By Cheryl Pellerin
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, June 23, 2015 – Defense Secretary Ash Carter discussed what he called the bright future of U.S.-German partnership and the importance of NATO unity to the European security environment during remarks at the Allianz Forum in Berlin yesterday.
At the forum, situated on Berlin’s Pariser Platz near the Brandenburg Gate, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen introduced Carter before his keynote address.
“We gather here during a year when history fills the air and at a moment when we have the opportunity to continue the dramatic progress this continent has made in recent decades,” Carter said.
“Success in bustling Berlin, around Germany and throughout Europe demonstrates the value of the choices we've made together since the end of World War II and the Cold War,” he added.
Germany has played an important role in some of the most difficult challenges facing the world and the transatlantic community, Carter said.
Twenty years ago Germany offered military support to United Nations peacekeepers and later to the NATO mission in Bosnia, and today the nation plays a leading role in the effort to diffuse the Russia-Ukraine crisis, he added.
Germany sends military support and observers to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe mission in Ukraine and continues its leadership role in Afghanistan, sending forces to NATO's Resolute Support mission, Carter said.
Germany has participated in the P5+1 talks that seek to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons, he said, and provides training and capabilities in northern Iraq to the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
“These are hard challenges, and Europe, the United States and the world are safer for Germany's leadership in them," Carter said. "As the secretary of defense I'd like to thank the German government and particularly the German Bundestag for advancing and sustaining Germany military deployments and efforts that promote our mutual security."
He said that the Defense Department is prepared to support those important efforts, noting that the United States and Germany need to explore more concrete ways to work together.
The United States and Germany jointly established a Transatlantic Capability Enhancement and Training Initiative, called TACET, to coordinate military activities, training and exercises, the secretary said.
“That cooperation and Germany's willingness to step up are indispensable to transatlantic security,” he said.
On NATO, Carter said the alliance continues to evolve to meet new types of threats and secure a bright future.
Last fall in Wales, NATO's 28 leaders agreed to several steps that together represent one of the most significant efforts in the alliance’s history, he added.
NATO nearly doubled the number of military exercises in one year, set up a new command center, reorganized the NATO Response Force and established the Very-High-Readiness Joint Task Force, or VJTF.
“Later today, Defense Minister von der Leyen and I will travel to Munster and visit with that VJTF brigade, led this year by Germany and fresh from an exercise that demonstrated its ability to deploy on 48 hours' notice from multiple locations in Europe to any crisis on NATO territory,” Carter said.
The defense ministers of Norway and the Netherlands -- both significant contributors to the VJTF -- joined Carter and von der Leyen there.
The VJTF is evidence that NATO is adapting, but more work remains, Carter said.
“How do we confront cyberattacks, propaganda campaigns and hybrid warfare? How do we balance liberty and security in preparing for migration surges, terrorism and flows of foreign fighters? How do we ensure we can deal with more than one challenge at a time?” the secretary said.
“The answer, of course, is that we will do so together as we always have, but the Cold War playbook doesn't apply to this future,” he added. “Our new playbook takes the lessons of history and leverages our alliance's strengths in new ways for these new threats.”
To implement the new playbook, NATO must be more capable and able to meet two or more challenges at once, the secretary said.
Throughout NATO's history the United States has provided the lion's share of funding for the alliance. Today it provides 70 percent of all alliance defense spending, Carter said.
“America remains capable of and committed to leveraging all the elements of our national power to assure our collective security, but the United States cannot, should not and will not meet these challenges in Europe alone,” he added.
“As allies we must all ensure the Defense Investment Pledge made at last year's Wales Summit means something,” Carter said, adding that Germany’s recent commitment to a 6 percent defense spending increase puts that nation on a positive trajectory “but more is required to ensure that Germany's defense investments match Germany's leadership role.”
A more active Germany and a more adaptive NATO, the secretary added, “will ensure that while Vladimir Putin may be intent on turning the clock back in Russia, he cannot turn the clock back in Europe.”
Since Russia began a campaign against Ukraine early last year, the United States, NATO and the European Union have made clear to Russia that its aggressive actions have no place in today's world, Carter said, adding that the best tool for confronting the aggression is the economic sanctions led by United States and Europe.
But Ukraine is just a part of the larger concerns about Russia, Carter said.
“In response, we're taking a strong but balanced strategic approach … that seeks to ensure Russia cannot force anyone to turn toward the past, all the while welcoming and encouraging Russia to turn back toward the future,” he added.
“We will continue to help reduce the vulnerability of allies and partners, not only through military training and support,” Carter said, “but also through work to enhance European energy security, and therefore decrease dependence on Russian energy.”
But the secretary said the Defense Department would continue to cooperate with Russia when Russia is willing and where Russia's leaders see their interests aligning with international community interests, including P5+1 negotiations with Iran, nonproliferation in general, countering ISIL-like movements, and others.
“The United States will continue to hold out the possibility that Russia will assume the role of respected partner moving forward, not isolated and going backward as it is today,” Carter said. “But whatever is decided in the Kremlin, we will move forward and Europe will move forward."