Press conference

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

  • 26 Oct. 2016 -
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  • Last updated: 27 Oct. 2016 09:52

(as delivered)

Good evening.

We have just finished a productive meeting of the NATO defence ministers addressing deterrence and defence and how we are going to implement the decisions we made at the Warsaw Summit.

Protecting our almost one billion citizens is NATO’s primary responsibility.
At the Warsaw Summit in July, NATO leaders took decisions to ensure we continue to do so.

Over the past 100 days, we have come a long way in implementing those decisions.  Today we assessed how far we have come. And the work that lies ahead.

Earlier this year, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States each committed to lead a multinational battalion in the eastern part of the Alliance.

A transatlantic demonstration of rock-solid support for our Allies.

I am proud to announce that many other Allies confirmed contributions to these forces today.

Albania, Italy, Poland and Slovenia will contribute to the Canadian-led battalion in Latvia.

Belgium, Croatia, France, Luxembourg, Netherlands, and Norway will join the German-led battalion in Lithuania.

Denmark and France will contribute to the UK-led battalion in Estonia.

And Romania and the United Kingdom will join the US-led battalion in Poland.

Our forces will be truly multinational.  Sending an unmistakable message: NATO stands as one.  An attack on any Ally will be considered an attack on us all.

In Warsaw, we said that we expected to deploy the four battalions in early 2017.
I am pleased to confirm that we are on track.

This Alliance does what it says.  And we deliver on our promises.

Today we also discussed progress in strengthening NATO’s presence in the Black Sea region.  With a Romanian-led multinational framework brigade on land.

And we are working on measures in the air and at sea.  And I’m pleased to confirm that several nations indicated their willingness to contribute to our presence in the Black Sea region, on land, at sea and in the air.

Including Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Turkey and the United States.

Other Allies are also looking into how they can contribute.

During the meeting, we discussed recent military activity close to NATO’s borders.  Including the recent KAVKAZ 2016 exercise, and Russia’s deployment of Iskander missile systems to Kaliningrad.

We are concerned about Russia’s behaviour.  But dialogue is even more important when tensions run high.

And Allies stand ready to hold an ambassadorial meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in the near future.

We also discussed the growing role of cyber defence for NATO.  In Warsaw, Allies pledged to strengthen their national cyber defences.

And today, we stressed the importance of making good on that pledge.  So that we can show real results by the time of our next Summit.

Finally, new security challenges can mean new demands on our command structure.

It must be robust and agile, empowering the Alliance to continue to take quick and decisive action.

So we have decided to assemble a Senior Experts Group to support the Strategic Commanders in assessing the effectiveness of the NATO Command Structure.

We covered a lot of ground this afternoon.  And I am encouraged by the progress we are making.

Guided by decisions made at the Warsaw Summit, NATO is adapting for the future.

To keep our people safe and our Alliance strong.

And with that, I am ready to take your questions.

Moderator: We’re going to start in the second row in the middle, please.  Other side here.

Q: Secretary General, Cristian Unteanu, Romania. Please be so kind to elaborate a little bit more on the measures regarding Romania, just in line of the decisions taken in the Warsaw Summit, please.  Thanks.

Jens Stoltenberg: We are in the process of deciding the shape and the design of the tailored presence in the southeast of the Alliance and several nations announced today that they’re ready to contribute forces and capabilities, both to enhance our presence in the air, at sea and on land and many elements are already agreed but we are working on the full package of measures and we aim at being able to present and to agree and to include, sorry to conclude, at our defence ministerial meeting in February. So what I can say is that the work is progressing well.  Several allies made announcements today that they’re ready to provide different kinds of forces but all the elements are not yet fully decided.  So, some work remains to be done.  And Canada and Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Turkey and the United States announced during the meeting that they will contribute to our increased or enhanced or tailored forward presence in the southeast of the alliance.

Moderator: We’re going to go to the front row here please.

Q: Thank you, Mr. Stoltenberg. Would you please clarify the point about the recently appointed chief of intelligence? Why this exact person was selected for this task, does he have a team and when does he start working? Thank you very much.

Jens Stoltenberg: We are faced with a new and more demanding security environment with all the violence, the instability to the south with ISIL, with turmoil in North Africa, the Middle East and this has direct consequences for NATO allies because it’s close to NATO borders, close to Turkey but we also see that some of this violence, some of this turmoil also inspired terrorist attacks in our own streets. At the same time, we face a very different challenge with a more assertive Russia, which is increasing its military presence close to NATO borders. So, all of this, which is a more demanding security environment, increases the need for us to understand and to assess the challenges we’re faced with, to react in a proportionate, responsive way and therefore intelligence has become even more important. Collect intelligence, share intelligence but also, of course, to understand intelligence.

That’s the reason why we have decided to establish a new division inside NATO which is dedicated to intelligence and the new division is going to be chaired or led by a new Assistant Secretary General on Intelligence or for intelligence.  I have appointed a German. He has a long career from the Foreign Service of Germany but also from their intelligence services. So I regard him as very fit for the task. I’m looking forward to work with him and he will start within the not too long time, but I am not able to give you an exact date but he will be in NATO as soon as possible.  So then, we have been able to strengthen and to improve the way we work on intelligence in NATO and that is also important because that is also related to how we support and help nations to work on intelligence. 

Moderator: We’ll go to Italian media here in the front.

Q: Tomasso Gallavotti, KRONOS: Just a short question because the defence minister of Italy asked for a major role of the joint command in Naples.  I wonder what do you expect on the southern flank of the alliance. Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg: First, I think it is important to underline that what NATO does always has a 360 degree approach meaning that when we, for instance, increase the readiness of our forces, when we now have established the new high readiness joint task force, the Brigade, and when we have tripled the size of the NATO response force to 40,000 troops, that is relevant both for the east and for the south.  This is not something which is earmarked for the east.  It is earmarked for responses to any threats from any direction towards NATO.  So, it is also relevant for the south, the new high readiness joint task force and the enhanced NATO response force.  Second, we are addressing several issues which are, I should say, part of our response to the challenges we see to the south.

We have increased our presence in Turkey with assurance measures in Turkey and I welcome that Italy is contributing with a counter-missile battery SAMP/T, that is important and that is one of the examples of how we have increased our presence in the south with increased NATO presence in Turkey.  We are going to discuss tonight also other issues which are highly relevant for Italy and the South. We are going to discuss the establishment of the Sea Guardian, the new maritime security mission of NATO in the Mediterranean and we will address how Sea Guardian can provide help and support to the EU operation Sophia and we will make decisions tonight hopefully and then I will be able to announce them tomorrow.  So then I can tell you more.  And the last thing we also addressed is, of course, how we can step up the support for the counter-ISIL coalition. We have started to provide direct support with AWACS NATO surveillance planes.  That started last week on the 20th of October and we are also in the process of making decisions on training of Iraqi officers inside Iraq. We have trained them in Jordan for some time now but we are now moving into Iraq and we’ll also make decisions on that tonight. 

Moderator: Go to NPR please.

Q: Thank you, Teri Schultz with NPR. Mr. Secretary General, what is your understanding of the new reinforcements that Russia is adding to its Baltic fleet near Kaliningrad?  There are some reports that are coming from Russian media and I’d just like to have your confirmation of that.  And the Polish Defence Minister has said here at this meeting that this changes the balance of power in and around Kaliningrad.  What is your understanding of what nuclear capabilities may be there now and what your concern may be in a couple of days as it says that there are new warships headed that direction? Thanks.

Jens Stoltenberg: I can confirm that two Russian warships have recently entered the Baltic Sea and NATO is monitoring this movement in the way we always do, in a responsible and measured way; but we are, of course, always following this kind of movement and deployments of Russian naval forces as we, for instance, now also monitor the movement of the aircraft carrier group Kuznetsov into the Mediterranean.  But at the same time, I think we have to understand that this is just yet another example of a pattern we have seen over a long period of time where we see more Russian activity, we see Russian military buildup and we see also more Russian exercises with many different kinds of capabilities. 

And I think it is important for NATO to have a strategic approach to understand that we should not relate to each event but relate to the overall picture.  And that’s exactly why NATO has responded and why NATO is responding with increased readiness of our forces, with increased presence also in the Baltic region and also with small headquarters in the eastern part of the alliance to be able to plan exercises, to coordinate the efforts of the national home defence forces and NATO forces and possible reinforcements.  So, all of this is part of a picture which NATO has responded to and which we’ll continue to respond to.  For me, it is important to react to this in a measured and responsible way and underline that what NATO does in the Baltic region but also in the southeast of the alliance is defensive; it is proportionate and it’s fully in line with our international commitments.

Moderator: We’re going to go to the third row on the left here, please.

Q: [Inaudible]  What is the deadline of the deployment for the battalions and what weapons will they have?

Jens Stoltenberg: Well, the decision we made in July was to start the deployment early 2017, early next year, and then be fully deployed by the summer and that’s still the plan and we are on track and we are moving according to that plan.  And actually, I’m very inspired by the meeting today because so many nations made very firm and concrete decisions and announcements on contributions to the four battalions:  so they will be robust, they will be multi-national and they will be combat-ready.  They will not be exactly the same in the four different countries but I can say that they will be robust, they will be combat- ready and they will be reinforced battalions so they will deliver a very clear message of strength and deterrence from NATO.

Moderator:  We have time for just a couple of more. We’ll go to Wall Street Journal first please.

Q: Mr. Secretary General. One, could you react to the Russian withdrawal of its request to refuel at the Spanish port?  Is that a positive development?  And two, you’ve repeatedly said NATO is a defensive alliance but are you at all worried that we are in an escalatory situation where NATO is sending tanks to the eastern flank and Russia is sending ships to the Baltic Sea, Russia is reinforcing the east Mediterranean, NATO is reinforcing in the Black Sea. Is this a dangerous escalatory situation?

Jens Stoltenberg: NATO does not seek confrontation with Russia. We don’t want a new cold war and we don’t want a new arms race and therefore, what NATO does is defensive and it is proportionate.  At the same time, NATO has to react when we, over a long period of time, have seen a substantial military buildup by Russia and we have seen them modernize their military capabilities and most importantly, we have seen them willing to use military force against neighbours:  Crimea, Ukraine - but also Georgia has also seen a threatening rhetoric from Russia. So, NATO has to respond, to continue to deliver credible deterrence in a new security environment and we have to remember that the reason why we deliver deterrence, why NATO is strong is not because we want to provoke a conflict but it is because we want to prevent a conflict and the best way to do that is to stay strong, united and be firm in our response.

We combine this message with a very clear message that we seek a dialogue, we seek a more cooperative relationship with Russia and we want transparency.  Therefore, we are transparent on our exercises, we are transparent on our increased presence and actually at the last meeting of the NATO-Russia Council, we spent a lot of time going through what NATO is doing, illustrating exactly what we’re doing but also by being transparent, contributing to try to avoid even increased tensions.  And especially when tensions are high, it’s important that we keep channels for political dialogue open.  Then, we have seen deployments of different assets. At the same time, I think it’s important to underline that every nation has the right to exercise their troops, its forces and Russia has the right to operate in international waters with its naval assets. So, for me, that underlines the importance to not react to each individual event but look at the broader strategic picture and have a strategic approach and we have done exactly that based on a development we have seen over a long period of time.

Moderator:  Last question, we’re going to go to the center at the back with the camera, please.

Q: It’s Lucia Abelan from El Pais:  It’s a follow-up to my colleague’s question.  Were you satisfied by the explanations that the Spanish government gave about not letting the Russian warships be refueled in Spanish territory? Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg: I said this morning that it’s up to each nation to decide whether they provide supplies and refuel naval ships and that’s still my position.  At the same time, I stated that we are concerned about the potential use of this carrier group to increase air strikes on Aleppo, exacerbating the humanitarian disaster ... catastrophe we already see in Aleppo and I think I shall limit myself to say the same now. Thank you. Good evening.