by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the meetings of NATO Defence Ministers on 14-15 February
Tomorrow and Thursday, NATO Defence Ministers will meet here in Brussels to prepare for our upcoming Summit in July.
We will begin with a meeting of the Nuclear Planning Group.
This is part of our regular consultations to keep NATO nuclear forces safe, secure and effective.
Later in the day we will take decisions to modernise NATO’s Command Structure.
To ensure our twenty-nine nations can act as one − quickly and effectively.
I expect we will agree to establish a new Joint Force Command for the Atlantic.
This will focus on protecting sea lines of communication between North America and Europe, as well as critical infrastructure.
The Command would play a crucial role in crisis and conflict.
Eighty percent of SACEUR’s Area of Responsibility is covered by water.
And we need to stay ahead of potential threats both on sea and under it.
I expect we will agree to establish a new support command to improve the rapid movement of troops and equipment within Europe.
This is a key part of our collective deterrence and defence.
Fair burden-sharing is also crucial for our shared security.
Allies agreed in 2014 to move towards investing 2% of GDP on defence by 2024.
They also agreed to invest more in key military capabilities and equipment.
And to contribute personnel to NATO missions and operations.
In other words: more cash, capabilities and contributions.
Last year, Allies decided to report annually on how they intend to make progress on all three.
The first set of plans is now complete.
And tomorrow, we will take stock of our progress.
[SLIDE 1: DEFENCE SPENDING]
After years of decline, since 2014 we have seen three years of increasing defence spending across European Allies and Canada.
Amounting to an additional 46 billion US dollars.
The national plans show that we can expect further increases.
In 2014, only 3 Allies spent 2% of GDP or more on defence.
This year, we expect 8 Allies to meet the target.
And by 2024, we expect at least 15 Allies will spend 2% of GDP or more on defence.
This is substantial progress, and a good start.
But we still have a long way to go.
On capabilities, European Allies and Canada invested 19 billion US dollars more on major equipment over the last three years.
By 2024, 22 Allies are expected to invest 20% or more of their defence budgets on major capabilities, which is NATO’s guideline.
This should lead to significant improvements to our forces and their readiness.
Which leads me to contributions to operations, missions and activities − both NATO and non-NATO.
Almost all Allies intend to maintain or increase their contributions.
So we are stepping up on all three: cash, capabilities and contributions.
And I look forward to even more progress in the years ahead.
Later on Wednesday, we will meet with High Representative / Vice President Federica Mogherini.
As well as our colleagues from Sweden and. Finland
We will discuss the EU’s plans on defence, and NATO-EU cooperation.
More European defence spending and capabilities can strengthen NATO and contribute to fairer burden-sharing.
But only if the EU’s efforts are developed as a complement and not an alternative to NATO.
On Thursday, we will discuss NATO’s deterrence and defence posture, and our role in projecting stability and fighting terrorism.
NATO contributes to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS with AWACS surveillance flights and training for Iraqi forces.
The Coalition has made great progress, primarily due to the resilience and professionalism of the Iraqi forces.
Today, almost all the territory once held by ISIS in Iraq and Syria has been retaken.
More than seven and a half million people have been liberated.
As the Coalition shifts focus from combat operations to capacity-building, NATO’s training support will become even more important.
So I expect that on Thursday, we will agree to start planning for a NATO training mission in Iraq.
With the aim of launching the mission at our Summit in July.
Years of experience from Afghanistan have taught us that strengthening local forces is one of our best tools in the fight against terrorism.
At least twenty-eight Allies and partners are increasing their troop contributions to our training mission in Afghanistan.
We are aiming to have close to 16,000 personnel there this year.
Up from around 13,000 last year.
This is a clear sign of our continued commitment to Afghanistan’s security.
And with that, I’m ready to take your questions.