The United States will continue to stand with its NATO allies and remains “ironclad” in its commitment to defending member territories, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Feb. 15.

Mr. Austin made the comments following a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels.

The defense secretary, who did not attend the meeting himself due to health issues, was represented by the U.S. ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith.

Mr. Austin said he was “pleased” with the progress made between the United States and its allies during the meeting, in which officials spoke about Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, NATO spending, and the goals laid out at the 2023 Vilnius Summit.

“NATO is the strongest military alliance in history, and it is crucial for America’s continued security,” Mr. Austin said. “A secure America is impossible without a strong NATO,” he added.

The defense secretary went on to state that U.S. allies are a “profoundly powerful force multiplier.”

‘Mighty Alliance’

“Those who wish America harm have long sought to rupture NATO. This mighty alliance’s continued unity is vital to meet the strategic dangers posed by Putin’s unprovoked aggression and imperial dreams,” he said.

Noting that it is nearing the two-year mark since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Mr. Austin concluded that the United States and its allies will continue to support Ukraine for the long haul.

“The United States will continue to stand with our NATO allies and to defend the sovereignty and the territory of every alliance member, every inch of it, as President Biden has repeatedly made clear. Our commitment to Article Five remains ironclad,” he said, referencing Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty.

According to Article 5, if any NATO ally is attacked, every member state of the alliance will consider it an attack against all members and will take the necessary actions to assist the attacked ally against the aggressor.

Mr. Austin’s comments come shortly after the 70-year-old was discharged from critical care and returned to his home after being hospitalized following an emergency procedure related to his bladder, the Pentagon confirmed.

According to officials, Mr. Austin was transported to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, on Feb. 11.

It follows his December 2023 prostate cancer surgery, however, the Pentagon said in a Feb. 13 statement that the bladder issue was not related to his cancer diagnosis and “will have no effect on his excellent cancer prognosis.”

Ukraine’s Struggle ‘Matters Profoundly’

Mr. Austin was diagnosed with prostate cancer in December 2023 and has faced criticism from Democrats and Republicans for not communicating his cancer diagnosis with President Joe Biden.

Along with the meeting with NATO defense ministers, Mr. Austin was also unable to attend a separate meeting with the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, a group of around 50 countries that coordinate military aid for Kyiv.

However, the defense secretary did attend that meeting virtually.

During the meeting, Mr. Austin reiterated that Ukraine’s struggle “matters profoundly for global security,” and that its self-defense is “crucial to American and global security.”

The group also focused on Ukraine’s urgent battlefield needs, including through “capability coalitions” aimed at strengthening the Ukrainian military so that it can deter and defeat Russian aggression over the long term,” he said. So far, eight such coalitions have been established, Mr. Austin said.

“The United States is proud to co-lead two of these capability coalitions. Together with Denmark and the Netherlands, we are leading the coalition helping Ukraine meet its urgent needs for air force capabilities. We are also working with our French allies to co-lead the capability coalition on artillery.” Mr. Austin said.

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