by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the start of the Munich Security Conference
This conference is an important platform for dialogue in a more dangerous world.
And I am coming directly from the defence ministerial meeting of NATO in Brussels yesterday, where we made important decisions on how NATO must continue to adapt and respond to a more challenging security environment.
We decided to modernise our Command Structure to continue to modernise the Alliance.
We took stock of burden-sharing in Alliance defence spending. Because we agreed back in 2014 to stop the cuts in defence spending and start to increase defence spending.
And that’s exactly what we are doing. We see that European Allies are stepping up.
And also the United States is increasing their military presence in Europe.
We also discussed the efforts of the European Union on defence and we welcome those efforts. Because as long as they are done in a way which does not compete but complement the efforts of NATO, that will strengthen NATO, strengthen the transatlantic bond and help both NATO and the European Union to respond to the challenges we have in common.
And then we also made decisions on fighting terrorism. We agreed to step up our efforts in the fight against terrorism by starting planning of a NATO training mission in Iraq which will then strengthen the training activities of Iraqi forces by NATO.
And Germany plays an important role in all of this, leading one of the battlegroups in Lithuania, contributing to our missions in Kosovo, in the Aegean Sea but also in Afghanistan.
So I look forward to address these issues and many other issues during my stay at the Munich Security Conference.
QUESTION: Secretary General Stoltenberg, is the contribution of Germany of the German Bundeswehr, especially the tanks Leopard 2, is it enough, especially the tanks Leopard 2 who [should] do their contribution right now? Is it enough or is it not enough? Does Germany have to do more?
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: Germany is a strong Ally and we highly value the many contributions of Germany to our Alliance. Germany is a lead nation for our battlegroup in Lithuania. Germany is present in Afghanistan and Kosovo, and Germany is going to lead our High Readiness Joint Task Force next year. But of course, after 20 years of cuts in defence spending, in Germany and in many other NATO Allies, there are shortfalls, there are gaps, and that’s exactly why it is important that Germany and other NATO Allies have started to invest more in defence. And I would like to commend Minister Ursula von der Leyen for her leadership and also the way she clearly commits Germany to stepping up its efforts in the Alliance. We very much welcome what Germany already does, but we also welcome the commitment that Germany will do even more.
QUESTION: Is it possible for Georgia to become the member of NATO without 5 Article on the occupied territories? It was one version and it might be considered in official meetings or maybe it was already considered.
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: Georgia is a highly-valued partner of NATO and NATO will continue to support Georgia on its path towards membership. That's the reason why we provide strong political support to Georgia, strong practical support to Georgia. We have the Joint Evaluation and Training Centre in Georgia, and we are also providing support in many other ways. So, we commend Georgia for the progress Georgia is making on the path towards membership and also by implementing important reforms in Georgia. At the end, it will be up to 29 Allies to decide when Georgia is ready to become a member of the Alliance.
QUESTION: Is it possible…[inaudible]
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: Well, membership includes Article 5 and that’s the core of the Alliance, is that we are based on a common pledge to each other, that we will defend each other, one for all and all for one. But even with Georgia not as a member, Georgia is now a very close partner. There is a lot of NATO in Georgia already and we also welcome the many contributions of Georgia to NATO, not least the contributions to our presence in Afghanistan.
QUESTION [Al Jazeera English]: Sir, Al Jazeera English. After more than a year of Trump in the White House, have you managed to convince him you're not running an obsolete organisation? And how destabilising has this been, especially for NATO faced with a threat from Russia?
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: The US commitment to NATO is very strong and President Trump reiterated that during my visit to the White House some months ago. He also stated strongly that the US is committed to NATO, not only in words but also in deeds. And what we see now is that the United States, after many years of reducing their military presence in Europe, the United States is now increasing their military presence in Europe, with more troops, with a new armoured brigade, with more funding for equipment, for supplies, for exercises. And just last week, in Washington, the White House and the Pentagon rolled out a new plan for further increases in funding for US presence in Europe. So, the United States is committed to the Alliance and I welcome that.
QUESTION [Al Jazeera English]: And have the threat from Russia increased over this last year?
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: What we have seen, especially since 2014, is a more assertive Russia, a Russia willing to use military force against their neighbours, as they have done illegally annexing Crimea and continue to destabilise Eastern Ukraine. And that’s the reason why NATO is responding. We are increasing the readiness of our forces, we are increasing the presence in the eastern part of the Alliance, with battlegroups in the Baltic States and Poland, but also in the southeast of the Alliance. And we are also starting to invest more in defence. So, we see a more assertive Russia, but we… and we respond to that, but at the same time, for NATO, it is important to avoid a new Cold War, avoid and prevent a new arms race, and therefore we continue to work for dialogue with Russia, to reduce tensions and to strive for a more constructive relationship with Russia, because Russia is our neighbour and we have to continue to work for a better relationship with Russia.
QUESTION: Secretary General, the US and Turkey have said today that they will try to cooperate in northern Syria. Does that make you hopeful?
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: I welcome the high-level contacts between the United States and Turkey, and during the Defence Ministerial Meeting in Brussels yesterday, Secretary Mattis met his Turkish counterpart. I welcome that they have spoken. I also welcome that Rex Tillerson and other US officials are in close and regular contacts with their Turkish counterparts. NATO is not present on the ground in northern Syria, but we are part of the Global Coalition to defeat ISIS. We provide some assurance measures to Turkey and we also recognise the important role that Turkey has played in the Global Coalition to defeat ISIS. So, the United States and Turkey have worked together for a long time in the Global Coalition to defeat ISIS, and Turkey has been key, not least by the fact that they are bordering Iraq and Syria, and they have infrastructure, airports, bases, which have been of great importance for the fight against ISIS.
QUESTION: What is the view of NATO; how and why is Russia a danger to the global security and how will NATO respond to that?
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: We don’t see any imminent threat against any NATO Ally, but we see a more assertive Russia, we see a Russia which has used military force against a neighbour, Ukraine, and which also has troops in Georgia and Moldova, and therefore we are responding. But we are responding in a proportionate, measured way, to prevent a new arms race, to prevent a new Cold War, and we continue to work for dialogue with Russia. I welcome also the fact that, after two years with no meetings of the NATO-Russia Council, we have been able to convene six meetings of the Council since 2016 and, during my stay here, I will also meet Minister Lavrov, which is part of the dialogue NATO has with Russia. And I think that dialogue is always important, but especially when tensions are high, as they are now, then dialogue is even more important.
QUESTION [Iraqi TV]: Iraqi TV. General Secretary, you say that you are continuing to give support to Iraq. What specific steps you are going to put? Is it training? Is it in material? Is it the funds? What especially is going to play?
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: We are responding to a request from the Coalition and from Prime Minister al-Abadi to provide more training. We are now in the planning process and I will meet with Prime Minister al-Abadi during my stay here in Munich. We will discuss what kind of support NATO can provide. What we now are planning for and looking into is how we can help Iraq with increasing the professionalism of the Iraqi forces, by more training, but also by building military schools and military academies. The aim is to train the trainers to train and educate officers, so Iraq can strengthen its military capabilities and be able to stabilise the country, so we avoid seeing anything similar as we saw back in 2014, when ISIS was able to take control of big parts of Iraq. So, we look forward to working with Iraq, to train Iraqi forces. That's important for Iraq, but it's also important for our own security. When our neighbours are stable, we are more secure.
OANA LUNGESCU [NATO Spokesperson]: Thank you very much.