by the NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, at the Press Conference for the launch of the Annual Report 2014, NATO HQ, Brussels
Good morning. Welcome to this launch of the Annual Report and let me wish you all the best for the year ahead.
2014 was not a good year for European security. In fact, it was a black year.
To the south, violent extremism is at our borders. Spreading turmoil across North Africa and the Middle East, and fuelling terrorism in our own streets.
To the east, Russia follows a disturbing pattern. Using military force to annex Crimea, destabilise Eastern Ukraine, and intimidate its neighbours. In disregard of international law. So our security environment has fundamentally changed.
This Annual Report demonstrates that we are adapting to deal with these changes, and to keep NATO strong.
Let me give you some facts and figures in some key areas.
And the first figure is 200. Last year, we held over 200 NATO and national exercises. One exercise started every two days – on the ground, at sea, and in the air. And they will continue. So we are raising the readiness of our forces.
The next figure is 400. Last year, Allied aircraft intercepted Russian planes over 400 times.
Over 150 of these intercepts were conducted by NATO’s Baltic Air Policing Mission.
That’s about four times as many as in 2013. So we are staying vigilant.
The next number is 6. We are maintaining a continuous presence of our forces, by rotation, in the eastern part of our Alliance.
When defence ministers meet next week, we will also decide on the size and the composition of our new Spearhead Force. And setting up NATO command and control units in six of our eastern Allies.
So we are turning the Readiness Action Plan we decided in Wales into reality. This will be the biggest reinforcement of our collective defense since the end of the Cold War.
Then the number is 5,000. The NATO-led force, KFOR, with close to 5,000 soldiers from Allies and Partner countries provides a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement in Kosovo. The general elections held in Kosovo last year, show the improvements achieved by Kosovo security forces which provided for secure proceedings avoiding the violence which had disrupted previous elections.
352,000. We have started a new chapter in Afghanistan. In 2014, we completed the largest combat operation in Alliance history. 352,000 Afghan soldiers and police that we have trained took full charge of their country’s security. And we launched a new mission to train, advise and assist them.
The next figure is one. Last year, there was just one piracy attack off the Horn of Africa, compared with over 150 in 2011. So we continue to work with international partners to counter threats such as piracy and terrorism. And the final figure is 852. We estimate that NATO Allies spent 852 billion dollars on defence last year. NATO remains the strongest military Alliance in the world.
But as you can see from our Annual Report, there has been a steady decline in European defense spending since 1990. And the decline continued last year.
In 2014, European Allies spent around 250 billion dollars on defence. A reduction of 7 billion dollars or about 3 percent. Yet last year, we also made an important pledge. To stop the cuts in defence spending, to aim to spend 2% of Gross Domestic Product on defence within a decade, and to spend that money more efficiently.
So, we need to spend more and we need to spend better. To keep our forces ready to deal with any threat. We have seen some steps in the right direction, but there is a long way to go.
We still have a serious mismatch between the security challenges we face, and the resources we are dedicating to our defence. And continuing imbalances - both across the Atlantic, and within Europe itself.
Just over four months ago, I stood here on my first day as Secretary General and then I outlined my three priorities; to keep NATO strong; to help keep our neighbourhood stable by working with our partners and to keep the bond between Europe and North America rock solid.
These priorities remain as important as ever.
Last year, the Euro-Atlantic order came under threat. But as our Annual Report shows and makes clear, NATO is adapting and looking forward. We stand determined to protect our values and keep our nations safe.