by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Inauguration of the Helsinki Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats, with EU High Representative Federica Mogherini

  • 02 Oct. 2017 -
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  • Last updated 09-Oct-2017 16:08

JENS STOLTENBERG (Secretary General of NATO): Prime Minister – no, sorry – President, Minister, and Prime Minister Sipilä and the High Representative, Vice President Mogherini, it's great to be here together with all of you today and to take part in this inauguration of this centre to counter hybrid threats.

It is especially good to be here together with you because this shows how we are moving forward on the NATO-EU cooperation, and Federica just described that. But let me add it also describes and is yet another example of how we are moving together not only to strengthen NATO-EU cooperation but also how NATO is strengthening the cooperation with partner countries as Finland.

And Sauli, you remember that last November you visited me at the NATO headquarters. And that was actually… I was not aware of that before you told me, but that was the first time a Finnish president had visited the NATO headquarters. So it's yet another example of how we, step-by-step, are strengthening NATO-EU cooperation but also NATO cooperation with EU members and partner countries like Finland. And this centre illustrates how we are also delivering concrete results as part of this cooperation.

Then I would also like to underline that, for NATO, it is important to have partners like Finland because you are a very highly valued and important partner for the whole of NATO. You contribute to NATO missions and operations. You have done that for many, many years: in the Balkans, in Kosovo, in Afghanistan. I recently visited Afghanistan. I met the Finnish soldiers and personnel there. And you're also participating in NATO exercises, in the NATO response force. You are helping, working together with NATO in many different ways. It's good for NATO, and I hope it's also good for Finland.

Then you have a special skill or Finland has a special role to play when it comes to developing NATO's relationship with Russia because you have the long border with Russia, you have the long relationship with Russia. This year you celebrated hundred years of independence. And you know better than I that those hundred years is very much about Finland's relationship to the neighbour in the east, to Russia, in good times and in bad times.

And the Finnish border with Russia is longer than the combined border of all NATO allies with Russia. So therefore I would also like to thank you, Finland, for what you do when it comes to sharing knowledge, experience, analysis on the relationship with Russia, which is also important for NATO.

Add to that that we have now one concrete example where we are working together and where NATO is playing a key role, and that is when it comes to—we call it air safety or safety in the Baltic region, air safety, the issues we have seen with some incidents, some accidents, some dangerous situations. NATO discussed it; we discussed it in the NATO-Russia Council; I discussed it with the President, and now there's a very constructive process going on within the ICAO framework to address how we can agree on guidelines, on arrangements to increase air safety also for when it comes to military planes, state-owned aircrafts in the Baltic Sea region.

We still have some work to do, but Finland is the key country in leading and hosting that process, which brings together NATO allies, Russia, Baltic states, and then working on how can we actually make some real progress in addressing something which has been of great concern for all of us.

So my first message is to thank you, thank Finland for the partnership with NATO, and for being an important platform also for developing the political dialogue with Russia.

Let me also add that, when you mentioned the example with the bicycles, you know that up in the north we have a border with Russia.

And suddenly thousands of people showed up there and it was called Petsamo but now it's called Pechenga. And they started to cross the borders. And the whole thing is that anyone wants to cross the border into Norway in the middle of winter, that's not normal.

But the second thing was that, instead of skis, they brought bicycles. And that's because it's forbidden by law to cross the Norwegian-Russian border on foot. It's not a Norwegian law; it's a Russian law. And the easiest way to get a vehicle was to buy a bicycle.

So they actually brought thousands of bicycles into Norway. They didn't smuggle bicycles, but they actually were fleeing a war and so the refugees coming to Norway, this was back in 2015. But it illustrates it was actually bicycles that was the big issue in much of the coverage of all those people crossing that border.

Then I agree with what the President and the High Representative have said about the importance of this centre. Let me just add some reflections and some points.

And the first thing is that hybrid threats are many different threats, and we use the phrase hybrid to cover actually many different things: normally a kind of mixture of military and non-military means of aggression; a combination of covert and overt operations and measures, everything from propaganda, from disinformation to actually the use of regular forces, from tweets to tanks; sometimes soldiers in uniform, sometimes soldiers without uniform; and sometimes something that happens in the cyberspace and sometimes things that happens at our borders.

And this combination of so many different things at the same time with the aim to disguise and to hide the real intention, that has got the name “hybrid threats.” And it's a kind of buzzword which I hear every place or everywhere I go now.

And therefore, I think it is important to remind also all of the fact that covert operations, disinformation, the efforts to try to disguise your intentions: that's not something new. It is at least as old as the Trojan horse. So it has happened before. If there is something new, then it is the scale and the scope and the speed. So it's used more now. And the speed has increased because we can, for instance, use some cyber, the Internet, to conduct a lot of your hybrid measures.

And therefore, NATO has responded. We have responded in close cooperation with the European Union, responded in close cooperation with partner countries like Finland.

Just to briefly mention what we have done, I will mention at least three areas where we have reacted and adapted. The first thing we have done is to improve our situational awareness, meaning to improve the way of understanding what is going on. Because one of the main challenges with hybrid threats is that you don't understand that you are attacked before it's too late. So everything that can improve our intelligence, our surveillance, and our reconnaissance is also a way to prepare and to react and to defend against hybrid threats.

Therefore, we have established a new division only working with intelligence in NATO. We are improving the ways we are sharing and analyzing, understanding intelligence, which is extremely important for also addressing hybrid threats. We are developing our reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities. We will soon deploy, or have some new NATO drones, which will be key in a hybrid situation to improve situational awareness, and we are also working of course with the European Union also when it comes to sharing information, improving the way to analyze and to understand the hybrid threats.

So that's the first area of response from NATO: improved situational awareness to be able to foresee and understand what is going on.

The second thing we have done is to significantly increase the readiness of our forces. And we have done that in different ways. We have tripled the size of what we call the NATO Response Force to 30,000 troops. We have, as part of that, established a new Joint High Readiness Brigade, or a VJTF, Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, which is a brigade that can react within a few days.

And perhaps for at least many countries, perhaps the most important element, is that we have actually increased our military presence in some of those countries which are most exposed.

We have deployed four battle groups to the three Baltic countries and Poland, and also increased our presence in the southeast of the Alliance. So just the fact that we now have troops and NATO multinational troops in the three Baltic countries and Poland of course increases significantly our ability to react fast if something happens.

So the deployment of the battle groups, the new High Readiness Joint Task Force, and the tripling of the size of the NATO Response Force, all of that all together and other measures have increased the readiness, meaning our ability to react quickly if needed and if we see small, green men showing up somewhere where they should not show up, then NATO will be there.

And the third thing we have done to respond to a more challenging security environment with more hybrid threats is to improve our resilience. And we have done that in many different ways, and again, in cooperation with the European Union and partners as Finland.

Perhaps the most important area where we have improved our resilience is when it comes to infrastructure. We work with also, in the EU, when it comes to, for instance, infrastructure, energy security, but in particular cyber. And that's part about being able to defend our own networks. There is no military preparation; there is no military activity; there is no military conflict without a big cyber dimension. So we have to be able to support and defend our own networks.

But of course it's also about working with the European Union. We have an arrangement with the European Union. Experts are exchanging information, sharing experiences on how to help member states – NATO members, EU members – to strengthen their resilience and their ability to defend their own cyber networks.

And that's and that's extremely important because we have seen that many of the hybrid threats, they actually take the formats, different kinds of hybrid attacks, undermining our democratic processes, reducing our ability to have free and open discussions without fake news and disinformation.

That's also an area where we have learned a lot from Finland because you have really focused in so many years on the resilience, on how to be able to protect your own societies and your own also infrastructure and networks, and that's yet another example of how we believe or really see that cooperation with Finland is of mutual benefit, both for Finland and for NATO.

And then we have this centre, which is a new building block in how we are responding to hybrid threats. And I strongly believe that to have a centre like this as a hub for sharing information, for sharing experiences, for learning from each other, for organizing training, and for also doing some practical work and looking into how we can address specific hybrid threats, it will be of great advantage both for EU, for NATO, and of course for all our member states, including Finland.

So it is an important thing that we have been able to develop this centre. It has been supported by the EU, by NATO, but I would like to especially commend Finland for your strong support and for funding and for hosting this centre, which will be of high value for all of us.

Let me also add that this centre is important also because it will link and work together with other centres of excellence. There is a centre of excellence in Estonia on cyber threats, on cyber defence. We have a centre of excellence in Latvia on strategic communications, and we have a centre of excellence in Lithuania on energy security. And energy security and strategic communications and cyber are all elements in addressing hybrid threats.

And I know that the directors of the four centres – this centre and the three centres in the Baltic countries – they will meet tomorrow and make sure that they are linking together, and then we'll become even stronger by making sure that a different centre of excellence addressing cyber threats in different ways are working closely together. And once again, it underlines the NATO-EU dimension.

Last July we signed a declaration – President Juncker, President Tusk, and I – on NATO-EU cooperation. Then Federica and I, we developed 42 measures,  many of them highly relevant for hybrid facts, and now we are implementing the 42 measures on cyber on exercises and many other areas. And then we will also start to work on how we can add to those measures to make sure that we not only implement what we agreed but also develop new areas where we can further strengthen the NATO-EU cooperation.

So I am inspired by the fact that we have been able to reach so far in such a short time. And I remember also very well the first time Federica and I met—not the first time I met, because that's many years ago, but the first time we met as a High Representative Vice-President and Secretary General. And since then we have met very regularly and worked very hard on how can strengthen the NATO-EU cooperation, and it's good to see that we are making progress.

So many thanks to the European Union, and many thanks to Finland, for making this day possible and for making this centre something which is now going to be opened. Thank you.

MODERATOR: You could stay there, and you could come. Yes, please. Because now we have a chance to deepen the themes you've raised up in your speeches. My name is Maria Standors (ph), and I am the moderator of this discussion. Let's just go on from the NATO-EU cooperation.

It was about a year ago when, in Warsaw, the cooperation was launched. Secretary General, how do you see the progress this far? And you mentioned about the next steps. So we are eager to hear what they could be.

JENS STOLTENBERG: The progress so far has been excellent, meaning that I think that if we are told in a year or two ago that we were able to achieve as much as we have achieved, I think not so many people would have been able to believe it.

I think that one of the reasons why we have been able to reach or to achieve so much is partly that we have been very pragmatic and practical. And we try—because there are some sensitivities, there are some problems, or at least some challenges, partly because NATO and the EU as Federica mentioned, we are two different organizations.

To some extent, we have the same members. More than 90 percent of the people living in the EU, they live in a NATO country. But there are also some non-NATO EU members, and vice-versa. And we have to show respect for them, their integrity, and also of course their independence and the decision making processes of NATO and the EU.

But I think we have been able to develop ways to do that with full respect of the EU, full respect of NATO, and also states who are not members of both organizations at the same time, and then proving gradually that we're able to then make progress on hybrid, on cyber, on exercises on many other… or working together in the Mediterranean or the Aegean Sea.

So now we would just have to sit down again this fall and see how can we make sure that we implement all the 42 measures, and then add some more to them. Exactly what we'll add I don't know, but I guess there are some people in the room who are already working on that.

MODERATOR: Mrs. Mogherini, we all remember the NATO boats on the Aegean Sea. It was one of the signs of the cooperation of EU and NATO. How do you see the progress? Are you happy about that?

FEDERICA MOGHERINI (High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President of the European Commission): Very much so, and I think, as Jens said, that we managed, first of all, to overcome —if I can quote you, you said something very wise, I think, to one of the foreign ministers or defence ministers meeting of the European Union. Because this is one of the practices we introduced. We regularly invite each other to our respective ministerial meetings, which is an excellence exercise in itself.

You said once we've managed to kill the ghost of the past. And I think this is a very effective image. We managed to move from the ideology of the relations between NATO and the European Union. That has always been difficult because the nature of the two organizations is different. The European Union is a political union; NATO is a military alliance, and some of our members are not the same.

But we took a very pragmatic approach, defining which are the needs, which are the fields where we need our cooperation in order to be effective, and how do we manage to deliver on this.

So we took at the same time a very ambitious but also very pragmatic approach, and I think this is why we managed to build trust, overcome the suspicions on both sides. And I am very satisfied because this is the cooperation that has proven to be real, practical, with real things done: cooperation in the Mediterranean, the hybrid, the cyber, for the first time ever sharing some of the practices of our exercises.

And for me, the the real challenge was to prove that it was possible to advance at the same time the EU-NATO cooperation and the EU defence policy. And here there is one particular thing that might come in our future agenda, which is the work on capabilities. In the European Union we are increasing the work we're doing to help member states investing together on capabilities.

I often say the real gap between Europeans and Americans is not so much how much Europeans invest in defence, but it's the output. We invest 50 percent of what the Americans invest in defence in Europe, but the output we achieve is 15 percent. So the output gap is huge. The European Union can help the European Union member states to invest better, in a less fragmented way, on capabilities.

And as member states have one single set of forces, however they manage to make the most out of their investments. This is going to be beneficial also, obviously, for European Union mission and operations, but also for NATO missions or for UN operations or for different kind of security activities.

So I think this can be one of the next fields of common work. It is already among the 42 actions already to be implemented. But as I am convinced that, also thanks to the leading role of Finland, we will be able to launch permanent structure cooperation within the European Union by the end of the year. This could be the next horizon to work on.

MODERATOR: You both work in central positions in your organization and have a broad view on the security around us. Mrs. Mogherini, you wrote… it was the first year report of the EU Global Strategy. In that text you wrote when –

FEDERICA MOGHERINI: This is always dangerous.

MODERATOR: Yeah. Two thousand sixteen, when launching the strategy, the world was a different place. How do you see that changes? What has changed?

FEDERICA MOGHERINI: The Global Strategy says that the world is more complex and more unpredictable than ever, and I think this stays quite true. The complexity and the unpredictability, by definition, by themselves, produce new realities every time.

And as Jens said, it's not the hybrid nature of the threats that is something new, but it's the mix. It's the speed and it's the fact that actually the complexity makes it difficult even to identify the source of the threat sometimes. Something that looks sand is a bicycle. And that is the complexity we're facing.

And I think the real change is the fact that it will continue to change, and that we will have to adapt to an ever-changing security situation. That requires a different level of understanding, a different level of analysis. To me, the European way to security and also to foreign policy is potentially the answer to this kind of ever-changing security situation, which is investing in partnerships, investing in multilateralism, investing in cooperation, investing in a rules-based global order.

At the end of the day, this is how the European Union was built, this is also how it prospered, even if sometimes we don't realize how much. And I believe this is the key also for facing this evolving situation. And the partnership with NATO is one of the key elements in this.

MODERATOR: And if you look at the situation, both worldwide and then at the Baltic Sea, what do you see?

JENS STOLTENBERG: For NATO, the thing is that we have to ask the European Union, but in another way, we have to relate to a much more unpredictable world, uncertainty, and we need to relate to many different challenges at the same time.

We need to relate and to respond to turmoil, violence in the south – North Africa, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan. We need to address the risks of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons – North Korea. And we need to respond to a more assertive Russia.

And of course it's not new for NATO that we have to respond to different challenges, but I think we have to admit that before it was more one challenge and then we had another challenge and then we had yet another challenge. Now we have all at the same time on top of each other.

Just to briefly remind you of the fact that for 40 years, for NATO was founded in '49 to 1989, NATO actually did only one thing. We did collective defence in Europe. We didn't participate in any military missions, not in any military operations. We didn't fire a shot at all. We were just strong in Europe.

Then the Cold War ended, the Berlin Wall came down, and people started to wonder: Do we need NATO anymore? And they said and NATO has to either go out of area or out of business. And we went out of area. Because we went into the Balkans. And at that time, to go out of NATO territory into Bosnia and Herzeegovina, Kosovo was a big step. It was totally new.

And then we had the end two ethnic wars in the Balkans, and then we went to Afghanistan, which was even more strange in a way and something completely different. We did a lot of crisis management, fighting terrorism, from the end of the Cold War until, let's say, 2014.

Then suddenly we had Crimea, we had Russia destabilizing eastern Ukraine, illegally annexing Crimea. And we had ISIL and Mosul, Raqqa, Daesh, all that close to our borders.

So then we had to be able to do both collective defence in Europe again, increase our military presence with the – for instance, the battle groups in the Baltic countries – and, at the same time, step up the fight against terrorism, instability close to our borders. So now we have any way to do and then we have North Korea and all those threats.

So for NATO, the world has changed in a way that we are now forced to respond to many different security challenges at the same time, while before it was more, first Cold War, collective defence in Europe, then stability, crisis management outside NATO territory. Now we have to do both at the same time, and that's a big… And therefore it is important to do it together with the European Union.

MODERATOR: Like a more complicated world –


MODERATOR: …all the time. You mentioned in your opening words the border crossings by bicycles in northern Norway. So that could be one example of hybrid threats. And now we are here in this opening ceremony of this centre of Helsinki. How do you see the… what is the way to make resilience a more common word?

JENS STOLTENBERG: Let me say two things. First of all, the people that crossed the border up in north, they were not hybrid threats; they were desperate people coming into Norway and leaving lots of violence and poverty in other parts of the world.

Second, the main challenge now is of course to make sure that we are responding all together. And that's exactly why we are working so hard, not only 29 NATO allies but also together with the European Union and other partner nations.

MODERATOR: How urgent do you see the need for deep understanding on hybrid threats? And what could these people here in Helsinki, how could they help this?

FEDERICA MOGHERINI: I think this is going to be crucial, not only because we are opening it today, and not only because it showcases so well the good EU-NATO cooperation. Jens and I were looking for a visit to do together for quite some time, and finally we made it. But this is really the symbolism of something we are concretely doing together.

But this is because it's not by chance that both Jens and I referred to this centre as potentially a hub of excellences and competencies because there's a lot of work ongoing on hybrid.

The nature of hybrid threats is requiring that there is a lot of work in different places from different expertises on this, on how to respond. But to have a centre of excellence that can provide the network and the hub for joining, analysing, providing, sort of catalyst and also multiplier of this work, is quite invaluable.

Because the risk of complexity and an ever-changing world and threats is the fragmentation of the response; it’s the fact that you don't have a unifying understanding of things. And the fragmentation – I think the President mentioned that – protecting our societies, protecting the cohesion of our societies, is part of the resilience we can do.

So having a hub here that gathers the excellence of the work done on hybrid and provides this coherence of work I think is an excellent service to global security, not only to the security of Finnish people, or Europeans, of NATO allies, but also of the world in general.

Because again, as Jens was saying, the threats move from purely military to also military but also a lot of other things. And if you imagine that providing humanitarian support is part of the prevention of a threat in some cases, it gives you the sense of the complexity of the things we have to do. So I think the centre can really be a point of reference for the work we are all doing.

MODERATOR: One more question about Finland, because Finland, here we always talk about this whole-of-government approach. Is that something that could be exported, or is it something too complicated?

FEDERICA MOGHERINI: It's my dream. You know, when I started, I said – I had a hearing in the European Parliament – and I said my dream would be not to have people working in different European Union institutions referring to one another as us and them, but just as us. And having this long, long, never-ending title, having these two hats of being Vice President of the Commission and High Representative, and also heading the European Defence Agency, so actually three hats, my dream is exactly that, of bringing the coherence of the work together, a sort of whole-of-government approach in the European Union institutions – Council, Commission, and the different agencies.

And I have to tell you it works. Because when people realize that moving from sometimes internal competition – and I've been a minister myself; I know well sometimes it's natural – but moving from internal competition to internal cooperation actually multiplies the effectiveness of your action. So it's smart, it saves a lot of time and energy that sometimes is spent in internal fights that could go into external action. And I believe this is really the key to do things, and do things right.

Obviously, the more complex an institution is – and the European Union, I guess, gets close to the maximum of that. United Nation probably can compete with us in complexity of structures. But the more complex an institution is, the more complicated it is to have an all-of-government approach. But I think Finland shows us the way and teaches us the good lesson of how good and important it is to do it.

In NATO, for sure it's easier because the nature of military structures streamlines a lot. But that's your job.

JENS STOLTENBERG: Yes. Ah, yeah. But even in NATO, I think we can learn something from Finland, and when it co—especially when it comes to working together across different responsibilities and different areas of work strands.

And again, this relates to the hybrid thing because before NATO could be focused on more military response in the narrow sense, meaning planes and tanks and warships and so on, but of course with the terrorist threat and with the hybrid threat, you need also to be very focused on all the other elements, which is part of the defence of a country, a defence of the Alliance, and the response to this huge variety of threats.

For instance, resilience of infrastructure. Resilience of our energy supply or our roads, our health care, and all that. And that just highlights the need to work closer together with civilian authorities in the different member countries, but also work together with the European Union.

And even when you speak about more traditional military issues, for instance the importance of having high-readiness forces being able to reinforce, if needed, for instance the Baltic region. We need to be able to move forces across Europe. And the reality is that, to be able to do that, we need harbours; we need railroads; we need airfields which are able to facilitate the movement of heavy military materiel.

And again, close link between the purely military part of NATO's responsibilities and the rest, and then the work with the European Union.

MODERATOR: Thank you.



MODERATOR: Thank you.