by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the meetings of NATO Defence Ministers
It has been a busy and productive day. We have had many different meetings. We have had meeting of the Nuclear Planning Group and met with our partners from Georgia. Then we also met in the North Atlantic Council.
And today we took several important decisions related to our collective defence and how to strengthen our collective defence.
To ensure that we have the right forces in the right place at the right time.
And to be able to defend all Allies against any threat, from the east or from the south.
First, we agreed to enhance the NATO Response Force.
And we decided on the size and composition of its centrepiece, the new Spearhead Force.
We decided that this very high readiness force will consist of a land brigade – of around 5,000 troops.
These will be supported by air, sea and special forces.
The lead element of this land brigade will be ready to move within as little as 48 hours, with the rest moving within a week.
The Spearhead Force will be backed up by two more brigades - as a rapid reinforcement capability in case of a major crisis.
Altogether, the enhanced NATO Response Force will count up to around 30,000 troops.
Six Allies declared today that they are ready to act as framework nations for the new Spearhead Force.
France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom have offered to take up this role, in rotation, in the coming years.
This will ensure that the Spearhead Force can be sustained for the long term.
These countries will provide the main elements of the force, and help bring together other Allies.
So this will be truly a multinational force.
This is a strong signal of NATO solidarity.
And it shows that European Allies are fully playing their part, taking the lead in protecting Europe.
In fact, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway have already begun training and exercising an interim Spearhead force, together with several others.
Third decision we took today is that we have decided on the immediate establishment of the first six multinational command and control units.
In Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania.
If a crisis arises, they will ensure that national and NATO forces from across the Alliance are able to act as one from the start.
They will make rapid deployment easier. Support planning for collective defence.
And help coordinate training and exercises.
These units will be made up of staff from across NATO, and the host countries.
They will be there on a persistent basis.
A clear and visible sign that NATO is there to defend all Allies.
I welcome the work of Germany, Denmark and Poland to develop the Headquarters Multinational Corps Northeast in Szcecin.
This will enhance our high readiness capability to command forces deployed to Poland and the Baltic states.
I also welcome Romania’s intention to make available a new deployable Multinational Division Headquarters for the southeast.
We are taking these steps in response to our changed security environment. They are defensive, proportionate, and in line with our international commitments.
Our core responsibility is to keep our nations safe. And this is exactly what we are doing.
And with that, I am ready to take your questions.
OANA LUNGESCU (NATO Spokesperson): James.
Q: Do I need the microphone?
OANA LUNGESCU: Yes, you’ll get it.
Q: Quick fire. Yes, I just had one question on, on deployment and its cost implications. I mean whether, if you want to get faster to the point of whether it’s for the Spearhead of NATO Reaction Force or other adaption, the other adaption measures it means keeping more troops on standby and that will cost money as well as investment in all of these reception facilities that you’ve just described. So do any of these spending obligations, do they raise any new common funding issues for NATO and if so what are those funding issues and when will they be resolved?
JENS STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General): Of course this will cost money and it has to be paid for and we are going to address the financing at our meeting in June. But I would like to underline that first of all this is going to be a combination of common funding and contributions from nations. And that, it’s obvious that when nations now are taking on the responsibilities, announcing that they are ready to come forward and contribute to for instance the Spearhead Force, being framework nations contribute in other ways, they’re also ready to bare some costs for doing that and also very strong commitment at our meeting today where many nations announced different contributions that we are willing to, to take on the responsibility as an alliance and as, as individual nations to increase, enhance our collective defence.
OANA LUNGESCU: BBC.
Q: Thank you Secretary General. Jonathan Marcus from the BBC. What you’re doing is essentially establishing a new tool in the NATO toolbox if you like. However impressive or rapidly deployable that might be on paper or even in practice, are you confident that you will actually be able to muster within the alliance the political will to actually give the order to deploy these forces, you know at a time when clearly there will be a crisis, by definition this could be seen as much as a crisis inflaming step as it is a reassurance to allies.
JENS STOLTENBERG: First I think we have to remind ourselves of the fundamental fact that NATO has been there for decades being able to provide collective defence in a way that has kept all NATO allies safe and secure for more than 60 years. Second I, NATO has shown a remarkable ability and competence when it comes to adapt to change, changing security environments. During the Cold War we were then focused on collective defence in Europe, then we were able to adapt and we were able to conduct big military operations outside Europe or outside our core area in the Balkans, in Afghanistan, off the Horn of Africa and many other places. So I think that the history of NATO is that we are able to act when needed, we are able to provide collective security and, and collective defence and at our meeting today we saw very strong renewed commitment to collective defence. So these forces they are an important enhancement of our collective defence and that’s the reason why we are establishing them.
OANA LUNGESCU: NPR CBS.
Q: Teri Shultz with NPR and CBS. Mr. Secretary General while you were in your meetings the SACEUR was giving interviews and in one of them he said that, that the consideration of aid to Ukraine would have to take into account the reaction from Russia and I find that kind of surprising because if you’re talking about things like expansion you always say Russia doesn’t have a veto. So is, in this case when you’re thinking about what possible further aid allies might give Ukraine, do you think that that is a factor? That you have to worry about how Russia would react? And I know you’ve been asked this before but I’ll try it again, are you considering making a NATO recommendation to allies based on, on a sense of the alliance about this decision on arming Ukraine? Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG: The NATO position is very clear. We are providing strong political support for Ukraine and we are providing strong practical support for Ukraine. And we support the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine. And the, we provide practical support to the trust funds and through our co-operation with Ukraine when it comes to modernizing their defence, defence reform. I would also like to underline that its part of the rule based order which has been so important for Europe for decades and which NATO is committed to protect and defend. That is rule based orders which underlines that every sovereign nation has the right to choose its own path and that is also the case for Ukraine. And, and therefore I think it is extremely important to underline that, that it’s a principle which we will never compromise on. Ukraine has the right to protect itself but as I’ve said before NATO as an alliance will not make any decisions on the provision of equipment or arms to Ukraine because that is not up to NATO to decide, it’s up to the different allies to decide. When I say that we are not going to make any decisions that means that we are not going to make any decisions as an alliance when it comes to the question of providing arms, lethal arms, weapons to, to Ukraine. That has to be up to the individual allies to decide, it has been like that decades and it’s still like that.
OANA LUNGESCU: Associated Press.
Q: Secretary General, John Dahlberg from the AP. I wondered if you care to revisit your assessment of the peace proposal that we understand Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande are taking to Kiev and Moscow. Western diplomats have been quoted as saying that this is actually based on a revision of a plan submitted by President Putin himself. And another thing General Breedlove today said in interviews was that Russia in the past has used a, the, a ceasefire to reinforce, refit and refurbish its troops for further offensive.
JENS STOLTENBERG: NATO and all allies strongly support the efforts that, that are being made to try to reach a negotiated peaceful solution to the crisis in Ukraine. And therefore I welcome the initiative taken by Hollande and by Chancellor Merkel to try to make progress related to finding a peaceful solution. They are discussing this with Poroshenko, they will visit Moscow and, and I support that because the situation in Ukraine is so serious and it’s becoming worse, it’s moving in the wrong direction. Therefore I think it is the responsibility for all of us to support as much as we can the efforts to try to reach a peaceful solution. And I call on Russia to make a genuine effort to also contribute to a peaceful solution and a negotiated solution and that of course includes to respect any ceasefire and to respect any agreement because that’s the way we can reach a peaceful solution, is that we have an agreement and that agreement is respected.
OANA LUNGESCU: Wall Street Journal.
Q: Mr. Secretary General, Defence Secretary Hagel in what is presumably his last Ministerial today warned about a split among northern and southern allies who appear to be focused on different things. Presumably meaning one focused on Russia, one focused more on Syria and the Middle East. And he said that that was problematic and I was wondering if, if that was something that concerns you as well?
JENS STOLTENBERG: I very much agree with Secretary Hagel on the main message and that is NATO has to be able to address both challenges emanating from the east and from the south. We cannot choose to do either one or the other, we have to be able to do both. And therefore the Readiness Action Plan, the enhanced NATO response force is something we are developing both because we see new challenges, a changed security environment to the east but also because we see challenges developing in the south. And we cannot, we don’t have the luxury of saying that we’ll only address one of those challenges, we have to address all of them and actually we have to be prepared as an alliance to be able to defend all allies against any threat. To have the right forces in the right time in the right place. So, so I agree with Hagel that we cannot choose, we have to do both and I would also like to use this opportunity to inform you that it was a very, many, or all the Ministers under the North Atlantic Councils expressed gratitude to Secretary Hagel for his, for his strong Euro Atlantic commitment and efforts and the work he has done for so many years in his different positions and lastly as Secretary for Defence and we thank him for his efforts during the meeting today.
OANA LUNGESCU: Lady in the front row.
Q: Secretary General, [inaudible], Romania Broadcasting Corporation. You were welcome in Romania and we would like if you could develop a bit of what Romania will do in this six countries and if it is about the Black Sea also as a measure of defence against, against any menaces in that region and if you could give an answer also on Moldova, could we assist in the future summons on that because you had today the commission with Georgia and I was wondering if Moldova also could be on a, on a [inaudible] in the near future? Thank you very much Secretary General.
JENS STOLTENBERG: So Romania is one of the six host nations for the new command and control units which we are going to start to establish immediately and those units and that’s also the case for Romania, they are key when it comes to establishing a link between the national forces, the, in this case the Romanian Forces of Defence and NATO forces. It’s going to be the link, it’s going to be responsible for organizing exercises, planning and the, and the making reinforcement easier in, if crisis occurs. So this, these units, command and control units are of great importance because they are playing a vital role in connecting national defence to multinational NATO defence. And therefore I welcome that Romania is a host nation and of course this is about land forces but it’s also about sea and air forces and we are developing this and are going to make new decisions related to how we develop the whole High Readiness Forces Spearhead Force. When it comes to Moldova we are working closely with Moldova, we are working with Moldova when it comes to defence capacity building and I very much underline that we should respect the choice of the people of Moldova and they have had an election, they have voted in favour of close co-operation with Europe and Moldova has the right as a sovereign nation to do so and NATO supports that.
OANA LUNGESCU: Last question to our Japanese colleague over there.
Q: My question is related to the mention by the US Defence Secretary Mr. Chuck Hagel, the, if such a, the division between north and south European country exist, do you have any anxiety in June on if budget discussion will start such a, such a division would have some but inference to the central budget discussion because the south member state has a budget program so and the, do you think such a common budget method would help such a division?
JENS STOLTENBERG: So I’m very much encouraged by the meeting today because actually what we achieved today was to make a lot of progress on the implementation of the Readiness Action Plan. And of course one thing is to adapt the plan in ways, that is important but it’s even more important to show the world and show our self that we’re able to turn that plan into reality and that’s what we did today. We were turning important elements of that plan into reality by deciding on the size and the composition of the Spearhead Force, by deciding on the enhancement of the NATO response force, by having six nations coming forward and taking on the commitment of being framework nations and having a lot of other nations announcing other kinds of contributions to the Spearhead Force and to also the NATO command units which are establishing from now in six different countries. So, so far we have been as I say extremely good at following up, implementing, turning plans into reality and we are on track, we are on schedule and we are implementing the Readiness Action Plan as we planned to do. And that’s not always the case when plans are adopted, that we are able to, that as I say, everyone is able to implement plans, we are able to implement the plans as planned. Then of course a lot remains because this will take time. We will address other issues later on, for instance related to decision making which is a key issue that will be an issue which we will address later on as part of the implementation of the Readiness Action Plan. Also funding will be addressed later on but everyone knows that it will be a combination of common funding and that nations have to take also their costs of their national contributions. So, so I’m certain that we will also be able to make decisions, to make progress and to have new deliverables at our next meetings and especially within or by the next summit in Warsaw. So this day has a been a great inspiration for me because I’ve seen 28 allies being able to act as one, deliver a lot and stand united in enhancing our collective defence.
OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you very much indeed, that’s all we have time for and good evening. Thank you.