by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Munich Security Conference

  • 18 Feb. 2017 -
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  • Last updated: 20 Feb. 2017 08:05

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addresses Munich Security Conference

Dear Wolfgang, thank you for hosting all of us. It’s always a great pleasure to be here at the Munich Security Conference, but especially this year because these are really pivotal times. We face the greatest security challenges for generations so I think it’s even more important that we meet and discuss and address these challenges together.

For almost 70 years, the partnership between Europe and North America has ensured peace, freedom and prosperity. It enabled us to successfully deter the Soviet Union, and bring the Cold War to an end, and this partnership also enabled the integration of Europe. European leaders have always understood that going it alone is not an option. And, after two world wars that started in Europe, American leaders know that they have a profound strategic interest in a stable and secure Europe. The only time we have invoked our collective defence clause, the Article 5, was after an attack on the United States, terrorist attacks on 9/11 in 2001. And this was more than just a gesture. Hundreds of thousands of European and Canadian soldiers have served in Afghanistan in the last 16 years. Around a thousand have paid the ultimate price. 

This bond between Europe and North America, embodied in the NATO Alliance, remains essential for both. Europe needs North America and North America needs Europe. Together, we are responding to a changing security environment. NATO has implemented the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War.

Our response is defensive and measured and proportionate. We do not seek to provoke conflict, but to prevent conflict and preserve peace. To keep our people safe, NATO is also projecting stability beyond our borders. Responding to the turmoil on NATO’s borders in the Middle East and North Africa, the Alliance is helping to train security forces in partner countries like Jordan and Tunisia. Because when our neighbours are more stable, we are more secure.

We have led the international engagement in Afghanistan for more than a decade. And we continue to train Afghan forces to keep their country secure, and deny safe haven to international terrorists.

Every NATO Ally is part of the US-led coalition against ISIL. Our AWACS surveillance aircraft support coalition air operations and NATO has just started and launched a training and capacity building programme in Iraq.

But the Alliance can and should do more.

Training local forces is our best tool to fight terrorism. NATO has decades of experience in this area. Tried and tested structures. The ability to coordinate efforts by many nations and over 40 partners willing to help. All of this gives the Alliance unique staying power, and that is key. Because stabilising our neighbourhood and fighting terrorism is not a one-off event. But a generational effort.

The ability of our Alliance to fulfil all its tasks depends on all Allies contributing their fair share. Europeans cannot ask the United States to commit to Europe’s defence if they are not willing to commit more themselves. In 2014, Allies sat around the same table, looked each other in the eye and agreed to invest more in defence and all heard Chancellor Merkel and Vice President Pence stressing this morning the importance of increased defence spending and fairer burden sharing. That is good for Europe and it’s good for NATO. I applaud Chancellor Merkel’s commitment to increasing Germany’s defence spending. It is a vital contribution to European freedom, peace and security. Fairer burden sharing has been my top priority since taking office. In 2016, after many years of cuts, defence spending increased across Europe and Canada by 3.8 % in real terms or ten billion US dollars. That is a significant step in the right direction, but it is not enough. The Alliance still has a long way to go. All Allies must speed up their efforts to meet the target of spending 2% of GDP on defence. Burden sharing is not just about spending. It’s also about the skilled troops and high-end capabilities for NATO operations. And the political will to come to each other’s defence. NATO’s new enhanced forward presence is an example of burden sharing. Four battlegroups involving 15 European Allies are deploying to the Baltic States and Poland. Sending a clear signal of solidarity. A strong European defence also contributes to fairer burden-sharing. And High Representative Vice President Federica Mogherini and I we work very closely on how we can make sure that stronger European defence complements what NATO does and do not compete. And our cooperation is excellent, we are really moving forward together. So as long as NATO and the European Union complement, not compete with, each other.

Because a strong Europe cannot mean Europe alone. Just as I don’t believe ‘America First’ means ‘America Alone’. That is the core of our transatlantic bond: NATO is strong because we stand together.

We are an Alliance of 28 democracies. Debate is part of our DNA, and we have our differences, but that’s nothing to fear. Open debate is not a sign of weakness but of strength. What matters is that political leaders on both sides of the Atlantic – and across the political spectrum – have always agreed on our core mission: we defend each other, to preserve our freedom and protect our values.

So Ladies and Gentlemen, NATO’s founding Washington treaty committed Allies to unite their efforts ‘for the preservation of peace and security’.

Those words were written by a generation who had lived through the horrors of World War I and then World War II. Who believed that history was not predetermined and that they could build a peaceful international order, founded on strong, multilateral institutions.NATO’s history is one of common challenges overcome together.

But the question is..can we match the ambition, the ideals and the achievements of those who crafted our institutions all those years ago? The post-war generation rose to their challenge. Now we must rise to ours.

Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger: Let me, if I may, pursue this burden sharing issue just once step further. I think most of us here in the hall understand exactly what was agreed in Wales and what was agreed and confirmed in Warsaw. And I think most people here would agree that more needs to be done, so that’s not really in dispute, but what, that’s my question, what is the meaning and the potential consequences of what I would call the Trump-Pence ultimatum? In other words, what happens if we don’t fulfil, all of us, that particular goal, what happens then? Are there consequences, have the American delegation explained what would happen if by the end of this year not everybody has responded in the way that’s maybe seen as desirable? Tell us all about that.

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: So my focus is now on what can we do to make sure that we implement what we have promised, that we deliver on what we promised all together back in 2014. And this is not about the US forcing Europe to increase defence spending. This is about actually all 28 Allies including 26 European Allies sitting around the same table back in 2014 and agreeing that, taking into account a more dangerous world, a more demanding security environment, we have to invest more in defence. So, I think it’s important to understand that it is in the interest of Europe to invest more in defence and the good thing is that even if there is a long way to go and even if today only 5 nations that meet the 2% target, actually we have started to move. In 2014 we decided 3 things: we decided to stop the cuts, then gradually increase defence spending and then move towards2% within a decade. In 2015 we stopped the cuts, 2015 was the first year in many years we didn’t have cuts in defence spending across Europe and Canada. Then in 2016 we had a significant increase of 10 billion dollars or close to 4% in real terms. So actually after just two years we have made two important steps: stop the cuts and started a significant increase. We have a long way to go, there is much more to do but I’m encouraged by the fact that we have started to move in the right direction. So my focus is on how can we make sure that this is something we will continue and I’m confident because I see a very strong will in the European capitals and in the US and Canada that we should do this together.

Konstantin Kosachev, Russian Parliament: Mr. Secretary General, coming from Russia, I became strongly confused right now listening to you, for the simple reason that you were repeatedly speaking not just on behalf of NATO which would be a most natural thing, but on behalf of the whole Europe. I consider Russia and other European countries as natural European participants as NATO members. But you were repeatedly saying North America is in need of Europe, Europe is in need of North America and so forth. We have two major European organizations, the Council of Europe consisting of 47 European countries; the OSCE consisting of 56 countries, most of them European. And this is for me a very good format for discussing European security amongst other things and the idea that NATO’s concentration on itself and NATO’s ambition to speak on behalf of the whole Europe and all European countries does disturb the European cooperation and their dialogue within the major European security organizations like the OSCE and the Council of Europe, where NATO countries sometimes speak in one voice, again, in contradiction of the rules of procedure of these two organizations. For me as a Russian politician NATO is probably a good thing for NATO countries but it’s offensive for European security because it does not unite Europe, it divides Europe and it divides security, providing better conditions for certain countries and other conditions for the rest of the countries of Europe. How would you respond to that?

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: First of all I really believe that a strong transatlantic bond is good for the whole of Europe because it contributes to peace and stability in Europe and that’s good for the whole of Europe. Secondly, NATO is strong not only because we represent 28 Allies, we are 28 Allies, and I represent those Allies, but NATO is strong also because we have more than 40 partner nations and many of them in Europe. We work closely with countries like Sweden and Finland in the north and I know very much that they also welcome a strong transatlantic bond. We work with countries in the Balkans, in the western Balkans, some are members, but some are not, but they are partners of NATO and they appreciate a strong transatlantic bond. We work with countries like Georgia and Ukraine, not NATO members, but strongly in favor of a strong partnership with NATO and a strong transatlantic bond. So I really believe that the transatlantic bond is important for the 28 Allies of course but it’s also important for the stability and the peace in Europe. Add to that that NATO has also enabled the enlargement of the Alliance after the Cold War and also been a framework for the enlargement of the European Union which I think is important, both of them making NATO and Europe stronger and at peace.

Sir Ming Campbell: Secretary General, thank you very much. I wonder if in this elongated debate you would accept that the question is not so much what we spend but how we spend it, and in particular, we should bear in mind that the 2% is a minimum target, and should be interpreted in that way and Mrs. Merkel spoke about common procurement, what about the two principles of interoperability and for specialization, so that Europe as a whole can provide a full spectrum of capability?

 Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: I absolutely agree with you that this is also about how we spend the money, and actually what we agreed in 2014, 28 Heads of State and Government, was not only to spend more but also to spend better we had to do both, but it’s not either or better, we need to spend at 2% better and that’s the reason why we are addressing both the importance of both increased defence spending and also do what we do in a more coordinated more efficient way. And it is a reality that it’s possible to waste a lot of money on defence is you spend the money in the wrong way and one the challenges we face especially in Europe is the fragmentation of our defence industries. I often use the example that in the US they have one type of battle tanks, in Europe we have 5 different. In the US there is one armoured infrantry vehicle, I think in Europe it’s 13. So of course everything related to the economy of scale is much more utilized in the US because there are bigger umbers while in Europe we haven’t been able to utilize that in the same way. I know that that’s difficult, because I was for some years Prime Minister in Norway and one of the first decisions I made back in 2000 was decide that when we were going to buy new frigates for Norway we were not going to buy Norwegian ones because they were more expensive, but we were going to buy Spanish frigates. That was one of the reasons I lost the elections the same year. So I didn’t repeat it the next time and I started to buy Norwegian and I won some elections. So the problem of course is that it’s extremely sensitive to integrate the defence industry but we have to do it of course because that will reduce cost and make sure that we spend better than we do today.