Joint press point
with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė
Thank you so much President Grybauskaitė, it’s a great pleasure to be together with you here today. And we have just watched NATO troops take part in Exercise Iron Wolf and we have seen their professionalism, their dedication, and we have seen how ten NATO Allies can act together as one. I am impressed by what I’ve seen today I and I would also like to thank Lithuania for hosting this exercise and providing so many NATO Allies the chance to exercise and train together.
I would also like to thank Lithuania for hosting, one of the four NATO battlegroups. And also thank you for your personal leadership and strong commitment to the Alliance and to the rapid implementation of the decisions we made in Warsaw last year to establish these four battlegroups. The four battlegroups are a sign of NATO unity, strength and resolve. Here in Lithuania, Germany provides the lead with contributions from Belgium and Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Norway, serving alongside Lithuanian troops. And for the first time these forces are on exercise with the NATO battlegroup based in Poland. So actually link up the battlegroup in Lithuania with the battlegroup in Poland, showing how we can work together and show NATO unity and NATO resolve. The battlegroup in Poland is also multinational, it’s led by the United States with forces from the U.K. and Romania. These NATO battlegroups send a clear message: an attack on one Ally is an attack on all. They show the continuing strength of the transatlantic bond. Soldiers from North America and Europe standing together, ready to defend each other. NATO is founded on the bond between Europe and North America. A strong NATO is good for Europe but it’s also good for North America.
The multinational forces we see here today have shown that they are capable and that they are combat ready. They are here to prevent conflict and preserve peace. They are part of our response to the changed security environment. We have also tripled the size of the NATO response force to 40,000 troops, with a Spearhead Force ready to move within days. Allied jets patrol the skies over the Baltic countries as part of NATO’s Air Policing Mission. NATO ships help keep the Baltic Sea secure. And the United States has significantly increased its military presence in Europe with more troops, more investments in infrastructure and also with more exercises.
It is only a year since we decided at our Summit in Warsaw to establish these battlegroups and I think the fact that we’ve been able to implement that decision shows our ability to act when needed. I am proud of what we have achieved. It has shown that NATO can react quickly and decisively. And that our Alliance is capable of adapting to meet any challenge, at any time, to keep our nations safe.
Q1. Julian Barnes, Wall Street Journal: Mr. Secretary General, this is the first time two of the forward presence battlegroups have come together, does NATO need more flexibility to move these battlegroups around, bring them together potentially for longer periods of time in order to increase their deter affect?
A1. Secretary General: What we have seen today is a tremendous display of skills and NATO resolve and how different NATO Allies can work together as one. And NATO will always look into how we can make sure that we are able to move, that we are able to adapt, that we are able to respond in an appropriate way and therefore we have established these four battlegroups but we have also done many more things. We have improved the way we are making decisions, we are exercising more together and we are also addressing other challenges like for instance cyber threats, hybrid threats and we are improving our special operation forces the way we work together on exercises and just by having the four battlegroups deployed in the three Baltic countries and Poland we are also improving our situational awareness, add to that that we are also stepping up our efforts when it comes to intelligence, all of that improves the way we are able to assess, understand and also be able to foresee developments and increased threats. One of the areas where we still have work to do is when it comes to logistics, infrastructure, the ability to move our forces fast to Europe, and that is exactly one the areas where we are now working together with all Allies, both on the physical investments in infrastructure but also on all the legal and technical issues related to how we can fast move reinforcements if needed into this area.
Q2. Lithuanian National TV: Mr. Secretary General, is NATO going to further strengthen its presence in the region and are any increases of troops planned during the Zapad exercise? Thank you.
A2. Secretary General: Our focus now is on the implementation of what we have already decided, on the four battlegroups, on strengthening our cyber defences, on strengthening intelligence and also on improving logistics, infrastructure to be able to reinforce if needed. And NATO has never before had anything similar when it comes to presence in this part of the Alliance. And we have to remember that four battlegroups are only one element of the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War. We have tripled the size of the NATO response force, we have established the new Spearhead Force which is able to move within days, we have also improved the link between national home defence forces for instance in Lithuania with NATO forces by establishing eight small headquarters in the Baltic countries, in Poland and some other central and eastern Allies in NATO and thereby linking home defence forces more closely to multinational NATO forces. We are strengthening our maritime presence. So we are doing many things at the same time and then we will continue to assess, continue to evaluate and learn and then respond in an appropriate way as we see the security environment develop.
Q3. [inaudible]: Mr. Secretary General, is it taken into account [inaudible] Europe NATO military threat not only from Russia but from Belarus during the exercise Zapad 2017?
A3. Secretary General: We are going to follow and monitor the Zapad exercise area here closely, and all nations have the right to exercise their forces but it is important that nations, be it Belarus or Russia, exercise their forces that they do that in accordance with well established guidelines and agreements and international obligations and we have something called the Vienna document which outlines how exercises have to be notified and be subject to international inspections and we call on Russia and also Belarus to do that in accordance with the Vienna document so that we have transparency, predictability related to Zapad 2017. We are also working in the framework of the NATO-Russia Council to have more transparency, predictability, connected to military posture but also exercises, and that is always important but especially important now when we see more military presence along our borders in this region. It’s even more important to have transparency, international observation of exercises like Zapad. NATO has already responded to a significant increased military strength or military build-up of Russia in this region. And that’s why we have four battlegroups, why we have more exercises and also why we have, in addition to the NATO troops, the NATO battlegroups, also have an increased US military presence, a bilateral US military presence on top of the NATO presence, so all together this is a formidable display of NATO resolve and then we will continue to follow the situation and monitor also the Zapad exercise and then continue to be vigilant and ready to act if needed.
Q4. Deutsche Welle: Mr. Secretary General, if you could also briefly comment on the contribution that Germany is making to NATO here and the Baltics?
A4. Secretary General: I’d like to commend Germany for taking the task of being the lead nation for the battlegroup here in Lithuania and that just once again confirms the strong commitment of Germany to NATO, to our collective defence, and I’ve met with German soldiers today and I’ve seen how professional they are and I’ve seen their commitment, and that is yet another example of how Germany contributes to NATO in many different ways. I’ve seen German soldiers in Afghanistan, in Kosovo. I’ve met them in the Aegean Sea helping to cope with the migrant and refugee crisis, so Germany is really contributing to this Alliance and that is something we welcome very much and now also with a lead role here in the Baltics, in Lithuania. I also welcome the fact that Germany is now investing more in defence because we decided back in 2014 that we had to stop the cuts, gradually increase and then move towards spending 2% of GDP on defence. Lithuania will reach 2% next year, Latvia will do the same, Romania announced that they will reach 2% this year, and I welcome also that Germany, the largest economy in Europe, has started to increase defence spending, enabling them to take a more active role in missions and operations like for instance the battlegroup here in Lithuania. I also welcome the fact that Germany has a very clear message that when it comes to the importance of NATO’s dual- track approach to Russia, it’s about defence, deterrence and dialogue. We are not aiming at isolating Russia, we don’t want a new Cold War, we don’t want a new arms race, Russia is our neighbor, Russia is here to stay, so I also welcome the fact that Germany has a very clear message that we need strong defence, strong deterrence, but at the same time political dialogue with Russia.
Q5. Baltic News Service: Mr. Secretary General, Chinese naval fleet is reported to be heading to the Baltic Sea for the military exercise with Russia. Do you find Chinese military presence in the Baltic Sea concerning?
A5. Secretary General: we are monitoring all military activities around NATO territory and also close to our territorial waters very closely and of course we will also follow any exercises and military presence in the Baltic Sea, for many nations, including from China, but again, nations have the right to exercise their forces, the important thing for us is that this is done in accordance with the international obligations and rules and arrangements we have for military exercises.