Joint press point following the 172nd NATO Chiefs of Defence meeting

  • 22 Jan. 2015 -
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  • Last updated: 22 Jan. 2015 18:51

CAPTAIN TERMANSEN (Spokesman, Chairman of the Military Committee):   Ladies and gentlemen good afternoon my name is Captain Termansen and I am the spokesperson for the Chairman of the Military Committee. Welcome to the joint press conference following the first Military Committee in Chiefs of Defence Session of 2015 with the Chairman of the Military Committee, General Bartels, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Breedlove and Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, General Paloméros. Before we start I’d like to draw your attention to the event page for the meeting which can be found by clicking on the MCCS logo on the NATO front webpage. The event page contains the opening remarks, pictures and will also have transcripts of this press conference in due time. Now, the brief introductory remarks by the Generals will be followed by a Q and A session and that will last for about 15 minutes or so. General Bartels.

GENERAL KNUD BARTELS (Chairman of the NATO Military Committee):  Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen and let me start this press conference by giving you an overview of the first NATO Chief of Defence meeting in 2015. With next month’s Defence Ministerial meeting fast approaching and with important changes to the security environment after the events of 2014 this gathering has allowed for frank discussions and produced clear and constructive military advice to the North Atlantic Council and direction and guidance for the Strategic Commands. During our session on situational awareness the recent terrorist attacks and the mounting transnational and multi-dimensional threats across the Middle East and North African region were discussed as well as the situation in Ukraine and Russia. We are fighting terror in many different ways and by using the combined strengths and expertise of the Allies; NATO is playing its role in countering terrorism.

Our session with partner nation Ukraine had to be postponed due to the evolving events in the east of Ukraine which required the attention of General Muzhenko. I look forward to meeting the General in May at our next Military Committee in Chief of Defence session. Our work with Ukraine is ongoing and we are moving forward with the five trust funds and looking for further areas for military to military co-operation. Concerning the situation in Ukraine it is clear that Russia has to stop supporting the separatists and respect international law.

A candid exchange of views on the implementation of the comprehensive Readiness Action Plan was held in yesterday’s afternoon session. One of the components is the VJTF with its interim solution under an enhanced NATO Response Force. The Chief of Defence agreed and endorsed a number of measures that will be reviewed at the Defence Ministers meeting but let me take this moment to stress and underline a few things. The VJTF is a Joint Task Force which means it will be comprised of land, air, sea and Special Operation forces components which include several thousand troops as well as appropriate command and control and has to deal with a full range of threats. I am confident after discussions held yesterday and today that we will be able to meet the political ambitions and requirements.

 To maintain the full range of capabilities necessary to deter and defend against any threat to the safety and security of our operations and adapt our posture after the Summit in Wales, NATO needs to continue to invest in our security, in our defence in order to retain capable forces at high readiness in the air, on land and at sea in order to meet current and future challenges.

 We met with our Mediterranean partner nations who we are working closely with to improve their defence capabilities and increase their ability to operate together so they are better able to meet the security challenges in their own region. Because if our neighbours are more stable, we will be more secure.

Moving on to the session on Afghanistan, the NATO Chiefs of Defence reviewed the first three weeks of RESOLUTE SUPPORT which brings 42 nations together to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Security Forces and their Ministries. We reflected on the way forward and the need for flexibility in the early stages of the mission. Many challenges remain but our commitment to Afghanistan is clear, to assist the Afghan Security Forces and institutions develop the processes and mechanisms they need to become sustainable in the long term.

In conclusion, I as Chairman of the Military Committee believe we had a constructive and fruitful exchange of ideas and opinions and I will now send a letter containing the consolidated military advice over to the political level for further consideration. And now I will hand the floor first to General Breedlove and then to General Paloméros who will give you an update on operation and transformation issues respectively.

GENERAL PHILIP BREEDLOVE (Supreme Allied Commander, Europe): Thank you Chairman. We’re just over three weeks into the New Year and already quite a bit has happened across and around our Alliance. Most poignantly of course we experienced inside our borders the brutal terrorist attack in Paris which was a heinous attack on the freedom of expression and a core value for NATO and all of us. We spoke over these past two days about the importance of our Allies sharing information about the transit of foreign fighters and the utility of having the structures in place to quickly communicate with one another about this or any other threat. We also discussed the repercussions on the Alliance, especially on those members of the south, of instability in North Africa and the Middle East.

Violence has intensified and changed character in Ukraine which punctuated our discussions on the implementation of the Readiness Action Plan that was agreed to at the Wales Summit. I am confident that our proposals to meet the RAP Tasking are robust and they are effective. They are designed to address a range of conventional and unconventional threats from all directions, not just the east, from state and non-state actors and to deter Article Five threats or to conduct a range of non-Article Five crisis response options. We also discussed how our assurance measures will continue through 2015 with robust activity in the air, on the land and in the maritime environment. Additionally we further sharpened our way forward for the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force and discussed how the interim VJTF will provide a test bed to practice and validate the concepts and procedures until our first full VJTF is ready.

We have as you know also begun the RESOLUTE SUPPORT mission in Afghanistan. I visited there two weeks ago and I’m very pleased with the progress there, both at the headquarters and with the units in the field. As always, there are challenges to face but based on what we’ve seen there is good cause to be optimistic about the way ahead there. So the security situation continues to validate the value of this great Alliance and underscores the importance of implementing the decisions of the Wales Summit which I believe is very, going very well. 2015 will be and is a critical year as we work to bring about the greatest change in our approach to collective defence since NATO’s inception and we are doing it deliberatively and correctly so that our responsiveness will be effective, sustainable and enduring to best prepare the Alliance for the security challenges of today as well as those security challenges on the horizon.

GENERAL JEAN-PAUL PALOMEROS (Supreme Allied Commander, Transformation):  In the line of the NATO Wales Summit and this Chief Conference, Chief of Defence Conference, reaffirmed clearly the need for a very dynamic transformation for NATO. And we have no alternative but to push together, all strength of effort because we have to face so many challenges and so many threats which are manifesting themselves almost on a day to day basis.

To summarize the three strands on which transformation we are moving our transformation, to achieve a better readiness and interoperability for our forces we are first and foremost, as it was stressed, to adapt our posture and this is the aim of the Readiness Action Plan to meet better the three core tasks of NATO: collective defence, crisis management and security co-operative/co-operative security.

Secondly, we have to keep on developing credible and credible, affordable, I would say, capabilities and that was part of the discussion today, how to frame the future political guidance to make sure that we can achieve this balance of capabilities which is required to face the multi-faceted environment and to field the short force which we identified.

And third but not least we have to reinvest in our people through training, education and exercises and this is exactly what we do. We have dramatically increased the number of strategic and tactical exercises in 2014. We are looking for even more co-ordinated synergy in exercise and training through NATO in 2015 and we will have a clear demonstration of NATO will and capability through the major Trident Juncture 15 Exercise starting in September. Thank you.

Q& A

CAPTAIN TERMANSEN:  Thank you. I will now open up for questions and I’ll ask you to state your name and media outlet that you represent... and to whom you would like to ask the question. Please sir?

ADRIAN CROFT (Reuters):  Adrian Croft, from Reuters. Question for General Breedlove, please. What is your assessment, General, of the military situation in Eastern Ukraine at the moment? Has there been an increase in the number of Russian troops in Eastern Ukraine and can you confirm President Poroshenko’s estimate that there are 9000 Russian troops in Eastern Ukraine? Thank you.

GENERAL PHILIP BREEDLOVE:  Adrian good to see you again, thanks for being here. The situation along the line of contact in Ukraine is not good, the fighting has intensified to essentially pre-agreement or pre-stand down levels and in some cases beyond... The ... I cannot at this time confirm President Poroshenko’s numbers but what we do see is that the Russian backed forces have a renewed capability now to bring pressure on the Ukrainian forces and have in several places moved the line of contact to the west... and this is concerning. As to our vision... into what is going on as far as troops in the East now what I can tell you is that we are beginning to see the signatures of air defence systems and electronic warfare systems that have accompanied past Russian troops movements into Ukraine... but we are unable at this moment to confirm any specific number of Russian, additional Russian troops inside of Eastern Ukraine.


UNYA IRENA SOMMER (Ukrainian News Agency):  This will almost be a follow up of question of my gentleman colleague here. Ukrainian News Agency, Unya Irena Sommer. I would like to know if you did discuss a possible scenario of development on the ground and what can be possible reaction? Thank you.

GENERAL KNUD BARTELS:  In the first session which we had which was Situational Awareness we were briefed as to what... what we believe is taking place on the ground for the time being. It was yesterday and we addressed potential developments which could unfold in the coming days so as to be able to reflect upon it during the further discussions which took place among the Chiefs. Regretfully, I cannot inform to as to which options... as to the possible development of events in Eastern Ukraine. I regret I cannot discuss this with you.

CAPTAIN TERMANSEN:  We have a question over there?

SITO (Japanese Daily):  Japanese Daily, my name is Sito. I would like to ask Readiness Action Plan, especially VJTF discussion... could you elaborate a little bit more, did you agree some specific number of VJTF or which country should take part in? And the second question is: Mr. Breedlove, you said Readiness Action Plan is also against non-state threat and non-five clause threat. So could you elaborate? Could you... could this VJTF fight against such a terrorist attack like Islamic State?

GENERAL KNUD BARTELS:  The first part of the question which I’ve got it right is how you see the VJTF unfolding over time. Indeed we addressed this issue and we will provide our recommendations but I suggest we wait until the Ministerials on 5 February to provide any definitive information as to which rotation could be envisaged.

GENERAL PHILIP BREEDLOVE:  I think you said your name was Sito? Sito thank you. I think it’s also important to note, to answer your second half of your question but to add just a little bit to what the Chairman said. It’s important to note that the VJTF is just one part of the NRF, the focus of RAP is not just the VJTF, it is the entire NRF and we have increased the readiness and responsiveness of the entire NRF and the VJTF would be just one of the tools available to NATO and NATO requirements, if there was an issue to address. And yes to your second part of your question, the VJTF will have inherent capabilities to deal with... problems more than just Article 5. And... that’s why it’s important to note that there are air, land, sea and special operations components to the VJTF.

CAPTAIN TERMANSEN:  Question, second row.

ALEXANDRA MAYER-HOHDAHL, (German Press Agency DPA):  Alexandra Mayer-Hohdahl, right here, with the German Press Agency DPA. General Breedlove just a follow up on Ukraine. There are reports coming out of Donetsk Airport... that... the Ukrainian troops might have abandoned it, do you have any confirmation of this or any reaction? And General Bartels if I may, you mentioned that NATO has a role to play in counter-terrorism. Could you expand a bit, are we talking about anything, concrete actions that NATO can take or are we talking about, you know encouraging allies to... to exchange information? Thank you.

GENERAL PHILIP BREEDLOVE:  I cannot confirm that. Not to be glib but we’ve been in meetings all morning long and so today’s news is news to us at this moment.

GENERAL KNUD BARTELS:  As to your second question I would say NATO has a facilitator role in assisting nations in exchanging information and whatever can be of use for their respective... in addressing their respective situation in their respective countries.


TERI SCHULTZ (NPR, CBS):  Teri Schultz, NPR and CBS. To follow up on both... of those questions, General Breedlove... you... prior to the Ukraine crisis you had a line of communication open with the Russians, have you given any thought to maybe talking to General Gerasimov again and asking for, I don’t know what you would ask him actually, but... have you... and because yesterday Lavrov said in a press conference that... that he understood that there could possibly be some contact with NATO on the sidelines of a security... an international conference, and could you follow up on that and let us know if there really are signs that you’re going to start a conversation again, either you personally through your lines or with Secretary General Stoltenberg . And also on the terrorism question, you... you mentioned the attacks inside our borders, there was enough information exchanged on these suspects to ... have them under surveillance at one point, so is... is NATO looking for other things it can do, even as national security is... and remains in the hands of national governments? What else can you do? You said that there are... you’re fighting terror in many ways as Alexandra said, what are some of these other ways besides just exchanging information which may already be existent? Thank you.

GENERAL PHILIP BREEDLOVE:  So yes we have talked an awful lot about how we re-establish calm and the fact that the communication with our senior military interlocutors in Russia is important. I did have a line of communication open... in fact as I think I reported to you at least once, I spoke to...  the General even after the invasion of Crimea. And so... we are going to re-establish that, we have talked amongst several of us senior military leaders how we’ll do that, I will allow them to roll out their plans as opposed to speak for them, but yes we are going to re-establish communication with Valery.

GENERAL KNUD BARTELS:  As to your second questions... I would like to remind you that the Operation in Afghanistan, they started based upon the terrorist threats which came out of Afghanistan and we have been addressing this now for over a decade and by the way are still addressing it... as we are finalizing our operations in Afghanistan with the RESOLUTE SUPPORT Mission, “train, advise and assist” as I mentioned. As to... events taking place within the borders of the Allies it is needless to say a national responsibility but in any way, we can facilitate... either exchange of information of whatever can be of use at the request of the nations, we, needless to say, address.

CAPTAIN TERMANSEN:  Question there.

JOHN DAHLBURG (The Associated Press):  Hi, John Dahlburg from The Associated Press. For General Breedlove and either of you two gentlemen if you care to answer. As you know... the... Russia last month adopted a new military doctrine that identified NATO as that country’s number one military threat and raised the possibility of a broader use of precision conventional weapons to deter foreign aggression... Could you tell me what NATO’s assessment of the new Russian military doctrine is? Whether NATO needs to take any actions in consequence... And also to the degree you can say what these precision conventional weapons that Russia claims to possess or be developing are? Thank you.

GENERAL KNUD BARTELS:  Concerning the recently published in the public... public media... Russian military doctrine, it is partly a revision of the former military doctrine which was if I remember right, it was published in 2010. And emphasizes among others, some of the actions which have taken place in relation to Ukraine. We, indeed, do assess it and see which repercussions it will have and the context of the rolling adjustments of... of the military posture of the Alliance and in the discussion which we do in cooperation between the Chief of Defence and Strategic Commanders we have addressed the issue... of... specifically of the military doctrine, Russian military doctrine, and we’ll continue to do so in the coming years.

GENERAL PHILIP BREEDLOVE:  So if I could just... I’ll just put a punctuation point on that a little bit. NATO is not a threat to Russia. Our goal is to re-establish... the norms of conduct among nations here in Europe that held for many years and we will work constructively in ways to re-establish those norms where we respect international borders and we respect the sovereignty of nations. And I, unfortunately, have no insight right now into the precision capability that they’re talking about. I think that we should read and pay attention to what they write. We find that the Russians do write about what they think that they might do.

GENERAL JEAN-PAUL PALOMEROS:  If I may add something in preparing the future, I think what is important is to study the doctrines and... but as well to compare the doctrine and the capabilities which are behind that and this is part of our... our job to look forward in the future and to see what could be the... what we call the game changers which could really force or impede our actions or... and push and put pressure on our own strategy. So I think it’s absolutely crucial that we keep on studying that, but we have our own doctrine, we have our own vision and I think the balance of force that we are trying to define should be able to... to cope with any kind of evolution. This is our aim in a very defensive and very peaceful manner if I may say so.

CAPTAIN TERMANSEN:  We have still three questions on the list... and there’ll be room for one more only... Sir?

JIM NUGER (Bloomberg):  Jim Nuger from Bloomberg. A question about the VJTF. What will be the response time of the interim VJTF? I seem to recall from Wales talk of four, five, six days. And... the... targeted response time for the full VJTF, once it’s fully operational?

CAPTAIN PHILIP BREEDLOVE:  Jim, thank you for that question. The initial readiness of all of VJTF forces in the future will be about seven days. We have agreed that if indications and warnings or intelligence call for a higher readiness that we can reduce the readiness of those forces at those times when we see the indications that would call for it. And I think again it just allows me to sneak a couple of points in and that is remember that the VJTF is just one part of the larger NRF, we have increased the readiness of all the NRF and those forces will also be in a situation that if we needed to, see the indications and warning or intelligence that is required, we can lower their readiness and responsiveness as well.

CAPTAIN TERMANSEN:  And two more questions and then we close the list. Sir?

DANIEL BRÖSSLER (Sueddeutsche):  Daniel Brössler, Sueddeutsche, and actually I want to ask about response times as well. So I would ask about a more general question, General Breedlove or General Bartels... there was a lot of talk about hybrid warfare threats... would you say that the Alliance so far has done enough to prepare itself for scenarios like that?

GENERAL PHILIP BREEDLOVE:  The interim will start off at seven days and if we require we can lower that responsiveness.

GENERAL KNUD BARTELS:  I will... I will start by responding and eventually General Breedlove will pick up. Indeed... we have assessed carefully the dimensions of hybrid warfare which I’m not so sure are that... new but indeed it is a very fashionable word for the time being. And what it primarily requires is a comprehensive approach and I come back exactly to what General Breedlove highlighted which is that the VJTF is not standing alone, the whole Readiness Action Plan and the Alliance is capable of fielding those comprehensive capabilities which would be necessary to address a so-called hybrid warfare threat if such a one should develop against the allies.

GENERAL PHILIP BREEDLOVE: And I... I like the way that General Bartels said that because... we agree hybrid war is, seems different, it’s just a collection of what we have seen in other cases and what makes it so special is that all, we see Russia using all the tools at its availability to effect pressure on a nation and that’s what makes it a little tougher for us to address. And I would emphasize that yes we have been working on this, in fact what I would say is that you would see... a strong effort from NATO, a strong effort from some of our bilateral national relationships with some of the countries that are most at risk and some multilateral efforts. So... it’s been a pretty concerted effort from all directions in NATO to begin to understand, characterize, build capacities, make sure that we are addressing the legal frameworks that are necessary in these ambiguous cases et cetera, et cetera and this work goes on.

CAPTAIN TERMANSEN:  And the final question.

Alex Rega (AFP):  I am Alex Rega, working for Agence France Press AFP. General Breedlove if I may come back to what you said in the beginning about the situation in Ukraine, you said that you saw the signature of air defence systems and electronic war defence systems and that these... these were there when there were massive numbers of troops in Ukraine a few months ago. Is that what... do you I understand it right and can you give us details, what do you mean, are we talking about the famous book that is accused of having shot at the Malaysian airplane? Are we talking... what types of systems do you see and how... are they manned? How many troops are you talking about when you say this?

GENERAL PHILIP BREEDLOVE:  So the first thing, I would never use the word that you used, massive. That’s not how I would characterize this... the numbers of troops. And what I was communicating to you is that in two instances where we’ve had Russian troops across the border actively in Eastern Ukraine, in both of those instances we had presence of certain types of air defence and other capabilities in Eastern Ukraine and... I’m sorry and ... I’m sorry I’m going to disappoint you I’m not going to discuss the specific intelligence but I will tell you that we see the same types of equipment et cetera in Eastern Ukraine now.

CAPTAIN TERMANSEN:  Thank you that completes the press conference after the Chiefs of Defence meeting. I’d like to once again to draw your attention to the event page where you can find the pictures and also the transcripts of the opening remarks and questions following it. Thank you for coming.