the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Remarks by the President on the NATO Summit and the New START Treaty

7:34 P.M. WET

    THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening, everybody.  I just wanted to take a few minutes to talk about the substantial progress that the United States and our NATO allies have made here today.

    We head into tomorrow’s meeting with an alliance that is fully aligned in its vision and approach to collective security for the 21st century.  After a year of discussions -- and sometimes debate -- the new Strategic Concept that we are embracing shows that NATO is fully united about the way forward and committing to addressing the full range of security challenges of this century.

    Our Article 5 commitment remains the center of our approach, of course -- an attack on one NATO member is an attack on all.  And just as we will always back up that commitment with the conventional and nuclear strength that is necessary to defend our allies, we are now backing up that commitment with new capabilities as well.

    That’s why I’m pleased to announce that -- for the first time -- we’ve agreed to develop missile defense capability that is strong enough to cover all NATO European territory and populations, as well as the United States.  This important step forward builds on the new phased adaptive approach to missile defense that I announced for the United States last year.  It offers a role for all of our allies.  It responds to the threats of our times.  It shows our determination to protect our citizens from the threat of ballistic missiles.  And tomorrow, we look forward to working with Russia to build our cooperation with them in this area as well, recognizing that we share many of the same threats.

    Under the leadership of Secretary General Rasmussen, I’m also pleased that we’re looking at the full range of capabilities that we need to secure our people -- from more deployable capabilities, to new measures to deal with new threats like improvised explosives, to the cyber defenses that will be so essential in the years to come.

    And just as we have full agreement on our new Strategic Concept, tomorrow our NATO allies, ISAF partners and the Afghan government will work to align our approach on Afghanistan, particularly in two areas:  our transition to full Afghan lead between 2011 and 2014, and the long-term partnership that we’re building in Afghanistan.

    Finally, let me say a few words about the need to ratify the New START treaty.  As I’ve said, this is a national security imperative for the United States.  We need to ratify New START to put in place on-the-ground inspections of Russian nuclear arsenals, to reduce our deployed weapons and launchers, and to build on our cooperation with Russia -- which has helped us put pressure on Iran and helped us to equip our mission in Afghanistan.

    But just as this is a national security priority for the United States, the message that I’ve received since I’ve arrived from my fellow leaders here at NATO could not be clearer -- New START will strengthen our alliance and it will strengthen European security.

    Nobody is aware -- nobody is more aware of the need for a strong, secure and democratic Europe than our Eastern and Central European allies.  And my friend, the Foreign Minister of Poland, Radoslaw Sikorski, put it well when he said that New START will -- and I quote -- “bolster our country’s security, and that of Europe as a whole.”

    On the other hand, we know that failure to ratify and move forward with New START will put at risk the substantial progress that has been made in advancing our nuclear security and our partnership with Russia on behalf of global security.

    Indeed, tomorrow we will build on the reset of U.S.-Russian relations by resetting relations between NATO and Russia as well through the NATO-Russia Council, which opens the door to cooperation on a range of security interests -- cooperation that can lead to a more secure Europe and a more secure world.

    So I want to thank all of my fellow leaders for the work that’s been done.  The progress that we’ve already made here today gives me great confidence that this will be a landmark summit in Lisbon, where the strong ties between the United States and Europe will continue to grow for years to come.

    Thanks very much, everybody.

                 END                7:39 P.M. WET