Press conference

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

  • 16 Feb. 2017 -
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  • Last updated: 16 Feb. 2017 16:34

(As delivered)

Press Conference NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

Good morning.

We have just concluded a meeting on strengthening NATO’s deterrence and defence.

NATO’s ability to respond rapidly to any threat depends on our robust and flexible command structure.

So today, we agreed on the next steps to modernise the NATO Command Structure, based on recommendations from our senior commanders. We also received an update on the deployment of our new deterrent forces in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

Troops have started to arrive. 

And we expect the four multinational battle groups to be fully operational by June.

They are a clear demonstration of NATO’s transatlantic unity and resolve.

And they send a clear message to any potential aggressor.

Our deployments are defensive and measured. We will not match Russia soldier for soldier, tank for tank, or plane for plane. Our aim is to prevent conflict, not to provoke it.

We also discussed our presence in the Black Sea region. Complementing our strengthened regional posture in the air and on land – based on a multinational framework brigade in Romania.

Eight Allies have committed to provide brigade staff. And five Allies have committed land and air forces for training and air policing.

Today, we agreed on two additional maritime measures: an increased NATO naval presence in the Black Sea for enhanced training, exercises and situational awareness, and a maritime coordination function for our Standing Naval Forces when operating with other Allied forces in the Black Sea region.

And this shows Allies stand together, united and strong.

Cyber defence is another top priority for NATO. We have already strengthened the protection of our networks, established Cyber Rapid Reaction teams and are helping Allies to improve their own cyber defences. Today, we approved an updated Cyber Defence Plan, and a roadmap to implement cyberspace as an operational domain. This will increase our ability to work together, develop capabilities, and share information. Cyber defence is part of NATO’s response to hybrid warfare. Hybrid attacks can damage our economies, our transport and communications networks, and our energy security. And the measures we approved today will help make our societies more resilient and better prepared.

Yesterday, we agreed to set up a new Hub for the South at our Joint Force Command in Naples. Helping us to boost our understanding of regional challenges. And work more closely with partners.

One of those partners is Libya. Last night, I received a formal request from Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Al Sarraj. Requesting NATO’s advice and expertise in the field of defence and security institution building. At the Warsaw Summit, Allies agreed to provide Libya with support if requested by the Government of National Accord. This request has now been received and the North Atlantic Council will discuss how to take it forward as soon as possible.

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

OANA LUNGESCU (NATO Spokesperson):  Okay we’ll go to Wall Street Journal, front row.

Q: Wall Street Journal, Julian Barnes. Mr. Secretary General the Russian Defence Minister has said that dialogue from a position of strength is hopeless. This is something you often say, that dialogue must be built on a position of strength. What is your reaction to that comment? Is, does NATO still seek dialogue? Is NATO prepared to moderate at all its deterrent measures?

JENS STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General):  We will continue to work for dialogue with Russia. We don’t want to isolate Russia, we don’t want a new cold war, we are working for a more constructive relationship with Russia and we will continue to do exactly that. But of course our dialogue with Russia has to be based on some core principles, the respect for the territorial integrity of all nations, states in Europe including Ukraine and of course we have to combine dialogue with credible deterrence. And that is a lesson we learned actually during the Cold War and a lesson which taught us that it’s possible to have dialogue but at the same time have a firm, predictable approach including credible deterrence. This worked towards the Soviet Union during the Cold War and I’m absolutely certain that this strategy is also the right strategy in approaching Russia in a very different security environment today. So we will continue to deliver credible deterrence, be firm and predictable; but at the same time strive for a more constructive relationship with Russia.

OANA LUNGESCU:  BBC in the sixth row.

Q:  Thank you, yeah good morning Secretary General, Jonathan Marcus from the BBC. Two quick questions, one could you flesh out a little more what you mean by an enhanced NATO naval presence in the Black Sea? And importantly yesterday the new U.S. Defence Secretary in urging NATO allies to spend more talked about the possibility of the U.S. moderating its commitment to NATO if they do not follow through on spending pledges. What do you understand to mean by the United States moderating its commitment to NATO?

JENS STOLTENBERG:  We all heard a very firm message from Secretary Mattis yesterday about the importance of fair burden sharing in the alliance and this is a fair and firm message from the United States. It was supported by all the allies in the meeting because they understand that the strength of our alliance is dependent on a fair burden sharing and increased defence spending from those allies spending less than 2 % today. And the firm message from Secretary Mattis reflects a political reality in the United States and therefore I think it is a message which is fully understood and therefore I welcome for instance United Kingdom meeting the 2 % target, I also welcome the fact that more and more allies are now increasing defence spending and I expect for instance allies like Romania, like Lithuania, like Latvia to very soon reach the 2 % target. Our collective defence clause Article Five is unconditional. It’s absolute and it’s the core of the alliance. So I think the important thing now is not to speculate on what will happen if NATO is not able to deliver on increased defence spending but to focus on how to implement, how to deliver. And we have already started, we have turned a corner by stopping the cuts in defence spending in 2015, having a significant increase in defence spending across Europe and Canada in 2016 by close to 4 % in real terms and then we had the very fruitful and important discussion yesterday both in the working session but also during the dinner addressing different ways, different measures. For instance the idea of national plans making sure that we keep up the momentum, continue to deliver and implement the pledge we made to increase defence investments.

The Black Sea is about many different elements. It’s about the land element, the sea, naval element and the air element and you asked about the naval element and that is about our standing naval force which will then more frequently move into the Black Sea. They will conduct exercises together with all the allies and also increase our situational awareness through more naval presence. This will be coordinated – NATO …NATO allies, so it’s done in a measured and well-coordinated way.

OANA LUNGESCU:  Okay. Gentlemen over there, in the middle.

Q:  Thank you. My name is [inaudible], I’m from Russia, St. Petersburg [inaudible] Journal. Again about Black Sea operations, how your decision of increasing naval forces coordinates with Montreux  doctrine? And your activities in Black Sea could be somehow limited in time or in numbers?

JENS STOLTENBERG:  Everything we do will be in line with our international commitments and obligations and including also in accordance with the Montreux Convention. So NATO has, no, several NATO allies are literal states to the Black Sea. Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania and we have partner countries like Ukraine and Georgia. We will have increased presence in the Black Sea but it will be measured, it will be defensive and it will in no way aim at provoking any conflict or escalating tensions but it is one element in a broader adaptation of NATO defence and deterrence to a more demanding and challenging security environment including in the Black Sea region.

OANA LUNGESCU:  Rivista Italiana Difesa.

Q:  Yes. Actually I want to comment to Secretary Mattis again. So he has been quite tough towards European countries and for what concern Italy as Secretary Mattis has [inaudible] the Italian role and commitment to NATO. So my question is how will the alliance measure up the goodwill Secretary Mattis is asking for? What are the criterias in addition to the budget and of course of reversing trend, how do you assess whether a country is good willing to go ahead or not? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG:  Burden sharing is not only about spending. Burden sharing is also about contributions to NATO operations, NATO activities and NATO missions and for instance Italy is contributing in many different ways. Italy plays an important role in Afghanistan, being one of the lead nations there. Italy contributes to our enhanced readiness and preparedness by being responsible for one of our Spearhead Forces and Italy is contributing to our presence also in the eastern part of the alliance. And not least Italy is responsible for deploying batteries, SAMP-T batteries in Turkey which is part of our assurance measures for Turkey. So many allies are contributing in many different ways, with forces, with capabilities to different NATO operations and missions. And I think that Secretary Mattis very much recognized the contributions of European allies to our shared security. Secretary Mattis expressed strong support for the alliance, he called NATO my second home, he knows NATO very well and Secretary Mattis is really a true friend of NATO, he knows this alliance better than most other leaders in NATO. But at the same time because he cares about the future of the alliance he also among friends conveyed a firm and fair message about increased defence spending and of course I expect all allies to meet and to make good on the commitment they made back in 2014; we sat all around the same table, we looked into each other’s eyes and we promised to increase defence spending and to obtain a fair burden sharing. So I think it’s actually an expression of his support for NATO that Secretary Mattis conveys a very firm message about the importance of increased defence spending.


Q:  Alastair Bunkall, Sky News. Secretary General do you worry at the moment that the issue of defence spending is actually becoming quite distracting? Because it does seem at times it’s all anybody’s talking about.

JENS STOLTENBERG:  I’m not worried about focus on defence spending, I welcome that and actually I have worked for that since I became Secretary General of NATO. That has been my top priority in all my meetings with leaders from different allied countries in different capitals and here in Brussels. And I welcome both a very strong focus on the importance of fair burden sharing, increased defence spending but I welcome even more the fact that NATO has started, that NATO allies have started to move in the right direction. I’m not underestimating the challenges, the hard work that lies ahead of us but I’m inspired by the fact that after many years of decline we were able to stop the cuts in 2015 and in 2016 we were able to have, I would call it a significant increase. There is still a very long way to go but it is inspiring to see that allies are able to shift the trend and to move in the right direction. So I welcome the fact that there is a lot of focus, attention to defence spending and it was welcomed in the meeting yesterday. All allies agreed that we have to deliver on what we agreed in 2014 about fair burden sharing.

OANA LUNGESCU:  UNIAN, last question.

Q:  Yesterday you mentioned that ministers of defence started discussion on the idea of national plans and milestones to ensure steady progress in meeting 2 % target of defence spending. In this regard are you considering any timeframe in order to prepare those national plans? And for example do you think that those plans should be ready before NATO summit in May in order heads of states and governments should confirm them? And if I may have one more question, in all likelihood you’re going to meet President of Ukraine Poroshenko in Munich, what do you expect of that meeting and what kind of progress do you expect from Ukraine to deliver in this 2017 year? Thank you very much.

JENS STOLTENBERG:  First of all the idea of national plans was or is an idea that was just launched yesterday and I think it’s much too early to conclude exactly what we will do but it’s one idea that has been put on the table and now it’s going to be discussed. I’m not able to tell you now whether we’re going to agree and what kind of national plans that may be but I welcome different ideas and we should look into all of them and see if we can develop them to useful tools in making sure that we are implementing our defence investment pledge. Let me also underline that it was a strong support for the need to increase defence investments but also a strong support from all allies that we need to focus also on output. Not only how much we spend but how much we get out of what we are spending on defence. So there is a need for more spending but also better spending. And one part of that is to make sure that allies are working together, we have this concept of framework nations, we have joint developments of capabilities and actually during this meeting many allies are signing different agreements where they agree to develop different new capabilities, for instance air to air fueling, tankers and different other capabilities. I know that different allies are signing different kinds of agreements and this is a way to make what we do more efficient and increase output and I welcome that and NATO facilitates that.

I will meet Poroshenko, I meet President Poroshenko regularly, I meet him, I speak with him on the phone. Last week we had the Ukrainian Prime Minister visiting the NATO and the North Atlantic Council. So we have a very close political dialogue with different political leaders in Ukraine, with the government, with the president and NATO will continue to provide practical support, political support for Ukraine. Ukraine is a partner and we highly value the partnership with Ukraine.

OANA LUNGESCU:  That’s all we have time for now but the Secretary General will be back in a couple of hours after the NATO Georgia Commission. Thank you.