And of course, to our good friends – especially my good friends, Senator Cardin and Senator Risch – I commend to you Julie Smith and her nomination. (Applause.)

And indeed, it’s wonderful to have so many leading members of Congress here with us tonight because the leadership of Congress, the support of Congress on a strong bipartisan basis for NATO is critical to the success of the Alliance, critical to the ability of the United States to engage and to help lead this organization that we all cherish. So to each of you who’s here tonight, not just for tonight but for every day that you’ve shown leadership and support for NATO, thank you, thank you, thank you. (Applause.)

I think it’s fair to say that, yes, we have some different views across the aisle, but we are in violent agreement on the power and the purpose of this Alliance.

Like so many of you in this room tonight, I had the extraordinary honor of visiting Normandy last month to commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day. Like you, I met veterans of that battle; I visited the cemetery where so many Americans were laid to rest.

Those of you who were there, I know, had the incredible experience of meeting these veterans. I think the youngest veteran who was there was 95 or 96. I see Mike McCaul here. We met so many of these extraordinary people. I think the oldest was maybe 105 or 106. Most of them were ready to go and do it again.

And in fact, permit one digression – I think Mike also met this couple – one veteran who I was introduced to, 101 years old, and we were talking and he said, “I’d like to introduce you to my fiancée.” (Laughter.) Okay. And then he said to me, “Do you know the French actress Catherine Deneuve?” And I said, well, of course I know who she is. He said, “Well, my fiancée looks a little bit like Catherine Deneuve.” So he introduces me to his fiancée, who is 96 years old. And yes, indeed, she bore a resemblance to Catherine Deneuve. They were married the next day in Normandy and became celebrated throughout France.

But all of them were a reminder of the incredible sacrifice that those young heroes made – the values that they fought for – and that of course is what drove NATO’s 12 founding members to gather here in Washington five years later, to bind their fates, to bind our fates together.

Out of the ashes of war, they forged an instrument to advance peace and security. They came together as a single transatlantic community – united by their belief in democracy, in liberty, in the rule of law.

And of course, the pledge that they made – that maybe some of us who do this every day take for granted – was unprecedented: to consider an attack on one, an attack on all, and to defend every inch of each other’s territory as if it were their own.

They understood that this solemn promise was the best way to deter aggression, to prevent war – that any would-be aggressor would have to think twice, knowing that an attack on any one would be an attack on all of them.

And because of that sacred commitment – backed by millions of soldiers, sailors, aviators willing to risk their lives for our collective defense – NATO curbed Soviet aggression during the Cold War.

Our Alliance helped usher in newly independent nations to the community of democracies.

And of course, when terrorists struck on 9/11, NATO Allies immediately and unanimously invoked Article 5 for the first time and came to America’s defense.

Protected by the shield of our Alliance, our people have for generations been free to flourish. To study, to work, to push the boundaries of innovation. To expand rights and opportunity. And after all, that really is the purpose of the Alliance. It’s not an end in itself; it’s a means by which, in creating, sustaining, preserving security for all of us, we can all get on with our lives and, hopefully, reach our full potential – really to engage in what President Truman called the “business of achieving a fuller and happier life for all (of) our citizens.” That really is what NATO is about.

Yet – as so many of us have been talking about at NATO headquarters, at these summits, and indeed for the last years – we face a multiplicity of new threats well known to everyone in this room.

Some of these threats would have been familiar to NATO’s architects, who knew very well what happens when strongmen seek to redraw borders by force. Others, NATO’s founding generation never possibly could have imagined: cyber attacks, AI-fueled disinformation, a climate in crisis.

So our Alliance is doing what it has done at every step: anticipating these emerging challenges. Adapting to meet the moment. Ensuring that NATO remains – as Italian Foreign Minister Carlo Sforza said 75 years ago in what is typically a beautiful Italian phrase – NATO is a “continuous creation.” That’s what this Alliance is; that’s what it must remain.

Just over the last three years alone, all of us together, we bolstered our eastern flank. We’ve invested in our defense industrial bases. We’ve dramatically increased burden-sharing among Allies. We’ve just added two incredibly capable Allies, growing our Alliance to 32 nations. (Applause.) And, Dmytro, our door remains resolutely open, and we look forward to that day as well. (Applause.)

Now, truth be told, any of us who sit around the NATO table, whether it’s as foreign ministers or today’s leaders, with now 32 members, I’m sure that there’s at least a moment – maybe about three hours into the NAC – when we think, 12 members wasn’t so bad. (Laughter.) But we are so powerfully reinforced by our newest partners, Finland and Sweden.

This summit has made absolutely clear that – as the people of Ukraine continue to sacrifice immeasurably to defend their territory and their right to choose their own path – NATO will do everything possible to ensure Ukraine’s long-term success. And that does include the strong bridge that we’ve built to membership.

At the same time, partners from across the globe – many here with us tonight – are eager to deepen their relationships with NATO, recognizing that their security and the security of the transatlantic Alliance are linked.

All these years later, our Alliance endures not out of inertia, not out of nostalgia. It endures because our people realize NATO remains critical to advancing our security, to protecting our freedoms. It thrives because, time and again, we’ve made hard choices to meet the tests of our time.

When the Washington Treaty was signed 75 years ago, President Truman declared, “We do not believe that there are (any) blind tides of history which sweep (people) one way or another.” Instead, he said, those “with (the) courage and vision can still determine their own destiny.”

That’s exactly what NATO’s founders did. That’s what generations of NATO’s leaders have done. And that remains our charge, our responsibility, today. As we face down threats old and new, let’s continue to summon that courage. Let’s continue to summon that vision. And, shoulder to shoulder, let’s continue to write our own destiny for decades to come, and let’s do it together.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m so grateful to have you here. I’m so grateful to have all of you as friends and colleagues. Welcome again to the NATO summit.

And now my friend, the Deputy Secretary General. Mircea, over to you. (Applause.)

DEPUTY SECRETARY GENERAL GEOANĂ: Thank you so much, Tony. Thank you so much for having all of us in this wonderful place. I have to say that for once, I believe we are better off than our leaders. This is a better place even of the – of the other location. (Laughter.)

Thank you so much for what you represent for us, Tony. And for the members of Congress, and especially U.S. Senate, I know that the Julie Smith hearings will go smoothly after this summit. Julie, we love you. We appreciate you. We are sacrificing you on the altar of the – of the ultimate good here in the U.S.

Listen, I’m so proud to be here with you today. I arrived in Washington when I was only 37 years of age, the youngest ambassador of my home country of Romania to this wonderful, complicated city. And I made the mission of my life and my career to bring my country into NATO. So to everyone – Dmytro, our friends in Ukraine, all the friends that want to join this Alliance – I’m the living proof that if you really are determined to fulfill your dreams, to share our values of freedom, of dignity, of rule of law and democracy, you belong to this family, and one day you’ll be part of this family. This is something I know will happen, and I want to thank you so much for everything you do for our Alliance. Thank you so very much for that. (Applause.)

There are so many other partners from all over the world. We have close to 40 partners from basically all continents. We are so proud of our partnerships. I know that sometimes we are not basically always in perfect sync when it comes to regional issues, when it comes to global affairs. There is something we share in common, and that’s why we cherish our partnerships with you – that we all want a safe world, a peaceful world, a predictable world, a world of rules and not a world with a rule of jungle. So for that, on behalf of myself and our Secretary General and all of us, let’s applaud our partners from all over the world. We cherish you. You embellish and really bring this Alliance much stronger. Thank you so much for being with us in Washington. (Applause.)

Yesterday, at the Mellon Auditorium, I was trying to put myself in the shoes and the minds of our founding leaders. And I want to thank again President Biden, Secretary Blinken, and our American friends for bringing us back to the place where this beautiful idea started 75 years ago. And I was trying to put ourselves in their shoes – after two World Wars, trying to fight aggressive Soviet Union, and trying to see for one second which would be our role, us, the leaders of today, shaping the world for tomorrow.

And I think that the kind of vision that they had for us should be a source of inspiration for us. Each of us, our ambassadors, our foreign ministers, our leaders, each and every single one of us, we are an indispensable part of shaping a world that will be safer, peaceful, and predictable. And I encourage all of us to be up to the task. These are times that will be shaping the history of the world not only for five years or one term or two terms, but for decades to come. So I believe that what we are doing these days in Washington will be shaping the world for many, many decades to come.

And the last point from my side. We need to keep the family of democracies together. We have to really find new strength, new energy, new smart ideas to make sure that we’ll prevail in this very complicated time ahead. And I want to say one thing as – not this time as a NATO deputy secretary general or whatever I will do in my life in the future. But I think we have to do a much better job, Tony, and we discussed about this many times, to engage with our partners that the map – at this dinner tonight – the many other nations that share the same concerns like we do, like our citizens do, they just want a better life: peace, prosperity, and dignity in their lives.

So my appeal to you is not only to be up to the level of ambition and vision of our founding members of this Alliance, and I want this partnership that NATO has with you that we cherish and applaud. I ask you and us to do a much better job engaging the rest of the world. We need to really do a much better job in convincing the rest of the world that it is much better to live in democracy, in freedom, in dignity, in rule of law and prosperity, and not to allow them to be lured by nations that are preaching basically for dictatorship and authoritarian regimes. I lived half of my life in communist Romania. And please believe me: There’s absolutely no joy in living in dictatorship and in darkness.

So my dear friends, dear Tony, this is a moment that will probably be shaping the world for many, many decades to come. In a way, it’s a symbol, and probably a sign from God, that we’re reassembling here where this beautiful journey of NATO started 75 years ago. And for our partners, again, our appreciation, our respect, sometimes our humbleness to the huge, rich experience you bring to us. And I know that one day I hope my kids and my grandkids – if my daughter and my son will enrich me with future generations of my family – (laughter) – I know that one day we’ll be proud of what we achieved in Washington at this historic summit of our great Alliance.

Thank you all. We love you all. And thank you for the kind words for myself. The five years in NATO have been the highlight of my life. And I think I’m now a better human being, I’m a better – people believing in our values, and I have to say that I cherish every single time – moment that I had with you. And dear Tony, thank you so for the kind words.

So God bless all of us. Enjoy this beautiful dinner. And this is the spirit of Aspen. This is the spirit of NATO. And this is the spirit of the NATO idea that our founding fathers put forward 75 years ago. God bless you. Enjoy the dinner. (Applause.)

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