Press Conference

by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen following the second meeting of the North Atlantic Council at the level of Heads of State and Government during the NATO Wales Summit

  • 05 Sep. 2014 -
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  • Last updated: 05 Sep. 2014 22:38

NATO Secretary General: Good afternoon. Our summit has taken the necessary decisions to prepare NATO for the future.  And it is my great pleasure to present to you the man who will lead the Alliance towards that future: Jens Stoltenberg.

I have known Jens for many years. As Prime Minister of Norway, he worked hard to ensure a strong Norwegian commitment to the Alliance.  And I know he is the right man to build on NATO’s record of success. 

Jens, I am sure that under your mandate, our Alliance will continue to bind North America and Europe together in defence of our values: freedom, democracy, and the rule of law.

I wish you every success once you take on this challenging role on the 1st of October.

Over to you.

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Jens Stoltenberg: Thank you so much, Anders, thank you for the kind introduction.

It is really a great honour to be elected as the next Secretary General of NATO, this unique Alliance.  And I will do my utmost to live up to that honour and to follow the great example which you, Anders, have set over the past five years.  

Because you have shown strong leadership of the Alliance. And you have developed the Alliance into an even more capable organisation providing security, providing stability, and also building the bonds between Europe, United States, Canada – the translatlantic bonds. So we are all grateful for that and we thank you for the leadership you have shown for so many years in NATO.

As we all know, NATO is not just a security Alliance. It is a family of values which reaches across the Atlantic and defends almost one billion citizens of our Allied countries.

And we must continue to stand up for those values. This Summit has provided an important platform and an important direction for the future.  We need to invest politically and financially into the Alliance.

And I look forward to taking up the post on the 1st of October.  And I look forward to working with all 28 Allies to keep our Alliance strong into the future.

Thank you so much and I look forward to working together with all of you after the 1st October.

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NATO Secretary General: In the past 24 hours, we have taken historic decisions which WILL keep our Alliance strong in an uncertain world. 

We have adopted a Readiness Action Plan. We have agreed ways to improve our military capabilities. And we have improved our cooperation with partners.

But when it comes to security, you get what you pay for, and it doesn’t come on the cheap.

Twenty four years ago, NATO leaders met in London. Their vision was a Europe whole, free and at peace. And over the last quarter of a century, we have worked hard to make that vision a reality. But now it is in danger.

Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and its continued aggressive actions elsewhere in Ukraine, as well as the spread of violence and extremism in North Africa and the Middle East affect security to NATO’s east and south.

In this dangerous world, we recognize that we need to invest additional effort and money. So today the Alliance made a pledge on defence investment.

We agree to reverse the trend of declining defence budgets. And raise them over the coming decade.

We will direct our defence budgets as efficiently and effectively as possible. And aim to move towards the NATO guideline of spending 2 percent of Gross Domestic Product on defence, and with a view to meeting NATO capability priorities. 

We will review our progress every year. And it will remain on the agenda of future NATO summits and meetings of defence ministers.

This is no easy task.  And there is much work to do. But the direction of travel is clear.    And the security of our countries and citizens is too important for us to cut corners, or to cut still more funds. And without security, we can have no prosperity.  

Today’s decision will further strengthen the transatlantic bond. Enhance the security of all Allies. And ensure a more fair and balanced sharing of costs and responsibilities. Within Europe and across the Atlantic.

For over 65 years, NATO has been at the forefront of building stability in an unpredictable world. It underpins our freedom and security from the West Coast of North America to our Eastern borders.

Today, we reaffirm our continuing and unwavering commitment to defend the populations, territory, sovereignty and shared values of all Allies in North America and Europe. We will meet challenges and threats, wherever they come from.

With the decisions we have taken here in Wales, NATO will remain the bedrock of our collective defence. 

So in Wales, we have made NATO fitter, faster and more flexible.  We have brought our partners even closer. And we have made the vital bond across the Atlantic stronger.

Now, while this is not the end of my mandate, this is my final summit as Secretary General, after five years in this post. These have been some of the busiest and most challenging years in the history of our Alliance.  

We have brought our longest mission in Afghanistan close to completion. And prepared the next chapter in our engagement.

We have launched new missions. With new partners.  And developed new capabilities.   We have cut fat, and built muscle.

We adopted a new Strategic Concept that created the framework for the new NATO.  Developed Smart Defence as a tool to develop new capabilities and make more efficient use of our resources. We developed a Connected Forces Initiative as a tool to improve our ability to work and cooperate together as Allies and with our Partners.

We have enhanced our Partnerships.  And it has made NATO a hub of a network of international security partnerships. 

And now we have also adopted a Readiness Action Plan that will improve our ability to act swiftly if needed.

Together, we have shaped the NATO of tomorrow - a renewed Alliance, for a new era. An Alliance that is ready, robust and resolute. And I am proud to have led NATO through this pivotal time.

And finally, let me just take this opportunity to say thank you to Prime Minister Cameron for hosting the Wales Summit. Thank you for your personal commitment to NATO, to strong defence and the bond between North America and Europe.

To the people of Wales, thank you for your warm hospitality: Diolch yn fawr.

I am now ready to take your questions.


OANA LUNGESCU (NATO Spokesperson):  We'll start with Wall Street Journal.

Q: Thank you, Stephen Fidler from the Wall Street Journal.  Three questions if I may, made very quickly.  The statement mentions the 2% benchmark and the 20% of that... 2% of GDP benchmark and 20% of that for major equipment.  And 2% is not new.  It's been around for more than a decade.  And defence has continued to fall.  I mean what do you think needs to happen now?  What will happen to make sure that actually defence spending does turn around and doesn't continue to fall?  What will be different now to what happened before?

And my second question relates to the so-called Spearhead Force and whether you have had any pledges from nations already indicating that they would send forces into that... into that force.  David Cameron, I think, mentioned this morning that the UK would do that.

And my third question is just a brief assessment if possible on the Ukraine peace plan; because I understand you may have been briefed about it.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN:  First on defence spending, what is new?  Firstly, it is new that heads of State and government have committed to working towards the 2% guideline.  Secondly, it's new that there's now introduced a timeline.  We'll do it within a decade.  Thirdly, and I think actually most importantly, this decision has been taken in a completely new security environment.  Russia's aggression against Ukraine is a wake-up call.  And I think this is exactly what has let capitals in NATO Allied Nations to reconsider defence investment; because it's now obvious that we cannot take our security for granted.  And we will have to invest more in our defence and security. 

Over the last five years, Russia has increased its defence investment by 50% while NATO Allies, in average, have decreased their defence spending by 20%.  And obviously, this is not sustainable.  So I think this new security environment will be the driving force for now, actually implementing this pledge, and actually a number of Allies have already declared, based on broad political agreements in their Parliament that they will reverse the trend; stop the cuts; gradually increase in defence investment towards the 2% benchmark. So that's why I'm confident that this is really a change.  We have turned a corner.

On the Spearhead Force, yes, we have heard announcements of willingness to contribute to the Spearhead Force.  No doubt that it will be established.  And in general I can tell you that the implementation of the Readiness Action Plan will start immediately.

Finally, on Ukraine, I warmly welcome if a real ceasefire could be established. But one thing, of course, is to declare a ceasefire.  The next and crucial step of course is to implement it in good faith. And it remains to be seen. But so far so good!  I hope that this step could be the start of a constructive political process. 

OANA LUNGESCU: Financial Times.

Q:  (Inaudible) Financial Times.  Just wanted to ask:  Are you disappointed at all with the agreement that has been reached on defence spending, given the long-time frame?  And do you feel that... what's your message to Allies that they use this as an excuse not to increase defence spending in the near term for the next few years?  And also, maybe, I was wondering if you could respond to a statement from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, recently, just in the last hour or so, that the upshot of the Summit is that it proves that NATO's longstanding idea has been to put troops on the ground in Eastern Europe; and the Ukrainian crisis has been a mere excuse to do so?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN:  Hum, no, I'm not disappointed.  On the contrary, I'm encouraged by the fact that all Allies at the level of heads of State and government have committed to reverse the trend; stop the cuts; start gradually increasing defence investments.  We have known right from the outset that this will be a challenging task; and that it couldn't be done overnight.  So I think to have a time horizon of a decade... of ten years, that's reasonable; also because defence investment is a long-term planning issue.  From you make a decision to invest in certain capabilities until they can actually be delivered, develop and delivered.  Very often, it takes quite some time.

So, hum, it is a very important decision.  You asked me if it could be used... This time horizon of ten years could be used to postpone immediate steps.  I don't think it will be used to postpone immediate steps.  On the contrary, we have seen a number of Allies already declare that from this year, from next year, they will start gradually to increase their defence spending; because they realize that this is also a short-term challenge. 

For instance, the Reassurance Measures we have adopted, they will require resources.  It takes money to deploy troops to participate in exercises in the East.  I can tell you that it will be quite costly to establish a Spearhead Force at very high alert. And that can't be postponed till the end of a decade.  This will be cost expenditure here and now, next year... this year, next year.  So I'm confident that this will be a real step also in the near term.

On Russia, well, I'm not surprised to see these comments.  Hum, let me remind you that all this has been provoked by Russia's illegal military actions in Ukraine, plus and we shall recall that... plus the Russian statements that they preserve the right to intervene in other countries, to do what they call "protect the interests of Russian-speaking communities".  And for many understandable reasons, such statements have created a lot of concern in not the least the Baltic States.  So this is a reason why we have to take necessary steps to provide effective defence of our Eastern Allies. 

OANA LUNGESCU: Georgian, over there...

Q:  Nadia (inaudible) Georgian TV company, Rustavi 2.  Let me follow up these questions and remind you from the press op that Russia has not fulfilled its obligation, the ceasefire agreement into the South, during the war with Georgia.  And in this situation, how could the Russian put in this peace plan trust?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN:  Yes, well, probably you will have noted that I have the way through been a bit cautious in my statements on these peace plans and announcements of truces and ceasefires; because, you're right, based on experience, based on history, we know that one thing is a declaration and quite another thing is implementation. 

Nevertheless, I would welcome, of course, if the new announcement of a ceasefire represents a sincere attempt to stop the violence and initiate a constructive political process. And that's why I stress that what now... what comes now is clear implementation in good faith.


Q:  Yes, Brooks Tigner, Jane's Defence Weekly.  Just two short questions.  One on language.  You said the Allies have agreed to a pledge on defence investment.  But I think the original draft-line was for a commitment.  I stress the word commitment.  Is that word "commitment" still there?  Or is this a watering down of the obligation of member States to increase their spending? 

And second, perhaps more important, could Allies contributions in kind to NATO, increased infrastructure, troops, capabilities, be taken into account as part of their spending commitment?  Or must they strictly raise their financial spending, their defence budgets?  Thank you.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN:  Now, the way you present it could leave the perception that this is a legal commitment. And as we all know, obviously, it's not... It is... it is a political commitment. And that's why we have also the concrete formulation, as you will see, in our Summit Declaration is that we will aim to do this and that.  But that's how politics work. 

But of course, there is... there is quite some strength in a statement issued by 28 heads of State and government.  While I know, as a politician myself, that very often people don't trust political pledges, it is still from a Summit a clear statement from 28 leaders that they aim to move towards this 2% guideline. And as I said, it's the first time... it's the first time in the history of our Alliance that heads of State and government issued such a statement.  So it has not been watered down.  It is as strong as it can be in a political world. 

Next, I would say that I was also encouraged by the discussion we had today; because the way leaders argued left me with the very impression that everybody realizes that we are now in a dramatically changed security environment.  After 25 years of relatively nice weather, after the end of the Cold War, we are now faced with what I would call a "profound climate change" politically and also as regards to security.  And that's what will be the driving force.  So that's why I'm confident that we have really turned the corner, as I said.

OANA LUNGESCU:  (Inaudible)

Q:  Thank you, Salwa Amin (?), Kompakt Magazine Germany.  Has there been any discussion regarding the possible relocation of the missile defences team against Russia during the Summit?  Or have there been maybe talks regarding this issue scheduled for the near future among the member States?  Thank you. 

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN:  The very brief answer is that we stick to our plans as they have been outlined since we took the decision in Lisbon in 2010.

OANA LUNGESCU:  Thank you very much. And with this, we conclude the last press conference of the Wales Summit. Thank you.