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NATO Members Commemorate 70 Years Of Alliance


President Trump's administration is celebrating NATO. Though the president has criticized the alliance for its levels of military spending, the State Department is hosting a meeting of that alliance. It is 70 years to the day since the signing of the treaty that created it. Back then the central challenge was Russia, and NPR's Michele Kelemen reports, it still is.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: From the White House to Congress, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has been making the case that this alliance has been good for Europe and the U.S. He was the first NATO chief to speak to a joint meeting of Congress and later said that he felt rock-solid support.


JENS STOLTENBERG: My main message was actually that it's good to have friends. Even for big guys, (laughter), it's good to have friends.

KELEMEN: Stoltenberg was speaking at the Atlantic Council, which also hosted Vice President Mike Pence. Pence says the Trump administration is making progress in its bid to get allies to pay more on defense.


VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: More of our allies are now meeting their commitments. But still, too many others are falling short. And as we all acknowledge, Germany is chief among them.

KELEMEN: Pence blasted Germany for building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that could make it, in his words, a captive of Russia. And he had harsh words for another NATO ally, too.


PENCE: Turkey's purchase of a $2.5 billion S-400 antiaircraft missile system from Russia poses great danger to NATO and to the strength of this alliance.

KELEMEN: Turkey's foreign minister called it a done deal and blamed the U.S. for not selling Turkey Patriot missiles. Now the Pentagon is suspending shipments of F-35-related equipment to Turkey. NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg is trying to tamp down those divisions to show a united front in dealing with Russia. He also seems eager to head off an arms race. This, after the U.S. and NATO accused Russia of violating the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the Trump administration decided to pull out.


STOLTENBERG: We will not mirror what Russia is doing. NATO has no intention of deploying land-based nuclear missiles in Europe. But NATO will always take the necessary steps to provide credible and effective deterrence.

KELEMEN: The NATO alliance has grown from 12 to 29 with more former Soviet bloc countries trying to join. North Macedonia, which used to be part of Yugoslavia, is, for the first time, taking part in a NATO foreign minister's meeting today as an observer. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.