Closing press conference
by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the meetings of NATO Foreign Ministers in Antalya, Turkey
During our meeting today we have focused on the current challenges that NATO is facing. Both to the east and to the south. And we discussed how we can work together with our partners, the organizations such as the European Union, to meet these challenges. And we looked to the future. To pave the way for our summit in Warsaw next year. This is a crucial time for Euro-Atlantic security. Our security environment has changed. And we have to prepare that this is going to be long-lasting change in our security environment. And we see to the east more assertive Russia being responsible for aggressive actions in Ukraine. And to the south we see turmoil and extremism.
So, when the world has changed, NATO has to adapt to a new security environment. To make sure that we are ready to defend and protect all Allies against any threat. And that we are able to, also in the future, to keep our democratic, open societies safety.
We are already implementing the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War. Boosting the size of the NATO Response Force. And also establishing a high readiness Spearhead Force as the centerpiece of the enhanced NATO Response Force.
So I welcome the decision by Turkey today to be a lead nation for the Spearhead Force along with six of the Allies who will take turns over the years to come.
At the same time, we are speeding up our decision-making. Sharpening up intelligence sharing. And strengthening our cyber defence.
Because hybrid warfare combines different types of threats, including conventional, subversion, and cyber. We also face sophisticated disinformation and radicalization campaigns. Our best weapon against disinformation is information. Based on our values of democracy, freedom of speech and open societies. So I welcome that today, the United Kingdom announced that it is launching a trust fund to support our strategic communications. The United Kingdom has also set up a new NATO trust fund for Defence Capacity Building. Turkey has also announced that it will contribute to this new trust fund. This is an excellent initiative.
To support our partners as they strengthen their defences. Because if our neighbours are more stable, we are more secure. So we must do more for our neighbours. And with our neighbours.
Today, we also discussed how we can further develop our cooperation with our close partners Finland and Sweden. We have agreed to look at ways to hold more consultations and to share more information about what is happening in the Baltic Sea region and beyond. So that we all have the fullest possible picture. We will also look at how we can conduct more exercises together with Finland and Sweden.
The challenges we all face demand a comprehensive response. So all of us need to work even closer together. To protect our citizens and defend our democratic values.
Therefore, both High Representative Federica Mogherini and I have decided to ask our teams to intensify NATO-EU cooperation in countering hybrid warfare.
We will ensure that the strategies we are developing are complementary.
So that we can work together quickly and effectively in the case of a hybrid threat against any of our members. The overall goal will be to ensure that, in the event of a hybrid threat, there is clarity on “who does what and when.”
So, with greater NATO readiness, more support to our neighbours, and enhanced cooperation with the European Union, we can help stabilize our neighbours to the East and to the South.
With that, I’ll be happy to take your questions.
OANA LUNGESCU (NATO Spokesperson): Reuters.
Q: Adrian Croft from Reuters. A question for Secretary General. The Baltic States are saying today that they're calling for a brigade-sized NATO presence in their countries. So it seems that your Eastern Allies don't feel fully satisfied by the Reassurance Measures that you put forward. Was this measure discussed today? And can NATO go further to meet these demands from your Eastern Allies? Thanks.
JENS STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General): I'm aware of that. They are preparing a letter. And of course, any letter from any Ally and group of Allies will of course be assessed carefully. But let me underline that we are already... we have already increased our military presence in the Eastern part of our Alliance. We have increased air policing. We have increased naval presence in the Baltic Sea. And we have also, on a rotational basis, exercises. More military presence also on the ground. So we have already increased our presence in the Baltic countries. And in addition we have... or we are in the process of establishing the Spearhead Force and the Enhanced NATO Response Force which will make it easier to reinforce if needed the defences of the Baltic States.
The main message is that NATO is ready and that NATO is prepared. And we will defend all Allies against any threat. And that's the reason why we are adapting our forces, making them more ready and more prepared also to defend all the Baltic countries.
OANA LUNGESCU: DPA.
Q: Thank you, over here, Alexandra Mayer-Hohdahl with the German Press Agency DPA. Could you tell us a bit more about your discussion with High Representative Mogherini when it comes to the migration pressures in the Mediterranean? Was there any request for NATO to help with intelligence or in any other way in relation to the military mission that the EU is considering? And would NATO be ready to offer this kind of help? Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG: I very much welcome the efforts by the European Union to develop a more comprehensive response to the tragedy that we see in and around the Mediterranean Sea. The high number of migrants, the high number of casualties, people who lost... who try to cross the Mediterranean is a big, big challenge. And I welcome that the European Union is working on a more comprehensive response. And also that the European Union is working together with the United Nations to try to provide a mandate for a more... an even more comprehensive response from the European Union.
We have discussed of course this in our meetings. The High Representative Vice-Representative Frederica Mogherini joined our meeting earlier today. And she briefed us on the work which is going on within the European Union. And of course, we share information. We share assessments. But this is an EU operation. This is mainly about migration, border control. So this is an EU operation. And I welcome that. And we will continue to work closely, to assess this together with the European Union. And I will also attend the European Union Foreign and Defence Ministerial Meeting on Monday. So that's just an example that we are working together. We are assessing the situation. But the operation the European Union is planning in the Mediterranean and around the Mediterranean is an EU operation; not a NATO operation.
OANA LUNGESCU: I think we had a question over there.
Q: Thank you, Ameri Pekaravic(?), the Wall Street Journal, to just expand a little bit on what you just said about immigration. We're interested in hearing also the EU and its program talked about destroying boats and vessels that transport immigrants and to smuggling even so far as to say putting boots on the ground. Would NATO be involved in this? And does NATO's involvement in 2011 operations in Libya complicate its ability to participate in this EU effort at the moment? Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG: The European Union is now working on the different elements and a more comprehensive approach and response. So I think it's right to wait and see what will be the final decisions within the European Union and also when it comes to the work to try to have a clear UN mandate for at least parts of the operations. So I will not comment on the specific elements in the European Union strategy or approach. I would just welcome that the European Union now is focussing and actually making a real effort to have a more comprehensive approach to the big challenge we see in the Mediterranean.
When it comes to the NATO operation back in 2011, I think we all have to remember that was an operation with a very clear UN mandate. And our task was to protect civilians against the violence conducted by the Qadhafi regime. And we did so. And we did what we were asked to do in accordance with the UN mandate. The challenge was that after the military operations ended the efforts to try to stabilize the country didn’t succeed. But that's the responsibility partly of course of the whole international community; but also of course of the government and Libya itself to make sure that they're able to stabilize their own country.
And I think the challenge now is that we all have to support the efforts by the UN to try to reach a political peaceful solution to each ceasefire and to be able to establish a unity government in Libya.
OANA LUNGESCU: Latvian Radio over here.
Q: Thank you very much, Ines Strasny(?), Radio Latvia. Secretary General, coming back to the possible brigades in the Baltic States, I'd like to know: Do you plan any discussions about that with General Breedlove and some activities in the coming weeks? And do you think that, despite all we have already in the Baltics, would it be still possible, to realistically to create these brigades? Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG: So we are constantly discussing the adaptation of the Alliance. And we have to always be able to fulfil our main responsibility and that is to defend and protect all Allies against any threat. NATO is the strongest military Alliance in the world. And we're going to keep NATO strong by adapting NATO. But our main focus now is the implementation of the decisions we have already made and that is to double the size of the NATO Response Force. It is to establish this new Very High Readiness Spearhead Force. And today, Turkey said that they were going to be one of the seven lead nations for this High Readiness Force and continue to have increased military presence in the Eastern part of the Alliance with more air policing, with more naval presence and also with more exercises; and also with the establishment of the new NATO command units in all the six... or the three Baltic countries: Poland, Bulgaria and Romania.
And then I'm aware of that... there is a letter which is going to be sent to me or to SACEUR, at least to NATO. And of course, when we receive the letter we will go carefully through the letter and then assess the different proposals in that letter. But I think it's a bit too early to comment on details and the specifics in a letter I haven't seen.
OANA LUNGESCU: Le Soir.
Q: Thank you, Philippe Regnier, newspaper Le Soir, Belgium. Still on the EU-NATO cooperation, I'd like to know if you see a role of the NATO's current operation Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean Sea for this naval operation the EU is organizing. An Operation Active Endeavour which by the way Russia in the past took part. So it could be interesting to make some cooperation. Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG: The NATO operation Active Endeavour is an Article 5 counter-terror operation. It has been an operation which has been ongoing for several years. There has been no request from the European Union to include or to make that operation part of the EU efforts to deal with the high number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean. And again, I think that we have to let EU make its decisions.
Because this is about migration, it's about border controls. So this is a responsibility of the European Union to decide. If the European Union presents requests to NATO, of course, then we will seriously consider them and assist them. But so far there has been no request from the European Union to NATO for any specific assistance; be it, for instance, the active use... or not the use of the Active Endeavour Operation.
But what we are doing is that we are exchanging information. We are discussing the situation. And NATO has also a role to play partly when it comes to what we have stated earlier and which we still underline. And that is that NATO stands ready to do capacity-building in Libya, when the security situation allows. Because we very much believe that we should try to project stability by developing capacity in our neighbourhood so they can take of their own security.
And we are also addressing the root causes of the problems we see in the Mediterranean. Because when we work with Jordan or we work with Afghanistan, or we are now assessing a request from Iraq to help them stabilize their countries, that's actually addressing the root causes of the problems we see in the Mediterranean, the high number of people that are leaving their country: migrants who try to come into Europe by crossing the Mediterranean.
OANA LUNGESCU: I know we've got lots of hands still up. We have time for one last question. And I'll go to our Russian colleagues over there, second row... first row actually. Please wait for the microphone.
Q: Secretary General, Alexander Berjinsky(?), Gazeta.ru, now NATO is actually facing and talking about assessment of two threats: from the Russia Federation because of the Ukrainian events; and also the Islamic State. While, here, despite, the obstacles with Russia, ISIS is also a threat of Russia. So in this time, can a formula, let's say "the enemy of my friend is my friend", can be applied; if any cooperation is possible with Russia despite the frozen kind of relationship against the ISIS and against the Islamic Radicals? Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG: What NATO decided last spring was to suspend all practical cooperation with Russia as a response to the aggressive actions of Russia in Crimea, the illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea. And we also then decided to keep channels for political contact open. And I believe that fundamentally there's no contradiction between a strong defence and political dialogue. But our position remains unchanged, practical cooperation with Russia is suspended because of the actions of Russia in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.
OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you. This concludes this final press conference for the ministerial. I wish you all a good day. Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG: Thank you so much.