Biden says NATO allies 'stronger than we've ever been' as leaders begin meetings

Biden says NATO allies 'stronger than we've ever been' as leaders begin meetings

US president warns Russia has pivoted to 'a wartime footing with regard to defense production' with assistance from China, Iran, North Korea

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) - NATO allies are "stronger than we've ever been," US President Joe Biden said Wednesday as transatlantic allies kick-start two days of intensive multilateral meetings.

"For 75 years, our nations have grown and prospered behind the NATO shield. Today, we're stronger than we've ever been," the US president, who is hosting the alliance's three-day summit in Washington, said in remarks before reporters were ushered out of the meeting room.

He maintained caution, however, saying Russia has pivoted to "a wartime footing with regard to defense production," and has significantly increased its domestic production of weapons, ammunition and vehicles "with the help of China, North Korea and Iran."

"We cannot allow the alliance to fall behind," he said. "I'm very pleased that today, all NATO members are making the pledge to expand our industrial base and our industrial capacity, like our defense spending commitment. This is a critical step to maintaining our security. The first time ever every NATO nation is pledging to develop plans for defense production at home."

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also hailed the allies' defense spending and said the alliance would reinforce its Indo-Pacific partnerships with Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea "to push against the growing alignment of Russia, China, Iran and North Korea."

The meeting is the first of NATO's heads of state and government during the summit. Stoltenberg is expected to brief reporters on the day's events before leaders and their spouses head to the White House for a social dinner hosted by Biden and first lady Jill Biden.

Allied defense and foreign ministers will be hosted at separate dinners by their American counterparts.

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