President Joe Biden underscored NATO’s lasting commitment to global security yesterday during an event in Washington marking the alliance’s 75th anniversary. 

Decades after the 12 founding members forged the alliance, and amid renewed challenges in Europe and beyond, Biden said NATO stands more powerful than ever. 

“Here, these 12 leaders gathered to make a sacred pledge to defend each other against aggression, provide their collective security, and to answer threats as one because they knew to prevent future wars, to protect democracies, to lay the groundwork for a lasting prosperity they needed a new approach,” Biden told NATO leaders gathered at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, where the treaty forming the alliance was signed in 1949. 

“They needed to combine their strengths,” he said of the allies as they emerged from the devastation of World War II. “They needed an alliance. Here, they signed the Washington Treaty and created the North Atlantic Treaty Organization — the single, greatest, most effective defensive alliance in the history of the world.” 

That alliance, he said, has withstood the long decades of the Cold War and has grown as it welcomed like-minded partners into the fold.  

And in the face of new challenges posed by Russia’s war in Ukraine on NATO’s eastern flank, that collective commitment has continued to strengthen. 

The president noted the addition of Finland and Sweden, NATO’s two newest allies, to the 32-member bloc. 

He added that 23 NATO allies today spend at or above the minimum 2% of gross domestic product on defense spending, which is more than two times the number who met the benchmark as recently as 2021. 

“This remarkable progress [is] proof that our commitment is broad and deep, that we’re ready, that we’re willing and we’re able to defend every inch of NATO territory across every domain — land, air, sea, cyber and space,” Biden said. 

That progress comes amid what Biden calls a “pivotal moment for Europe” and the transatlantic community as Russia continues its war against Ukraine. 

Tuesday’s gathering kicked off the three-day NATO summit in Washington where leaders are expected to outline steps to further support Ukraine’s defense against Russian aggression, as well as Ukraine’s long-term bridge to membership in the alliance. 

During his address, Biden announced that the U.S., Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Romania will provide Ukraine with five additional strategic air defense systems to help protect Ukrainian cities, civilians and soldiers.  

NATO member states have also agreed on a plan for how the alliance will lead the coordination of future security assistance and training for Ukraine’s armed forces, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said following last month’s meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels.  

The effort will involve nearly 700 NATO personnel and partner countries, who will oversee training for the Ukrainian armed forces at facilities in allied countries. The alliance will also plan and coordinate security assistance for Ukraine, manage the transfer and repair of equipment, and support the long-term development of Ukraine’s armed forces.   

“Before this war, Putin thought NATO would break,”Biden said last night. “Today, NATO is stronger than it’s ever been in its history. When this senseless war began, Ukraine was a free country. Today, it is still a free country. And the war will end with Ukraine remaining a free and independent country. 

“Russia will not prevail,” Biden said. “Ukraine will prevail.” 

Biden credited Stoltenberg for NATO’s success throughout one of the alliance’s “most consequential periods.” 

Stoltenberg, the alliance’s 13th secretary general, has served since 2014. He is slated to step down when his term ends in October. 

During the address, Biden awarded Stoltenberg the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honor.  

“Today, NATO is stronger, smarter and more energized than when you began,” Biden said when he announced the award. “And a billion people across Europe and North America — indeed the whole world — will reap the rewards of your labor in the form of security, opportunity and greater freedom.”

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