Pre-ministerial press conference
by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg before the meeting of the North Atlantic Council at the level of Defence Ministers
This week, NATO’s Defence Ministers will meet to continue NATO’s adaptation for the 21st century of the NATO Alliance. And at the same time pave the way for our next Summit in July, here in Brussels.
We will start with a meeting of the Nuclear Planning Group. Part of our regular consultations to keep NATO nuclear forces safe, secure and effective. We will then take decisions on NATO’s continued adaptation, focusing on the review of NATO’s Command Structure.
At dinner we will be joined by the High Representative of the European Union and Vice-President of the Commission, Federica Mogherini, to discuss global threats, including North Korea. On Thursday, we will meet our Resolute Support partners for discussions on our mission in Afghanistan. Finally, in the margins of our ministerial, Secretary Mattis will chair a meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.
We have many different issues to discuss, but let me now focus on three of them: NATO’s Command Structure, Afghanistan, and North Korea.
First, ministers will discuss the revision of the NATO Command Structure. And NATO Command Structure is the backbone of our Alliance and what makes NATO unique. It is what enables 29 nations to work as one. NATO has constantly adapted its Command Structure over the past decades, to take account of a changing security environment. In a more unpredictable world, we have to adapt again. To ensure that our Command Structure is fully capable of providing deterrence and defence at home, and projecting stability abroad. At this meeting I expect Ministers will agree in principle on an outline as a basis for further work. This will include: a new Command to help protect sea lines of communication between North America and Europe. And another Command to improve the movement of troops and equipment within Europe. Our ability to move forces is essential to deterrence and collective defence.
This is not only about commands. We also need to ensure that roads and bridges are strong enough to take our largest vehicles, and that rail networks are equipped for the rapid deployment of tanks and heavy equipment. NATO has military requirements for civilian infrastructure and we need to update these to ensure that current military needs are taken into account. But this is not a job for NATO alone. It requires close coordination across national governments and with the private sector. The European Union also has an important role to play. So NATO and the European Union must continue to work very closely on this vital issue.
We will also adapt the Command Structure to recognise the cyber domain. High profile attacks, such as WannaCry, affect businesses and governments across the world. Our nations must be able to deter and defend against such threats. As effectively as against attacks from land, sea or air.
Secondly North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programmes will also be on our agenda. They are a threat to NATO Allies, to our partners, and to the international non-proliferation regime. As I saw during my visit to East Asia last week, these global threats require a global response. NATO maintains a strong deterrence posture. We have the capabilities and we have the resolve to respond to any aggression.
Last but not least, we will review our Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan together with our partners. We will be joined by Afghanistan’s Acting Defence Minister, who will brief on the security situation and on the progress his government is making on essential reforms.
The last few weeks have been tough in Afghanistan,with a number of brutal and senseless attacks. Such as today’s attack on Shamshad TV. But at the same time, the Afghan Security Forces have shown bravery, determination and increasing capability. And the Afghan people continue to demonstrate a remarkable resilience and hope for peace. Around 13,000 troops from 39 different countries currently serve in our Resolute Support Mission. The United States is already increasing its commitment as part of the new South Asia Strategy. And many other Allies and partners will also send more troops in the months to come. To support Afghanistan’s efforts against international terrorism and for peace and reconciliation.
So with that, I am ready to take your questions.