Press conference by the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the launch of his Annual Report for 2015
Welcome to the launch of my Annual Report for 2015.
Last year showed how insecurity abroad can directly affect our security at home.
We saw this in the brutal terrorist attacks in our cities. In the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since World War Two.
We also saw it in Russia’s continued actions in Ukraine. And its recent military build-up in Syria and the Eastern Mediterranean.
But last year also showed how NATO is responding.
We implemented the greatest strengthening of our collective defence since the end fo the Cold War. And cuts in defence spending among European Allies have now practically stopped.
Let me start with collective defence.
We have visibly increased NATO’s presence in the eastern part of our Alliance. And to the south, we have agreed to increase the presence of AWACS early warning aircraft over Turkey, as we continue to augment Turkey’s air defences.
We have tripled the size of the NATO Response Force to more than 40,000 troops. And at its core is our new, very high readiness ‘Spearhead Force.’ That is now operational. Ready within days to deploy to wherever it is needed. I was really impressed when I saw it in action at its first deployment exercise in Poland.
We are also establishing eight force integration units or small headquarters in the eastern part of our Alliance. They support planning, training and reinforcements, if needed.
To combat hybrid warfare, we are improving our intelligence and early warning.
Speeding up our decision-making, and enhancing our cyber defences.
Last year, we conducted around 300 Allied exercises, including the largest and most complex one in over a decade.
With over 36,000 troops, 140 aircraft, and 60 ships from over 30 different nations. Exercise Trident Juncture took place in Spain, Portugal and Italy. A tremendous display of our capabilities and of Allies’ ability to work together.
We will continue to step up our exercises this year, and we will remain transparent in what we do. As you can see from the exercise schedule we have posted online.
Over the last two years, Russian air activity close to NATO’s European airspace has increased by around 70%. In response, Allied aircraft scrambled over 400 times to intercept Russian aircraft.
We have made substantial progress with our new Alliance Ground Surveillance system.
Including the first test flight of one of our new Global Hawk drones. This system will provide real-time intelligence to our commanders in theatre.
And we have also made important steps for NATO’s ballistic missile defence system.
The arrival of two more US Aegis ships based in Spain. Progress towards the activation of the missile defence facility in Romania. And this spring, we will break ground for a new site in Poland.
This is a defensive system, to protect our European Allies against the real threat of ballistic missiles from outside the Euro-Atlantic area.
Of course, boosting our defence posture does not come for free.
And that is why in 2014, NATO leaders committed to end the cuts, and gradually increase our defence spending. Over the last year, we have started to move in the right direction. After many years of substantial reductions in defence spending, the cuts have now practically stopped among European Allies and Canada. And in 2015, defence cuts were close to zero.
Let me give you some figures.
Five Allies now meet our guideline on spending 2 percent of GDP or more on defence.
16 Allies spent more on defence in real terms in 2015.
And 23 Allies increased the amount they are spending on new equipment.
This has taken a lot of effort. But we all need to do more.
Because, to the east and to the south, we face the biggest security challenges in a generation. NATO is at the forefront of the fight against international terrorism.
The aim of our mission in Afghanistan has been to deny safe haven to international terrorists. We continue to train, advise and assist the Afghan army and police.
They face significant challenges, but they are holding their ground. We decided, in 2015, to maintain our current level of troops this year. And we are looking at how we can contribute to the funding of the Afghan security forces until 2020.
Every NATO Ally is part of the Global Coalition to counter ISIL. The Coalition’s high degree of interoperability is a key asset. Built through years of challenging NATO-led operations and training.
To address the root causes of instability, NATO is working even closer with our partners in the region. We are building the defence capacity of Jordan. We will soon start training Iraqi officers. And we are working with Tunisia on special operations forces and intelligence to help them be stronger in defending themselves. And working with other countries in North Africa and the Middle East.
In the Western Balkans, our mission in Kosovo continues to bring much needed security and stability to a region that has been highly volatile. And in 2015, we took another important decision, which will advance stability in the Western Balkans.
We formally invited Montenegro to begin talks to become the 29th member of NATO.
And accession negotiations will begin in mid-February.
In the east, we continue to support Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, to better resist outside pressure. We help them in different ways to build their defence capacity, modernise their institutions and strengthen their reforms.
In less than six months from now, Allied leaders will meet at our summit in Warsaw. We will take the next steps to strengthen our defence and deterrence. We will decide on the right balance between a forward presence in the east and our ability to reinforce.
We will address the crisis to the south and the support we provide to our partners. And we will review the progress we have made on defence spending.
Over the last years, our world has become more dangerous, and more unpredictable.
But NATO is adapting to keep our nations safe. In 2016, and in the years ahead, NATO will remain an anchor of stability. Staying strong, open for dialogue, and working with our partners around the world.
With that, I am ready to take your questions.