Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the North Atlantic Council meeting at the level of NATO Defence Ministers

  • 14 Jun. 2016 -
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  • Last updated: 14 Jun. 2016 23:20

Press Conference by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

Good evening.

We have just agreed on a number of important measures to strengthen NATO’s defence and deterrence.

Defending our territory and protecting our citizens is NATO’s core mission.

And our decisions today will ensure that we continue to do that in a more dangerous world.

NATO is an Alliance that delivers.

We have now fully implemented the Readiness Action Plan adopted at the Wales Summit two years ago.

The NATO Response Force has been tripled in size and can be deployed to all parts of the Alliance. 

Its new very high readiness Spearhead Force can be deployed in a few days, to provide a first response to an emerging crisis.

Its land component, this year led by Spain, has been successfully tested in an exercise in Poland just a few weeks ago.    

And eight new small headquarters now operate on the eastern territory of our Alliance.

This is significant progress.

And a significant boost to NATO’s ability to reinforce, if needed.    

Today we are taking the next steps.

To build on what we have achieved.

We decided to enhance our forward presence in the eastern part of our Alliance.

NATO will deploy by rotation four robust multinational battalions to Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland.

And we will take tailored measures to enhance our defence and deterrence in the Black Sea region. 

There will also be more pre-positioned equipment and supplies.

This sends a clear message.

If any of our Allies is attacked, the whole Alliance will respond as one.

NATO does not seek confrontation.

Indeed, we seek a constructive dialogue with Russia. 

But we will defend our Allies against any threats.

We also discussed the freedom of movement of NATO forces across Europe in our meeting today.

It is vital that our troops and equipment can move without delay.

For exercises in peacetime, and for reinforcements in an emerging crisis, time is of the essence.

After the end of the Cold War, this was not on our agenda.

But the challenges in our neighbourhood have made it a priority.  

Many of our procedures have had to be refreshed and simplified.

Last autumn, we looked at a map of Europe which showed how difficult it was to move troops from one country to another at short notice.

We used a traffic-light analogy.

And we saw that large parts of the map were red.

We have worked very hard since then, and made significant progress.

NATO Allies have cut red tape, and updated complex procedures, with the support of ministries and parliaments. 

And today, the whole map has turned green.

This is a huge improvement for our ability to deploy our forces at speed.

We are now looking at what more needs to be done.

For instance regarding railways, airfields, and seaports.

There is still work to do.

But we have shown that where there’s a will, there’s a way. 

Our defence and deterrence posture is full-spectrum.

From resilience and national defence, to conventional capabilities and ballistic missile defence, to the nuclear dimension.

So today we also met in the Nuclear Planning Group.

To consider the safety, security and effectiveness of NATO’s nuclear deterrent. 

We also turned our attention to cyberspace.  

We agreed that we will recognise cyberspace as an operational domain.

Just like air, sea and land.  

Cyber defence is part of collective defence.

Most crises and conflicts today have a cyber dimension.

So treating cyber as an operational domain would enable us to better protect our missions and operations.

All our efforts to strengthen defence and deterrence depend on the right capabilities and the right resources.

We pledged two years ago to

stop the cuts in our defence spending;

to start increasing;

and to move towards our benchmark of 2 % of GDP over a decade.

We still have a long way to go.

But in the first year since we made that pledge, we have made progress.

In 2015 we saw a small increase in defence spending across Europe and Canada. 

And our estimates indicate a further increase in defence spending in 2016.

So, after many years of constant cuts in our defence spending we are now back on the right track.

Clearly, this is not the end of the road.

We need to keep up the momentum and  sustain our efforts over the long term.   

We will return to this at the Warsaw Summit. To ensure that we are doing what is necessary to keep our nations safe.

So with that, I am ready for your questions.

Moderator: Okay, AFP.

Q (AFP): Secretary General, thank you for taking my question. On cyberspace, declaring it an operational domain, what does it mean for allied or member states of the alliance? How concretely will they have to manage that cyberspace from a military perspective? What investments do they need to do? What capabilities do they need to acquire or to reinforce?

Jens Stoltenberg: First of all, it means that we will coordinate and organize our efforts to protect against cyber attacks in a better and more efficient way. This is about developing our capabilities and ability to partly protect NATO cyber networks but also to help and assist nations in defending their cyber networks, and since it's very hard to imagine a military conflict today without a cyber dimension, this is important, related to almost all possible conflicts we can foresee in the future.

So this is about a better framework to manage resources, skills and capabilities, and better coordination of our decisions. We have made the decision now to make cyber a domain, as we have land, sea and air. Then there is a lot of work that has to be done on the details, on how to follow up, but today we have made the important decision to create a separate independent domain for cyber because we understand and see that cyber is such a demanding area and poses so many challenges to the alliance.

Moderator: Baltic News Service, second row.

Q (Baltic News Service): Good afternoon, Secretary General. One question for you about these battalions. Of course, we understand that deterrence is the key, but will these battalions be capable to conduct combat operations if it's needed, and are these four battalions enough to defend the Baltic States and Poland in case of conflict, keeping in mind that Russia in response to these battalions is planning to establish three additional divisions on its western border? Thank you very much.

Jens Stoltenberg: Let me start by stating that we dont see any imminent threat against any NATO ally. The battalions they are combat-ready, and that's the purpose, so the readiness will be very high, and I think it's important to understand that the battalions are only one element in a broader response from NATO.

We have increased the readiness and the preparedness of our forces, we have tripled the size of the NATO Response Force, and we have created the new Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, or the Spearhead Force, able to move within a few days, and the new NATO Response Force of 40,000 troops means that we have really increased our ability to reinforce if needed.

Then, we have established a small headquarters in the eastern part of the alliance. We are conducting more exercises on how to deploy forces, reinforce if needed, and we have also decided to have more pre-positioned equipment and supplies. So all of this is a chain where we have some more forward presence, we have more command and control, we have more exercises, we have more pre-positioned supplies and equipment, and then we have 40,000 NATO Response Force troops ready to move if needed. All of that, combined with the national forces and the forces in all the NATO allies which can also be used if needed, provide the necessary deterrence and the military strength we need to send a very clear message.

So this is not about that NATO wants to fight a war or that we want to provoke a conflict, but this is that we know that strong deterrence is the best way to prevent the war, and this was very much welcomed in the meeting today, and it was also very good to see that during the meeting several nations made commitments, pledges, announced that they are ready to contribute, to participate in this enhance forward presence.

Moderator: Lady in the front row.

Q: Thank you. Secretary General, Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked NATO as irrelevant. Are his comments causing concern among NATO members, and what is your response to that criticism?

Jens Stoltenberg: We have many other concerns than the US election campaign, and I leave it to the voters of the United States to decide who is going to be the next president in the United States.

What I can do is to say what matters for NATO, and that is that we have proven, not least with the meeting today, that we are as relevant as ever and that we are able to adapt to a changed and a more dangerous security environment, and that we are delivering both when it comes to increased readiness and preparedness of our forces with more forward deployment, but also to enhance our collective defence but also when it comes to addressing the challenges we see emanating from the south, with terrorism, violence, instability.

So we are working with partner countries in the region, with Afghanistan, with Iraq, with Tunisia, with Jordan and other countries, to help them build local forces, train local forces, so we can enhance their ability to fight ISIL, to fight terrorism and to stabilize their own countries.

And for the United States I think it's also important to underline that the only time NATO has invoked Article 5 was after an attack on the United States, 9/11, and European NATO allies, Canada, partner nations of NATO, have provided forces over many, many years to Afghanistan, and more than 1,000 soldiers from European NATO allied countries, Canada and partner nations have been killed in Afghanistan in an operation which was a direct response of an attack on the United States.

So I think this illustrates that NATO is important for Europe, but NATO is also important for the United States, and I think also the two world wars have learned also that stability and peace in Europe is also important for the United States.

MODERATOR: Digi24, Romania, second row.

Q (Digi24): Thank you very much, Secretary General. I would like to ask you what the ministers have decided regarding the Black Sea region, and also another question is about the multinational brigade in Romania: on what principles this brigade will work, after the summit of course?

Jens Stoltenberg: We have already increased our presence in the Black Sea region. That's part of our assurance measures. So we have conducted air policing, we have more naval presence, and we have also more exercises. What we have decided now is that we will further increase and step up our efforts in the Black Sea region, and we discussed at our meeting today the establishment of a Romanian multinational framework brigade under Multinational Division Southeast.

And this is a new element, it's a proposal from Romania, and I think the important thing is that we have decided to implement tailored measures for the Black Sea region or for the southeast of our alliance. Exactly how it's going to be done we will work on that, but there will be more presence, there will be more NATO presence, and I also welcome the initiatives and the proposals from Romania in making that possible.

Moderator: German television [inaudible], in the back.

Q: Secretary General, what decisions do the ministers of defence have left for the summit in Warsaw?

Jens Stoltenberg: You never know what can happen in the next three weeks so we are prepared for the unforeseen, and then we will show again that we are able to react. But the reality is that the summit is important because the summit will take the final decisions, to make the final announcements, and also to announce the final commitments of allies to implement the many decisions which are leading up to the summit. That's the way the summit works, always.

So I look forward to the summit because there we are going to make the final decisions on collective defence deterrence, on enhanced forward presence, and also on how we can support, work with Iraq, with Afghanistan, with other countries in North Africa and the Middle East, to help to support them. So there are many decisions that remain to be taken or at least remain to be endorsed and supported and implemented, and the summit is going to be an important part of that.

Moderator: Spiegel, front row.

Q (Der Spiegel): Mr. Secretary, you just mentioned the decision that the cyber domain becomes like a new, let's say, location for war. What does it mean for any possible, let's say, Article 5 scenario for NATO? Does NATO have to develop also capabilities to first of all find possible perpetrators which are attacking NATO countries in sort of a cyber attack? And also do we need or does NATO need to develop also offensive cyber capabilities to possibly attack other, well, any attackers who try to do any harm to NATO countries?

Jens Stoltenberg: We have decided that a cyber attack can trigger Article 5, meaning that a cyber attack can trigger collective defence, because we regard cyber attacks as something that can cause a lot of damage and can be very dangerous. As I said, it's hard to imagine a conflict without a cyber dimension. So, yes, cyber can trigger Article 5, but the same time I think it's also important to understand that cyber is not something that always triggers Article 5.

We have a cyber dimension related to our presence in Afghanistan, we have to make sure that our networks are working and that they are protected and so on, and there's always a danger of hackers and others trying to reduce the capacity or attack our networks in all kinds of missions and operations. So it's not always a big Article 5 operation where we need the cyber defence, it can also be smaller or other kinds of military missions and operations where cyber defence is relevant.

What we do is defensive, but it is important to develop our defensive capabilities, and it is important to be able to attribute because one of the challenges when we speak about cyber is that it's not always easy to tell exactly who is attacking you. So everything related to attribution is one of the issues which are high on our agenda and we are developing capabilities to be better able to attribute different kinds of cyber attacks.

Moderator: Wall Street Journal.

Q (Wall Street Journal): To follow on that, there was the announcement of a Russia cyber attack on the Democratic Party in the United States. For NATO, is Russia the biggest cyber adversary? Is Russia responsible for would be cyber intrusions on the alliance or alliance members?

Jens Stoltenberg: So our cyber capabilities, our cyber defence is not directed against any particular adversary. It is something we developed, something we strengthen to be able to respond to attacks from any direction. So I will not name any particular, but I'll just underline that we are stepping up our efforts to be able to defend our own networks, both at headquarters but also when we do operations and missions.

It's extremely important to have networks that are working but also help and assist allies that may be under attack. We have developed small teams which we can send out and assist. And of course in the different scenarios which we can imagine related to hybrid attacks, cyber will be an important dimension related to hybrid, and therefore we have to be able to support allies which may come under cyber attack. That's also an area where we see a great potential for enhanced cooperation with the European Union, and we have just agreed on arrangements with the European Union on technical measures related to cyber defence.

Moderator: Last question, Europa Press.

Q (Europa Press): Thank you, Secretary General. Anna Pisanaro from the Spanish News Agency, Europa Press. Does NATO still think possible to have a NATO-Russia Council before the summit to appease a bit tensions after the decisions to beef up presence in the Baltic States, and if NATO is conditioning this to the fact that it wants more clarity of Russia vis--vis its next military exercises? Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg: We are ready to convene a new meeting on the NATO-Russia Council also before the summit, but of course we have to agree with Russia, we have to agree on the dates, on the agenda, on the modalities of the meeting. And we have a pragmatic approach, meaning that for us it is important that we meet because we regard the NATO-Russia Council as a platform for dialogue and especially when tensions are high as now, it's even more important that we meet and that we keep channels for political dialogue open.

We also believe that a NATO-Russia Council is a tool to avoid creating situations that can trigger a development which can just escalate tensions. So one of the areas which we think are important to address in the NATO-Russia Council is transparency, predictability, related to military activity. We have seen some incidents, some accidents, we have seen the downing of the Russian plane over Turkey, we have seen Russian planes flying very close to a NATO ally, a US ship in the Baltic Sea, and planes, and we have to do whatever we can to prevent or to avoid that kind of incidents, and if they happen make sure that they dont spiral out of control and create really dangerous situations.

So, we are ready to meet, we are now consulting with Russia, and then we will inform you on the results when the consultations are over.

Moderator: Thank you very much, that's all we have time for because the Secretary General

Jens Stoltenberg: Thank you so much.

Moderator: needs to be at the ministerial dinner, but there will be an opportunity. There will be an opportunity tomorrow. Thank you.