Brussels, 15 February 2017
Ursula von der Leyen travelled to Brussels on 15 February to participate in a two-day meeting of NATO Defence Ministers. On the margins of the meeting, the first to be attended by the new US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, she will sign several cooperation agreements with a view to strengthening the European pillar of the Alliance.

Meeting NATO Defense Ministers
(© NATO)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced a broad agenda. He explained that the Alliance was now implementing the Warsaw decisions, focusing on establishing multinational battlegroups in the Alliance’s eastern territory to strengthen NATO’s defence and deterrence capabilities. He also mentioned the fight against terrorism and countering hybrid threats as further priority areas. The member countries will also discuss the efficiency of NATO’s command structures and the progress of reforms in Georgia.

The Alliance stands united

Stoltenberg said that NATO was facing enormous challenges. No one, however, could doubt the strength and solidarity of its members. “We stand together. We defend each other. And that is good both for Europe, and for North America.” This was also demonstrated by a significant reversal of a trend, he said. In many member countries, defence expenditure had increased more than initially expected. This “momentum” must be used, he went on to say, to move forward together and share burden equally.

Germany intensifies cooperation

On the margins of the meeting, Ursula von der Leyen will sign several cooperation agreements with other NATO countries. Germany and France agreed to establish an air transport squadron consisting of Hercules C-130J aircraft. Germany and the Netherlands will cooperate and jointly use Airbus A330 MRTT refuelling aircraft. The Bundeswehr will also increasingly act as an “anchor army” for smaller countries. Germany, Czechia and Romania agreed to affiliate individual units under German command.

Strengthening the European pillar

The new US Secretary of Defense James Mattis will also participate in the meeting in Brussels. Ursula von der Leyen already met her new counterpart in Washington. She later praised the good and constructive discussions and Mattis’ commitment to NATO. The ministers intend to exchange views closely in future with a view to speaking “with one voice”. With regard to increased US expectations vis-à-vis its fellow allies Ursula von der Leyen said: “We Europeans are working on strengthening the Alliance’s European pillar.”

This is a translation of an article by Florian Stöhr published on

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