Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis' Opening Comments at U.S.-Adriatic Charter Meeting in Zagreb, Croatia

Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis


SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JAMES N. MATTIS:  Well thank you, ladies and gentlemen.  Minister Boskovic and Minister Krsticevic, I just thank you both for hosting -- co-hosting the meeting today.  Mr. Minister, it's a pleasure for me to be here, I will tell you that, again, happy to be back in Croatia this time with the Adriatic Charter members and the observers.  This is my first time that I have met with you and thank you for inviting me.

Minister Boskovic, it's a particular honor to join you on Montenegro's Statehood Day.  And I appreciate greatly your leadership as chair of the A5 this year, I think in February you took over, as well your willingness to co-host away from home on a national holiday.

But here today, I'm -- I'm here today to reinforce America's commitment to the security and stability of southeast Europe.  As Vice President Pence said during last year's A5 summit, the Adriatic Charter is a testament to the U.S. commitment to a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace.

Today, many of our militaries stand alongside each other shoulder to shoulder as we saw in the video, in support of critical missions across the globe including NATO's regional support; Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan; the operations in Kosovo; the enhanced forward presence in the Baltic in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland; as well as the Defeat ISIS Coalition in Iraq and Syria, and I can go on.

The U.S. also maintained very strong state partnership programs between our state and all five members -- observers here today.  All of these examples demonstrate a shared commitment to our fundamental values.  We also continue in support of NATO's open door policy, as well as each nation's ability to choose their own path on the regional stage and on the global stage, whether that path is in NATO, the E.U. or both.

In that spirit, I commend our Macedonian friends for their work with Greece to resolve the naming issue.  This hard work has borne fruit with Northern Macedonia being invited to formally start NATO accession talks during Wednesday's NATO Summit, a very successful summit.

I also support activation of Bosnia and Herzegovina's Membership Action Plan so that important reform can continue in cooperation with NATO.  History proves that we are stronger when working together in defense of our shared democratic values and the rules-based international order.

Coming out of our highly successful NATO Summit in Brussels, it is clear that the U.S. will continue to strengthen our alliances and partnerships in the region.  And this is a priority enshrined in America's recently released U.S. National Defense Strategy.  We believe that each of your nations brings unique and valued ideas, experience and capabilities to the table.

Standing alongside Minister Boskovic and Krsticevic, I reiterate that I am here to listen.  We all recognize that I am merely visiting this corner of Europe, a corner so rich in history.  But yet, you live here and each of you knows this neighborhood best.

So I look forward to hearing their perspectives on our shared security concerns as well as opportunities we could explore as we, together, provide protection for our citizens.  I also welcome today's discussions as an opportunity to hear this body's progress on meeting the goals laid out in the U.S. Adriatic Charter for burden sharing efforts.

We are not naive and we are keenly aware that some elsewhere would wish to see us fail in our endeavors here today.  Those that seek to divide us for their own reasons will not enjoy our dedication to working together.  Our meeting today is proof our enduring shared commitment to this region's prosperity and security, and the unbreakable transatlantic bond.

Together, we are building security, shoulder to shoulder through respect, trust and cooperation.  Thank you very much.

Thank you, dear media representatives.