Croatian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Damir Krstičević, who participated in a regular meeting of defence ministers of NATO member states in Brussels, talked on Wednesday with new US Defence Secretary James Mattis, reports Večernji List on February 16, 2017.
Minister Krstičević said that he welcomed the Secretary and congratulated Mattis on his appointment. “You know that he is a retired general, and I have also graduated from an American war college. We warmly greeted each other and talked. I think there will be an opportunity as soon as possible for a more formal discussion with General Mattis in the interest of both Croatia and the United States. The United States is our strategic partner in the area of defence and security, and it is very important that we have communication at the ministerial level”, said Krstičević, adding that Mattis told him that he highly appreciated the Croatian Army, reported the Ministry of Defence.
New US Defence Secretary Mattis said in Brussels that the United States would respect its obligations, but added that, if other members of NATO do not want the United States to reduce its involvement in NATO, then every country must demonstrate greater support for common defence. “America cannot care about the future of your children more than you”, said Mattis.
Defence ministers discussed relations between NATO and the European Union, and the meeting was attended by EU’s High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Federica Mogherini. During the debate on cooperation between the European Union and NATO, Minister Krstičević said that this cooperation was particularly important for the security and stability of Southeast Europe and Croatian neighbourhood. He also commented on the fact that Croatia, after years of decline, has increased the budget allocation for defence in 2017 by 9 percent compared to 2016, pointing out that Croatia remained committed to the conclusions of the NATO summit which took place in Wales in 2014, when member states agreed that defence spending should reach at least two percent of GDP.
On the sidelines of the NATO ministerial meeting in Brussels, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Damir Krstičević held bilateral talks with his counterparts – Czech Defence Minister Martin Stropnicky, Romanian Defence Minister Gabriel-Beniamino Les, Polish Defence Minister Antonio Macierewicz, and Slovak Defence Minister Peter Gajdoš.