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In visit to Alabama missile plant, NATO secretary general urges continued US support of Ukraine

TROY, Ala. — With a $61 billion aid package for Ukraine hanging in the balance, NATO leader and Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg made a pitch Wednesday at the Lockheed Martin missile facility for continued support of the Ukrainian war effort.

“It is important for me to tell you that what you produce here is making NATO stronger and all of us safe and more secure,” Stoltenberg said, speaking to employees of Lockheed Martin, the producer of roughly 30% of U.S. Military weapons, including artillery being used by Ukraine to defend against the Russian invasion.

“I’m here to thank you for that, to express gratitude on behalf of NATO, on behalf of world allies, and also the great men and women in uniform in Ukraine.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks to employees of the Lockheed Martin missile facility in Troy.

Stoltenberg’s visit to the United States comes at a time when support for additional funding for Ukraine has reached an all-time low, with nearly half of Americans saying the U.S. is spending “too much” on aid for Ukraine, according to a recent poll.

Earlier Wednesday morning, Stoltenberg spoke in Washington, D.C. to the Heritage Foundation – a conservative think tank – hoping to shore up more support among Republicans, who statistically have been more skeptical of additional aid to Ukraine. Later that same day, Stoltenberg carried a similar message to Alabamians, arguing that continued support was in the interest of the United States, as well as its economy.

“When Russian tanks rolled over the border, the people did what you would have done: they fought back with courage, determination, and with your weapons,” he said. 

“The javelin and tank missiles made right here in Pike County (go) from your hands to theirs. What you produce keeps people safe, and what allies buy, helps keep American business strong.”

Tim Cahill, president of Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, said increased NATO spending has significantly increased demand for Lockheed Martin weapons worldwide.

“The increase overall of security spending (and) defense spending across the world does improve the market conditions, it has clearly improved the need for our systems worldwide,” Cahill told ADN.

Established in 1994, the Lockheed Martin facility in Troy produces the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 air defense missile, the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, and the Javelin shoulder-fired missile, among other weapons and equipment. The facility employs nearly 700 people according to Site Director Steven Frailey, and partners with Alabama Industrial Development Training for recruitment and workforce development.

While President Joe Biden has remained committed to providing additional aid to Ukraine, going so far as to appease Republicans by tying aid to increased border security, the proposal is at risk of collapse as Republican leaders, including Donald Trump, the likely Republican presidential nominee, say the border proposal isn’t strong enough.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville considers himself among those Republicans opposed to sending additional aid to Ukraine, and has routinely called for Biden to broker a peace deal between Ukraine and Russia. Tuberville has also blamed, in part, the eastward expansion of NATO as one of the primary instigators of Russia’s invasion.

“Biden is more concerned about Ukraine than he is our ally Israel, and that doesn’t fly with me,” Tuberville said on Wednesday in a press call. “It just shows he has his priorities, and they’re completely backwards.”

Wholly at odds with Tuberville’s position, Stoltenberg later told Alabama Daily News that Ukraine membership in NATO was inevitable, and something he fully supported.

“Yes, Ukraine will become a member of NATO; we are in the midst of a war, so it will not happen now, but we are moving Ukraine closer to NATO membership,” Stoltenberg told ADN.

“Putin invaded Ukraine because he wanted to prevent Ukraine and other countries in Europe (from) joining NATO; he’s getting the exact opposite. He wanted less NATO, he’s getting more NATO.”

The Lockheed Martin facility in Troy produces the Javelin and PAC-3 missiles, among other weapons and equipment.

Given the tens of billions of dollars already given to Ukraine, ADN asked Stoltenberg how an additional $61 billion would help change the tide of the war, which in recent months has been described as being in a stalemate after an underwhelming Ukrainian counteroffensive last summer.

“It will ensure that the Ukrainians are able to continue to inflict terrible losses on the Russian Armed Forces,” he said. “Yes, we all wanted and hoped for more advances for the Ukrainian Armed Forces last year, but we have to remember where this started.”

Calling the alternative to not sending more aid to Ukraine “more expensive,” Stoltenberg said that were Russia to seize control of the country, it would send a dangerous signal to countries like China, whose President Xi Jinping has made reunification with Taiwan a top priority.

“It matters for our security, for the security living in the United States, in Alabama and all over NATO because if President Putin wins, that will embolden him and other authoritarian leaders to use force again,” he said. 


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