Joint press conference
with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Supreme Allied Commander Transformation General Jean-Paul Paloméros
MODERATOR: Welcome to this press conference at the opening of the ACT Seminar. General Palomeros and then the Secretary General will have short introductory remarks and then they’ll be happy to take your questions. General Palomeros.
GENERAL JEAN-PAUL PALOMEROS (Supreme Allied Commander Transformation): Thank you, thank you very much for your presence. You realize that this is a unique opportunity that we have to have our Secretary General of NATO with all the permanent representative, the Ambassadors to NATO, the military representatives, a lot of think tanks, academia because we try to open NATO to the world to make sure that we prepare the future. I am very proud that the command for transformation that I am honoured to be in charge for two years and a half is located in the United States. This is very important that we have a pillar of NATO in this outstanding ally which is the United States. So with no delay I give the floor to our Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
JENS STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General): Thank you so much, General Paloméros, and thank you for the excellent work Allied Command Transformation is doing. You are NATO headquarters in the United States, and by being that you are a great symbol of the transatlantic bond which is the backbone of our Alliance. And to ensure that the Alliance is able to adapt and to transform the work you are doing is of great importance and the seminar which you are arranging today and tomorrow is an important contribution to the discussions we need to develop the answers to a changing security environment.
And to the east we see Russia. Russia has broken rules through its aggressive actions to Ukraine. The ceasefire in Ukraine is largely holding, but it remains fragile. And the important thing now is that the ceasefire is fully implemented, respected, that there is a complete redrawal of all the heavy weapons and that the monitors have a full access, so they can monitor the ceasefire.
And to the south of the Alliance, in the Middle East and in North Africa, we see violent extremism and the threats which are linked to export of terrorism to our own cities.
To respond to these threats, we are implementing the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War.
We are creating, as I mentioned in my introduction, a very high-readiness “spearhead” force, with some elements ready to move in as little as 48 hours.
We are more than doubling the size of the NATO Response Force.
The United States is playing a major role in these efforts. The European Reassurance Initiative is a strong signal of transatlantic commitment. And America has sent planes, ships and troops to reinforce Allies in Central and Eastern Europe and I welcomed that very much.
Europeans are also taking responsibility for Europe’s security.
Most of the ships, planes and soldiers reinforcing the Eastern part of our Alliance are European.
And six European nations will lead the Spearhead Force in the coming years.
This is NATO at its best. North Americans and Europeans coming together to enhance security for all of us. Acting as one.
The challenges we face will not go away. We face a paradigm shift in our security. That is why today we are adapting to hybrid warfare and why we are adapting NATO to a new security environment.
Hybrid warfare uses a combination of hard and soft power to destabilise countries. And hides behind a thick veil of deception.
So we need to plan, deter and defend against hybrid threats. Sharpen our skills and capabilities. And speed up our decision-making.
This is what our seminar is all about and I’m ready to take your questions.
MODERATOR: Please don’t forget to introduce yourselves and which outlet you’re coming from. We’ll start with the lady here, then we’ll go over there.
Q: Thank you very much. My name is Nazira Asim Karimi, I’m correspondent for Ariana Television from Afghanistan, and originally I’m from Afghanistan. My question is about Afghanistan. Although my President in Washington and meet with, I officially, of the United States, busy to meet with them, what will be the NATO role for Afghanistan after 2017 and also do you think that ISOL will be a big challenge for Afghanistan? Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG: NATO will continue to support Afghanistan. We have just ended our biggest combat mission ever, the ISAF operation, and now we are moving to the Resolute Support Mission which is about training, advising, assisting the Afghans to increase their own capacity to take care of their own security. And the, we have stated very clearly that when the Resolute Support Mission ends then we will continue to support Afghanistan. We will do so by establishing what we call an enduring partnership where we will co-operate closely with Afghanistan to continue to help them, assist them, but also by funding, providing financial contributions through the funding of the Afghan National Army and Security Forces. The important message is that NATO went into Afghanistan to prevent that Afghanistan was a safe haven for international terrorists. We have achieved that, at the same time we have increased Afghanistan’s own ability to take care of its own security and therefore we, we have come to the point where it’s possible to give over the responsibility for the security of the country to the Afghans themselves but we will continue to support. And I welcome the decision by the US President, President Obama to extend the period when US soldiers are going to, the period where the US is going to remain close to 10,000 soldiers in Afghanistan. I think that’s a sign of flexibility which confirms the strong commitment of the United States and NATO to support Afghanistan.
MODERATOR: Gentleman over there.
Q: My name is, my name is David Nikravzi [sp?], I represent Georgian television station Rustavi 2 in Washington DC. Secretary General my next question will be about NATO enlargement. At the NATO summit in Bucharest in 2008 alliance agreed that Georgia and Ukraine will become NATO members. I was wondering if you could share your perspective on that please? If this commitment is still on the table and Russia’s invasion in Ukraine didn’t change realities on the ground and for alliance? And also I’m interested if you’re going to discuss enlargement issues at next summit in Warsaw? Thank you sir.
JENS STOLTENBERG: It’s a basic principle that all nations have, has the right to decide its own path, including what kind of security arrangement it wants to be part of. That is enshrined in the [inaudible] and it’s repeated and stated many times since then. Meaning that it’s up to Georgia to decide whether it would like to aspire for NATO membership and Georgia has applied. And it’s up to NATO, 28 allies, to finally make the decision whether to accept Georgia as a new member or not. The reason why I’m underlining this is that there is no other third party outside that can have the right to veto or to hinder Georgia to become a member of NATO. That is a question which has to be decided in a dialogue between Georgia and the 28 allies. What we have done is that we have launched a substantial partnership, we have launched a substantial package for Georgia to help Georgia move towards membership. We are implementing the package, there are many different elements, but one of the core parts of the assistance we now give to Georgia is the establishment, the establishment of their training centre. We’re going to send trainers from NATO countries and also from partner countries, we’re going to do exercises, we’re going to work closely with Georgia to improve and enhance NATO’s, Georgia’s defence capabilities, modernize and work together with them so Georgia can qualify to become member. And then at the end it will be a decision taken by 28 allies whether the time is ready to include Georgia in NATO.
MODERATOR: Gentleman over there…
GENERAL JEAN-PAUL PALOMEROS: If I may just advertise one point. In June we will organize a major strategic military partnership conference in Georgia. We will get, which would gather the alliance and the partners. So another great opportunity to, to interact with Georgia.
MODERATOR: Please, gentleman over there and then the lady and then we’ll go.
Q: David Lynch with Bloomberg. I’d like to ask you about the area to the south of NATO that you mentioned, the Middle East. I’d like to get your response to the deteriorating situation in Yemen. How much of a setback for the interests of the west, for the interest of stability is the escalating violence there and how concerned are you about prospects potentially for a wider regional conflict emerging?
JENS STOLTENBERG: So we are deeply concerned about the situation in many parts of the Middle East, North Africa and also in Yemen. Because we see this as a part of a pattern where we see violence, terrorism spreading across the Middle East and parts of Africa and North Africa. And, and that’s the reason why we have to do many different things and also the reason why we have to be prepared for the long haul, that this will take time. And we are doing different things, there are many different efforts which NATO is doing to try to contribute to a more stable development in this part of the world. We’re working with partners, we are working with for instance Jordan which is a key partner in the Middle East and by helping Jordan, defence capacity building, increasing their ability to defend themselves and stabilize their own country we are making also that region more stable and by making them more stable we are making us more secure. But I think what we see in Yemen just underlines the seriousness of the impact of terrorist violence and violence spreading around and we have to stand united and we have to work together with other organizations to counter that challenge.
MODERATOR: Lady in the front row.
Q: My name is Tara McKelvey, I work for the BBC and I’m the White House reporter. And I understand you won’t be meeting with the president this week, is that right? And if you had a chance to talk to him, you mentioned Afghanistan and what other things would you like to talk to him about or tell him?
JENS STOLTENBERG: So I have met with President Obama, I’m going to meet him again and our team stay in close contact and they have to find a mutual suitable time for our next meeting. And I have engaged with many different senior US officials. The important thing is that the US is making so great contributions and important contributions to the alliance and especially now to the reinforcement of our collective defence in Europe by providing ships, planes, troops to our increased military presence in, in the eastern part of the alliance. In addition I welcome the decision by the US to remain in Afghanistan for a longer time with close to 10,000 troops through 2015. I think that just confirms the very strong commitment of the US and NATO to continue to support Afghanistan. So I welcome that very much.
MODERATOR: Lady in the second row.
Q: Thank you, Leandra Bernstein, Sputnik International News. A question about how the alliance is viewing the US defence budget, it’s less than what the Pentagon asked for, there has been some speculation that NATO allies are taking this as the United States stepping back, that they should possibly step up. And then also on providing legal arms to Ukraine, the administration has not decided to go in that direction, the Congress is pressing them to do so, where, where do you see that situation?
JENS STOLTENBERG: So the US is by far the ally that invests the most in defence and if we look at total NATO defence spending the US spends close or around two thirds of NATO’s total defence spending. So I think that once again just illustrates the great commitment of the US to our collective defence and as I said they’re contributing forces to the enforcement of our military presence in the eastern part of Europe these days. Then I know that the budget is going to be discussed in the Congress and decided but the US is above the two per cent guideline and my challenge is that there are several European NATO allies who are below the two per cent guideline, that’s to spend two per cent of GDP on defence. And I have met with the, several Prime Ministers, political leaders in NATO, European NATO allies and I underlined in all those meetings the importance of delivering on the pledge we made to stop the cuts in defence spending and to gradually increase defence spending to reach the two per cent guideline. And there are some positive signs in Europe now. We have some countries who are already at two per cent, Estonia, Greece, UK. But then in addition for instance Poland is very close and Poland may actually this year reach two per cent. And Romania, the two other Baltic countries, Lithuania and Latvia are increasing substantially. Germany just announced that they will increase, so we see some positive signs in several European countries and they are starting to increase their defence spending and I welcome very much that and I will continue to push for that. When it comes to the question of weapons to Ukraine I would like to underline that all countries, also Ukraine, has the right to defend itself. And there is a discussion going on in some allied countries whether to provide weapons or not. This is not an issue which is going to be decided by NATO because NATO has many different roles to play, enhancing our collective defence, providing strong political support for Ukraine, providing practical support for Ukraine with five trust funds, helping them command and control, modernizing their defence. But when it comes to weapons NATO does not have weapons, so this is up to member states, allies to decide and I leave it to them to decide.
MODERATOR: We’ve got time for about two, maximum three questions. I’ll go to the gentleman in the back.
Q: Mr. General Secretary thank you very much. My name is Marcus Pinder, I work for German National Public Radio. I have to come back to that question, the only thing that stands between, between Russia and the Baltic states and Poland and Romania right now is NATO. NATO is instrumental for that. Now what kind of a political signal is it that President Obama cannot spare some minutes for the NATO General Secretary given that situation which is the most immediate threat to NATO since probably 9/11 and before? Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG: So as I said I, I met with President Obama as I took office last fall, we will meet again and our teams are looking into when we can find a mutual date which, which fits both of us. And then in addition we have and I have close contacts with many different senior US officials. And the important thing is that the US is contributing substantially to our collected defence in Europe and that the US is increasing its military presence in Europe and I welcome that very much, especially the increased military presence in the eastern part of the alliance. So we are working closely together and we will meet again.
MODERATOR: Gentleman over there.
Q: Joe Marks from Politico. You said earlier that NATO should pursue a more active cyber policy. I’m hoping you can update us on where alliance members stand on the cyber readiness targets that were agreed to in Wales and say if there’s a prospect for co-operation on cyber offence rather than simply defence?
JENS STOLTENBERG: I think that the important thing, or one of several important decisions we made in Wales was that we declared that a cyber-attack can also trigger collected defence, article five response. And that is the very clear message that we provide, is that a cyber-attack can be as serious as a more conventional attack. Then as I mentioned in my speech this is about our ability both to react, to protect our own networks but also help nations protecting their networks. And we are in the process of implementing the decisions we made, the different goals we have set and I called for in my speech that to further develop our cyber strategy is one of the main challenges we will face as we move towards the Warsaw summit. And because this is something which we have to take very seriously and it’s something which we are, where we also need not only to develop our capabilities but also to exercise more. And I visited the largest exercise we have ever had in NATO on cyber some weeks ago and, or some months ago, just before Christmas, and that’s also part of the responsibilities of Allied Command Transformation, to develop and to, and to do exercises which we need to be able to also face the threats we are facing in cyber.
GENERAL JEAN-PAUL PALOMEROS: As you just said that this is, we are moving at tremendous speed since I would say three years ago we were discussing about the first initial capability and now we have a full ability to monitor, to protect our networks which was really the first and foremost mission and there are a lot of very well informed discussions at the military, the political level. So I really think and the exercise that we put together was very fruitful, opening the door not only to NATO, to partners, to industry, to, to tackle together these outstanding issues. So we are moving forward.
MODERATOR: Okay we have time for one question there and one last question over there.
Q: Mr. Secretary General. Mark Schantz, Air Force Magazine. Now that they’ve concluded I wondered if you could both comment or characterize last week’s almost unprecedented Russian military exercises, both in their scope, where they were staged and the forces that they exercised and sort of the alliances reaction to those exercises? And this morning you both mentioned in your remarks the important of ISR in situational awareness in dealing with these hybrid threats. What capabilities do you need to see in the alliance to deal with those threats in the future?
JENS STOLTENBERG: First on the exercises. Every nation has the right to exercise its forces, also Russia of course. But the challenge with the pattern of exercises we see in Russia now is that it fits into a broader picture of a more assertive Russia. A Russia which is responsible for aggressive actions in Ukraine and its, it fits also into the broader picture of a Russia which has invested heavily in new capabilities in defence and which is exercising much more and which has been willing to use force, not only exercise, but to use force to change borders and to annex a part of another country. And what is of particular importance is to note that they are using snap exercises much more and this is not contributing to more predictability and transparency and they use those snap exercise as a cover for sending forces into Crimea. So when we have many snap exercises, we have tens of thousands of soldiers being part of them, of course is, this is a reason for concern because it’s, it provides less predictability, less transparency and we have seen that they are willing to use this kind of exercises also to launch aggressive actions. So this is something we are, which we have to follow very closely and it’s also part of the reason why we are responding with increasing the readiness of our forces and doubling the size of the NATO response force and also establishing the NATO command units in the six eastern allied countries and also increasing our military presence and the number of exercises. So we are responding to what we see. General you want to respond?
GENERAL JEAN-PAUL PALOMEROS: Oh yes as this is my responsibility to deliver the best exercises for NATO I would say first and foremost NATO exercises are transparent. We have a full transparency on the planning, of the execution, the aim of the exercises and the aim of NATO exercises are to train our people to manage the full spectrum of the NATO missions which are well known and which are mission to stabilize, security and peace. So we will do that, by fall, October, November we will train around 30,000 people in the south, in Spain, Italy and Portugal. So a great demonstration that NATO is doing its business, it’s preparing itself for the whole spectrum, this time on the south and being present as well in the east and this is the challenge but you will be welcome to observe this exercise and to see what we try to achieve, to complete our missions.
MODERATOR: One very last question, our colleague from Poland.
Q: Thank you. I’m Catriona from Polish Press Agency. Actually my question is a little bit of follow up to the previous one. So if crisis in Ukraine, if the crisis with Russia and Ukraine persists would you like NATO to take, at the Warsaw summit, the decision to further reinforce the military presence in the Eastern Europe?
JENS STOLTENBERG: I did not, to cover?
Q: Would you like, I mean if the crisis continues with Russia in Ukraine, would you like the NATO to take the decision at the Warsaw summit to further reinforce military presence in the Eastern Europe and how, in which way?
JENS STOLTENBERG: So we are adapting, the whole time and we have already increased the military presence, especially in Poland actually. We have air policing, we have, we are in the process of establishing the new command units. They are not very big but they are very important because the new command units is creating the link between national defence and what we call NATO force intuition units, they are creating the link between national defence, Polish defence and multinational NATO defence. So they are doing planning, they are doing, they are helping organizing exercising and they are making reinforcement easier. Then we will also, the Multinational Headquarter Northeast in Szczecin will be a key headquarters in the overall framework of the new spearhead force, it’s also in Poland. And then we will assess the need for reinforcements as the situation develops but we are finding a balance between having forces, doing exercises, establishing for instance a, the command units, air policing, presence in the Baltic Sea with the increased ability to reinforce. So the key thinking is that by having more ready, more prepared forces we don’t need to station them permanently but we have the ability to reinforce when needed and combined with improved situational awareness, intelligence, reconnaissance, then we are able to reinforce when needed. Again General?
GENERAL JEAN-PAUL PALOMEROS: Well as the Secretary General says we, we are improving our strategic assessment, our ability to share intelligence in a more timely manner. We are improving the agility of our forces, we are improving the resilience of our forces and I think this is all the strengths of work that we are pushing together in this scope of the next Warsaw summit and beyond which is the title of this seminar.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much indeed.