by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (hosted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office at Lancaster House)
Sir Mark, thank you so much for that warm welcome.
You have a long and distinguished connection with NATO.
You served as NATO’s Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan.
And now at the heart of the UK defence and security establishment. You work closely with NATO and I’m extremely grateful for our close cooperation and also for you hosting us here today.
Ladies and gentlemen.
It is really a great honour to be here at Lancaster House.
This place has hosted meetings that were instrumental for the creation of the NATO Alliance back at the end of the 1940s.
In fact, it was the United Kingdom that hosted the very first NATO headquarters.
Just the other side of Buckingham Palace.
In Belgrave Square.
And ever since then the United Kingdom has been a vital member of the Alliance.
You provide high-end capabilities. Conventional. Cyber. And nuclear.
And you are leading one of the battlegroups in the Baltics.
And the UK is central to our fight against terrorism, in Afghanistan and in Iraq.
You lead by example by spending 2% of GDP on defence.
And you have been vital to the forging of the transatlantic bond.
You are a European country. Facing the Atlantic. A bridge to North America.
As such, the United Kingdom has been instrumental in making NATO the most successful Alliance in history.
An Alliance that has kept us safe and secure for almost seven decades. And has helped to provide the foundation of our growth and our prosperity.
Our bond is strong.
But today, some are doubting the strength of that bond.
And yet we see differences between the United States and other Allies.
Over issues such as trade, climate and the Iran nuclear deal.
And there are disagreements within Europe too.
Over the future direction of the European Union.
Over values and populism.
These disagreements are real.
It is not written in stone that the transatlantic bond will survive forever. But I believe we will preserve it.
And let me give you three reasons why.
First, we have overcome disagreements before.
Differences of opinion is nothing new.
Some of them have been substantial.
The Suez Crisis in 1956. French withdrawal from NATO’s command structure a decade later. When the Alliance had to move from Paris to Brussels. And, of course, the Iraq War in 2003.
We are 29 democracies.
With different history, geography and culture. So of course sometimes there are disagreements.
But the lesson of history is that we have been able to overcome our differences. Again and again, we unite around our common goal.
We stand together. We protect each other.
Second, maintaining the transatlantic partnership is in our strategic interest.
Two World Wars and a Cold War have taught us that Europe and North America are stronger, safer and more prosperous together. That is why young American and Canadian soldiers fought on the Western Front in the First World War. And why their sons fought their way across the beaches of Normandy almost thirty years later.
After World War One, the Americans left Europe. That was not a success.
After World War Two they stayed. In NATO.
And that was a success.
The fact that we are stronger and safer when we are united is also why NATO Allies invoked Article 5 – our collective defence clause – just hours after the 9/11 attacks.
The first and only time in our history.
And it is why hundreds of thousands of European and Canadian troops have served shoulder-to-shoulder with American troops in Afghanistan. To defeat international terrorism. With more than a thousand paying the ultimate price. It is – and has always been – in our fundamental interest to stand together.
And that is as true now as it has been ever before.
Because we face the most unpredictable security environment in a generation. International terrorism. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Cyber-attacks.
And, of course, a more assertive Russia.
Which has used intimidation and force against its neighbours. Illegally annexed Crimea. Destabilised eastern Ukraine. Meddled in our domestic affairs.
And tried to assassinate a British citizen and his daughter in Salisbury using a banned chemical weapon.
These are our common challenges.
And it is in our common interest to face them together.
The third reason why we can maintain the transatlantic bond is that we are doing it right now. In NATO. There are many different ties that bind Europe and North America together.
We may have seen the weakening of some of them lately. But our ties on defence have grown stronger. After the Cold War, the US and Canada gradually reduced their military presence in Europe. And European Allies cut defence spending.
But now the United States and Canada are stepping up their commitments to European security.
Since coming to office, the Trump Administration has increased funding for the U.S. presence in Europe by 40%. The last US Main Battle Tank left Europe in 2013.
But now they’re back. With a whole new armoured brigade.
And for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Canadian troops are back in Europe.
Leading a NATO battlegroup in Latvia.
At the same time, Europeans are stepping up too. Spending billions more on defence.
Taking greater responsibility for Euro-Atlantic security alongside their North American allies. All Allies have stopped the cuts to defence. All Allies are increasing their defence spending in real terms.
European Allies and Canada have added an extra 87 billion dollars since 2014. And more Allies are investing 2% of GDP on defence.
When we made the pledge back in 2014 in Wales, it was only three Allies that spent 2% GDP on defence. Now we expect 8 Allies to spend 2% of GDP on defence.
This has underpinned the biggest increase in our collective defence since the Cold War.
We have deployed multinational battlegroups in the Baltic countries and in Poland.
We have tripled the size of the NATO Response Force.
We have established a task force ready to move in 48 hours.
And we have stepped up our efforts in the fight against terrorism through the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.
So both North America and Europe are doing more. And we are doing it together, for our shared security.
At our Summit in Brussels next month, NATO leaders will go further.
With more cash, capabilities and contributions to NATO missions and operations.
They will agree to increase the readiness of our forces.
With 30 mechanised battalions.
30 air squadrons.
And 30 combat ships.
Ready to use within 30 days or less.
They will decide on a new NATO Command Structure.
With two new commands.
One in Ulm in Germany.
Another in Norfolk in the United States.
To improve our ability to move and supply reinforcements.
We will also take decisions on integrating national cyber capabilities into NATO operations. An area where the UK is very much a lead player.
We will agree a new training mission in Iraq.
We will extend our funding for the Afghan forces.
And deepen our cooperation with the European Union.
All of this shows our determination to provide for our common defence.
Ready to respond to any attack.
From any direction.
So ladies and gentlemen.
We face a difficult security environment.
But when NATO is challenged.
When others would divide us.
We must stay united.
And rise to the challenge.
With strength, solidarity and resolve.
Just as we did after Salisbury.
Just as we did after Crimea.
Just as we always have.
NATO is an Alliance of 29 free and sovereign nations and almost a billion people.
We have been successful. And we must stay confident.
Where differences persist, we must continue to work together to preserve our security cooperation.
We must continue to protect our multilateral institutions, like NATO.
And we must continue to stand up for the international rules-based order that has served us so well for so many decades.
This will require political will, imagination and hard work.
Together, North America and Europe represent half of the world’s economic might and half of the world’s military might.
Together we are powerful.
Together we are strong.
And together, we are secure.
Thank you so much.
Question [IISS]: John Chipman, Director General of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, IISS. Two quick questions: What is the NATO strategy for dealing with the persistent efforts of Russia to interfere in the domestic affairs of many NATO countries and to use diverse means to divide our democracies? And second, what in your view would be the conditioned precedent that would permit the reconvening of the NATO-Russia Council?
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Sorry, that last question?
Question: What would be the conditioned precedent that would permit the reconvening of the NATO-Russia Council? What would have to happen for you to feel confident that it was time to reconvene that institution?
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: First, on the NATO-Russia Council, we have already convened the NATO-Russia Council. For two years, there were no meetings in the NATO-Russia Council, from 2014 to 2016. And I remember when I arrived at NATO, in October 2014, one of the tasks I was really focused on was how can we reactivate the dialogue with Russia. Because Russia is our neighbour, Russia is here to stay, so I strongly believe that we have to talk to Russia. But dialogue with Russia has to be based on our unity and a firm and predictable approach to Russia.
Therefore, the NATO approach to Russia is what we call a dual-track approach; deterrence, defence and dialogue. There is no contradiction between being strong, delivering deterrence and defence, and talking to Russia or having a dialogue with Russia. Actually, I believe that as long as we are strong and united, we can also talk with Russia. Dialogue is not a sign of weakness; dialogue is actually a sign of strength. And that’s very much also based on my own experience from Norway, is that even during the coldest period of the Cold War, Norway was able to talk to, work with Russia, on border issues, military issues. Our military speaks to the Russian military up in the High North. Fishery, environment, many other issues. Not despite NATO, but because of NATO. Because being a small nation bordering Russia, we could engage in dialogue with Russia because we had the strength of NATO behind us.
So, I welcome the fact that we have been able to reactivate the NATO-Russia Council. We have convened seven meetings since 2016. We are addressing transparency, risk reduction, reciprocal briefings on exercises, and many other issues. Partly because we strive for a better relationship with Russia. But even if we don’t believe that we will be able to improve the relationship with Russia, we need to manage a difficult relationship with Russia. So, therefore we have reactivated the NATO-Russia Council.
Then, the first question was about how do we address the challenges which are below an armed attack. Because armed attack will trigger Article 5. And NATO has been very successful in providing credible deterrence for 70 years, preventing any armed attack against any NATO Ally. And we will continue to do so. The challenge now is how do we respond to those acts of aggression which are below triggering Article 5. Well, then we need many different tools. We need to improve our cyber-defences. We are really stepping up when it comes to both improving the defences of NATO networks, but also helping all the Allies, improving the defences of their networks. We are conducting big exercises, we are sharing best practices, technology. And UK is really a lead nation when it comes to cyber, also inside NATO.
Improving intelligence, situational awareness, to understand what is going on. So, we have established a new intelligence division in NATO and we will soon also improve situational awareness via our new drones, which we will deploy in Sicily, but that can operate all over NATO territory. And also, higher readiness of our forces is a way to respond to potential hybrid threats, because we need to act quickly if needed.
The last thing I will mention is that we need also to counter misinformation and propaganda. I don’t believe that NATO should counter propaganda with propaganda. We are not in the propaganda business. I believe that the truth, facts, is the best way to counter propaganda. That’s partly for NATO; we try to provide facts to nations, to journalists, to people who ask. But it's also very much a reason why we need free and independent media, journalists who are asking the difficult questions, checking the sources, making sure that they are not victims of attempts to disinform or to undermine our democratic institutions.
Question: Secretary General, some of us have quite serious reservations about the way in which the Headquarters in Brussels is managed domestically. And in particular the International Board of Auditors for NATO have recently expressed serious reservations in a document NATO unclass… unclassified. And for the sake of brevity, I will only draw your attention to four of those. First: there is no common internal control network. Second: there are recurrent and persistent weaknesses in the current internal control systems in most entities. Third: difficulties in accepting and developing the identification and accounting of tangible property, plants and equipment and intangible assets. And finally: more seriously, lack of support and even opposition, both internally and externally, to the study of the financial consolidation and the creation of a Chief Financial Officer.
Secretary General, I asked you these questions in Warsaw just a few weeks ago. I'm afraid you forgot to refer to the auditor's report at all. And also, the Select Committee of the House of Lords, of which I am a member, of which the Chairman is here, we, in producing our report on the NATO Summit, which you may or may not have seen, we put the same questions to one of your officials, who said it wasn’t in his field, but they'd let us know. That was nine weeks ago and we're still waiting an answer.
So, could we have your reaction to these very serious reservations from the auditors?
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: First, I think I said that also in Warsaw when we met last time, I am strongly in favour of transparency. We need auditing. We need to be transparent. And we need of course to share information about how we run the Headquarters with all the member states. And the member states have access to all the information. So, if there is anything you would like to know more about, how we spend money and manage our funds in NATO, you just ask the British government because they have access to all information about how NATO is governed and runned.
Then, on top of that, to make sure that we are running the Headquarters in an even better way, we are now in the midst of conducting a functional view of how the NATO Headquarters is run. And one of the issues we'll address when Heads of State and Government meet in July, is this functional review, making sure that we modernise the Alliance and make sure that we are governing and running the Headquarters in the best possible way.
Moderator: Gentleman in the second row.
Question: Secretary General, two questions. First: are you nervous that when President Trump comes to Brussels in a few days' time, he might do the same thing to the NATO Summit as he did to the G7 Summit in Quebec? And my second question is do you regard the 2% target for contributions to NATO as right in the modern circumstances you describe, or should we be thinking in a much broader way of the definition of defence and security, to keep our citizens safe on the street? Should we be looking at larger percentages than the old 2%?
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: I'm looking forward to welcoming President Trump and all the other Heads of State and Government to Brussels next month, to the NATO Summit. And I am absolutely confident that we will be able to demonstrate transatlantic unity at that Summit. Because the most important sign of unity is that we are able to deliver and make decisions together. And I am confident and certain that we will be able to make those decisions in July. On deterrence, defence, increased readiness of our forces, stepping up the fight against terrorism with a new training mission in Iraq, adapting the NATO Command Structure, cyber, and many other concrete decisions that the Heads of State from North America and Europe will make together. And I can hardly think about any other way to demonstrate transatlantic unity in a stronger and more convincing way, that they are actually making decisions together and acting together.
And then, on top of that, we also will have a good story to tell on defence spending, meaning that I think that we have to understand that when we made the pledge in Wales in 2014, we did that after years of decline, cut in defence spending all over Europe. And then I think that many people actually believe that this was only going to be a new commitment by leaders at an international meeting. And I've been at that kind of meetings, where we pledge something, we promise something, and then we go back to our capitals and we don’t implement. That has happened many times before. And it was an absolute risk that the Wales declaration, or the pledge, would just be another pledge and no action. The reality is that, since we made the pledge in Wales, we actually have turned a corner and really started to invest more in defence. Then we have to remember what we decided in Wales was not to meet the 2% target within a year. We decided to stop the cuts, after 25 years of declining in defence budgets, to gradually increase and then move towards spending 2%, for those Allies who are spending less than 2%. And for those Allies spending more, to remain at a minimum 2%. And that’s exactly what is happening. All Allies have stopped the cuts. All Allies have started to increase and more Allies spend 2% of GDP on defence, and the majority of Allies have put forward plans on how to reach 2% within a decade.
I'm not saying that we are finished. We still have a long way to go, but it's quite significant, the progress we have made so far. We just have to continue to do that. The Wales pledge was partly about how those who are spending less than 2% should spend more. And partly it was about that those who are already above 2% should spend minimum 2%.
So, of course I welcome the fact that the United Kingdom spends 2%, or more than 2%. This is one of the reasons why the United Kingdom plays a leading role in NATO. I count on the United Kingdom to continue to play that leading role and we need also those Allies who are spending more than 2% to increase defence spending, partly that will just be a result of economic growth. But of course we said minimum 2%, meaning that it's absolutely within the Wales ambition to also spend more than 2%.
Moderator: In the middle row. Could I remind questioners please to say their name and their… what their role is?
Question [MP]: Madeleine Moon, Member of Parliament and Member of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. We have a growing partnership between NATO and the European Union, but recently a decision has been made to… by the European Commission, to exclude Britain's further engagement with Galileo. Do you see that having any implications in terms of the use of Galileo in NATO's important and vital use of space, in the defence of the Alliance?
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Let me first just give some general remarks on European Union and defence and then I will… I can start with the Galileo. I know that this is part of the negotiations and it's discussed now between the UK and the European Union. Therefore, I think it will wrong if I go into the specifics of those negotiations and I just hope that it's possible to find a solution which will not undermine the way that this capability also provides support for European Allies in their role within NATO.
Then, on European defence in general, I will say that I welcome stronger EU efforts on defence, because that will help to increase defence spending, it will help to develop new capabilities, and it will actually improve burden sharing within the Alliance. But it has to be clear, and that has also been underlined again and again by different… or many European leaders, and EU leaders and leaders in European countries, or EU countries, that this is not an alternative to NATO, this is not about competing with NATO, this is complementary to NATO and it's about strengthening the European pillar within NATO. And of course, there is no way the EU… I welcome those efforts, but not as something that can replace NATO. Because, especially after Brexit, we have to understand that 80% of NATO's defence expenditures will come from non-EU Allies, because the biggest budget is the US, the second largest is United Kingdom, and of course 80% will then be non-EU spending.
This is not only about money, but also about geography. Because we have… in the North you have Norway, a very important country. And then… [laughter] and then, not perhaps so big, but at least strategically located up in the North. And then in the South you have Turkey, a non-EU NATO member. And the West you will have the US, Canada and United Kingdom. So, this is both about geography and about money, that any meaningful defence of Europe is dependent on non-EU NATO Allies.
Question: Thank you very much. I am from Lithuania, NATO Parliamentary Assembly Vice President. I have two short questions. One of them is related with hybrid warfare, which is very important I think. And I think we have to concentrate to think about political systems in our countries, because Russian… Kremlin main attacks or target today is political system, political systems in many democracies. So, I don’t think we have any scenario or any strategy how to deal with such new attacks and threats. Not very new, but threats. And second one on enlargement. Don't you think that… and what is the situation among the Allies on enlargement, especially when we see ten years since Bucharest and especially Georgia is one of the candidates? And don’t think that it's too long not to see anything at least new and not to do any new steps and the people will be really disappointment and we will lose important Ally I think, partner for NATO.
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: So, first about our political systems. We have to protect our democracies, our free and open societies. And perhaps the most important way of doing that is to participate, is to be part of political processes, is to be part of political debates, is to… as I said, support free and independent media. And also of course have cyber-defences, have intelligence which is able to protect or detect when any potential adversary is trying to meddle in our domestic political affairs.
This is very much about NATO and we are doing a lot, but it's also about, you know, police, civilians authorities, and also all of us, as individual citizens, to be part of political democratic processes and protect our democratic institutions. So, that’s part of what we address in NATO when we address what we call hybrid threats.
On enlargement, NATO's door is open and we have proven that lately with Montenegro. Montenegro became the 29th member of NATO last year. And we are also working with Georgia, as you mentioned. NATO provides practical and political support for Georgia, to implement reforms, to modernise their defence and security institutions, to fight corruption, to strengthen their legal systems. So, we are helping them to meet NATO's standards, so they can move further on their way towards membership. And I am certain that, at the NATO Summit next month, we will find a way to recognise the progress Georgia is making. And we have to also remember that there is NATO presence in Georgia today. We have exercises. We have a joint training and evaluation centre. We have political cooperation. We have practical work together. And Georgia is contributing to NATO missions and operations, one of the countries with the highest numbers of troops, for instance, in our mission in Afghanistan.
Then there is some progress also for other countries, especially the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia¹, because they have now agreed on a new name; the Republic of North Macedonia. And that agreement between Skopje and Athens was ratified in the parliament in Macedonia yesterday. And they need also to change the constitution. To do that, they need a referendum. The plan is to hold that referendum early this fall. If they implement the whole agreement, then the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will become a NATO member with its new name, North Macedonia.
What I expect NATO leaders to do at the Summit is that we will then invite the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to start accession talks. And hopefully, if the agreement is fully implemented or finalised, then we can invite them to become members. And that will show that we are also making progress when it comes to open door.
The last thing I would say about open door is that the political message is that it's only for the 29 Allies and the aspirant country to decide whether NATO is enlarged or not. No other country has a say. No other country has the right to try to veto such a process. So, the whole idea that a big neighbour can decide what small neighbours do is totally violating the idea of sovereign nations. So, any kind of sphere influence, where a big neighbour can say we don’t like you to join NATO because we don’t like it, that’s really undermining the whole idea of independent sovereign nations in Europe.
Moderator: Gentleman in the second row.
Question: I'm a Research Fellow at Chatham House. Secretary General, Russia has been increasing its military capabilities and its false posture, both in the Arctic region, in the High North, but also in the Black Sea. I was wondering if both regions were going to feature highly on the agenda of the Summit and if so, to which extent? Thank you.
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: It's right that Russia has invested heavily in new military equipment, modern capabilities, they are nuclear and… conventional and nuclear. They are exercising also conventional and nuclear weapons together. And perhaps most importantly, they have used military force against a neighbour, Ukraine, illegally annexing Crimea, destabilising Eastern Ukraine. And there are Russian troops in Georgia and in Moldova, without the acceptance of the governments in Georgia and Moldova. That’s the reason why NATO has implemented the biggest reinforcement to our collective defence since the end of the Cold War. You have to understand that gradually we built down our defences, and what we did was not mainly collective defence in Europe, but we did expeditionary missions outside Europe. First in the Balkans… well not outside Europe, but at least outside NATO territory, first in the Balkans helping to end two wars there, and then Afghanistan, fighting piracy and fighting terrorism.
Then, after 2014, NATO had to, in a way, go back home and to focus on collective defence and deterrence in Europe. And I'm actually quite impressed how much we have been able to do just over a few years, with both more troops in the eastern part of the Alliance with the battlegroups, but also increased presence in the Black Sea region, with higher readiness, tripling the size of the NATO Response Force, more defence spending. And we will make new decisions at the Summit now, to further increase the readiness of our forces and developing new capabilities.
Having said that, for NATO it's always a challenge to find the right balance between responding, being strong, without increasing tensions unnecessarily, and make sure that we are responding in a defensive and proportionate way.
Therefore for instance, the focus now is not mainly on deploying more forces in the eastern part of the Alliance, but it is to increase our ability to reinforce. That's about military mobility, high readiness and all that. And that is also the case in the High North. We are doing more in the High North. We have also more naval capabilities. We see that, for instance, the US is training more in Norway and several Allies, including United Kingdom, Denmark and Norway, are investing in new advanced capabilities, like for instance F-35 fighter jets, new battleships and so on, which are relevant for the High North.
But we used to say that we are… we want… in the High North we want to see low tensions. And I think we should still strive to keep tensions down. And that’s also one of the reasons I welcome the fact that we not only have the NATO-Russia Council, but we also have the Arctic Council, we have the Barents Cooperation, which are frameworks to try to create platforms for dialogue with Russia, to try to avoid to increase tensions too much.
We have increased also our presence in the Black Sea region, both in Romania and Bulgaria, but also at sea and in the air. British jets have actually done some air policing down there. So, it just shows that NATO has increased their presence, or our presence, in also the Black Sea region.
Moderator: Gentleman right at the back there.
Question: Sir, good morning. I am from Afghanistan and currently a student at the Royal College of Defence Studies here in London. Can you kindly comment on recently ceasefire initiative in Afghanistan? And although the ceasefire partially ended, but what can NATO do in order to support peace and negotiation dialogue in this countries… in this country, after 17 years of war? Thank you.
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: there are many problems in Afghanistan, and it's extremely important to be aware that there is no easy way out of those problems. We see violence. We see Taliban. We see ISIS. We see problems with implementing necessary reforms of the Afghan government. We see corruption. There are many problems. Having said that, I think we have to also recognise that there has been some progress, partly the fact that NATO has been able to end our combat mission and hand over the responsibility for security in Afghanistan to the Afghans themselves. That’s a great achievement. Because when the Taliban attacked before, it was UK soldiers or Danish soldiers or Norwegian soldiers that had to go out and respond. Now, when there is a terrorist attack in Afghanistan, it's the Afghan soldiers themselves who go out and repel, or respond. So, just the fact that we have been able to train and build Afghan forces, into forces which are able to take responsibility for security in their own country, is progress.
And NATO has totally transformed our presence in Afghanistan from a big combat operation with more than 100,000 to now 16,000 troops conducting training, assisting and advising. And I welcome that. And the Afghans are professional, committed, and they are able to fight back when they see attacks from the Taliban.
And let me add that I think this concept, in the long run, it's much more viable than NATO engaging or… in big combat operations or being part of big combat operations, because in the long run the best weapon we have against terrorism is not to deploy our own troops in combat operations, which we have to do sometimes, but the best weapon we have is to train local forces, enabling them to fight terrorism themselves. And that’s exactly what we have done in Afghanistan.
The other encouraging thing we have seen is the peace initiative from President Ghani. And the fact that, for the first time, we have seen at least a ceasefire that at least, to some extent worked. The government announced the ceasefire and then Taliban, at least for some days, also agreed the ceasefire. Again, they have a long way to go, but it is encouraging that there is at least some real attempts to create a framework for a reconciliation process at peace, and that we have seen the first ceasefire ever in the conflict in Afghanistan. So, we have to build on that.
The last thing I'm going to say about this is that, the way to achieve that is not to leave Afghanistan. The way to achieve that is to stay in Afghanistan, because Taliban has to understand that they will never win on the battlefield. So, as long as we convey and show by staying that they will not win on the battlefield, we will train, assist and advise and fund the Afghan forces. Then they will at some stage understand that they will achieve more around a negotiating table than at the battlefield, or on the battlefield.
Moderator: The BBC in the third row.
Question [BBC]: Thank you. Jonathan Beale, BBC. I'd just like to ask you about defence spending first and you say NATO has a good story to tell, but that clearly isn’t the view of President Trump, who is still highly critical of NATO defence spending. I just wonder in your speech whether you’ve been papering over cracks in the Alliance and that the relationship, the rift within the Alliance is actually greater than it's ever been?
The second question is about, you've mentioned Crimea, Skripal, there is talk… there are reports that President Trump will try and meet President Putin around the time of the NATO Summit. What kind of message do you think that’s going to send? Thank you.
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: So, my message is that there are real disagreements between NATO Allies on serious issues, on trade, on environment, on the Iran nuclear deal and many other issues. And I take that seriously. But my message is also that we have seen that we have been able to overcome that kind of differences before. Second, that it is in our interest to stand together. And thirdly, that when it comes to NATO - to security and defence, the transatlantic bond is not weakening, it's actually been strengthened. So, we speak about the transatlantic bond as if it is one bond, but the reality is that there are many ties. And yes, there have been… we have seen some weakening of some of them, on trade and other issues, but when it comes to defence and security there is no doubt that actually we see closer transatlantic cooperation now than just a couple of years ago. More US troops in Europe, after years of decline. More US spending for exercises, troops, prepositioned equipment in Europe now than a few years ago. So, when President Trump and the United States state that they are in favour of NATO, they believe in the transatlantic bond. That’s not only something they say, they do it. It's not only in words, but also in deeds.
And I am absolutely certain that at the Summit we will make new decisions on how the United States, Canada and Europe can do more together, both in Europe, higher readiness; 30 new battalions, 30 new battleships, 30 air squadrons, on high readiness, on stepping up our efforts to fight terrorism, on working together in cyber, creating a framework so UK and other nations can provide… we call them sovereign cyber effects. That’s concrete actions. And actions speak louder than words. So, we are delivering transatlantic cooperation, transatlantic unity, transatlantic partnership. Not only talking, but doing something.
So, that’s what we have done and that is what we are going to do when we meet in July. I'm not saying that that’s solving all the problems. I'm not saying that since we are delivering on defence we have solved the trade issues. I'm only saying that the disagreement on trade, environment, Iran, which are serious issues, they have not undermined our ability to stand together when it comes to defence and security. And my main… I will of course welcome very much if we are able to solve the trade issues. But as long as they remain unsolved, my main responsibility is to make sure that we continue to deliver on defence and security.
Then, I cannot promise you exactly… what shall I say… what will be stated and what kind of rhetoric we will hear at the Summit. What I can say is that I really believe that we will make decisions and, in the long run, that’s the best way to demonstrate unity; what we do.
I expect the President to be very strong on defence spending. I met him in May, in the White House. President Trump was very clear that he is committed to NATO, to Article 5, and I actually thanked him for his leadership on defence spending, because it has had an impact. But I think it absolutely possible to ask the Europeans to do more, but at the same time recognise the progress. And I have also heard President Trump welcoming the fact that European Allies are spending more. He actually recently spoke about the monies pouring in. So, it is possible to say, we have done a lot but a lot remains. And he is in… he speaks in a kind of direct language, and I expect that to be the case also when he comes to Europe in July.
Question [BBC]: The second question was about Putin.
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Oh, sorry, sorry, sorry. To meet President Putin is not in anyway contradicting NATO policies, because NATO is in favour of dialogue with Russia. And if you want dialogue, you have to speak to the political leaders. So, several NATO leaders have met President Putin. We, as NATO we meet with Russia in NATO-Russia Council. I met with Secretary Lavrov, Foreign Minister Lavrov, and the whole message of NATO is that we don’t want to… we don’t want a new Cold War, we don’t want a new arms race, we don’t want to isolate Russia. We want to talk to Russia. Russia is here to stay. And then again, as I said, it's… partly this is about striving for a better relationship with Russia, which is in our interest. But even if we don’t believe we are able to get a better relationship with Russia in the foreseeable future, we need to talk to them, to manage a difficult relationship, to avoid incidents and accidents. We have more military presence, more exercises, higher tensions, so we have to avoid dangerous situations, like the downing of the Russian plane over Turkey. And if they have happened, make sure that they don’t spiral out of control.
So, one of the issues we have addressed in the NATO-Russia Council is, for instance, air safety in the Baltic Sea region. Small but important step towards avoiding incidents and accidents. So, to talk to the Russians is in line with NATO policies.
Moderator: Gentleman in the first row.
Question [ITV News]: Thank you. Carl Dinnen from ITV News. Moderate increases in defence spending are unlikely to be enough to allow the UK to maintain its current level of capability. How would you feel about this country being able to do a little bit less?
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: I welcome UK leadership in NATO and one of the reasons why the UK has played a leading role and is playing a leading role in NATO, is of course that you have so many high-end capabilities. You have full spectrum defence forces, conventional, cyber, nuclear. And you are spending more than 2% on defence.
I expect UK to continue and to maintain that role. And to maintain that role, of course you need to spend and invest in defence, in new capabilities, both cyber, but also modernising your nuclear forces and on the conventional forces. And as we said in Wales, in the declaration, we actually agreed here in United Kingdom in 2014, we agreed that those countries which are spending more than 2% should continue to spend minimum 2% of GDP on defence. So, I urge the United Kingdom to continue… to maintain its leading role and that’s good for UK, it's good for NATO, and we need all the capabilities that UK provides to the Alliance.
Moderator: Staying on this side of the room, at the back, gentleman standing.
Question [MoD]: What would you like to see the European Union do specifically to help enable SACEUR's AOR?
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: To build beautiful bridges and roads and airports and harbours, so we can move our equipment even faster than we do today, meaning that one of the flagships in the NATO-EU cooperation is military mobility. And of course this is a responsibility for each and every member state of NATO, regardless of whether they are EU member or non-EU member. But the European Union can provide funding and help with investments in infrastructure and also address some legal hurdles to be able to move equipment, ammunition and so on, fast throughout Europe. But we cannot make that totally dependent on the European Union, because we have to be able to move equipment through non-EU European Allies. So… but we are working with the European Union. I sent a letter to the EU Presidents, President Tusk and President Juncker, recently, where I listed actually NATO requirements for moving our equipment. You know, to move a main battle tank on a flat-back, or a truck, then that weighs something like 120 tonnes. So, it's a really heavy thing, so you need infrastructure which can carry that. So we work together with them. They know about our requirements and we hope that we can make real progress.
Last thing I will say about that is that I signed a joint declaration with President Juncker and President Tusk in Warsaw, in connection with our Summit there in 2016. We are planning to sign a new joint declaration, President Juncker, President Tusk and I, in Brussels, in connection with the Summit there, outlining the vision for how we can further strengthen the cooperation between NATO and the European Union.
Moderator: I think we have time for two more short questions. I see Jane's Defence.
Question [Jane's Defence Weekly]: With the increased Russian militarisation of the Arctic, is it time for NATO to take a more active role, instead of leaving it to the Arctic Council?
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: I think we have never left the collective defence of the Arctic to the Arctic Council. I've been in many meetings in the Arctic Council, it's not… what shall I say… the strongest defence union I have seen. Many nice people there and many good meetings, but it's not defence. But the Arctic Council is important because it is a platform for bringing people together and address environmental issues, search and rescue, and one of the things I believe in is that we need, for instance, to work together with Russia, also on search and rescue, which we do actually up in the Arctic. And some NATO Allies are doing that. And that’s cooperation which benefits both Russia, Norway and other NATO Allies
And again, NATO has invested in capabilities which are important for the High North and the Arctic. UK, Denmark, other NATO Allies, Norway, have or are now investing in new naval capabilities. I know that Norway bought some new frigates not so many years ago. And we… Norway also decided to buy 52 F-35s, new maritime patrol aircrafts. All of that is relevant for the Arctic.
So, we are increasing our presence and our capabilities in the Arctic, as in Norway, UK and other NATO Allies. We are establishing the new command for the Atlantic, which will be extremely important for planning exercises, all that, linking North America and Europe together, which is also about the Arctic. UK is investing in new submarines, so we are doing a lot, but at the same time we should try to keep tensions down in the High North.
Moderator: One more question, over here.
Question [RAF]: Thank you. Secretary General, two very quick questions for you. First is that some commentators have argued that intervention in Syria in the recent conflict sooner might have prevented some the atrocities that have happened there. I wanted to know your thoughts on that. And if that were the case, whether NATO have learnt their lesson in intervening in the future?
And then secondly, you've spoken about NATO being open door and the strength of it in the Alliance. I wondered if you could just share some thoughts about Turkey and some of their acts, certainly if you look at the way their government is going and the sort of the standards we uphold in the West versus the direction that they're travelling in. Thank you.
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: NATO is part of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and some NATO Allies are also present on the ground in Syria to defeat ISIS. But we're not part of the conflict in Syria, except for the fight against Daesh or ISIS. And I think that in Syria, what we need there is strong support to all efforts to try to find a peaceful, negotiated solution. And there has been no ask, no call for a NATO military presence in Syria, except for our support to the Global Coalition in the fight against Daesh. I think that of course NATO has to be ready to deploy forces to engage in big combat operations also in the future. But I think also one of the lessons we have learned from Iraq, from Afghanistan, from Libya, is that military intervention is not always solving all problems. So, if we are able to find negotiated, peaceful solutions, that’s always better. And also that the idea of training local forces, not necessarily in Syria, but as a general concept, as we do in Iraq and Afghanistan, is in the long run more viable, to enable them to stabilise their own country. We work also with Tunisia and Jordan and other countries in the region, to help them stabilise the region.
Then Turkey; Turkey is a key Ally, for several reasons, partly because of its geographic location, bordering Iraq and Syria. The fight against Daesh/ISIL has been very much dependent on Turkey providing infrastructure, bases, the work we have done together with them to close the borders. And we have to also remember that no other NATO Ally has suffered more terrorist attacks than Turkey. And they suffered a violent failed coup, or coup attempt, in July 2016. So, I think it is important to make sure that we continue to work with Turkey.
NATO is based on some core values: democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty. And these values are important for the Alliance. I have stressed the importance of these values in many of my meetings, in different NATO capitals, including in Ankara. But the important thing is that we make sure that we continue to work together with Turkey and that’s exactly what we do. Also when it comes to, for instance, the situation in northern Syria, where I welcome the direct dialogue between Turkey and the United States on how to deal with the situation around Manbij and to find a roadmap or a way to work together in addressing the extremely difficult and complex challenges we see there.
Moderator: Ladies and Gentlemen, that’s all we have time for. Thank you.