Pre-ministerial Press conference
by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the meetings of NATO Defence Ministers in Brussels
At the Defence Ministerial meeting that starts tomorrow, Defence Ministers will take forward the decisions Heads of State and Governments made when the met at the July Summit here in Brussels. And we will address many different issues, but one of the issues we will address is how to take forward the issue of burden sharing and the commitments we made at the Summit to invest more and also to deliver on the other aspects of burden sharing, contributions and capabilities.
Of course, burden sharing is about more than spending. But we agreed that there is a new sense of urgency to invest 2 % of GDP on defence. And to have credible national plans to get there.
We also recognised that significant progress has been made. Last year, European Allies and Canada boosted their defence budgets by a combined 5.2%. The biggest increase, in real terms, in a quarter of a century. And over the past two years, the same countries have spent a cumulative 41 billion US dollars more on defence. I expect all Allies to stay on course, to continue making progress and to honour their commitments.
Ministers will also discuss progress in strengthening our deterrence and defence – in all its aspects. We will meet tomorrow in the Nuclear Planning Group. We will also have a working session to address our continued adaptation in response to conventional, hybrid and cyber threats.
We remain concerned about Russia’s lack of respect for its international commitments, including the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the INF Treaty. This Treaty abolishes a whole category of weapons and is a crucial element of our security. Now this treaty is in danger because of Russia’s actions. After years of denials, Russia recently acknowledged the existence of a new missile system, called 9M729. Russia has not provided any credible answers on this new missile. All Allies agree that the most plausible assessment would be that Russia is in violation of the Treaty. It is therefore urgent that Russia addresses these concerns in a substantial and transparent manner.
We will also address the instability in North Africa and the Middle East.
We are implementing packages of assistance for Jordan and Tunisia to help improve their defence and security capacities. And preparations to launch our new training mission in Iraq are well on track. At the ministerial, our military commanders will update us on progress in adapting NATO’s command structure. So that we can deal more effectively with the range of challenges we face. And ensure that we have the right forces in the right place at the right time.
Our ability to move forces quickly will be put to the test later this month. In exercise Trident Juncture in Norway. This is one of our biggest exercises in many years. It will include around 45,000 participants from 31 Allied countries and partners. With around 150 aircraft, 60 ships, and over 10,000 vehicles. The scenario is fictitious but realistic. It will simulate NATO’s collective response to an armed attack against one Ally. And it will exercise our ability to reinforce our troops from Europe and across the Atlantic. The exercise is defensive. And it is transparent. All members of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, including Russia, have been invited to send observers.
Finally, this meeting of Defence Ministers will strengthen our partnerships. We will meet with the European Union, and with our partners Finland and Sweden. To address our cooperation in areas such as countering hybrid and cyber threats, and improving military mobility. EU High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini will update us on progress on EU defence initiatives. We will also hold a meeting of the NATO-Georgia Commission. Georgia is one of our closest partners. And a country aspiring to NATO membership.
It makes many contributions to our shared security. We work closely together on Black Sea security. This is a priority for NATO and for Georgia.
Then let me end by saying that we have all watched closely Sunday’s consultative referendum in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia1. I spoke to Prime Minister Zoran Zaev yesterday and we will remain in close contact. I welcome the “yes” vote in the referendum. It is up to Skopje to decide on the next steps. NATO is ready to welcome the country as our thirtieth member. But the only way is to implement the name agreement. There is no other way to NATO membership.
Accession talks have already begun. And I expect that we will conclude them by January next year.
Once all the constitutional changes on the new name are completed we can sign the accession protocol. Giving Skopje a seat at NATO’s table early next year. This an historic opportunity. I urge all political leaders and parties to work together constructively and responsibly to seize this opportunity.
Since 1999 thirteen countries have joined the Alliance, helping spread democracy, stability and prosperity in Europe. Since Montenegro joined last year, foreign investment from Allied countries has doubled there. NATO remains committed to stability and security in this important part of Europe.
Next week I will be travelling to the region again, visiting Belgrade, Zagreb and Ljubljana. And in Serbia I will attend our biggest disaster relief exercise, with 40 countries participating. This is the first such exercise hosted in Serbia, which reflects the strong and highly valued partnership between Serbia and NATO.
And with that, I’m ready to take your questions.
- La Turquie reconnaît la République de Macédoine sous son nom constitutionnel.