Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the meetings of the North Atlantic Council at the level of Heads of State and Government

  • 08 Jul. 2016 -
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  • Last updated: 09 Jul. 2016 09:29

Press conference by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the North Atlantic Council meeting at the level of Heads of State and Government

Good evening.

We have just taken decisions to deliver twenty-first century deterrence and defence in the face of twenty-first century challenges. NATO has responded with speed and determination.

We have already delivered the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence in a generation.

We have tripled the size of the NATO Response Force to 40,000, with a Spearhead Force at its core. Able to move within days.

We have set up eight new headquarters to facilitate training and reinforcements in the eastern part of our Alliance.

And we have augmented the defences of Turkey, the Ally most affected by the turmoil in the south, with AWACS surveillance planes and defensive missile systems.

We have also sped up our decision-making, and developed strategies to deal with hybrid threats and complex challenges from the south.

Today, we took the next steps. And we have decided to enhance our military presence in the eastern part of the Alliance. With four battalions here in Poland, as well as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on a rotational basis. These battalions will be robust and multinational. They demonstrate the strength of the transatlantic bond. And they make clear that an attack on one Ally would be considered an attack on the whole Alliance.

And I’m pleased to announce that Canada will be the framework nation for Latvia. Germany will lead the battalion in Lithuania. The United Kingdom will lead in Estonia. And the United States will serve as framework nation in Poland.

I also welcome that many other nations, many other Allies announced during our meeting that they will contribute in different ways. Our presence will be in place starting next year.

This is an important step. But it is only one part of a bigger effort. Including plans for a tailored presence in the south-east, built around a multinational framework brigade in Romania.

Today we have decided to declare Initial Operational Capability of the NATO ballistic missile defence system. This means that the US ships based in Spain, the radar in Turkey, and the interceptor site in Romania are now able to work together under NATO command and NATO control. Importantly, the system we are building is entirely defensive. It is designed to shield against attacks from outside the Euro-Atlantic area and represents no threat to Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent.

Today, we also recognised cyberspace as a new operational domain, joining land, air and sea. This means better protection of our networks and our missions and operations, with more focus on cyber training and cyber planning. NATO’s cyber posture remains defensive. But this is a clear sign that we are strengthening our collective defence in all areas. Allies have also pledged to strengthen their own cyber defences, and share more information and best practices.

NATO’s security depends on all our nations being prepared. So today, Allies committed to boosting their resilience. To improve civil preparedness, and ensure we have the right mix of capabilities to meet new challenges, including hybrid warfare.

Modern challenges require a modern Alliance. And they require the right resources. So today, we reviewed and reconfirmed the Defence Investment Pledge made two years ago.

2015 was the first year in many years with a small increase in defence spending. Estimates for 2016 show a further increase of 3% across European Allies and Canada. This amounts to eight billion US dollars. And many Allies are increasing the readiness and deployability of their forces. We still have a long way to go. But I believe that we have turned a corner.

NATO poses no threat to any country. We do not want a new Cold War. We do not want a new arms race. And we do not seek confrontation.

As we strengthen our deterrence and defence, we continue to seek a constructive dialogue with Russia. Russia is our biggest neighbour. It is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. And it plays an important role in security challenges in and around Europe. Russia cannot and should not be isolated.

Furthermore, with increased military activity in and around Europe, we have an interest in agreeing the rules of the road with Russia. We need to make every effort to avoid miscalculation and accidents. The NATO-Russia Council is an important tool to manage our relationship in this new, challenging security environment. I will convene a new meeting of the Council Wednesday next week to inform Russia on the decisions we have taken at the Summit.

NATO’s greatest responsibility remains the protection of our almost one billion citizens. This fundamental fact informs everything we do. And the decisions we have taken today will help keep our nations safe in a more dangerous world.

And with that, I’m ready to take your questions.

MODERATOR: I'll ask you to introduce yourselves and your outlet. We'll start with Reuters, first row please. If you could perhaps come forward with the mics, that would be helpful. Thank you.

ROBIN EMMOTT (Reuters): Thank you. Robin Emmott from Reuters. Secretary General, were there any calls in the room today to do more than just the four battalions and what you've just explained, and also what more are you doing for Romania and Bulgaria? Thank you very much.

JENS STOLTENBERG (Secretary General, NATO): All allies expressed great satisfaction with the decisions we made today, and I think we have to understand that the decisions we made today about enhanced forward presence about the four battalions. They are decisions that we take and they are after a very thought of analysis of the needs, and our assessment is that under the current circumstances, based on our military analysis and military advise we have received, that this is an appropriate posture and presence in the eastern part of the alliance. I think also it's important to underline that the enhanced forward presence with the four battalions is an important element but only one element of what we are doing. Forward presence is one thing, but the ability to reinforce, to deploy forces if needed, is another very important element of what we have been doing actually since our last summit. So, as I stated, we have tripled the size of the NATO Response Force, we have established a new Spearhead Force, we will have more prepositioned equipment, supplies, more infrastructure, more exercises, more headquarters, more planning, and many other elements, for instance intelligence, early warning, surveillance and so on.

So forward presence is important but the ability to reinforce if needed is also important. And let me add that the forward presence is also important because it is an international forward presence sending a very clear message about deterrence: an attack on one ally will trigger a response from the whole alliance.

MODERATOR: Poland Radio, second row.

Q (Polish Radio): [Inaudible], Polish Radio. Secretary General, you mentioned that countries have stressed and contributed their soldiers into the battalions, apart from frame nations. Could you elaborate what kind of promises they made, the countries, on their soldiers being sent to one of four battalions?

JENS STOLTENBERG: I would say that practically all the nations made announcements to contribute in different ways. We have of course the four lead nations or framework nations, Canada, United States, Germany and United Kingdom, then we have the four host nations which will provide host nation support, and then we have all the other nations which will provide support in different ways, partly of course to the enhanced forward presence but also provide support to our enhanced ability to reinforce the VJTF for the Spearhead Force and the NATO Response Force. So this is an effort which all allies contribute to and very many of the allies also made new announcements or announcements in the meeting today to contribute in different ways.

MODERATOR: Lady over there, second row, third row.

ALINA KOUSHYK (Belsat TV, Belarus): Alina Koushyk, Belsat TV, Belarus. General Secretary, was Belarus question discussed during the meeting today?


ALINA KOUSHYK: Belarus question was discussed today? And why Belarus delegation were not invited?

JENS STOLTENBERG: Well this meeting is a meeting with the 28 NATO allies and Montenegro which is very close to become a NATO ally. We have signed the accession treaty and when that accession protocol is ratified in all the 28 allies then Montenegro will become a member. So this was a meeting for NATO allies.

Belarus is a country, a neighbouring country of several NATO countries. The important thing for us is to underline that the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of all allies, of all countries in Europe, is respected, and that also of course applies for Belarus.

MODERATOR: Gentleman over there, second row.

Q (Estonia Television): Thank you very much. [Inaudible], Estonia Television. As Estonian officials have described to me, this is a new reality, this is not an operation this deployment. How long do you think it will last? There is no end, it's an open-ended commitment.

JENS STOLTENBERG: It's an open-ended commitment and it will last as long as necessary, so we don’t have any date where we have said that this will end. And it is a new reality, because we didn’t have that kind of presence in the eastern part of the alliance before, so this is something new, it's ground-breaking, it's based on very thought of military analysis, and what we do is actually what we were advised to do based on the military advice we have received.

And I would also like to underline that no one in NATO really discussed or addressed the possibility of this kind of forward presence of NATO forces in the eastern part of the alliance before Ukraine, so this a defensive proportionate response to the actions of Russia in Ukraine, illegally annexing Crimea.

MODERATOR: RIA Novosti. No, gentleman over there. Yeah, thanks.

Q (RIA Novosti): Vladimir [inaudible], Russian news agency RIA Novosti. Secretary General, you just said that you want to discuss measures taken today with Russia next week. Are you going to discuss as well the possibility to scale them back and is it possible to scale them back and under what conditions? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: I strongly believe in transparency, in predictability, to avoid escalating the situation and increasing tensions, therefore NATO has been transparent and predictable all the way. And one of the reasons why we believe that the NATO-Russia Council is important, and why the NATO-Russia Council was established as an all weather forum to be used also when tensions are high and the situation is a bit difficult is exactly for this reason.

So dialogue is always important but it is especially important now and therefore we will, as I said, use the council to inform, update Russia on our decisions, because we are transparent, we have nothing to hide, and we will tell them to avoid misunderstandings, to avoid miscalculations and to as I say contribute to transparency.

I will not speculate on how long it will be necessary to have this kind of forward presence. What we have seen is a Russia which has invested heavily in modern defence capabilities over many years, which has modernized its forces, its equipment, and has used military force against a sovereign nation in Europe, violating Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty, and that's the reason why we have increased our presence in the eastern part of the alliance.

MODERATOR: We'll go to the front row. Romanian media.

Q (Romanian media): [Inaudible], Romania. Secretary General, please, did the problem of the presence, naval presence in the Black Sea, was discussed today, and how to strengthen the security for the countries around the Black Sea? First question. And second question: can you elaborate on the presence of this new multinational brigade in Romania? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: First of all, NATO has already increased our presence in the Black Sea region in the southeastern part of our alliance, both with air policing assurance measures in the Black Sea but also in Turkey with AWACS planes and defensive missile defence systems, so we have already increased our presence.

Second, we agreed today what we call tailored forward presence in the southeast and that is based on a Romanian-Bulgarian brigade, and that will provide a framework for extensive training of NATO forces, so it will be a multinational presence under this Romanian-Bulgarian brigade, and we'll then have more forces, more training, taking place in the southeastern part of the alliance.

Moreover, we also decided to ask our military planners to provide advice for our defense ministers in October to look into whether we can or how we can increase our presence not on land, because that will be provided with a brigade, but in the air and at sea. And several of the nations addressed the need for an enhanced presence at sea and in the air but we will be more concrete about that at our defence ministerial meeting in October.

MODERATOR: The gentleman in the front row here, in the middle. Thanks.

Q (Observer): [Inaudible], Observer, in Warsaw. Thank you very much Mr. Secretary. I have a question on Finnish and Swedish membership of NATO. Do you really think that it is possible to secure the Baltic Sea in the case of a crisis without these two countries being members of the alliance?

JENS STOLTENBERG: We have a very close partnership with Sweden and Finland, and we are developing that partnership. Sweden and Finland, the Swedish prime minister and the Finnish president will be present at our dinner tonight, we are exercising together with them, Sweden and Finland are participating in NATO operations, NATO missions, so we are enhancing and stepping up our cooperation with them, both in the Baltic region but also in different NATO operations and missions.

I will refrain from giving advice to Fins and Swedes on whether they should join NATO or not, partly because I'm Secretary General of NATO and I will not be dragged into a debate in Sweden about whether Sweden should join NATO and also because I'm Norwegian. I know that Swedes they will, what to say, I know that I will not give them advice.


MODERATOR: Okay. Gentleman in the front row again.

Q: Yes, thank you. Mr. Secretary General, after visit to Finland, Russian President has addressed Russian military minister of defence to work out the plan to ease the tension at the Baltic Sea and to make all the fighter jets to fly with the transponders on. So will it be an issue at the Russia-NATO Council next weekend? Is NATO ready to respond the same way? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: I welcome what seems to be an increased interest from the Russia side to address transparency, risk reduction and air safety in the Baltic region. So I welcome that and will also listen to the Finnish tonight where he can report and tell about his discussions with President Putin.

We have only seen press reports so it's a bit early to comment on the specifics, on the details, but we hope that we can have proposals on the table and that we can discuss them more in detail when we see concrete proposals. NATO has been advocating for measures enhancing air safety for a long time, and one of the issues we discussed at our last meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in April was exactly the need for predictability mechanisms, risk-reduction, air safety, and hopefully we can also then discuss this at the NATO-Russia Council next week.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. That's all we have time for now because the fly past is soon approaching, but the Secretary General will be back tomorrow.

JENS STOLTENBERG: Thank you so much.