Future NATO

Speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at Chatham House - London, United Kingdom

  • Last updated: 20 Jun. 2014 11:12

Robin, thank you very much for your words of introduction.

And I am really pleased to share a platform with you again so soon! You recently participated in a very lively debate at our Transatlantic Bond Project Conference in Brussels. And you played a significant role in shaping the project’s recommendations as we prepare for our Wales Summit in September. So I thank you very much for that.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is great to be back at Chatham House. And  let me start by thanking you  for your timely  invitation.   This is one of the world’s most prestigious forums for open debate, trusted analysis and new ideas.  And your stated mission is to help build a sustainable secure, prosperous and just world.

And this is exactly the world that NATO has been helping to build over the last 65 years. As the Alliance withstood the tests of the Cold War and created the secure environment which allowed the European Union to develop. And NATO will continue to play a key role to keep our nations safe and to help keep the world  secure.

In September, we will chart the way ahead for NATO.  Leaders from NATO’s 28 Allies, partner nations and organisations around the world will gather for an important Summit in Wales. 

It was actually here in London that NATO leaders first met after the fall of communism.  They started the work to erase the divisions on our continent.  And laid the foundations for the new NATO of today.

Now, we are facing another turning point in history. The world that we helped to build after the end of the Cold War is being challenged.  In different ways and from different directions. To our East, Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is an attempt to rewrite international rules and recreate a sphere of influence.  At the same time, to our South, we see states or extreme groups using violence to assert their power.  And overall, we see threats old and new, from piracy to terrorism to cyber attacks.

The choice is clear. Either we allow the world order that is the basis of our freedom, security and prosperity to unravel.  Or we continue to make it stronger.

And our Summit must give a clear answer.  And our response must be strength and unity.  I see three key parts to that response. 

First, responsibly completing our combat mission in Afghanistan. 

Second, strengthening our collective defence. 

And third, staying engaged globally.

First, Afghanistan. With ISAF, we have forged one of the biggest coalitions in recent history.  50 countries from many continents, making sure that Afghanistan no longer serves as a haven for international terrorists. And that capable Afghan forces can secure their own country. 

Of course, the UK has made a real contribution here, notably in Helmand Province where military personnel, and the civilians working alongside them, have promoted NATO’s values and delivered security both to Afghans and more broadly. Indeed, over the past decade, we have not seen attacks on our own nations launched from Afghanistan.

And Afghanistan today IS a different country.  And increased security has created the conditions for significant gains in education, health, economic growth, media and women’s rights.  Afghan men and women now have the chance to develop their own country and decide their own future.  The first democratic transition of power is now underway, after presidential elections entirely secured by Afghans.

At the Wales Summit, we expect to turn a new page in our relationship with the new President of Afghanistan.  By launching a new, non-combat mission,  to train, advise and assist the Afghan forces from 2015.   And I am hopeful that we will soon conclude  the necessary legal agreements to make this  possible. Because we see – not least from Iraq - how important it is to consolidate the gains we have made with such sacrifice, and continue to build a capacity of local security forces. 

Now, the second big question for our Wales Summit is how to strengthen  our collective defence.

NATO’s core purpose remains to defend our citizens. But  in today’s   unpredictable security environment, we cannot  become a one-dimensional Alliance.  We need to be ready to respond and to act quickly – whenever, and wherever required.

So we are developing an Alliance Readiness Action Plan in preparation for the Summit.   

As part of the plan, we are looking closely at how we can best deploy our forces for defence and deterrence.  This includes force posture, positions, and presence. 

We are considering reinforcement measures, such as necessary infrastructure, designation of bases and pre-positioning of equipment and supplies.  We are reviewing our defence plans, threat assessments, intelligence-sharing arrangements, early-warning procedures, and crisis response planning.  We are developing a new exercise schedule, adapted to the new security environment.  And we want to further strengthen our NATO Response Force and Special Forces, so we can respond more quickly to any threat against any member of the Alliance, including where we have little warning. 

The United Kingdom has shown leadership in developing a multinational Joint Expeditionary Force.  Because this Force will make an important contribution not only to our overall capabilities, but also to our enhanced readiness.  It will preserve and build on our previous operational cooperation and experience.  It will be a flexible force.  And it will be ready to support NATO or other operations.

We will also take important steps to improve our capabilities.  And we will focus on the 16 most critical capabilities that we need to meet the security challenges of today and tomorrow.  Such as intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance. Missile defence. Cyber defence.  Precision Guided Munitions.  Air-to-air refuelling. And I see Lord Robertson looks happy. You spoke about three priorities: Capabilities. Capabilities. Capabilities. And I hope now we can deliver.

But taking all these necessary steps to improve our collective defence cannot be done on the cheap.  They require adequate and appropriate investment. Indeed, since 2008, Russia has increased its defence spending by around 50% while, on average, NATO Allies have decreased theirs by about 20%. This gap needs to be addressed.

In addition,  of the total defence spending by NATO Allies today, fully two thirds is spent by the United States.  And many of the major capabilities we need are provided solely by America.  And quite simply, this is unsustainable.  If we Europeans want the United States to remain committed to European security, we must show a commitment to pick up our part of the bill.

European nations must do more.  As you know NATO has an agreed benchmark of 2% of GDP to be spent on defence.  And if all European nations were to meet the 2% spending guideline this year, we would have an extra 90 billion dollars to invest in defence.

So it’s time to stop the defence cuts.  To start reversing the trend.  And to gradually increase our defence spending as our economies recover.  Here, again, I would like to commend the United Kingdom.  It is one of only 4 Allies that is projected to be at this level this year.  And I am confident it will continue to do so. 

Clearly, what matters   is not just  what we spend. But also  how we spend our limited resources.  And again, the United Kingdom is setting an example through its focus on clear outputs in support of clear priorities.  And its increasing use of multinational cooperation to achieve those goals.

So at the Wales Summit, we need a common commitment to investing more in security and defence. And to back up that commitment with concrete action.

Now the third big issue for our Wales Summit – how do we remain engaged globally?

An effective response to today’s complex challenges requires the right connections with other nations and organisations, wherever they may be located on the globe.  While it is possible to surge military forces, it is not possible to surge trust and cooperation at will.  They need patience, preparation and partnership. 

At the Summit, we will outline ways to build on the considerable experience we have gained in over 20 years of working with our partners.  We want to respond to those partners who want to do more with us -- politically and militarily.  And we want to offer more to those partners who would like our assistance. 

We want to be able to assist partners and fragile states build a stronger security sector when they turn to us. To help them help themselves. And to project stability without always projecting significant forces of our own.

To provide coherent, effective and timely support, we are now developing a new Defence Capacity Building initiative. This will allow us to better focus our support in the areas of defence reform, defence planning, and also military training.  Depending on what a partner country may request, our assistance could range from sending specialist advisory teams all the way through to establishing a training mission.

As an example, Libya requested our assistance last year. And we remain ready to provide it, should conditions allow. But NATO Defence Capacity Building can also be relevant for partners in Eastern Europe.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Our plan for “Future NATO” is comprehensive and ambitious.  But it is also realistic.  It builds on our proven strengths.  And answers the questions raised by the new security realities of the 21st century.

As we look to the future, we need to remember that the transatlantic bond is the foundation for the world order.  And as security threats and our responses change, the historical, political and economic bond between Europe and North America remains rock solid. 

Just two weeks ago, on the Normandy beaches, we saw the most vivid, moving and important reminder of the benefits of our transatlantic partnership.  It is the bedrock of our shared security. And while the world is changing, NATO’s essential mission remains the same: to ensure that the Alliance remains a strong community of freedom, peace, security and shared values. At the summit we will reaffirm and strengthen this transatlantic bond.

Our Wales Summit will be an opportunity to demonstrate that NATO remains an essential source of stability in an unpredictable world. 

Because NATO is more than a military Alliance. We are a community of values. And we stand ready to protect and promote the values upon which we have built our free societies and created unparalleled progress and prosperity: namely individual liberty, democracy, the rule of law and human rights.

Thank you very much.

MODERATOR: And you talked in a lot of detail, actually, about this NATO Readiness Action Plan that you're putting forward. And obviously the third element, which was this issue of being engaged globally, as you said, you can't surge trust the habits of cooperation. You may be able to surge capabilities, but without sustaining those partnerships that were built up, as you said, over the last ten, 12 years, really the Atlantic Alliance would be missing something.

And you talked about how you might do this through your new defence capacity building initiatives with these partner countries. And I'm sure people here will have questions on all of these issues. I've seen one hand already go up, two or three or five, or nine.

OK. I'll look up in a minute.

But may I just raise one issue, just because I was wondering if it would come up in your presentation. And by all means, if people would like to follow up on this question, do. This is not to take our members away from the opportunity for them to ask this question.

But on the collective defence front, and you mentioned at the beginning I had the pleasure and honour of chairing this experts group that you convened along with the NATO Parliamentary Assembly Group and North Atlantic Assembly Group, and also the Young Experts, the Young… Emerging Leaders Groups. We all put in papers.

One of the themes that emerged was this idea that collective defence may need to adapt itself to what some people call non-linear threats, some people call hybrid threats, and that the experience of what's taken place in Ukraine, and could potentially happen in other parts of… of… certainly of… of Europe, is that we may be faced with the types of risk that don't naturally give themselves to a response that might rely on pre-positioned military equipment or contingency planning kind of military exercises, or even the NATO Response Force perhaps.

And I'm wondering how you and your colleagues are thinking about this particular issue, of the kinds of risks that come from proxy forces. You did mention cyber, but cyber information, economic coercion, etcetera, etcetera. How do we deal with these non-linear risks? Is there more of a role for EU-NATO cooperation in this space, one idea that we put forward?

Could you say just a quick word on that? And then I will draw in the many hands that are going up here in the audience.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN (Secretary General of NATO): Yes indeed. This is the key question, a very important issue, and we will address it also in the run-up to the summit.

We have seen that maybe we could call it a modern kind of warfare. It has different labels: ambiguous attacks; hybrid warfare; non-linear warfare, or… whatever we call it, we see a combination of covert military operations combined with sophisticated information and disinformation operations. And it's of utmost importance that we stand ready to also address such security challenges. You might also call it a full-spectrum deterrence.

MODERATOR: Right.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: And we have already started work on that. And it will be addressed at the summit, probably as part of our readiness action plan, because this is indeed also a part of being ready to address all kinds of threats.

MODERATOR: Absolutely. And as you said, it's a full spectrum. I like this full-spectrum deterrence. It's an important line. Yeah, sorry.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: And let me just add, as a response to your question, yes, it will involve intensified cooperation with other organizations because this goes beyond defence and traditional military capabilities. It will involve close cooperation with other organizations like the European Union, but I could also think of other organizations…

MODERATOR: Absolutely.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: …to address the full spectrum of threats.

MODERATOR: Great. Thank you. Right, a lot of hands going up, and I'll take them as I saw them, if you don't mind. So first, the gentleman about four rows back in the middle. And don't worry, I think we'll have time to… to get around. So I see hands here, there. Right. Yeah. OK.

QUESTION: John… John Wills. I'm a…

MODERATOR: (Inaudible)… time, please.

QUESTION: …member… member of the Institutes and a journalist. An excellent speech. May I ask, though, how are you going to implement your aspirations? Obviously there isn't enough money being spent by the NATO Allies, and there doesn't seem to be a strong enough political will.

MODERATOR: I think, if I… if I may just pull this one together a little bit, this issue of political will, which is then manifested in defence budgets, I mean, something that's been discussed a lot here in the UK. You praised the UK government for a number of the steps that it had taken in recent years.

But the Syria vote, let's just put it out there, is one of those issues that… that has caused quite a bit of political debate in the UK. People may… you know, will the political will be there to be able to follow though, in your opinion, on… on the defence sort of commitments that you've been asking for and you called for in your speech as well?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: I will resist temptation to interfere with domestic British debate, but answer more generally on the political will.

I think the… the illegal Russian military actions in Ukraine are a wake-up call, a reminder that we cannot take security, we cannot take freedom for… for… for granted. So we have to invest sufficiently in security and… and defence.

And the good news is that we have actually seen positive developments in a number of countries. Just to… to mention a recent announcement, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania have now committed politically to gradually achieve the two percent benchmark. On top of that, I can inform you that Estonia has already reached the two percent benchmark, despite a severe a severe economic crisis some years ago. And I would argue, if it's possible for Estonia, it will be possible for other countries as well. And we have already seen encouraging movements.

But the question about political will is exactly why we want to address it at the summit, because it needs to be addressed at the very highest political level.

MODERATOR: Now, I've seen a lot of hands go up, and I think I've got pretty much all of them listed here, but if I do, that's a good 11 or so questions. But we've… you've been very kind and very disciplined with your speech at the beginning, that we've got plenty of time to follow through.

So I'll take them as I've seen them. If we have to group them later on, I will. But let's… let's go as we go along.

The gentleman who had his hand up very insistently right at the back first, with the white shirt. And… yeah, hold on, microphone. And if you introduce yourself first, please.

QUESTION: Thank you. My question is very simple. Do you have…

MODERATOR: Could you introduce yourself first, please? Just you know…

QUESTION: Yes?

MODERATOR: Introduce yourself.

QUESTION: Kamal al-Wani (ph), Al Horra (ph) TV.

MODERATOR: Thank you.

QUESTION: My question is very, very simple. Do you have now any kind of plan to intervene in Iraq to rescue the Iraqi government? That's it.

MODERATOR: Very simple question that you're going to get on…

(LAUGHTER)

MODERATOR: On an on-the-record event with all this going on here. Of course you will decide, Secretary General, won't you?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Well… first of all, of course I strongly condemn the violence we have seen in Iraq, the horrendous attacks we have seen, including the taking of hostages at the Turkish Consulate General in Mosul. And we call for the immediate release of the hostages.

Now, as is now publicly known, the Iraqi government has requested, at least from one of our Allies, some military assistance. I'm not going to interfere with that. That's a national decision.

NATO is focused on providing effective defence and protection of all Allies. And of course I had an opportunity to discuss that with our Turkish Ally when I visited Ankara last Monday.

But whatever might be the decision by individual Allies when it comes to military assistance to the Iraqi government, I have to say that any assistance would only be effective if it is combined with political efforts in Iraq to ensure a much more inclusive government than we have seen in the past.

We cannot dismiss the fact that one of the reasons why we now see tendencies of sectarian violence in Iraq is the fact that the government has not pursued inclusive policies.

So I would encourage the Iraqi authorities to ensure a much more inclusive government as soon as possible.

MODERATOR: Thank you. First lady here, had her hand up early on.

QUESTION: Thank you, Secretary General. My name is Osla Rald (ph) from Turkey's official news agency.

You just stated that you visited Turkey. I'm wondering, Turkey is a NATO member. Did Turkey ask any… seek any help from NATO since its General Consulate has been kidnapped with other Consulate staff?

And if the situation expands to NATO Allies like Turkey, do you still have the same position of not intervening into Iraq?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: First of all, NATO has not received any request for assistance. We have had a consultation within NATO upon request of our Ally, Turkey. So the North Atlantic Council has convened, and we have had consultations on… on this issue. As I said, we will not hesitate to do what it takes to provide effective defence and protection of our Allies, including of course Turkey.

MODERATOR: Good. And I'll take one last question, which I suspect might not… not last question, but one question might be on this issue … front. Right in front, yeah. Good. Microphone.

QUESTION: Secretary General, the question in relation to NATO, of course, NATO was of course founded -- by the way, my name is Ijimi Roussel (ph). I'm member of Chatham House.

The question I want to ask you is this. When NATO was established, it was a deterrence to the Soviet Union expansion. Now, since the collapse of Soviet Union, NATO itself has encroached to the territories previously occupied or controlled by Soviet Union. Don't you think this is a provocation on the part of Soviet… former Soviet Union, now Russia, and therefore the expenditure, as you mentioned, 50 per cent of Russia gone up, NATO's gone down. And then obviously NATO has to increase it to contra… confront the Russians' expansion on military expenditure.

MODERATOR: So in other words, have we… have we con-- have we contributed somewhat to… to… to the Russian reaction, in other words…

QUESTION: Yeah.

MODERATOR: …through NATO enlargement? That's what you said in the beginning, we've encroached, yes?

QUESTION: Yes, the provocation.

MODERATOR: Yes. So this is a big theme. And what… let me add this has been a big theme in the British press as well, and been part of the British political debate, the extent to which NATO has goaded perhaps Russia into taking a more assertive stance towards its security broadly.

I don't want to put words in your mouth, but this is a… this is beyond even just this question here.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Yeah, I've heard that before.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Good answer.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: But let me stress NATO's open-door policy is not a provocation against anybody. On the contrary, everybody, including Russia, has profited from the zone of stability, security, and prosperity we have contributed to develop in Eastern and Central Europe.

But first and foremost, let me emphasize, in parallel… in parallel with enlargement of NATO, we have engaged intensively with Russia. And actually we have created something very, very special, namely a NATO-Russia Council. It was established in Rome in 2002.

Already in 1997, before the first of the recent enlargement of NATO, we adopted a joint document called the Founding Act, which created the first framework for a structured cooperation between NATO and Russia.

And it was followed, as I said in 2002 by the establishment of something very particular, the NATO-Russia Council, which since then has served as a framework for political consultations as well as decisions on practical cooperation between NATO and Russia.

And I think the peak of all this was the NATO-Russia Summit in Lisbon in November 2010, at which summit we decided to develop a true strategic partnership between Russia and NATO.

So let me stress that we have not accepted new members of NATO as part of any aggression against Russia. On the contrary, we have for more than 20 years now tried to include Russia in a constructive cooperation.

But apart from all that, we adhere to a fundamental principle, namely that each and every nation has a fundamental right to decide itself its security policies and Alliance affiliation. Actually, that's also enshrined in the OECE Charter for European Security, which was adopted in 1999 and also signed by Russia. So Russia has subscribed to that principle, that each and every nation has a right to decide itself.

So NATO's open-door policy follows from our NATO Treaty, Article 10, which states that we may invite any European country that is in a position to improve Euro-Atlantic security and further the principle upon which we have built our societies. Each such European country may be invited to join our Alliance.

And these two things in combination, our open door and the right of every country to decide itself, has led to an expansion of NATO from 16 to 28 nations. That's not directed against Russia. But it's based on some fundamental principles, and of course our goal to create a Europe whole, free, and at peace. And we will not accept new dividing lines in… in Europe.

So I… I completely dismiss that allegation, that our open-door policy should be a provocation against Russia.

And just have a look also at economic figures -- trade, investment, and other things -- you will see that Russia has profited immensely from that zone of security, stability, and prosperity we have contributed to create in Eastern and Central Europe.

So basically, it's in Russia's interest. So… but it goes beyond my imagination how the Kremlin thinks, actually.

(LAUGHTER)

MODERATOR: Exactly. Right, I've got lots of hands going up, and I'm going to… just going to move around a little bit as I've seen them. Don't worry, I will get to you. I've counted all the front row. I've got three or four more at the front, and I've got some round the back. But start here first, please.

QUESTION: (Inaudible)…

MODERATOR: Mic-- microphone's coming. Hold on.

QUESTION: Yes. I'm the Greek Ambassador, Constantine Bikis (ph), and I welcome you here.

My question, I think, has been covered by you. I wanted to ask what are your thoughts on the situation in Iraq, but I presume that you have already answered that question. I don't know if you want to say anything more. I think if you… you've… for me, you have answered.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Maybe just one thing I could…

QUESTION: Wonderful.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: …add. namely, lessons learned. Because there is a discussion now whether we left a vacuum behind… security vacuum behind in… in Iraq.

Let me remind you that it was an Iraqi decision not to sign the necessary legal framework for continued presence of trainers, for instance, that could have continued training the Iraqi security forces.

And I think there is a lesson to be learned also when we are speaking about Afghanistan, namely the need for continued presence, as we have now decided to establish a train, advise, assist mission to continue to help the Afghan forces. They will take full responsibility by the end of this year, but we will continue to assist them. And I think that could be one of the lessons learned from Iraq, that it is important not to leave behind any security vacuum.

QUESTION: Gavin Cordon (ph) of the Press Association. You spoke in your opening remarks about the need for strength and unity in NATO, and also, within that, the important role played by the United Kingdom. But of course the UK may in the not-too-distant future not exist in its current form.

I wonder if you could tell me what preparations NATO has made, what contingency planning, what discussions have gone on with the governments here and in Edinburgh in case Scotland does vote for independence later this year, and whether you share any of the concerns that have been voiced by figures such as President Obama, Premier Lee, and of course Lord Robertson.

(LAUGHTER)

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: The brief answer is that it hasn't been discussed. And it's not only a brief answer; it's also the truth.

(LAUGHTER)

MODERATOR: That's a very rare combination (inaudible)…

(LAUGHTER)

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: So…

MODERATOR: (Inaudible)…

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Yeah. So… so I consider it a hypothetical question, and we will cross that bridge if and when we are there.

MODERATOR: We've had long and true answers, but that's brief and true. Yeah, Zunia (ph). So just go behind you, please. Behind you. Yeah.

QUESTION: Zunia Dormandy (ph). I run the US program here at Chatham House, and acting Dean of the Academy.

One of the things that the recent events in Ukraine showed us is the speed with which potential adversaries, in this case Russia, could move. You've talked a little bit about pre-positioning, but it's not just about being able to move resources to the place that they're needed, but also to make decisions more quickly.

At the moment you have a coalition of 28. The ability to make decisions in that coalition of 28 not just in terms of doing something but the what should one do, there's a lot of divisiveness about that.

Have you thought about how you… as you look to NATO of the future, how you might resolve that particular dilemma?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: It is a very good question, and we have also worked on… on that. But of course, basically, you're right that it is a bit more complicated to make a decision when it requires 28 sovereign, independent nations to agree, compared to if maybe eventually only one person can make the decision. Of course it makes a difference.

But I do believe that we have made progress in NATO during recent years. And just one example. When NATO took decision in the nineties to engage in the Balkans, it took at least six months to take that decision. When we decided, in spring 2011, to engage in Libya, it took six days.

And actually, it demonstrates that we have improved our decision-making processes. I will not suggest that it is easy. I will not suggest that we don't have challenges. We do. But as Secretary General now for more than… for almost five years, I can testify to the fact that, when there is an urgent situation, there is also a very strong political will to make decisions urgently. And there is a strong… I would say a consensual spirit within our Alliance.

Of course 28 nations may not always agree at the starting point. But I… I really appre-- I have… I have come to appreciate, I would say, the strong efforts from all permanent representatives, and eventually all capitals, to come to an agreement as fast as possible. We have also reformed some of… some of our internal procedures. But I have to say I don't think we can touch the prin-- the fundamental principle of consensus. Because we are speaking about sovereign nations, and we are speaking about defence and security policies. And I think, at least in my lifetime, nations will preserve that as a national, sovereign responsibility.

But we can improve and reform our internal decision-making procedures, and we have done so.

MODERATOR: I don't know if I could just quickly on to this interesting point. You gave the Libya example. There's an example where there were some very strong differences between member states, as reflected in the UN Security Council decisions, and yet you were able to act quickly. So just… just as a quick coda, I think it's an interesting point.

I'm going to come back to the front for a bit, then I'm heading back out to the sides. First Nick Gowing (ph), and then one, two, three like this. Three people here have all been waiting very patiently. And you, Madam, are… are in the next group.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Secretary General, Nick Gowing. Can I pick up on Zunia's point, which is the point I was going to build on myself, about smart, nimble thinking? Because you actually used two phrases there about little warning, and also Ukraine being a wake-up call.

And we're talking about new threats which are emerging incredibly quickly. And quite apart from the business of get-- making decisions, it's actually the business of assessment, threat assessment and perception of what is happening over the border from Estonia, over the border from Poland, and that very distinct perception, certainly as an outsider that really, during Ukraine, there was a lack of understanding of what was happening in the Kremlin, and you've just conceded your… how… how can I put it? The difficulty of understanding the Kremlin.

But the business of really how much NATO is sensitized to this, how… how smart it is, how nimble it is to understand. Because I was at the German Marshall Fund meeting at the end of March, and their General Breedlove really gave an impression, sitting publicly for the first time, that this had all come at a… as an amazing shock, and NATO was really struggling.

So can I ask you to give us an idea of what it's like in the North Atlantic Council and behind closed doors in the Military Committee when it looks… when it's about assessing very quickly, in real time, what is happening, and therefore what the threat is to NATO?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Yeah, but that is a key question. And obviously there are many lessons learned from what we have seen. And to be quite open with you, we have seen a dramatic change in the Russian way of conducting military operations from the Georgian War in 2008 to the Crimea operation in 2014. They react much faster and in a much more sophisticated way, let's face it.

And that's exactly why we are preparing what we call a Readiness Action Plan, and I think the title itself indicates what we are aiming at. And I also mentioned, as one of the strands of work, improved intelligence, a better early warning and situational awareness, and… I don't think you would expect me to go into details on… on…  yeah, OK.

(LAUGHTER)

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Yeah, but you wouldn't expect me to answer.

QUESTION: You could give a brief answer.

MODERATOR: It would have to be true then, is… is the problem.

(LAUGHTER)

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Yeah. So we have several options. But I can tell you that the North Atlantic Council is seized on… on the matter, and we discuss this on a very regular basis in depth.

MODERATOR: Do you think there's been a decline in the capacity to understand and assess Russia amongst the member states? Maybe it's within NATO. I mean, I don't want you to criticize your member states. But… but the point is there has been discussion that people just stopped looking. I mean, when we…

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Hmm.

MODERATOR: …look at the Middle East, we look in Afghanistan, teams tend to cluster where they go.

Do you think we've lost some of our feel for our ability to think about European security in the way we did before?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Yeah, but obviously, I mean, it's not a big surprise because, for more than 20 years, we have considered Russia a partner with whom we could cooperate. And we even decided, as I mentioned, in 2010 to develop a true strategic partnership. And then obviously you reallocate your resources. So it's not a big surprise.

But I have to conclude that, after what we have seen in Ukraine, we have to adapt to the dramatically changed security situation in Europe. And of course it also includes reallocating resources to improve intelligence and early warning.

MODERATOR: Great. No, thank you. Lady here, gentleman there. These… these two have been waiting very patiently. Hold on. The microphone's coming.

QUESTION: Hello. My name is Tanya Sumsonov (ph). I'm a Russian journalist for Ahowve (ph) Moscow.

MODERATOR: Perfect timing.

QUESTION: Exactly about the intelligence. We ha-- we have evidence from the Ministry of… of Russian Ministry of Defence that Russian military troops are relocating to the… towards the border of the Ukraine for… yesterday and today. And they're preparing probably to… Russian troops are preparing to enter the Ukraine.

Could you… from the intelligence and information you have, confirm that Russian troops are actually gathering toward… and going back towards the border? This is the first question.

The second question is what will be the NATO reaction if Russian troops will enter officially the Ukraine.

MODERATOR: Very specific question.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Firstly, yes, I can confirm that we now see a new Russian military build-up along the Ukrainian border. At least a few thousand more Russian troops are now deployed to the Ukrainian border. And we see troop manoeuvres in the neighbourhood of Ukraine.

Of course I have to say that, if they are deployed to… to seal the border and stop the flow of weapons and equipment from Russia into Ukraine, it would be a positive step.

But I also have to say that's not exactly what we are seeing. So I consider this a very regrettable step backwards. And it seems that Russia keeps the option open to intervene further into Ukraine.

You asked me what would be the consequences. I do believe that the international community would have to respond in a firm manner if Russia were to intervene further in Ukraine. And that would imply deeper, broader, more profound economic sanctions against Russia, which would have a very damaging effect on the Russian economy.

So it would isolate Russia further internationally if Russia were to intervene further.

QUESTION: Apart from economic sanctions, what are your plans?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: As far as NATO is concerned, we are focused on providing effective defence and protection of our Allies. We have taken immediate steps, including enhanced air policing, more naval presence in the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea, more exercises.

And we will not hesitate to take further steps, if needed, to reassure our Allies and ensure effective defence and protection of our Allies.

MODERATOR: We've got five more minutes, and I know we must finish on… on the dot at midday because the Secretary General has a number of other things on. And he's taking a lot of questions, which is good. So I'm going to group a few more. As I… as I said, the gentleman who's been waiting very patiently here. I'm going back there. And I'll see what I'm doing after that. And the lady… and these two ladies have been waiting.

QUESTION: Good. Yeah. Ronan Tynen (ph), a member of Chatham House. First of all, I want to thank you for a very enlightening presentation, particularly that statistic which revealed that Russian defence expenditure, as you said, increased by 50 percent and NATO's declined by 20 percent. But in absolute terms, obviously, NATO's expenditure is still quite enormous.

I would put it to you, though, that the real question, or the real power and the real leverage Russia has is its position as a key gas supplier to Europe. And indeed I would have to respectfully put it to you that a far better use of resources by Europe, and particularly the European Union, would be to invest heavily in shale gas production.

And indeed I would suggest to you that it would be far easier to sell that notion, especially, let's face it, the shale revolution is a technology and a triumph of innovation. To spend money on that would be… produce a far higher return than defence expenditure.

Just a final footnote. Mr. Putin on one occasion actually lectured Germany about the environmental hazards of shale. So he’s well aware of the strategic value of the shale revolution. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Very good point. Can I just group a few questions…

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Yeah, yeah.

MODERATOR: …just so you… then you can answer them. And I… I want to be fair. There's a lady who's been waiting very patiently right there. Yes.

QUESTION: Yeah. My name is Sylvia Hefsungmen (ph). I'm glad you mentioned that you're eradicating the terrorism from Afghanistan. But don't you think you are driving them from Afghanistan to other part of the wor-- the world, except… especially in the Middle East, to reform and regroup again?

MODERATOR: See, so terrorism has been driven out of Afghanistan to the Middle East.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Mm-hmm.

MODERATOR: There, please.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Ewan Grant (ph), independent consultant, recently returned from Kiev and Odessa, where I observed things that very much match what Mr. Gowing said earlier, but from a European Union view.

And my question is where do you see, in the new current situation, NATO relations with the European Union becoming perhaps deeper and more profound? And would you prefer to see the current Prime Minister of Denmark as head of the European Commission, or the former Prime Minister of Luxembourg?

MODERATOR: Last question here. Sorry to everyone else, at least the… (inaudible)… I saw the hands go up.

QUESTION: Jim Thursk (ph) from BFBS and Forces TV. The Financial Times this week, and indeed Lord Stirrup yesterday, talking to MPs, suggested actually Britain's defence expenditure is on course to fall below the two percent benchmark. How concerned are you by that? When you say it's time for the cutting to stop, does that also apply to the UK?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Energy security is of utmost importance. Of course this is not primarily NATO business. There may be NATO aspects, such as protection of essential infrastructure, etcetera. But we do have consultations among Allies on energy security. But actually, first and foremost, I think it's an EU business to improve or contribute to improve energy security.

And of course a better energy security requires a reduced dependence on imported oil and gas from Russia, and, in general, a much more diversified supply of energy, which also includes the construction of new pipelines that can make Europe more independent.

But it also, in my opinion involves a better functioning European energy market so that one single energy supplier is not able to blackmail one single nation, because nations help each other in that case. And it includes the development of new and alternative energy sources.

But as Secretary General, I will refrain from involving myself in discussions whether you should develop shale gas or… or… or not. But in general, obviously, the more diversified the energy supply, the better the energy security.

But I have one additional remark on shale gas because I have met Allies who can report that Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organizations, environmental organizations working against shale gas, obviously to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas. That's my interpretation. So it adds a new aspect to… to this information operation.

On terrorists, I… I think we have to face the fact that the fight against international terrorism is more or less an enduring task. We… we can't state at a certain stage that now that fight is over.

You may be right that, if we get rid of terrorist roots in one country, terrorist networks may move to other countries. So it just emphasizes how important it is to continue to develop a strong international cooperation in the fight against terrorism. And recent events in Iraq of course testify to… to… to that.

So I think, in conclusion, we will have to continue the fight against terrorism. It may find new forms, and we have to be ready to address that.

On NATO-EU, first of all, I'm not going at all to engage myself in the discussion on leadership of European institutions. That's for the EU to do. I have a sufficient number of battles already.

(LAUGHTER)

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: But in general, I would appreciate to see an even stronger cooperation between NATO and the European Union.

We get along quite well on a daily basis when it comes to our interaction in theatres where we operate together, like in Afghanistan and… and Kosovo. We have also improved our cooperation on development of capabilities so that we can avoid duplication and waste of resources, and make the most efficient use of taxpayers' money.

But when it comes to political consultation and cooperation, there is still an unused potential, I would say. And without going into a lot of details, basically… basically the problem is the unsolved Cyprus conflict. And I think the key to reach the full potential of NATO-EU cooperation would be to solve the Cyprus dispute.

Finally, on UK defence spending, I know from my interaction with the UK government that it is strongly committed to the two percent benchmark, so I am confident that the UK will stay above two percent defence spending.