The Brussels Summit: where do we go from here?

Remarks by NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller at the Security Conference: ''NATO Engages: The Brussels Summit Dialogue''

  • 12 Jul. 2018 -
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  • Last updated: 12 Nov. 2018 09:46

(As delivered)

MODERATOR:  Well thank you, Deputy Secretary General, for being here, for taking your time to be here as it’s been a long two days, also here at the conference a lot has happened here but also on the hill as it has been coined.  We have seen the declaration yesterday evening with 79 paragraphs of substance but we’ve also seen President Trump’s press conference today and the style of this session is titled, ‘Where do we go from here?’, so looking at all these developments where do we go from here?

ROSE GOTTEMOELLERAll right, well let me start because I know everybody is curious what the dynamics have been with President Trump over the last 24-48 hours and so let me start with that because I have to tell you that I’ve seen several aspects of the President that are frankly very valuable for driving forward the agenda here at NATO.  One aspect we all know about and that is his hard-driving attitude to defence burden-sharing and that was very much on display.  We heard about it yesterday, we heard about it today but I’ll tell you it led to a very deep and intense discussion around the table about how the Alliance needs to intensify its efforts to fulfil its commitments to defence spending, defence burden-sharing, and so in fact what you are seeing and Sec Gen talked about it earlier today in his press encounters, a couple of them, what you are seeing is that the Allies are redoubling their efforts and Trump’s leadership has already shown results in terms of  $41 billion in new monies for 2017 and 2018.  

So we need to redouble our efforts and all of the Allies conveyed that notion very clearly.  So there was that leadership from the President and that aspect.  But I want to just talk for a moment about another aspect that I saw that was very interesting to me. I think some of you may have seen on the press the ceremony we had out front where the flags are and it was a good ceremony, the soldiers were there, we played the NATO hymn which is a kind of lugubrious piece of music but I still like it, it’s you know it always gives me a little flutter here in the heart.  But, anyway, it was great because the fella who had written that hymn was there and he actually directed it and after the presidents were finished on their podium, President Trump walked over and he shook that man’s hand and he wanted to have his picture taken with him.  And, so, another thing that I saw this time was Trump the politician - you know, really trying to connect with NATO, and I thought that was pretty neat and I hope frankly that we will see more of that from the President because he really connected with the band yesterday but he also really connected with the leaders around the table and it’s not only at NATO that he connects with them.  Obviously he is going … he is already in London now to meet with counterparts in the UK Government, with Prime Minister May.  Of course, he will be meeting with the Queen, but it was just neat for me to see how he actually can connect with people as a politician.  He did that in a simple way with our band, but he also did it, I think, in a very intense way around the NAC table and that leadership is very, very important going forward.

 MODERATOR:  All right, thank you, before we get into more of a conversation I would like to invite the audience to use the App and go into the App for asking questions, your questions will be put on the screen and we will later come to you for the questions and, but Rose, I was actually wondering, there has been a lot of media coverage on indeed what President Trump has said, but there has been also so much on new initiatives such as the NATO Readiness Initiative troop commitments to Afghanistan and Iraq.  But the media hotlines have been about Trump.  So, if I have to tell my friends or my family … you know - what have you seen about the NATO Summit?  They will tell me I have heard great statements of Trump

ROSE GOTTEMOELLERThat’s great, that a great way...

MODERATOR:  How do we reach that audience?

ROSE GOTTEMOELLERCan I do this, I actually want to challenge the audience, so I would like to hear from you what you think is the biggest takeaway in substantive terms.  I don’t want to hear again about burden-sharing.  What really struck you?  I’ll give you my three examples: one is what I call the big arc that goes from Wales to Warsaw to Brussels, and that big arc I think about it as an arc of effectiveness because when we confronted the crises of 2014: the seizure of Crimea, destabilization of the western Donbass, when we encountered the seizure of Mosel and the rise of Daesh, we were facing serious problems of deterrence and defence in fighting terrorism and so the Alliance seized those challenges and between Wales to Warsaw we came up with the battle groups, put in place the battle groups for deterrence and defence and between ... I am sorry, between Wales and Warsaw we began the process; Warsaw we took it forward with the battle groups, put in place the deterrence and defence capability in the Baltic States and Poland and this time we are talking all about what we need to do to effectively reinforce and rapidly reinforce behind those trip wires in the Baltic States and Poland, and so to me we are showing that NATO delivers in terms of military effectiveness. 

That’s one thing I wanted to mention, but the other really I think more, I would say singular accomplishments are things that this Alliance does well but they don’t often get a lot of notice, (1) I refer you to the Action Plan on 1325 - Women, Peace and Security, and I hope you will take the chance to go to our exhibit where we have got the interactive map and play with it some, I hope some of you had a chance already.  I am going right after this session to do a walk through and play with it myself but it shows that NATO is really beginning to focus on these issues as never before and now we have an action plan that is going to drive us in that direction, so that’s very, very important.

And then the other one is my personal favourite, I just came -  oh gosh, it was about an hour ago from the ceremony where Sec Gen signed the letter inviting the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to accession talks.  And knowing how hard our friends and colleagues in Athens worked and how hard our friends and colleagues in Skopje worked to make that happen, I was absolutely thrilled, as was every person in that room. 

So our door is open, we have said that time and time again but taking away from this Summit you can see that we have not only an open door but an active project moving forward.

So those are my two favourites, I would like to hear from the audience what your favourites are and of course I will try to answer questions too.

MODERATOR:  OK, Deputy Secretary General, we have just had the President of Afghanistan here on stage and the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan is in the declaration.  There have been troop commitments by the UK, if I am not mistaken. 

How do you see the future of NATO in Afghanistan five years from now, ten years from now?

ROSE GOTTEMOELLERWell five years from now is easy because one of the great things about the decisions in this Summit, the decision to extend our support to the Resolute Support Mission to 2024.  So that is there as a very clear and firm decision.  Not every NATO Ally found it easy to make that decision because of budget problems and issues they have to deal with back in their capitals but every single NATO Ally has committed to maintain support for the Resolute Support Mission until 2024, so that I think is an easy one.

As for ten years out, I hope ten years from now Afghanistan is in a very different place and I think what you heard from President Ghani probably conveyed very clearly that his vision for Afghanistan will take it to a very different place within ten years.

MODERATOR:  You just mentioned commitments within the NATO Alliance.  One of the bigger commitments is the NATO Readiness Initiative but that brings NATO closer to home or the challenges closer to home.  That tied in with the initiatives in military mobility, the initiatives that have been taken on EU defence. 

How do you see this developing in sync with each other and how will this play out?

ROSE GOTTEMOELLERWell I was talking a moment ago about the reinforcement initiative. I think it’s very easy to think about it as a way to get the Alliance moving faster because frankly, what has happened in the past is we said, OK, we have a certain level of readiness, maybe it takes 60 days to be ready to move.  Well what this initiative does, it says, it’s not only it’s 30 days now but it’s 30 days to be ready to employ, that means already in theatre and if necessary ready to go.  That’s a big, big difference.

And so what the reinforcement initiative is all about is readiness actually and making sure that our forces are not only capable but also ready and can move quickly and here is where we get into the cooperation with the European Union which is another big part of this Summit meeting.  What we have done to reinforce and strengthen that cooperation since Warsaw is considerable.  And what’s very, very interesting is, of course, for the European Union they have other responsibilities.  They are all about improving the conditions for commerce, making sure the roads, rail networks, ports and, etc, are ready for commerce but they are working with us to put in place also the kinds of requirements that we have to make sure they would also be capable of bearing up heavy equipment, for example, tanks and other kinds of heavy equipment.

But I like to say that even there - you know, when you think of the demands of heavy truck traffic for commercial purposes -  you know, those requirements are not so different, so it’s good that we have I would say a kind of coming together of what our needs are between the European Union and NATO on military mobility. 

The Dutch, by the way, have been absolutely fantastic at leading the way and really helping to craft this cooperation with the European Union in this area.

MODERATOR:  OK, thank you.  I think it’s time to move to the audience because, like you said, you like to hear from the audience.  I don’t know, can we put the questions up on the screen already.  Yes, so let’s see if we can pick some.  Maybe we haven’t really touched on hybrid and cyber.  How does that tie in with the readiness initiatives?  Maybe you can say something about this?

ROSE GOTTEMOELLERWell frankly hybrid and cyber challenges … they - you know - it’s interesting because hybrid threats are, as we like to say, as old as the Trojan horse, so they are not really new in military terms but the nature of them has changed so incredibly in the last … Even since the Warsaw Summit, we have seen them taking new shape and really starting to be a day in, day out, challenge to the Alliance dealing with cyber attacks, dealing with disinformation that is generated often through social media and the use of social media but generated propaganda for example. 

So we have had to really think hard about this in the last period since … I have been here at NATO a year and a half - and look at ways to really wrestle with this problem.  I think there are a couple ways we are thinking about it.  First of all, and you may have heard this in the last couple of days, building up the resilience of the Alliance.  All Alliance members, but also our partners, resilience to be able to deal with cyber attacks, for example, resilience to be able to address the StratCom challenges that come with bot-generated propaganda with that kind of constant flow of misinformation through your society. 

So there is a lot that the Alliance is doing in that area but, again, I challenge this audience to help us think through - and it’s one area we will be focusing on quite a bit:  the challenges of deterring in this space hybrid asymmetric threats and they are different according to the different nature of the threat.

So I challenge you to help us think this through as well.  That will be one of the main areas that we are, I think, working hard on.  And it’s somewhat new since Warsaw.  I mean it wasn’t new at Warsaw.  Again, let’s think way back into history, but it’s really grown in its impact on the Alliance in recent years.

MODERATOR:  I think one of the big topics I see at least on the screen is one question from someone anonymous on the metric of 2% in burden-sharing.  And someone else I saw on the screen has:  is burden-sharing fair as it is measured at this point?  How have these discussions taken place during the Summit?

ROSE GOTTEMOELLERWell, I will underscore that what we talked about as the Defence Investment Pledge has three parts to it:  its cash, capabilities and contributions.  And so there is a pretty spirited debate across the Alliance about how exactly you fold - you know, those three things together to give an adequate picture of what each Ally is putting on the table for NATO.  And so we try to be really rigorous with this and Secretary General Stoltenberg was former Finance Minister and also educated in this arena of careful statistics. I mean that was part of his education.  He really drills down hard on the numbers and what the numbers mean and tries to put them together.  We - on his behalf, of course - we have a great staff doing this, but we try to be very consistent about how we approach it and then we end up having debates about - you know, how to count things but that goes with any kind of statistics.  But I refer you to the Secretary General’s Annual Report and to the defence budget numbers that were just published a few days ago; it’s something you can take a look at and really start to try to digest how we handle this problem.

MODERATOR:  There was a good question on this list.  I don’t know if we can show it? It was about Europe’s responsibility to be able to act militarily, but I don’t know if that can be put up?

QUESTION:  Sorry, just very quickly, because we talked so much about input the 2% but what is it that we actually would expect the Europeans to be able to do, what’s the output that we would like to see because 2% don’t really solve anything?

ROSE GOTTEMOELLERWell that’s why we try to have the more sophisticated consideration of cash, capabilities and contributions so …

MODERATOR:  Is there another question on there?  Yes, maybe leading up to that, the outlook for the contributions for the 30, 30.

ROSE GOTTEMOELLERThat’s actually very interesting.  Have you talked about this at all in the last couple of days what exactly it is?


 ROSE GOTTEMOELLER:  OK.  Well let me just, oh, Celeste is nodding so... Oh General Scaparrotti talked about it.

So there is a couple of points I would like to emphasise about it: these are 30 battalions, 30 air squadrons and 30 ships ready in 30 days to employ. 

What I want to stress because I have had some confusion from various audiences.  It won’t surprise you I have been talking to the Russian media about this.  This is not number one to bring forward for permanent deployment in Europe.  This is a reinforcement capability. So if there is a crisis, if there is a conflict, if there is a necessity to reinforce our battle groups that is when these capabilities would come into play and they are not to be in any sense permanently deployed in Europe.

The other thing I think it’s very good to focus on is that they are not new forces; they are forces that all of the Allies have available but they perhaps haven’t brought them up to the level of readiness that needs to happen. 

So this is meant to spread the 30, 30, 30 initiative, is meant to spread a culture of readiness and the notion that that readiness must go with the capability to rapidly reinforce across the Alliance to every Alliance member and to make sure that everybody is stepping up to the bar on this. 

So that’s the second point I want to make about it in general.  But in terms of - you know, contributions - if it is actually going to happen, I think the prognosis is very good.  We haven’t had a formal - you know, generation, force generation yet, as far as I understand, but from what I hear across the Alliance people are very ready to do this.

So we will see when the first formal force generation goes out what happens but there has been a very, very good reaction to this initiative, to this proposal, and; by the way, it was one that was first developed in the think tank community in the United States, so for those of you in the audience who might have been involved in helping us to think it through, I can say thank you.

MODERATOR:  Maybe we give the audience a chance, we don’t have the App, to also ask some questions, there are some people with mics up here, the gentleman up front here?

QUESTION:   I covered Afghanistan for 23 years right in the war, first war as well, right from the beginning, 17 years now, Americans did not listen about Afghanistan to his neighbours, neighbours are very vital but American diplomacy had been to ignore Iran, Pakistan particularly, regarding Afghanistan and what we see now with the South Asian strategy of President Trump doing the same that isolating more neighbours and basically involving more countries which are not neighbour to Afghanistan. 

Do you think, will it produce next in ten years any result if Afghanistan and Pakistan not onboard?

ROSE GOTTEMOELLERWell I’ll tell you, first of all, I want to be clear to everybody around the room, I have an American accent, I was an American official, but I am now the Deputy Secretary General of NATO so I’m not engaged or involved in US policy-making in this area at the moment, so I do want to underline that.   But my memory is when I was in government that there was quite a bit of engagement with Pakistan to try to work the issues in Afghanistan and that continues as far as I can tell. We just completed an RSM meeting today and that’s the second part of my answer.  Around that table there were many, many partners.  The Allies were there, of course, but there were many, many partners, as well including regional partners. 

So as far as I can see, at least from the perspective of NATO’s RSM training mission in Afghanistan, we do try to be as inclusive as possible and take into account the kinds of contributions that partners can make fully as well and the fact that we now have this continued commitment now to 2024, we are urging our partners as well to step up to that and to be willing to continue to join us in this effort.

So it’s, well in other words, I am not completely agreeing with the hypothesis behind your question but I take the point that it’s important to engage regionally and I also take the point that we could do better, because I think that we could do better.

MODERATOR:  So gentleman here up front?

QUESTION:  If I would talk about the plus points of the Summit I would talk for two days...

ROSE GOTTEMOELLERWhat’s your favourite?

QUESTION:  So there is just one little comment that I would want to make and I would want to invite your comment on that.  Since we are talking about inclusivity I would, I have not seen any differently abled person here...

ROSE GOTTEMOELLERI’m sorry say that again?

QUESTION:  I mean differently abled person, I mean I have not seen any person in a wheelchair, I mean we are talking about everyone, so maybe we can expand the questions from, I mean US focused a lot on the gender equality, about the feminism, but I think the questions, and then we discuss the questions of race like we should talk about that but even though that we have many people here but I have not heard even anyone talking about that. 

So maybe at the next Summit if, because we are talking about everyone, so do you think like all voices should be heard and that’s important? 

The other question is I would want to invite your perspective on that, do you think the war in Afghanistan and I mean the war on terror was imposed on Pakistan and Afghanistan?

Thank you.

ROSE GOTTEMOELLERWell we are talking about a consequence of 911 and Article 5 being declared but again, from the perspective, and I have just come from a Global Coalition meeting, so we have had a lot of meetings today: RSM and a Global Coalition meeting, in which we were talking about the defeat of Daesh and everyone recognises that we have made significant progress and really done so much.  There was a map shown of - you know, the continuing, there are some continued pockets of presence in Iraq of Daesh but we must, and this was a clear resolve around the table, we must continue to finish this job, but a sense too that we have made some extraordinary progress in this effort.  And everyone around the table from the region, the Allies, the partners, agreed that it was necessary to defeat this extremist organisation that has been at the heart of so much terrorism, so much destabilisation for all our countries. 

So the way I see it, the way I see the question you are raising is that when we are able to defeat terrorism and - you know, really have some decisive effect in that regard then that’s when societies can begin to resume their prosperity, their health, their security, their stability, all those things that allow a country to prosper.

So, again, we talked about Afghanistan a moment ago, I hope in ten years Afghanistan will be there. 

Your first question is really, really, interesting because our policy and I was, I guess not telling the complete story, we are also focused on civilians in armed conflict and that means everybody.  So we do try to focus on the challenges facing civilians in armed conflict, it tends to focus often on children and what happens to them in armed conflict but it is everybody: it’s men, women and children and so, if somehow we have given the impression by focusing so much on 1325 that they don’t care about anything else, that’s not true at all and, in fact, we have new policies in that area.

Now we have to implement those policies.  That’s the challenge.

MODERATOR:   We have time for two short brief questions, so please keep it brief, the gentleman here and the gentleman there in the back.

QUESTION:  I wanted to ask you about Alliance unity after this Summit, I agree with a lot of the strong deliverables that the Summit has brought forward but this morning when we were sitting here I think a lot of us had a bit of near-death experience when it comes to NATO and about not correct reports about President Trump talking about pulling out of NATO came to the room.

So my question is, your assessment of the Alliance unity after this Summit.  Being in a position of Deputy Secretary, what should we do going forward to strengthen the unity and yeah I mean there is a little bit about the political angle, I guess one thing that we really carefully observed this morning was whether the drama and emergency in NAC meeting produced additional results when it comes to the speed, for example, of coming closer to 2%?

Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Let’s take both of them at the same time. 


MODERATOR:  The gentleman over there.

QUESTION:  Thank you very much, Sebastian Springer with Defence News.  I do want to revisit the issue of funding one more time and perhaps you can close the, sort of close the book for us on this, you mentioned $41 billion is in fact 2017 and 2018 money, so that’s sort of been on the books, has there, are we going...

ROSE GOTTEMOELLERSince President Trump came into office, that’s the calculation.

QUESTION:  Are we going away from the Summit, have the metrics changed at all in terms of the 2% on quantity and 2024 in terms of timeline, has this at all changed?

Thank you.

ROSE GOTTEMOELLERThank you, but let me take your question first because the two kind of fit together.  I mentioned a moment ago that these leaders get together a lot, they see each other in multiple settings.  And what struck me about the group dynamics in the NATO setting is these are people who know how to talk to each other and they talk very directly. I mean people threw away their talking points which was good, it was the right thing to do, they needed to talk to each other about intensifying commitments, intensifying the commitment to achieve what has been promised. And what I saw in that room was a certain, I would say - you know, butting of heads.  There is no question about it. President Trump has very strong views on this, but different Allies have very strong views on this as well, and so they got it all out on the table, they talked to each other very, very directly.  But I have to tell you to me that’s what good leaders do, they don’t mince words with each other when they need to come to an agreement and what came out of that NAC this morning was a very - I would say, clear view that the Allies are together in redoubling their commitments in moving forward and that President Trump has really pushed people hard to intensify their efforts.  So there was a certain sense that - you know, the President had really helped to intensify efforts inside the Alliance.

But I want to convey to you that this is - you know, this is part of the give-and-take that good leaders have, that they speak up for the interests of their countries, they speak up very articulately, very tough, they bring their own facts to bear on the debate.  But what’s wrong with a good debate?  That happens about the NAC table every single day of the week. What’s wrong with a good debate? What’s the big deal here? You know, honestly …

So let’s focus on the substance.  In answer to your question, we are committed to what we have agreed and we will continue to work now from this headquarters, Jens Stoltenberg and I will have a lot to do in order to make sure that everybody keeps their eye on the prize, this intensification of effort.  And that is what I think President Trump brought to Brussels and that’s what he is taking away that he got the Allies to really step up to these commitments and that is a big deliverable.

So thank you very much.  You can tell I feel strongly about this because I said it the first day when I came to talk to you, we have so much substance; those 78 paragraphs are full of good stuff.

So I do ask you to take a good look at them because you will see there the future of the Alliance laid out for you and let’s not get wrapped around the axle about debates that are natural among good leaders.

Thank you all very, very much.

MODERATOR:  Thank you so much, Deputy Secretary General.  I like to invite Mr Gowing.

NIK GOWING:  Rose, can I just … the Ambassador is going to join us in a moment but can I just ask you to lead because it’s now 36 hours since we stood here right at the beginning. About it’s only that, what is normal about the new normal, a gathering like this which you wanted, what has it achieved for you as Deputy Secretary General?

ROSE GOTTEMOELLERI wish I could have been here more because I was watching - you know, on the screens as I was running from one end to the other of the new headquarters … I was watching on the screens and it really looked like a lot of good discussion and debate were going on here as well.

So I hope you have all found this to be a worthwhile effort.  Good, good, and I have to say the first time I had one of these microphones put on me and I was sent out to the middle of the floor at the Brussels Forum, I was absolutely petrified.  But I have to tell you I am beginning to like the format more than a static panel, so maybe we should be doing more of them. 

Anyway, thank you all very, very much. I do appreciate your being here today and thanks for your tough questions and the good discussion.

NIK GOWING:  You can be the moderator next time as well.

ROSE GOTTEMOELLERI don’t know about that.

NIK GOWING: Good to see you Rose.

ROSE GOTTEMOELLERAll the best, bye, bye.