Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the meeting of NATO Defence Ministers

  • 24 Jun. 2015
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  • Last updated: 24 Jun. 2015 22:43

Press Conference NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

Good evening.

We have just finished very substantive meeting of the Defence Ministers of NATO. And we are clearly making a lot of progress when it comes to the implementation of the decisions we made last autumn to increase the readiness and the preparedness of our forces.

And the discussion we had today also confirms that we stand united in the way we are addressing the challenges we face.

We have agreed to take further steps forward in adapting NATO to our changed and more challenging security environment.

And I will outline and highlight four of the decisions we have made at our meeting.

First, we decided to increase further the strength and capability of the NATO Response Force, including its air, maritime and special operations components.

All together, the enhanced NATO Response Force will consist of up to 40,000 personnel.

This represents a substantial increase from the previous level of 13,000.

Second, we took measures to speed up our political and military decision-making, while maintaining political control.

These include the authority for our Supreme Commander SACEUR to alert, stage and prepare our troops to be ready to go once the political decision is made. We also approved a new concept of advance planning.

Detailed advance planning and rapid decision-making are two sides of the same coin. They mean we are able to respond more rapidly and more effectively to threats – wherever they might come from. 

Third, we finalized the design and composition of the six small headquarters we are setting up – in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania.

They will each consist of around 40 people, and will play a key role in planning, exercises, and assisting potential reinforcement. 

We will also consider setting up more such headquarters in other NATO countries. And several Allies have offered during the meeting to host such small headquarters. 

Finally, we have decided to set up a new standing Joint Logistics Headquarters.

This will enable us to move forces faster across the territory of our Alliance with the necessary supplies, equipment and transportation.

All these steps will contribute to a far-reaching adaptation of NATO’s military posture in response to the changed security environment.

At the same time, we are carefully assessing the implications of what Russia is doing, including its nuclear activities.

And we are also developing how we deal with hybrid threats. Including by working closely with the European Union.

Let me be clear.

We do not seek confrontation. And we do not want a new arms race. 

We want to keep our nations safe.  And faced with many challenges from many directions, we need to be prepared.

This is our job.  

We have already achieved a lot.

Our interim very high readiness force, led by Germany, the Netherlands, and Norway, is now operational. We saw it in action in western Poland just last week.

And next year, this Spearhead Force, led by Spain, will be available to respond rapidly to any contingency.

Altogether, 7 Allies will assume the lead of this new force over the coming years.

I welcome the significant announcements made by US Secretary of Defence Ash Carter. On the pre-positioning of US equipment and the substantial enabler support for our high readiness forces. Including transport aircraft, air-to-air refuelling, special forces, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

Together with the wide-ranging contribution of European Allies, and the further offers of our neighbours and forces we heard today the American commitment completes the picture of a truly transatlantic effort to reinforce our collective defence.

All our efforts to adapt the Alliance must be funded. In Wales, Allies made a serious commitment to increase defence spending over the coming decade.

We assessed initial progress during our meeting today.

The picture is mixed. While some progress has been made, we need to see more.

I welcome that every single Ally stressed the importance of this pledge and outlined the steps they are taking to meet the pledge.

We also took important decisions to support partners.

We have endorsed a defence capacity building package to help Moldova to enhance its defence and security institutions.  

And we look forward to finalizing as soon as possible, NATO Defence Capacity Building support to Iraq as well.

With that, I am ready to take your questions.

Oana Lungescu (NATO Spokesperson): We're going to Jane's first.

Q: Yes, Brooks Tigner, Jane's Defence. Actually I have question about the graduated response planning? How this will be carried out? For instance, will SACEUR have the freedom to define the crisis planning assumptions behind the graduated approach independent of the NAC?

And secondly, given that the Spearhead's deployment... the deployment of that and the approval of that will rest with the NAC, what if there was a fast expanding crisis? Would any follow-on deployments of the NRF require NAC approval? Or could that go to the military leader? Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg: The graduated response plans are plans which provide more details. And they are advanced plans... and plans we have made in advance. And together with the streamlining of our decision-making, this increases the readiness and the preparedness of our forces and our ability to deploy our forces on a very short notice. And the whole thing is that the combination of streamlining decision-making with new more-detailed plans is increasing the preparedness and the readiness of our forces.

I cannot go into details of the plans. But I can just say that new advanced plans and more detailed plans is a key to do what are doing when it comes to our core responsibility and that is to be able to defend and protect all Allies against any threat.

Oana Lungescu: OK, we can take more questions on this side. And then we go over to the other side. Second row please.

Q: Vladimir(?), Russian One Media, Gazeta.ru. You have mentioned that you have plans to help Moldova to reform its military forces; to help it to reform it, military forces. Can you be precise? Can you tell which exactly help will you provide to the Moldovan side? Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg: The idea or the purpose of the defence-capacity building agreement and package we have agreed for Moldova is to help and assist Moldova in strengthening and modernising their armed forces, their defence. And we will do that by assisting them and helping them in reforming the Moldovan national security structures. And we will assist them in the modernization of the Moldovan National Army to training, support and education.

And this is the reason why the defence-capacity building packages are so important. Because it is a way we can work with a partner nation as Moldova to help them improve, modernize their own defences.

Oana Lungescu: BBC.

Q: Jonathan Marcus, BBC. Secretary General, the whole purpose of all of this is to send messages... message of reassurance to NATO Allies. Question one, do you think that you have provided sufficient reassurance yet? And question number two, a message to Russia: Do you see any signs in Russia's behaviour that what NATO is doing is actually leading to some rethinking in the Kremlin?

Jens Stoltenberg: I'm certain that Russia knows very well that NATO is ready and able and prepared to protect and defend all Allies against any threat. And we are adapting the way we are doing that because the world is changing. And I'm certain that Russia is informed about our adaptation. They see that we have increased the readiness and the preparedness of our forces; and that we have increased our military presence in the Eastern part of the Alliance with more air policing, with more exercises, with more ships in the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea. And I think that there is no doubt anywhere in the world that NATO is a very strong Alliance capable to defend and protect all Allies.

Oana Lungescu: We'll go to the third row, our the Japanese colleague here.

Q: Japanese daily Mainichi. My name is Saito. You mentioned the funding issue. Budgeting seems to be very expensive. Do you have any assumption already how much cost it is? Then a Common Funding issue will be discussed probably... did you discuss?

Jens Stoltenberg: The Common Funding of ... for instance, the implementation of the Readiness Action Plan is something we are agreeing on step by step. So when we agree on some measures, we also agree on the Common Funding. But of course, there are still many issues that we have to address, including common funding of decisions we're going to take in the future. I didn't understand the first part of the question.

Q: How much is budgeted here?

Jens Stoltenberg: How much...? Well, we don't have one specific figure for the Readiness Action Plan. But what we have is that we have a very clear commitment by all Allies to stop the cuts in defence spending and then gradually increase defence spending as our economies grow; and then to reach 2% over a decade. So that's a substantial amount of money. But of course, it will be a gradual increase in defence spending.

Oana Lungescu: Slovak Media, second row.

Q: Thank you, Andrei Martachurks(?), Slovak Daily, Pravda. Mister Secretary General, talking to many experts and also some diplomats in this building, many would say that if Russia is using in its rhetoric a war to nuclear, it is basically a sign of weakness. So is it a general assessment in NATO? Maybe, what's your view on this? And a connected question, so how would NATO somehow would answer specifically those nuclear threats? Thank you?

Jens Stoltenberg: So we are carefully assessing the nuclear activities of Russia, including its nuclear rhetoric. And nuclear issues are very serious issues. So therefore, it is very important for NATO to address this in a very... with caution... with predictability and in a transparent way.

The nuclear activities... the investments by Russia in new nuclear capabilities and also the exercise activities by Russia in the nuclear domain is part of a broader picture where we see a more assertive Russia. And it is this broader picture that is one of the reasons why we are adapting.

And that's one of the reasons why we are increasing the readiness of our forces, why we are establishing the Spearhead Force, the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force; and the reason why we are more than doubling the size of the NATO Response Force. So we are already responding in a prudent responsible way to the behaviour of Russia. And the nuclear activity is part of that. It's a rhetoric on nuclear activities which are completely unjustified. And they are destabilizing and therefore we are... we have to assess very carefully the implications of what Russia is doing.

Oana Lungescu: Georgian TV...

Q: Georgian Public Broadcast (inaudible), Mister Secretary General, on 19th of June, Russian Federation ratified its so-called Treaty of Alliance and Integration with Georgia's occupied .. [? Inaudible] region. Tbilisi is calling on the international community to adequately assess the situation and respond to Russia's ongoing actions against Georgia's territorial integrity. Can you... or can we hear your position about it? And also are you going to visit Georgia this year, for example the opening of Joint Training Centre in Tbilisi? Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg: First of all, we fully support the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Georgia. And we in no way recognize the so-called Republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. That's part of the international recognized borders of Georgia, or inside the internationally recognized borders of Georgia. And we continue to provide strong political support for Georgia and strong practical support for Georgia.

We have the comprehensive package. We are working on many different areas to help, to assist Georgia with modernizing their armed forces, their defences. And I'm planning to visit Georgia. I'm not able to tell you the exactly the date now. But I will visit Georgia. And I'm looking very much forward to go to Georgia.

Oana Lungescu: Question over there at the back.

Q: Mark MacKinnon from the Globe & Mail newspaper in Canada. You say "I'm not interested into a new arms race". But isn't that completely predictable the measures that you're introducing today are going to be responded by Moscow with more military, spending more drills on the other side? Aren't we heading into a spiral of the armed race you say you want to avoid?

Jens Stoltenberg: So we don't seek confrontation; nor do we seek an arms race with Russia. But we have to keep our nations safe. And that's the reason why we are responding in a proportionate and defensive way. And what we do is completely in line with treaties on arms control, on disarmament. And we respect those treaties. Russia has for instance withdrawn from the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe. And the United States says that they are violating the treaty on intermediate nuclear forces in Europe while we are fully respecting all the treaties on arms control, disarmament.

And all Allies agree that arms control is an important element in the way we are enhancing the security of our Alliance. But at the same time, we have to respond when we see that the security environment is changing in the way it is.

And I think that if NATO hadn't done anything, if NATO has just watched without responding the changes we see both in the East with a more assertive Russia investing heavily in defence; but also the instability in the South, then it would have been a reason for concern. But we are answering, but in a defensive and responsible way.

Oana Lungescu: Over there please.

Q: Robin (inaudible) from Reuters. I wondered if today there have been any discussions on rewriting... changing NATO's 2010 strategic concept paper, taking into account the new relationship or lack of relationship with Russia? I also wanted to ask you: Today, you've talked about defence spending, Greece in its talks with creditors is making quite dramatic cuts to its military spending. I wondered if that's a concern or if that's been discussed?

Jens Stoltenberg: Relative to the strategic concept, that has not been addressed today. So that's something we have to come back to as to whether we're going to address it at all. Then, on Greece, well Greece is among the Allies which spends more than 2%. And I expect that all Allies will meet the pledges we made in Wales, meaning that those who are below 2% shall move towards 2%; and those who are above 2% shall remain above 2%.

Let me also add that the whole idea of NATO is that we have to be strong. But we are open for dialogue. I actually believe that being strong is a precondition for engaging with Russia in a dialogue.

And Secretary Ash Carter stated just a few days ago that his approach... the United States' approach with which I very much agree is that we need a strong Alliance; but we also need a balanced approach. And I think thats a good way of stating the aims of the Alliance.

Oana Lungescu: Over there, question over there, thanks.

Q: Kiono(?) (inaudible) Republic of Moldova. Mister Secretary General, how much is a risk that internal instability in Republic of Moldova will prevent an implementation of this package?

Jens Stoltenberg: The whole reason for agreeing on the DCB (?) package with Moldova is to help Moldova in the area of defence, armed forces to be able to contribute in an even better way to make sure that Moldova is able to defend itself. And that's also part of the efforts by Moldova to make sure that Moldova remains stable and a democratic country.

So I think that there's no reason to speculate on what will happen if we are not able to implement the DCB (?) package; because we have just agreed that we're going to implement it in close cooperation with the Government of Moldova. And I just met representatives from the Moldovan government. And we will continue to work also with them.

Oana Lungescu: A question over there.

Q: DJ 24 News Television from Romania. Mister Secretary General, I would like to ask you what will be the importance of NATO force integration unit. You will have one in Romania. Also when the implementation of these units will end?

Jens Stoltenberg: We are... The plan is to have all the small headquarters of the NATO Force Integration units which is also called "in-place" by the end of the year. These are small headquarters of about 40 personnel. And the main reason to establish them is that they will be a vital and important link between national forces, in this case the forces of Romania and multinational NATO forces. And this link is of great importance; because that will make reinforcement more easy ... more easier. That will facilitate plan, more training exercises. And it will be a way of linking NATO to the individual Allies in the Eastern part of the Alliance in a better way. And that's important. And it will increase our ability to reinforce quickly if needed. I'm going to visit Romania soon. I'm looking forward to do that and to discuss with the government of Romania how we can make sure that we have this in place as soon as possible. But the plan is to have all the six small headquarters in place, at least by the end of the year.

Oana Lungescu: Thank you very much. That concludes the press conference for today. But of course, we will see tomorrow.