BRUSSELS, Feb. 27, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met here yesterday with defense ministers from Spain, Italy and Denmark on the sidelines of the two-day NATO defense ministers conference, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said.
Today, on the final day of the meeting, the ministers will discuss defense capacity building, cyber defense and maritime security, along with NATO’s Connected Forces Initiative, which involves improving operational collaboration with other military forces, according to NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu.
Also today, the defense ministers will meet with International Security Assistance Force contributing partners and Afghanistan’s defense minister, Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, she said.
During Hagel’s meeting with Spanish Defense Minister Dr. Pedro Morenes, they discussed the strength of the U.S.-Spain military relationship and opportunities to broaden the relationship bilaterally and through the NATO alliance, Kirby said.
The defense secretary thanked Morenes for Spain’s hosting of U.S. ballistic missile defense-capable ships at Rota and for support Spain has provided for U.S. Marines at Moron.
Hagel also expressed appreciation for Spain’s ongoing commitment to the ISAF mission in Afghanistan.
Both leaders talked about security challenges in Africa, pledged to continue the dialogue and expressed interest in improving bilateral training opportunities, especially in the maritime environment, the Pentagon spokesman said.
In the secretary’s meeting with Italian Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti, the defense leaders discussed a range of mutual security issues, including political unrest in Ukraine and ongoing operations in Afghanistan, Kirby said.
Hagel thanked Pinotti for her leadership and Italy’s strong contributions to the NATO alliance, including the ISAF mission. He also pledged to continue to seek ways to deepen the bilateral relationship with Italy.
During his meeting with Danish Defense Minister Nicolai Wammen, Hagel thanked the minister for his leadership and for helping the United States and Denmark maintain a close military-to-military relationship. The secretary expressed gratitude for Denmark’s leadership and capabilities in the future transfer of chemical materials out of Syria, Kirby said. The two leaders discussed the importance of the Arctic and promised to continue consulting as both nations explore ways to deal with the challenges of climate change in that region, he added.
Hagel and Wammen also discussed regional challenges in the Asia-Pacific region, political unrest in Ukraine, and the NATO ISAF mission in Afghanistan, the Pentagon spokesman said.