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June 17, 2021

Remarks by President Biden in Press Conference

Remarks by President Biden in Press Conference

NATO Headquarters

Brussels, Belgium

9:28 P.M. CEST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening.  Before I turn to today’s meetings, I want to say a short word about our ongoing fight against COVID-19 at home.

We’ve made enormous progress in the United States.  Much of the country is returning to normal, and our economic growth is leading the world, and the number of cases and deaths are dropping dramatically.  But there’s still too many lives being lost.

We’re still averaging, in the last seven days, loss of 370 deaths per day — 370 deaths.  That’s significantly lower than at the peak of this crisis, but it’s still a real tragedy.  We’re approaching a sad milestone: almost 600,000 lost lives because of COVID-19 in America.

My heart goes out to all those who have lost a loved one.  I know that black hole that seems to consume you, that fills up your chest when you lose someone that’s close to you that you adored.

That’s why I continue to say to America: If you’ve not been vaccinated, get vaccinated.  Get vaccinated as soon as possible.  We have plenty of vaccination, plenty of sites.  We have more work to do to beat this virus, and now is not the time to let our guard down.  So, please — please get vaccinated as soon as possible.  We’ve had enough pain.  Enough pain.

Folks, I know it’s after 9:30, Brussels time — 9:30 p.m., and I’m still at NATO.  You’re all excited about that.  I know.  (Laughter.)

But I’ve had a chance to meet with several leaders recently, and I’ve had calls with others.  It’s been an incredibly productive day here.

I just finished a meeting with President Erdoğan of Turkey.  We had a positive and productive meeting, much of it one-on-one.  We had detailed discussions on how to proceed on a number of — a number of issues.  Our two countries have big agendas.  Our teams are going to continue our discussions, and I’m confident we’ll make real progress with Turkey and the United States.

But now I want to thank Secretary General Stoltenberg for leading a very successful NATO Summit today.

I had the honor of leading off the discussion today among the 30 nations, and I pointed out that we’re facing a once-in-a-century global health crisis.  At the same time, the democratic values that undergird our Alliance are under increasing pressure both internally and externally.  Russia and China are both seeking to drive a wedge in our transatlantic solidarity.  We’re seeing an increase in malicious cyber activity.

But that our Alliance is the strong foundation on which we can — our collective security and our shared prosperity can continue to be built.

And I made a point to make clear that the U.S. commitment to Article 5 of the NATO Treaty is rock solid and unshakable.  It’s a sacred commitment.

NATO — NATO stands together.  That’s how we’ve met every other threat in the past.  It’s our greatest strength as we meet our challenges of the future — and there are many.

And everyone — everyone in that room today understood the shared appreciation, quite frankly, that America is back.

We talked about Russia’s aggressive acts that pose a threat to NATO and to our collective security.

That’s why I met with the Bucharest 9 — the eastern flank allies — in advance of this summit.  And today I also met with the leaders of the three Baltic states: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

I shared with our Allies that I will convey to Pre- — what I’ll convey to President Putin: that I’m not looking for conflict with Russia, but that we will respond if Russia continues its harmful activities and that we will not fail to defend the Transatlantic Alliance or stand up for democratic values.

As Allies, we also affirmed our continued support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

We agreed to keep consulting closely on nuclear deterrence, arms control, and strategic stability.

And there was a strong consensus among the leaders in that meeting on Afghanistan.  Our troops are coming home, but we agreed that our diplomatic, economic, and humanitarian commitment to the Afghan people and our support for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces will endure.

And I welcomed our Allies and partners to recognize that counterterrorism — that counterterrorism efforts must continue to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a ca- — a safe haven for attacks on our countries, even as we take on terrorist networks in the Middle East and Africa.

And I’m deeply gratified that, as an Alliance, we adopted a far-reaching plan to make sure that NATO can meet the challenges that we face today and in the future, not yesterday — the NATO 2030 agenda — and that we agreed to fully resource that agenda.

The last time NATO put together a strategic plan was back in 2010, when Russia was considered a partner and China wasn’t even mentioned.

We talked about the long-term systemic challenges that China’s activities pose to our collective security today.

We agreed to do more to enhance the resilience of our critical infrastructure around the world, including trusted telecommunications providers, supply chains, and energy networks.

We agreed to enhance our cooperation with our democratic partners in the Indo-Pacific to meet challenges that exist there.

We also endorsed a new cyber defense policy — NATO’s first in the past seven years — to improve the collective ability to defend against counter threats from state and nonstate actors against our networks and our critical infrastructure.

And we adopted a Climate Security Action Plan — which, several years ago, people thought we would never would do — for reducing emissions from NATO installations and adapting to the security risk of climate change while keeping a sharp — very sharp on our ability to deter and defend against threats.

And finally, we agreed that among the most important shared missions is renewing and strengthening the resilience of our democracies by pointing out we have to prove to the world and to our own people that democracy can still prevail against the challenges of our time and deliver for the needs of our people.

We have to root out corruption that siphons off our strength; guard against those who would stoke hatred and division for political gain — this phony populism; invest in strengthening the institutions that underpin and safeguard our cherished democratic values, as well as protecting the free press and independent judiciaries.  All of those run the agenda.

That’s how I’ll prove that democracy and that our Alliance can still prevail against the challenges of our time and deliver for the needs and the needs of our people.

This is going to be looked at 25 years from now as whether or not we stepped up to the challenge, because there’s a lot of — a lot of autocracies that are counting on them being able to move more rapidly and successfully in an ever-complicated world than democracies can.  We all concluded we’re going to prove them wrong.