by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Curtis Scaparrotti on board the USS Harry S. Truman
Moderator: Thank you. Welcome this afternoon, very good to see you here. We will have some brief statements from the Secretary General and then from General Scaparrotti. Secretary General, please?
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Good afternoon. It is really a great pleasure and honour to be on board the USS Harry S. Truman. This is an impressive carrier, with an even more impressive crew. From these decks, the USS Truman projects power to keep us all safe. It delivers deterrence every day. It helps keep our sea lines of communication open and it has been critical in the fight against terrorism, against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. So, I want to thank the crew of this carrier for their service and dedication to duty.
This ship is named after the US president who was in office when NATO was established back in 1949. President Truman described our founding treaty, the NATO founding treaty, as "a shield against aggression and the fear of aggression". Today, the men and women of our Allied navies are a vital part of that shield, protecting almost one billion people, and defending their freedom. Our navies are working more closely than ever together. So, this afternoon, I visited the Danish ship, Esbern Snare, the flagship of one of NATO’s multinational naval groups. NATO’s maritime presence is an essential part of our strengthened deterrence and defence.
Over the coming days, this ship will continue its journey towards Norway, the first time a US carrier group has been in Norwegian waters since 1987. It will be joined by around 60 other ships from across the Alliance taking part in the exercise Trident Juncture, NATO’s biggest exercise in years, with around 50,000 personnel from all NATO countries, as well as Finland and Sweden. Trident Juncture will test NATO’s collective response to an armed attack against one Ally.
To keep our nations safe in an unpredictable world, we need to keep our Alliance strong. We do need to have the training and we need to train together in all domains; at sea, in air, on land and in cyberspace. The exercise will test our high readiness forces, to ensure they meet the demanding standards we set for them. And Trident Juncture will send a clear message of Allied solidarity, that we are ready to protect all Allies against any threat.
The Atlantic Ocean is of fundamental value to our Atlantic Alliance. It is not a barrier between Europe and North America – it is a bridge between the two continents and we need to protect that vital link. So, we are stepping up our efforts. We are setting up a new Joint Force Command for the Atlantic in Norfolk, Virginia, the Truman’s home port, to ensure we have the right forces, in the right place, at the right time.
So, thank you once again, Captain Dienna and the crew of the USS Truman, for hosting us all today. This ship embodies the naval power of the United States and its presence here demonstrates the strong commitment of the United States to our transatlantic bond. Thank you.
Moderator: Okay. Now General Scaparrotti, please?
General Curtis Scaparrotti [NATO SACEUR]: Thank you. Good afternoon and thanks for joining us on this great ship here today. It's an honour to be at sea with the officers, the chief petty officers and the sailors of the USS Harry S. Truman, who are serving their nation and the NATO Alliance. Today, we also had the opportunity to visit the flagship for NATO's Standing Naval Maritime Group 1, the Royal Danish Navy's Esbern Snare.
Standing Naval Maritime Group 1's continuous presence in the Baltic Sea and Atlantic provides important situational awareness for our joint forces. While conducting their routine schedule, the Group is also well placed to respond to operational climates that may arise. The air defence exercise conducted today was a good example of the regular training NATO Maritime Groups undergo to ensure interoperability, readiness and agility of our Allied navies.
Today, NATO has ships from Denmark, Portugal and Norway exercising with US ships and aircraft in the North Sea. Earlier this week, the Group conducted air and surface exercises with the French Navy and a week prior with the Royal Navy as well.
The USS Harry S. Truman brings a tremendous array of power to the security of the Alliance, as demonstrated today. As Secretary General Stoltenberg just mentioned, Harry S. Truman was the US President during the establishment of NATO, over 70 years ago. President Truman famously said, and I quote, "we are not only seeking to establish freedom from aggression and from the use of force in the North Atlantic community, but we’re also actively striving to promote and preserve peace throughout the world". Now, these are words that well reflect NATO's goals today. For example, the Alliance's surface and subsurface platforms, together with our maritime patrol aircraft, are protecting the global commons and freedom of navigation on behalf of all nations. Keeping the world free from aggression also means ensuring the Alliance's postured and ready forces focused on honing those capabilities that will improve our collective defence and our ability to deter adversaries.
The upcoming exercise, Trident Juncture 2018, ensures NATO forces can work together in time of crisis. It will be an important test and, as you’ve seen today, a demonstration of our collective capabilities. With all 29 nations, as well as Finland and Sweden participating across air, land and sea, this talented… this Trident Juncture exercise is a prime example of NATO Allies and partners working together. Trident Juncture 18 will demonstrate that, in an unpredictable world, NATO remains an anchor of stability.
Thanks again to Rear Admiral Black, Commodore… and Captain Dienna, along with their crews, their magnificent crews here, for hosting us today. I can't tell you how extremely impressed I was; the crews that we saw here, the sailors that we saw, their skill, their perseverance, and in trying conditions as well. So, it's been a great day, thank you.
Moderator: Okay, thank you. We have time for a couple of questions. Who wants to ask the first question?
Question [Sky News]: Thank you. I'm Deborah Haynes. I used to work for The Times and, as of the last four weeks, I work for Sky News. Question for the Secretary General first and then for the General. We've heard a lot about increased Russian activity in the Atlantic. How will Trident Juncture, you know, deter that kind of aggressive Russian activity? And then a question for the General: we've seen Russia conduct chemical warfare on the streets of Britain, we've had Britain, the United States and other Allies call out GRU cyber operations across the world. Is NATO ready for Putin, if he were to conduct some kind of test of Article 5, some kind of incursion into NATO territory? How prepared and ready is NATO to respond to that? Thank you.
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Trident Juncture is a very important exercise. It is the biggest exercise in many years in NATO. It shows that we can work together, 29 Allies, two partners - Sweden and Finland - with land forces, air forces and maritime forces. And just the fact that we are able to deploy that many naval forces in the Atlantic, in the Norwegian Sea, in the way we will do during the Trident Juncture, show how NATO is able to deliver and also actually how NATO has been able to adapt to a more demanding, to a more challenging security environment. Because this is the first time since the 1980s that we have an aircraft carrier like this, a US aircraft carrier, in Norwegian waters, as we have then later on during the exercise, and also the first time we bring together so many different forces in one big exercise. But NATO is a defensive Alliance. Our deterrence and our defence, it's not there to provoke a conflict, it is there to prevent a conflict. And we strongly believe that the best way to prevent conflict is to show the unity and the strength of the Alliance, as we do through the Trident Juncture exercise, with all these excellent capabilities.
Then let me also highlight the following, and that is that NATO has adapted to be able to manage a more difficult security environment, and one of the important reasons we have exercises like this, and one of the reasons why I really welcome the presence of this aircraft carrier, the USS Truman, is that it shows the transatlantic bond. It shows that North America stands together with Europe, and the US security commitments to Europe are rock solid, and that’s something we express through this exercise.
General Curtis Scaparrotti [NATO SACEUR]: To your question about the security environment; the Secretary General just noted the changing environment and the challenging environment we're in. The examples you gave on Russia's part – illegal activity, activity below the level of warfare, cyber etc., is an example of how this environment's changed. And it is also one of the reasons that we have to change. So, to the question are we ready, yes we're ready. It's demonstrated here in the exercise that we’re doing. Are we adapting? Yes, we’re adapting, because our environment's changing and also because the character of warfare is changing. So, in exercises like this, in Trident Juncture, we're working hard to include the cyber domain, space, those kinds of activities… that we have to practice and train on, as a multinational force, multi-domain. The challenge of doing that across 29 nations makes this complex, but you can see the proficiency here today. I was just aboard a Danish flagship connected with ships from the United States, Portugal, Norway, sharing a common picture, working on common operating procedures, tactics and procedures, and doing quite well. So again, we’re ready and we’re getting stronger every day.
Moderator: Okay, next question, NTB.
Question [NTB]: Johan Falnes, the Norwegian news agency. So, this aircraft projects military strengths in a big way. And when you come to Trident Juncture, and this is for both for the General and for the Secretary General, when you come to Trident Juncture, what will you do to try to balance it out, so as not to send an overly aggressive signal, especially towards Russia? Thank you.
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: So, General Scaparrotti can perhaps reflect on some of the operational parts of the exercise, because I will just say the following, is that NATO is a defensive Alliance. But to deliver credible deterrence, we need to show the strength of the Alliance and we need to show the bond between North America and Europe. And that’s exactly what we do with this exercise, and with the fact that we have so many nations working together.
This exercise is partly about deterrence, but it is also about training our forces, making sure they're able to work together, and it's also about certifying our high readiness forces, the NATO Response Force. It is a very transparent exercise. It has been a long time planned and a long time announced. We have invited all the OSCE countries, the countries who are a member of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, including Russia, to the exercise. They will be there observing the exercise.
So, defensive Alliance, transparent exercise, with Russian observers, there is no provocation in that. It is that all Allies, all nations have the right to exercise their forces, and we do that in a very transparent and predictable way.
General Curtis Scaparrotti [NATO SACEUR]: So, I would just add that the exercise scenario, for instance, we are a defensive Alliance, it's a defensive scenario, Article 5. It is operational tactical. It is conventional. The location that we do it, our posture of our forces, all those things are factors that tells an experienced force like Russia that this isn’t aggressive and it's not offensive. It is basically an Alliance practicing what we need to practice to defend the Euro-Atlantic. I would add to what the Secretary General said, this was initially announced five years ago, this exercise, and the location it would take place. We have had multiple press conferences on it. Norway and NATO has briefed Russia on it, for instance. We have invited OSCE observers, Russia included. All of those are things that signal… that are transparent, but also signal the purpose of this exercise, and it's not one that is threatening to them and I think, through all of those messages, that should be clear.
Question [Belga News Agency]: Yes, Gérard Gaudin, Belga News Agency. I would like to ask you, when was the decision taken to add the Truman and the carrier group to the exercise? Is that a recent one or is that a very old decision?
General Curtis Scaparrotti [NATO SACEUR]: We… in terms of this exercise, we did not make the final decision until they had sorted actually, we knew that it was an option. But we wanted to keep that option open, given the environment, and what we thought was the best use for both deterrence and for training, for this carrier strike group. So, it has been fairly recent in its final decision.
Moderator: Any other questions? No? Okay, thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.
General Curtis Scaparrotti [NATO SACEUR]: Thank you very much.
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Thank you so much, and let me also thank Admiral Black and Captain Dienna for hosting us here today, because this has been a very good visit with an excellent service and very interesting for all of us who have participated, so many thanks to you.
General Curtis Scaparrotti [NATO SACEUR]: Excellent.