On Saturday I will arrive in the United States to communicate the European Allies' enormous appreciation for America's contribution to our common security. During my week-long trip, I will meet US leaders and speak to a variety of audiences in Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, and Washington, DC. And I shall present a view of NATO that might be a little different to the one that is often perceived on this side of the Atlantic.
Let me deal with two mis-perceptions.
Some may think of NATO as a bunch of free-loading Europeans leaning on America for protection. But NATO's security guarantee applies to all. Europe came to America's aid in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, invoking the North Atlantic Treaty's self-defense clause for the first time. We made clear that an attack on the United States was an attack on all Allies. And over 40,000 Allied and Partner troops are alongside the U.S. in Afghanistan.
Then others may see NATO as a dusty artifact of the Cold War. But NATO is an ever-evolving political and military Alliance. NATO is leading major military operations from Afghanistan to Kosovo and Libya. We also assist partner nations in promoting democratic values and reforms, and improving the effectiveness and interoperability of their military forces. And we have unique assets and experience in providing emergency relief, dismantling unexploded munitions, and coordinating other types of humanitarian assistance.
So I am coming to America to say that NATO remains a vital alliance. Because defending the values of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law is vital to all of us. These values form a bond between Europe and North America that has been the bedrock of post-Cold War stability in all our nations. This transatlantic bond remains strong and enduring as we face the challenges ahead.
The operation against Osama bin Laden marked a significant success for our shared security. But international terrorism continues to pose a threat. Ballistic missile technology is spreading in some of the world's most volatile regions. A quarter-million cyber-attacks every single hour are targeted on the Pentagon alone. Other challenges include the security implications of climate change, water scarcity, and energy needs that increase as environmental resources decrease.
We can only face these challenges together. NATO is and will remain key to the security of our nations, and stability across the world.