Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Foreign Ministers session

  • 01 Dec. 2015 -
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  • Last updated: 03 Dec. 2015 09:48

Good evening.

We have just had very extensive discussions on the developments in North Africa and in the Middle East. We discussed the progress of the global coalition against ISIL.

The measures taken by France and other Allies in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris.

And the Vienna talks to find a political solution to the war in Syria.

NATO fully supports these renewed efforts to find a political solution to the crisis in Syria.

We also discussed the downing of the Russian jet last week.

Turkey has the right to defend its territorial integrity and air space.

Calm and de-escalation is now of the essence. 

And I encourage direct dialogue between Moscow and Ankara. 

So the challenges from the south are grave and complex.

NATO is already responding.

We are taking action along three lines.

First, ensuring our collective defence:

Second, helping to manage existing crises;

And third, working with partners to help to stabilise the region.

Today, we have given strategic guidance to our military commanders along all three lines. 

With regard to collective defence, we are enhancing the readiness and responsiveness of our forces.

To deal with threats from the south, as well as the east.

We have just held our biggest exercise in over a decade in the south of our Alliance.

Work is progressing on maritime and missile defence. As well as the new surveillance drones.

And today, we have approved a new strategy on hybrid warfare. 

We are also improving our intelligence and early warning mechanisms.

To help us better understand the region and increase our situational awareness.

Our Ally Turkey is literally on the front line.

We have long-standing plans for defending Turkey.

We keep them under active review and are strengthening them further. 

For several years, NATO has augmented Turkey’s air defences.

We will continue to do so.

And Allies are looking at additional assurance measures.

They will be finalised in the coming weeks.

NATO’s second task is crisis management.

The Alliance has been conducting crisis-management operations over two decades.

All Allies are part of the coalition against ISIL. The effectiveness of the coalition is based to a large extent on the interoperability built by Allies and partners over many years of NATO operations.

Our third core task is cooperative security.  NATO is helping partners in the Middle East and North Africa build their capacities to defend themselves.

We have recently launched enhanced defence capacity building for Jordan and Iraq.

We are setting up NATO training for Iraqi officers in Jordan and Turkey.

In areas such as countering improvised explosive devices, demining, planning, cyber defence, military medicine, and security sector reform.

We are also working closely with Tunisia to fight terrorism, including through special forces training and intelligence assistance.

We will be working with our partners to see what more we can do in all these areas.

So then I’m ready to take your questions.

NATO SPOKESPERSON (Moderator): Reuters.

Q: Secretary General, you have talked about the assurance measures for Turkey and some NATO allies do plan to send patrol aircraft and missile defenses. Are you not concerned that this could be seen in Russia as an escalation, the sort of escalation that you are trying to prevent following the downing of the Russian jet? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: We have been present in Syria [sic] for many years. It's part of our Standing Defence Plan for Syria. Sorry, we have been present in Turkey—sorry, sorry. We have been present in Turkey for several years and this is part of our Standing Defence Plan for Turkey. And we have also augmented the Turkish air defences for several years.

So what we are doing when it comes to assurance measures for Turkey is something we have done for several years already. And what we are now doing is that partly that we are… continuing to do that, but also replacing some capabilities with other capabilities. So, for instance, today the UK announced that they are ready to deploy some planes at the Incirlik Air Base as part of NATO decisions. And also Denmark announced in the meeting that they will provide some naval capabilities or command ships to NATO's Standing Naval Force that are focused and which are going to be deployed in the Mediterranean.

So this is something we have been working on long before the incident last week, and it's separate from the event last week because this was something we decided and have done for several years. So we will continue to provide assurance measures for Turkey.

NATO SPOKESPERSON: Kuwaiti News Agency.

Q: Nawab Khan from Kuwaiti News Agency. Sir, do you think that a political solution in Syria is possible with Mr. Assad in power? Or do you think he should go? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: I think the important thing now is to fully support the efforts to find a political solution, and I welcome that several countries have been able to sit down and to start the talks in Vienna. And these talks were strongly supported by allies in the meeting today, and Secretary Kerry briefed us very extensively on the efforts of both the coalition fighting ISIL, but also on the Vienna talks and the progress we need to make there.

Assad is responsible for atrocities. Assad is responsible for much of the violence we have seen in Syria. So to find a solution, a transition also regarding his position is part of what is now addressed in the Vienna talks. But I will leave it to those who are sitting around the table to find a solution, because the important thing is that it's possible to find a political negotiated solution to the crisis in Syria.

NATO SPOKESPERSON: We'll go to the front row here.

Q: Mr. Secretary General, my name is Dancad Bunar[sp], I'm a Romanian journalist. I would like to ask you, because today NATO activated the Multinational Division Southeast headquarters in Bucharest, if you could say more about the importance of this Division.

And the second question, it's on the refugee crisis which is developing into a big problem, security problem for Europe. It's not only about the European Union but also NATO because there are many NATO member states. If, beyond the already measures that you are implementing in improving the capacity of the partners around in the Middle East or in Northern Africa, if you could say more about what NATO could do to help its member states which are confronted with security issues because of the refugee crisis. Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: First of all, the Multinational headquarters is an important headquarters, and it's responsible for coordinating and planning activities and also coordinate training and exercises, both in the south eastern part of our alliance, but also beyond. So this is part of the adaptation, part of the strengthening of our collective defence, and this headquarters is a part of that and I welcome that it's activated.

When it comes to the refugee crisis, all NATO allies participate and contribute to managing and tackling the refugee crisis in many different ways. Many do it through the European Union because many NATO members are members of the European Union. Then, of course, many also support the efforts by the UN. And NATO as an alliance is addressing, together with all the other organizations and all the nations, the root causes. Because we have to both handle the immediate challenges in Europe, but we also have to address the root causes, and that is the instability, the violence in the Middle East and North Africa.

And one of the reasons why NATO is so focused on what we can do more to enable countries in… and governments in the region to protect themselves and to stabilize their own countries, that is important because that is also a way to address the reasons why people are fleeing and leaving their countries. So what NATO does in Afghanistan to help stabilize Afghanistan and what we do when it comes to defence capacity building in the Middle East and North Africa is something which is a long-term effort. It will take time, but it's addressing the root causes of the refugee crisis.

NATO SPOKESPERSON: We'll go over there.

Q: Thank you. Mr. Secretary General, Andrea[?] [inaudible] Pravda. Can you please elaborate a little bit more about the cooperation with the EU, NATO, EU corporation regarding hybrid warfare, hybrid threats? And a related question: How much is this approach basically aimed at what Russia is doing now? Because hybrid warfare is very much connected to what Russia is doing, but it might have also a broader sense. For example, what ISIL is doing is… you can also put it into the category of hybrid warfare, recruiting people, influencing… influencing… influencing the population. So how much it is aimed exclusively at Russia, or does it have some broader sense?

JENS STOLTENBERG: So hybrid warfare and hybrid threats covers many different kinds of threats and, therefore, I think also it's nothing we can attribute to one specific geographic threat. It is something we can see actually in many places and stemming from many different sources, and the thing… both state and non-state actors.

But the important thing with hybrid threats is that this is combination of civil and military threats. It's often a combination of overt and covert operations. It's propaganda, it's deception, and there are many ways of conducting hybrid warfare and, therefore, we have to be prepared for many different kinds of threats under the headline of hybrid threats.

And that's exactly why it is important that the European Union and NATO cooperate more closely, because this is a combination of civilian and military means. This is a combination of defending infrastructure but also defending military capabilities and capacities. And it's a combination of many different types of threats and, therefore, so many different types of responses.

And that's exactly the reason why we need both the European Union and NATO working together. We have started to cooperate, we have started to address how we can further expand our cooperation, but I would like to see much more because this is an area where we need both the capacities and the capabilities of the European Union and NATO at the same time.

NATO SPOKESPERSON: One last question over here.

Q: Thank you very much. Mikhail[?] [inaudible] of Kommersant[?], Russia. Continuing on the topic of hybrid threats, can you please specify some… some things about this idea, I mean, in terms of the establishment of new structures in eastern and southern countries of NATO, or some financing of this strategy? Is it like something material or it's a pure concept? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: So our strategy is based on three pillars. That is to prepare, it is to deter, and it is to defend. And we need all these three pillars in responding to hybrid threats. And, again, since hybrid threats is covering so many different kinds of threats, we need many different kinds of capabilities to defend ourselves.

But, for instance, to increase the responsiveness of our forces is a part of the answer to hybrid threats, because hybrid threats uses… or hybrid warfare uses deception. There is little warning time so, therefore, we have to be able to act very quickly. So, increase the responsiveness and readiness of our forces is an element in the response to hybrid threats.

Better situational awareness because, again, it's unclear whether it's peace or war, what kind of conflict, what kind of situation are we facing, because deception, covert operations is part of hybrid warfare. So then intelligence, surveillance, improved situational awareness is another element in a hybrid strategy.

Special operation forces may be a key capability in answering to a hybrid threat. And moreover, for instance, everything we do on cyber, and that's obviously an area where we are looking for more cooperation with the European Union. And cyber, cyber-attacks, cyber-threats is also, as I say, an element of what we see under the headline of hybrid threats.

So we are expanding, we are developing our capabilities to defend ourselves against hybrid threats. And we also decided that hybrid attacks can also trigger Article 5. And in that way I could just go on. There are so many different ways of possible hybrid attacks, hybrid threats, and therefore we have to be ready to respond in many, many different ways, both using civil and military means, working with, of course, the nations and with other international institutions like the European Union.

NATO SPOKESPERSON: Thank you very much. This is all we have time for now, but we will see you tomorrow morning at 8:15. Thank you.