by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Foreign Ministers session
We have just finished a very good meeting in the North Atlantic Council with the Foreign Ministers. We assessed the progress we are making in implementing the decisions we made at the Wales Summit. And we are making progress. We have two concrete outcomes of the meeting today.
One is the announcement of the establishment of the interim Spearhead Force which is increasing the readiness of our forces.
And the other is that we have agreed to maintain the continuous NATO presence in the Eastern part of our Alliance.
This is important because these are concrete elements in the Readiness Action Plan. And we are going to implement the Readiness Action Plan on time, in full.
Because it is the most significant and biggest increase in our collective defence since the end of the Cold War. And the Readiness Action Plan is an important part of our response as an Alliance to the threats we have seen developing both in the East and to the South.
In the East, we see Russia violating international law and not respecting the independence and sovereignty of Ukraine.
And to the South we see instability creeping closer to NATO’s borders in Iraq and Syria, two countries bordering a NATO ally, Turkey.
Therefore, NATO has to be able to meet any threats from wherever they come. And therefore, our forces remain ready and able to respond swiftly. And this is now enhanced by the establishment of the Interim Spearhead Force.
We have already increased our presence in the air, at sea and on the ground in the eastern part of the Alliance.
And all 28 Allies will contribute to this effort into the next year. So we will be 28 for 28 through 2015. To assure Allies and to deter threats.
At the same time, we are continuing to adapt our forces for the future.
We are developing a permanent “spearhead force” able to deploy within days.
With the appropriate command and control elements. And tested through short-notice exercises.
In February, Defence Ministers are going to decide on its size and design.
So it’s lots of work to do between now and the meeting of the Defence Ministers in February.
We are working on a schedule where the permanent “spearhead force” is going to be ready and stand up in 2016.
So this is something which is going to be our main task for the whole NATO Alliance until then.
But, as I said, we need to have something in the meantime.
So that’s the reason why we are setting up an Interim Spearhead Force, which will be available early next year.
To provide the quick reaction capability we need, straight away. Able to deploy within just a few days’ notice.
This Interim Spearhead Force will be based mainly on troops from Germany, the Netherlands and Norway.
I strongly welcome their commitment. This is a strong signal of NATO solidarity and resolve within the Alliance.
Today, we also discussed how to help partner countries as they make their own security sectors more efficient and transparent.
We have been working closely on this issue with Georgia, Jordan and the Republic of Moldova. Based on their requests and their needs.
For example, we will embed experts from NATO Allies to provide advice on issues such as training and defence reform.
And we will contribute to a new NATO-Georgia Training centre with embedded NATO trainers.
We are looking at supporting Jordan in military exercises, and defence-related border security.
And we continue to work with Moldova on the support they need.
Our aim is to help prevent crises before they arise. And to project stability without always having to project large forces.
Because we all agree that prevention is better than cure.
So with the decisions of today, we are doing what we pledged at the Wales Summit.
We are protecting our Allies, and supporting our partners.
MODERATOR: Reuters in the front row.
QUESTION: Hi. Robin Emmet (ph) from Reuters. The measures you've taken so far have failed to deter Russia. Your warnings, your criticism, they've failed to deter Russia in Ukraine. Why do you think assurance measures in 2015 and the Spearhead force would make any difference?
JENS STOLTENBERG (Secretary General of NATO): NATO is a strong deterrence… or has a strong deterrence. NATO is the strongest military alliance in the world, and we are providing security. We are able to defend and protect all allies. And this is a very strong deterrence in the alliance.
Our collective security is based on the very fundamental idea, always one for all and all for one, and it has provided security and safety and deterrence for decades for all NATO allies.
The collective security, the Article 5, does not apply for non-members. But at the same time, we are engaged with a lot of partners, especially in Europe. And Ukraine is a partner of NATO. We are working together with Ukraine. We are supporting Ukraine in different ways, through the trust funds on different areas, helping them to modernize, to improve their defence capabilities.
But in the… in addition, all allies are also supporting Ukraine by imposing the economic sanctions on Russia.
So I feel very certain about that, the deterrence NATO provides, is of great value. It's… it's of great importance for all allied countries. And that's the main purpose of the collective defence of NATO. And in addition, we work with partner countries, but that is on an other… based on other… other principles than the collective defence, which applies for NATO allies.
MODERATOR: Georgian TV.
QUESTION: Thank you. Katya Vojogwa (ph), Georgian TV (inaudible). Mr. Secretary General, you mentioned the NATO Georgia training centre. We know that Russia sees it as a threat. The officials has already said that couple of times.
At the same time, we see the so-called treaty between Abkhazia and Russia, and the readiness to sign the treaty between South Ossetia and Russia.
So what can alliance do to prevent Crimea in Georgia, to prevent the annexation of Georgian regions? Are there any tools? What… how do you see it? Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG: First of all, the whole idea that the training centre is a threat is, in a way, violating the principles which we very much believe that our security… security should be based on. And that is the idea we… that states… that all countries should be able to decide themselves as sovereign nation what kind of security arrangements they would like to be a part of.
And Georgia is a partner of NATO. We have decided to work together, and we have decided to help and to assist Georgia through a training centre. And that's a decision taken by a sovereign nation, Georgia, in cooperation with an alliance, with an organization, NATO, and no other country, no third country, can veto or try to stop this kind of partnership between NATO and sovereign… and a… and a sovereign nation as Georgia.
NATO and NATO allies do not recognize in any way Abkhazia or South Ossetia as any kind of independent states. They are part of Georgia, within Georgia's internationally recognized borders. And we are strongly supporting the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Georgia within those borders, and… and Abkhazia and South Ossetia is within those internationally recognized borders.
MODERATOR: Danish TV.
QUESTION: Yes, Mr. Secretary General, you have talked about an interim spear… spearhead and a permanent spearhead, and you have built up your presence in the eastern Europe. But what about the long-term strategy towards Putin? What would you do if Crimea is still under Russian control in three years' time?
JENS STOLTENBERG: I think that we have to be prepared that this can last for a long time, and that the changes we have seen in Europe may be something which will not go back to normal within a short period.
And I would like to state very clearly that NATO does not seek confrontation with Russia. NATO do not want a new Cold War. But we cannot compromise on the principles which the security and peace in Europe and the Euro-Atlantic area has been based on for many decades, and that is the respect of each nation and their independence and their sovereignty.
And that is exactly what has been violated by the aggressive actions of Russia in Ukraine. And therefore we have to respond very firmly to those violations.
And we do that by increasing the readiness of our forces, by investing in defence, and by implementing the biggest enhancement of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War. This is a response to what we have seen during the last years.
At the same time, we stated very clearly in Wales that we still aspire for a more cooperative and constructive relationship with Russia. And my experience as a politician, as a Prime Minister in Norway for many years, is that there is no contradiction between a strong military defence, collective defence, a strong alliance, and the aspiration for a cooperative and constructive relationship with Russia.
Actually, I believe it's the opposite, that it's only by the… by having a strong defence and a strong alliance that we have the foundation to engage with Russia now and in the future. And that's the reason why it is important that we implement all the decisions we made in Wales.
MODERATOR: Commersant (ph).
QUESTION: Thank you. Mr. Secretary General, Elena Chernenko (ph) from Commersant. Yesterday Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia, Mr. Meshkov, said that the steps that NATO is taking in the eastern part will have a destabilizing effect on the stab-- on the security in the region.
He was specifically talking about endless military exercises and deployment of nuclear capable planes in this region. Could you comment on that statement?
And also, he was clearly saying that Russia would take countermeasures, which obviously means a bigger military presence in its western part. Aren't you concerned that this will lead to even a more bigger crisis, if the two militaries of the two parts are standing so close to each other and such a big build-up? Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG: All measures which we are implementing are defensive measures. And everything NATO does is within our international obligations.
It's not we, but it's Russia that's violating international law, changing borders by using force, and not respecting the independence and the territorial integrity of independent nations as Ukraine.
So what we are doing is completely within international law and within our international obligations. What Russia is doing is actually to undermining and violating the rule-based system which has provided security and peace in Europe for decades.
And what we are doing is also a response to the aggressive actions we have seen that Russia is responsible for, especially in Ukraine.
At the same time, I agree with you that, of course, the situation with more military presence on the borders, with more snap exercises, with more military activity in the air space around NATO borders, increases the danger for accidents, for misunderstandings, for that situation… that the situation can spiral out of control.
And for me, it just underlines the importance of that Russia starts to comply with international law, withdraw its forces from Ukraine, respect the Minsk agreements, and the need for transparency, predictability related to military activity to try to avoid misunderstandings and that situations might spiral out of control.
MODERATOR: Question over there.
QUESTION: Thank you. Max Hofmann, Deutsche Welle. The German Foreign Minister Steinmeier just said that, with the Russian NATO Council on ice, there was basically zero communication between Russia and NATO at the moment, even less than during the Cold War, and that it was obviously very dangerous because you couldn't just call or have any means of communication to clear up military manoeuvres or something like that.
Do you share this view? And what is NATO prepared to do against it - open up some military communication channels like in the Cold War, for example?
JENS STOLTENBERG: So what we have decided is to suspend all practical cooperation, but to continue with political dialogue, to keep the channels for political dialogue open. And that is what we are doing.
There… there has been… there have been two meetings in the NATO-Russia Council since the crisis started this year, and channels for political communication are still open. And there is also military-to-military contact between NATO and Russia.
But of course there has to be a will on both sides, and there has to be some content in those contacts, both the military-to-military contacts but also the diplomatic contacts.
And the… and what we would like to see is, of course, that it was possible to have more transparency, more predictability, to avoid situations which may spiral out of control.
And that's also one of the reasons why we have focused on the increased Russian air activity. We have seen substantially increased Russian military air activity along Russian bord-- no, NATO's border, during the last year. There has been 400… more than 400 intercepts. That's more than 50 percent more… more than the total of last year.
And the problem is not only their numbers, but it is also the way these flights are conducted. They often fly in a very aggressive way. They don't turn on the transponders. They don't communicate with civilian air traffic control, and… and they don't file their flight plans.
And of course this increases the challenges related to this increased military presence.
So I agree with him on the need for having direct contact, and to fill that with content, and that's also the reason why we have direct contact but we would like to fill it with more content so we can achieve more transparency and… and predictability.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. I'm afraid that's all we have time for now. The Secretary General will be back after the Resolute Support Mission meeting, together with President Ashraf Ghani. Thank you.