’Projecting Stability: Charting NATO’s Future’
Speech by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to the Atlantic Council, Washington, D.C.
Thank you Fred, for that kind introduction.
It’s an honour to address you all today. It is great to see so many of you, including members of the diplomatic community. Thank you for being here.
Let me also thank the Atlantic Council.
Fred and Damon,
Under your leadership, the Council has worked tirelessly to promote ever closer transatlantic cooperation. And in today's dangerous world, transatlantic cooperation is needed more than ever.
NATO embodies that cooperation. An alliance of 28 democracies, representing half of the world’s GDP and half of the world’s military might. A unique alliance that brings to bear the strength and unity of North America and Europe. That strength and unity is what I want to discuss today. Why it matters. How it is shaping our response to the actions of a more assertive Russia. And how it must define the way we tackle ISIL and the other challenges we face in the Middle East and North Africa.
The transatlantic Alliance has its roots in common culture and values. These are bonds which carried us through the Cold War. Today, NATO continues to serve the interests of each and every member.
Security, prosperity, open society. None of these are guaranteed by NATO alone – but all would be at greater risk without NATO. A safer and stronger Europe means a safer and stronger United States. That was the rationale behind the decision to create the Alliance and it is just as valid today. Because NATO is as much an American organisation as it is a European one.
This was the spirit in which the Alliance responded when the United States was attacked on 9/11. The only time the Alliance has invoked Article 5 of the Washington Treaty. Which makes clear that an attack against one Ally is an attack against all.
That collective decision led to NATO’s biggest ever operation – in Afghanistan. Where hundreds of thousands of soldiers from Europe, Canada and NATO partner countries have served, alongside US forces. And where many have given their lives.
Without NATO, transatlantic cooperation would be weaker, Europe and North America less safe, and the world a more dangerous place.
Take Russia… Last year, I spoke here in Washington about its destabilising behaviour. Its military build-up and its aggression against Ukraine. And I outlined how NATO is responding. We have made significant progress since then. NATO is becoming more agile and better prepared. We are reinforcing our collective defence. The largest reinforcement since the end of the Cold War. NATO’s Response Force is now three times bigger. With a brigade-sized high-readiness force at its core.
We have set up a chain of new headquarters in the eastern part of our Alliance. Boosting our ability to plan and exercise, and to reinforce if needed.
The European Reassurance Initiative, launched by President Obama two years ago, has been key. I met with the President on Monday and thanked him for his strong leadership. I welcome his plan to quadruple funding for the Initiative. This increase would mean more US troops and equipment on European soil. More opportunities for Americans and Europeans to participate in joint exercises. More prepositioned equipment. And better infrastructure.
Together, this bolsters our deterrence. And our ability to respond with strength and speed.
But transatlantic security does not rest upon American shoulders alone. European Allies are stepping up. They are in charge of the new High Readiness Force. They play a major part in policing NATO’s air space and seas. Europeans are providing the majority of our forces in the Balkans. And for over a decade, have contributed a third of our forces in Afghanistan.
They are also reversing the trend in defence spending after a long decline. In fact, last year, defence cuts came to a halt. Sixteen European Allies spent more on defence than in the year before. And, they are adding real capabilities such as latest-generation fighter aircraft, helicopters and maritime patrol planes.
These are important first steps towards fulfilling our pledge to spend 2% of GDP on defence and to spend more on the capabilities we need. I am determined that all Allies make good on that pledge. Because the burden must rest on all our shoulders.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We face a new strategic reality. And we must be prepared for the long haul. At our Warsaw Summit in July, we will take decisions to further strengthen our collective defence and deterrence.
We will enhance the forward presence of multi-national forces in the eastern part of the Alliance. To make clear that an attack against one Ally will be met by forces from across the Alliance.
We will enhance our resilience against hybrid warfare and cyber threats. And make sure that the nuclear component of our deterrence posture remains credible and effective.
We will advance our goal of a Europe whole, free and at peace, with Montenegro invited to join our Alliance. We will reconfirm our long-term commitment to Afghanistan. And we will agree further measures to respond to the challenges coming from the Middle East and North Africa. Because homeland defence is not just about what we do at home. It is as much about what happens beyond our borders. Where we see fragile and failing states struggling to keep control over large portions of their territory.
Millions fleeing the region in a humanitarian crisis of a magnitude not seen since World War Two.Terrorist groups like ISIL taking hold of ungoverned spaces. And spreading violence across the region and beyond. Inciting attacks on our streets. From Brussels to Istanbul, Paris to San Bernardino. These are attacks on our open societies. On the values we share.
So our response must be strong. And it must be united. The international community is rising to the challenge. I strongly welcome the efforts of the US-led Global Coalition to Counter ISIL. Because, to protect our territory, we must be willing to project stability beyond our borders. If our neighbours are more stable, we are more secure.
To be clear, projecting stability has several elements. To defeat and destroy groups like ISIL we need to use force. Military action is essential if we are to deprive ISIL of its strongholds in Syria and Iraq. And stop the horrific violence it is inflicting.
But projecting stability also means using our forces to train others to fight. In the long run, it is more sustainable to enable local forces to protect their countries than it is to deploy large numbers of our own troops.That is an important lesson we have drawn from past operations. Training matters. In the fight against terrorism, building local capacity is one of the best weapons we have. And the earlier we can do it, the better. Because a few months can mean the difference between a fragile state and a failed state.
So, while NATO has to remain an expeditionary alliance, able to deploy forces outside our territory, NATO must also become a more effective training alliance. We need to upgrade our capacity building efforts and advance our cooperation with regional partners. And, today, I want to put forward three specific ways I believe can do that.
First NATO needs to strengthen its ability to advise and assist local forces. And for that we need to make training a core capability for the Alliance. We have trained local forces across the world for more than 20 years.
From sending advisory teams into ministries, to deploying military and police trainers on the ground, including in dangerous environments. We know how to generate a multinational force of trainers. Maximising every contribution from Allies and partners of all sizes. But today, we need a more robust approach. A responsive, ready-to-go capability. So that we can plan, coordinate and deploy advisory support and training missions faster. And bring together the necessary tools for capacity building and training. As we are currently doing in Afghanistan.
Last month, I visited Kabul. And I met the men and women of the Afghan Air Force. Pilots and mechanics, trained by NATO. They were all proud of what they are doing. I met a remarkable group of young women who are working hard to become pilots. It is that resolve which makes me optimistic about what can be achieved.
Until a few years ago, there was hardly any Afghan air force. Last year, the Afghan Air Force flew 20,000 missions. Providing transport, resupply, medical support, and engaging the enemy. They are part of the 350,000 strong Afghan security forces built up by NATO trainers over the years. And they are now responsible for their country’s security. We continue to support them, but we have ended our combat mission. This demonstrates what we can achieve by building local capacity.
The Afghanistan model is important, yet it is not the only one. We have also recently launched training and capacity building initiatives in Georgia, Moldova and Jordan. And we will soon begin advising Tunisia on counter-terrorism and help improve the capacity of their armed forces.
With respect to Libya, I welcome the arrival of the Prime Minister Designate and the Presidential Council in Tripoli. This is an important step in establishing the Government of National Accord.And setting the conditions for further international support. NATO also stands ready to assist Libya. They will need our help.
So it is clear. The demand for capacity building is growing. And that is why NATO needs to make training a core capability for the Alliance.
My second proposal is that NATO should step up our support for Iraq. The ability of an inclusive Iraqi government to restore security is critical to the stability of the whole region. And a stable Iraq is key in the battle against ISIL. Last week, NATO started training Iraqi officers in Jordan. Our program was developed in close coordination with the Counter ISIL Coalition. We should reinforce these efforts. And, when appropriate, expand them further.
When I visited Iraq last month,Prime Minister Al-Abadi and I discussed the challenges his country is facing – and why training is an essential part of the solution. He asked NATO for more help. We should provide it, and we can do that in many ways. One example is dealing with Improvised Explosive Devices. They were the biggest killer of Iraqi forces when they retook Ramadi from ISIL. They are a threat which NATO has extensive expertise in countering. So our current training program responds to this urgent need, and we should do more for Iraq.
My third proposal is that we take our cooperation with regional partners and international organisations to a new level. To project stability in the region, we need to work with those who know the region best.
A few weeks ago, the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council came to NATO Headquarters. We discussed the security challenges in the region and what more we could do together. The Gulf Cooperation Council is developing its ability to command large multi-national operations. And NATO has unique expertise in building and maintaining an integrated military structure. We can share that expertise.
We are also exploring what more we can do in areas such as counter-terrorism, energy and maritime security, and cyber defence. My aim is to bring forward our cooperation with the GCC at the Warsaw Summit in July.
The new NATO regional cooperation centre in Kuwait also provides us with a way to reinforce our partnerships. The Centre will be a focal point, where NATO and Gulf partners will work together. In areas such as military to military cooperation, strategic analysis and civil emergency planning.
The King Abdullah Special Operations Training Centre in Jordan is another platform for joint efforts. It is certified according to NATO standards. And this is where the training of Iraqi officers is now taking place.
We must do more of this, to complement bilateral efforts and to strengthen the capacity of regional organisations. Because it is the best way to leverage their expertise, their resources and their cultural awareness in support of our training initiatives. And to enable our partners in the Middle East and North Africa to play an even greater role in achieving regional security.
Everywhere I go in the region, leaders tell me they want more cooperation with NATO. We must answer their call.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The challenges from the Middle East and North Africa pose a direct threat to transatlantic security. To our common values. And to our common interests. We must all work together to respond. We need to strengthen our own defences. And to make our partners stronger too.
The threat from ISIL and other terrorist groups will be with us for a long time. So, we must bring all tools to bear. And NATO is a powerful tool in which all our nations have made great investments.
For almost seventy years, NATO has brought Europe and North America together. Providing security for both sides of the Atlantic. I know that I can count on the continued leadership of the United States.
I also know that the mutual interests of Europe and the United States are best served by a strong North Atlantic Alliance. Because the security of Europe and North America is indivisible. And only by standing together will we remain safe and secure.