Joint press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Spanish Minister of Defence, Pedro Morenes Eulate at the Trident Juncture 2015 Distinguished Visitor's day in Zaragoza, Spain

  • 04 Nov. 2015 -
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  • Last updated: 04 Nov. 2015 18:19

Thank you Minister Pedro Morenés and the rest of the delegation coming from the NATO headquarters in Brussels. It has really been a great experience to be here together with you today. And thank you for your hospitality.

But let me start by paying tribute to the three military officers of the Spanish Air Force, who  recently lost their lives in the Atlantic waters.

My most sincere condolences go to their families, their colleagues and to the Spanish Government.  

We honour the dedication of our men and women in uniform.  And we are grateful for everything they do to keep us safe.   In missions, operations, and exercises.

So let me then thank Spain for the tremendous work it has been doing in co-hosting Trident Juncture, together with Italy and Portugal.

Spain is strongly committed to our shared security. You are making one of the largest contributions to the exercise – with troops, tanks, planes and ships. And this is a great opportunity to prepare the Spanish contingent to lead NATO’s very high-readiness Spearhead Force in 2016.

Trident Juncture is NATO’s largest exercise in over a decade. It is ambitious and it is demanding. With around thirty six thousand troops. More than one hundred and forty aircraft, and sixty ships. From more than 30 nations.  

Trident Juncture is training elements of the NATO Response Force to respond to a wide range of challenges. To ensure they can work seamlessly together, to deal with challenges from the south or from the east. 

We are testing complex scenarios. We are testing our air, land, maritime and special forces. We are testing our commanders. And we are testing our ability to work together and with many partner nations and many different organisations.  And from what I have seen today, NATO is up to the test. 

While our aim is to train and exercise, we are also through this Trident Juncture exercise sending a clear message. To our nations and to any potential adversary. NATO does not seek confrontation. But we stand ready to defend all Allies. So Trident Juncture is an important part of NATO’s long-term adaptation to a changed and new security environment.   

Instability and extremism in North Africa and the Middle East. The brutality of ISIL. Russia’s military build-up in Syria and in the Mediterranean and its aggressive actions in Ukraine. 

In response to complex challenges and threats from many different directions, Trident Juncture shows that NATO’s capabilities are real - and ready. We are able to operate on a large scale over a large area.

This exercise also shows that NATO is committed to transparency and predictability. Our exercises are open to the world. We have invited international observers from all OSCE countries, and beyond, to the exercise. And I am glad to see that many of them are here today.

So they can see by themselves that what we do is defensive. It is proportionate. And it is fully in line with our international commitments.

So it’s great to see that this exercise is showing the strength and the unity of the whole Alliance.

Thank you.

Pedro Morenes (Minister of Defence, Spain):  [Speaking with translator]. Thank you very much everybody. I would like to first of all thank Secretary General, because of your condolences about our military men who have died in serving Spain in the Canary Islands. I have been able to be with their colleagues and with their families and the words by the Secretary General which reflects the words of all the colleagues in these organization, these political and military organizations that it is NATO, are very comforting for the government and also for their colleagues and for their families.

So thank you very much Secretary General. Secretary General has explained very well what are the basis, political basis of these exercise, and is nothing else that shall reaffirm the conviction that all NATO partners, that democracy, freedom, prosperity, common future and peace are our goals and we cannot renounce them. And because they are goals that we cannot renounce we want to show the world that we are ready to work with allies all over the world and we are also ready to defend our principles against whoever wants to attack us.

Today the second thing I have to say, I have to do, is to congratulate the Secretary General and also the commanders, the military commanders that during all this time have been organizing these exercise which has three parts, one in Italy, in Spain now and tomorrow in Portugal. And which means that it is a common work that is very hard to do and the Secretary General has to govern this very huge complexity that is NATO, that we have proof that if we have the will and we are dedicated to it and we are enthusiastic we can do this. NATO can do these exercise, such accomplished exercise as the one we have seen today, so successfully.

So I want to congratulate the military commanders and I want to congratulate to everybody who has taken part in this. And now I want to talk about Spain, the Secretary General has thanked us because of the contribution we have made and we have made this contribution convinced that the, is our job to do this with, to the alliance because we have to work for the stability of the world and we are obliged with the security in Spain. And I think those three pillars build the principle of defence and security and commitment, the commitment of Spain to these three unavoidable things for any government that shares these principles that are part of NATO, of NATO policy.

You know because you have been told that the Spanish contribution, what the Spanish contribution has been and I have to say that I’m very proud, when they have told me, when responsible people in Spain have told me that we have been able to incorporate flexibility when it comes to confronting the complexities that involve such an exercise, I have felt very proud and we have done this very convinced that this is needed, we have done this, put into the service of NATO our men and women, our capabilities in air, sea and land, our control and command services and everything that has been required from Spain.

In San Gregorio, in Chinhia, in Almeria, in [inaudible] and all those places where we have been working together with the rest of the partners of the alliance. So dear Secretary General congratulations because you have, you have managed something that three or four years ago seemed impossible, or very difficult, and now we have finally materialized it and I think this deserves congratulations to you and also to everybody who has put their knowledge, their enthusiasm and their dedication.

And I also want to thank the military personnel who have made, who have given their best in this field and as I said I think that after, after seeing what I have seen I can understand that all these efforts, all this time is very important, it has been worth it and I am sure that it will comply, the mission that the Secretary General has mentioned, which is to show the world in a transparent way, in a predictable way that we are committed to peace, freedom, democracy, prosperity, justice and the future of all nations in the world. Thank you very much.

Q:  Good morning, my question is for both the Secretary General and the Ministry of Defence. What are the main threats that NATO sees in the south front? And would NATO be willing to act or if the Spanish Government perhaps considers that they have to take action in the refugee crisis that is threatening to expand to a higher crisis in Southern Europe? And because the Ministry has talked about the accident are there any news on the accident? Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg (NATO Secretary General):  We see many different challenges and threats to the south of the alliance. We see turmoil, violence, instability, fail and failing states, actually stretching all the way from Afghanistan through Iraq, Syria, the Middle East and North Africa. And we speak about different countries, different challenges, but there is instability and risks which are close to NATO borders. And that’s the reason why we are adapting the alliance and as Pedro just stated, the adaptation which we are implementing now is much bigger, much more fundamental than I think that anyone was able to foresee just a few years ago.

And with the establishment of the enhanced NATO Response Force, which is twice as big as the previous Response Force, with a new Spearhead Force, with increased readiness, preparedness of our forces as we have seen today all of this is a NATO response also to the threats and the challenges we see stemming from the south. We are going to next day to deploy new ground surveillance drones in Sicily at the Sigonella Base because we very much see that increased situational awareness, increased capability to do surveillance is key to also protect our allies in the south against the instability we see in the south.

So we are doing a lot and this exercise is part of that and Spain is really contributing to this great adaptation, the, the strongest reinforcement of our collective defence since the end of the cold war and Spain will be the lead nation for our Spearhead Force next year and that’s just one example of how Spain is contributing to, to the, to our shared security. That was the first question, the second, refugees. All NATO allies contribute in different ways to solving the refugee crisis we see in Syria, the Middle East and in Europe. What we face is a human tragedy, it’s a profound tragedy, many lives have been lost and millions of people have been forced to leave their homes.

NATO allies contribute in different ways. Some contribute through the efforts of the European Union and I welcome the efforts made by the European Union to come forward a comprehensive response to the refugee crisis. Some allies contribute through the United Nations, the efforts of the UN. NATO works on efforts to try to address, together with other organizations, other nations, to address the root causes of the refugee crisis and that is the instability, the violence we see in many countries in the Middle East, North Africa. And that’s the reason why we are working with allies as Jordan, as partners as Jordan, we are working with the Government of Iraq, Tunisia and other countries to help them to be able to stabilize their own countries.

Because if they are more stable we are more secure and if they are more stable then they’re also more able to prevent the refugee crisis becoming even bigger. This is a long term effort, it will take time but we work with many countries to try to help them to be able to stabilize, to create peace and stability and thereby aiming at doing something with the root causes of the refugee crisis. The last thing I will say about that is of course that we also strongly support the renewed efforts to try to establish political talks, to find a peaceful negotiated solution to the crisis in Syria.

Pedro Morenes:  [Speaking with translator].  Yes, perhaps, I don’t have much to add. The only thing I would like to say is that the capability, the flexibility of our forces, something that has been very important throughout this exercise which has been the efficiency, the logistic efficiency that can, that an exercise like this can support, the capability to adapt to difference in areas is key today for military operations and this involves that versatility which makes us more and more efficient by the day.

A versatility that comes from the threat level, wherever they are, and sometimes they have the same characteristics regardless of whatever the geographic scenario where they happen, so I think that as Secretary General has said, I think we are on the right way. And Spain as regards to immigration, you know very well that is in the European Union operation with a frigate and with a reconnaissance plane in stages one and two that have been established by the European Union. And I totally agree with the fact that stability, I mean, the causes of this migratory crisis are the ones that we have to take care of and we have to do this in two ways.

First of all providing a future for those who don’t have it and secondly stabilizing those countries that nowadays are suffering violence in a very extreme way, either internal or external violence. Regarding the helicopter, the news today is that the ships are already on the area, the Olympic Seas has not moved and other army ships, navy ships are going there in order to stabilize the wreck and tomorrow they will try to lift it very carefully so that no piece is lost. And once this happens it will be moved to Las Palmas where the intergovernmental commission will start with their investigation work.  The military judge is carrying out this investigation and he will take any measures he considers appropriate in order to establish the causes of the accident.

Q:  Thank you very much. Two questions. One to the Secretary General, General thank you very much for your time first of all, you have said that with this exercise we can prove that the combined forces are ready to operate in any scenario, in great theatre of operations. Bearing in mind that very soon Spain will lead the Spearhead Force, I have a question, do you think that NATO will be able to stop Russia if Russia were to try just like it did in Crimea to go into Baltic countries? Because the ground corporation has doubted it and also how many Russian observers have been present here in this exercise? Yes, for the Secretary General, those questions.

Jens Stoltenberg:  We don’t see any imminent threat against any NATO ally but the point with this exercise is to show that we are ready to defend and protect all allies against any threat. And this exercise and also all other activities of NATO contributes to the deterrence which NATO is providing every day. And the point with having a strong defence is that by having a strong defence, a strong collective defence through NATO, we are able to provide the necessary deterrence which sends a clear message to any adversary that we will protect all allies based on the principle all for one and one for all.

And NATO is the strongest military alliance in the world and we are able to protect all allies but the world is changing and therefore NATO has to change and that is exactly what we are doing and part of that is to establish the new very high readiness joint task force or the Spearhead Force and Spain is going to lead that next year and that just, another example of how important Spain is in our shared security. The important thing with this exercise is that we have seen different military services and forces from different countries acting together in unity, and that’s the most important thing with NATO, is the unity we are able to show and thereby also delivering the deterrence which is a clear message to any potential adversary.

Pedro Morenes:  [Speaking with translator]. I actually don’t have anything else to add. I just agree, totally agree with Secretary General, I agree with him in everything but particularly in the fact that deterrence, when you are able to make yourself respected this is essential in order to keep stability in the world because otherwise it is very hard to keep the stability. I always talk about a preventive medicine and curative medicine. Preventive medicine yields very, very good results, it’s not so expensive and in the end it means health for world stability. So the responsibility is to show the world that we have totally trained capabilities, we are totally convinced that our values are worth it and we are very willing to defend them whenever they are threatened. And I think this is deterrence and I am sure that after today nobody will be able to doubt these three principles I just mentioned.

Q:  My name is Nick Fiorenza. This is a question to the Secretary General. You mentioned in your opening remarks the…

Jens Stoltenberg:  I think there’s something wrong with the microphone. If you speak closer you turn it off, on or something.

Q:  Is this okay?

Jens Stoltenberg:  Sort of.

Moderator:  Yeah but use the microphone.

Jens Stoltenberg:  Do both then, loud and into the microphone, yeah.

Moderator:  Short question Nick.

Q:  So to the NATO Secretary General. You mentioned the observers in your opening remarks, I think a couple of us at least are disappointed we didn’t get a chance to meet some of them. How do you see their role? How is NATO interacting with them during the exercise? And the messages that you mentioned in your answer to a previous question, are you using these observers to deliver that message?

Jens Stoltenberg:  Every nation has its right to exercise its forces and NATO conducts exercises, many other countries in the world of course conduct exercises and that’s something which is completely okay. The important thing is that we are able to provide predictability and transparency related to military exercises. Especially when the international situation is more difficult and more demanding than it was before. Because we have to avoid that incidents, accidents, increased military presence, more military exercises creates situations or that accidents and incidents spirals out of control and create dangerous situations.

So therefore transparency and predictability is more important than ever. And the challenge is that we have rules, we have guidelines which NATO and Russia has, have agreed, procedures for notifying exercises and these rules have been developed in the framework of the organization of European, the organization of the European Security and Cooperation, the OSCE. But I’m concerned because the current regulations or the current requirements, they have expectations or exceptions for snap exercises and smaller exercises and what we have seen is that Russia are, or Russia is conducting many exercises with are non-notified where NATO allies are not invited because according to them they are not required to invite observers and they are using this loophole, so the exceptions in the procedures, to conduct many exercises without international observers.

And this is reason for concern but even more important this is a reason to modernize the guidelines, the agreements we have, so we make sure that there is a mutual understanding that we have to invite observers to our exercises. NATO will continue to be transparent, NATO will continue to be predictable and there are many observers, also from Russia, participating in this exercise and I welcome that because we believe that transparency is important. And, and we will therefore also look into how we can modernize the guidelines, the procedures, to make sure there is a real reciprocity in the way we have transparency related to military exercises.

Moderator:  Deutsche Presse Agentur, please.

Q:  Ansgar Haase, Germany Press Agency. Mr. Secretary General, should NATO do more in Afghanistan? General Domrose proposed yesterday to think about close air support and about, to think about intel sharing.

Jens Stoltenberg:  NATO’s presence through the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan will be a main topic when NATO’s Foreign Ministers meet the first and the second of December. And then we will discuss, then we will decide on the future presence of NATO in Afghanistan. So it’s a bit, and I will not prejudge the exact conclusions but what, but what I will say today is that I welcome that several NATO allies have already announced flexibility to continue to stay and to stay longer than the original plans. US announced a few weeks ago that they will continue with a substantial presence, Germany has decided to continue to stay and also United Kingdom and others.

So I welcome the flexibility, I welcome the will of NATO allies and partners, there are several NATO partners also in Afghanistan, and I welcome that because I think that what we see in Afghanistan is a challenging, demanding security situation which requires that we continue to support the Afghans. Exactly in what ways I think we have to wait until the end of the month or the first and the second of December to be more specific about. We will not go into a new combat operation, we ended the combat operation at the end of last year but what we have decided is then to continue Resolute Support Mission which is train, assist and advise and the question is how we do that, with what kind of troops and for how long.

In addition to NATO presence to train, assist and advise the Afghan Forces we also will continue to provide financial support for the National Afghan Forces because in the long run they have to have the responsibility for security of their own country. We can help them, support them, but in the long run we cannot conduct big combat operations in Afghanistan and that’s the reason why we ended last year and went to this train, assist and advise mission which we are part of now.

Moderator:  Thank you very much. Please don’t leave because now our military commanders are going to come and they will give a press conference.

Pedro Morenes:  Excuse me..

Q:  The last question, last question, please I was waiting…

Pedro Morenes:  I would like to say something and because there have been three Belgian soldiers wounded in, in an accident, they have been fitted in the hospital, military hospital [inaudible], hopefully the news are that they are well and this is very good news for all of us. And I would like to finish saying the same thing that I have said above when I spoke to the military commanders and authorities and congratulations to the organizers and all those who have participated in Trident Juncture 2015 exercise, for the hard and efficient work throughout several months which has taken shape in these last few weeks, deployment with the aim of contributing to the alliance security. Thank you very much all the people that have participated in these exercises. Thank you Jens for your leadership. Thank you.

Moderator:  Thank you very much.