Shortly after gaining independence 26 years ago, Slovaks decided to seek membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as the best means to secure the sovereignty, security, and stability of their new country. NATO, the most successful alliance in history, was also the natural home for a free and democratic Slovakia. As Slovakia marks the fifteenth anniversary of its accession to NATO on March 29, NATO continues to provide the best guarantee of the sovereignty of Slovakia and its allies.
In addition to marking Slovakia’s 15th anniversary in NATO, on April 3 and 4 the Foreign Ministers of all Allied nations will meet in Washington D.C. to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Alliance. This gathering will highlight how NATO’s assurances have led to the most secure, stable, and prosperous period in its members’ history. It will also look forward to welcoming North Macedonia as NATO’s 30th Ally.
NATO is an alliance of nations that have banded together because, in the words of the NATO charter, “they are determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law.” Each Ally takes on the solemn responsibility to defend all other Allies in the event of an attack. To ensure that the Alliance stands ready to fulfill that guarantee, Allies regularly train together on each member’s territory, they deploy soldiers together as mixed units, and they pledge to maintain military readiness and effectiveness.
When the NATO Treaty was signed on April 4, 1949, by the original twelve Allies, President Truman said its members were “not only seeking to establish freedom from aggression and from the use of force in the North Atlantic community, but we are also actively striving to promote and preserve peace throughout the world.” That remains the collective aspiration of the members of the NATO Alliance. NATO played an historic role in keeping the peace, and it provides that same security today as the Alliance meets new threats.
The Cold War is over, but NATO remains as relevant today as it was in 1949, as new challenges combine with old ones to create an increasingly competitive and uncertain geopolitical environment. Instead of working with us to address new challenges, Russia is demonstrating aggression that once again threatens to erode the prosperity, stability, and peace we have built over the last 70 years. Under Vladimir Putin, Russia has targeted our democratic institutions, including elections, financial institutions, and civilian infrastructure, with new forms of “hybrid warfare.” It has also invaded and continues to occupy parts of the sovereign nations of Ukraine and Georgia, and threatens NATO cities and our citizens by fielding and deploying nuclear-capable missile battalions that violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
Russia is not the only international threat NATO members face. An increasingly assertive China is aggressively seeking to build economic and political influence in Europe in order to subvert European and transatlantic unity and to rewrite international norms and standards. We also cannot ignore the challenges posed by nations like Iran and North Korea, both of which have unpredictable leaders and nuclear ambitions. And, as Allies have said, terrorism continues to pose a direct threat to our populations, and to international stability and prosperity broadly.
In the face of these challenges, the United States remains steadfast in its commitment to our Allies. When President Trump spoke in Warsaw in 2017, he declared unequivocally, “Americans know that a strong Alliance of free, sovereign, and independent nations is the best defense for our freedoms and for our interests.”
As a demonstration shared commitment to collective defense and each member state’s sovereignty, Allies committed in 2014 to spend at least two percent of GDP on defense and to invest at least 20 percent of that spending on major equipment by 2024. We welcome Slovakia’s commitment and clear plan to reach those targets, demonstrating Slovakia’s resolve to protect and defend the Alliance and the values we share.
NATO Allies are committed to our collective defense and the preservation of our freedoms. Together, we must continue to invest in national defense, grow and modernize our military capabilities, and contribute to NATO’s efforts to promote the safety and security of our citizens. NATO Allies, including Slovakia, are stepping up. Together, we will be stronger and better equipped to ensure NATO remains the safeguard of peace and prosperity for another 70 years – and beyond.