Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of exercise Trident Juncture 2018

  • 24 Oct. 2018 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 24 Oct. 2018 21:57

(As delivered)


Good morning.

The main phase of Exercise Trident Juncture will begin tomorrow in Norway.

This is an important day.

Because Trident Juncture is NATO’s biggest exercise since the end of the Cold War.

It is ambitious and it is demanding.

Let me give you our latest figures regarding its size.

Trident Juncture will include around:

  • 65 ships
  • 250 aircraft,
  • 10,000 vehicles
  • and 50,000 personnel.

All 29 NATO Allies will participate, as well as our partners Finland and Sweden.   

This is a strong display of our capabilities.

And of our resolve to work together.

In recent years, Europe’s security environment has significantly deteriorated.

NATO has responded.

With the biggest adaptation of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War.

Trident Juncture demonstrates that adaptation.

The scenario is fictitious, but the lessons we learn will be real.

The participants will split into “South forces” and “North forces”.

They will take turns playing the role of the fictitious aggressor and the NATO defending forces.

The exercise will test our readiness to restore the sovereignty of an Ally – in this case, Norway – after an act of armed aggression.  

It will exercise our ability to reinforce an Allied country with troops and equipment from North America and from across Europe.

It will test and certify the NATO Response Force for 2019.

So Trident Juncture sends a clear message.

To our nations.

And to any potential adversary.  

NATO does not seek confrontation.

But we stand ready to defend all Allies. 

Against any threat.


This is a big exercise.

And a huge logistical undertaking.

Since August, some 180 flights and 60 ships of equipment and personnel have arrived at 27 different locations across Norway.

Including harbours, airports, and train stations.

Equipment and troops have arrived from as far as San Diego in California – over 8,000 kilometres to the west.

And Izmir in Turkey – 3,000 kilometres to the southeast.

Today, all our forces and equipment are in place – from the largest ship, to the smallest drone.

Moving troops and equipment across borders on such a scale is a multinational effort.

Let me give you one example.

German tanks arrived in Norway on a Danish vessel.

On arrival, they were checked by Norwegian specialists.

Fuelled by a Belgian fuel truck.

Loaded on Dutch and Polish transporters by road and rail, to their final destination.

This was supervised by an American movement control team.

And organised by Bulgarian logisticians.

So I want to pay tribute to the capable men and women who are working so hard to move all the forces and equipment in and around Norway for Trident Juncture.

Their work is a great example of Allied cooperation.


The whole exercise will be commanded by Admiral Foggo from aboard the USS Mount Whitney.

And an important part of Trident Juncture will take place at sea.

The Atlantic is vital for the security of Europe.

And for global trade and communications.

It also provides a crucial route for reinforcement between North America and Europe.

NATO is committed to securing the Atlantic.

And Trident Juncture demonstrates the enduring strength of the transatlantic bond.

Thousands of forces from both the United States and Canada will take part.

They are deploying some of their most capable assets.

Including the U.S.S Harry S. Truman, which I visited recently.

The first US aircraft carrier in Norwegian waters since 1987.


NATO is a defensive Alliance.

We are transparent in the way we exercise. 

All members of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe have been invited to send observers to Trident Juncture.   

And I welcome that Russia, as well as Belarus, have accepted the invitation.

NATO also briefed Russia on Trident Juncture in the NATO-Russia Council earlier this year.

NATO Allies respect the OSCE Vienna Document on transparency of military activities both in letter and in spirit.

While Russia has not notified a single exercise since the end of the Cold War. 


Trident Juncture 18 will bring together large numbers of personnel and a lot of equipment.

Some of our forces are using this opportunity to do additional exercises.

For example, the deployment phase of Trident Juncture provides training opportunities as part of NATO’s Exercise Brilliant Jump.

Poland will hold its regular exercise Anakonda, immediately after Trident Juncture.

Troops from ten Allies will participate in Anakonda, which will be hosted jointly by Poland and our Baltic Allies.

Finland is also using the presence of Allied navies in the region in Exercise Northern Coasts.

All these exercises show that we stand together in an unpredictable world.

And that our capabilities are real and ready.

With that, I am ready to take your questions.

Moderator: Ok, we’ll go to Reuters in the first row.

Q: Thank you very much, Robin Emmott from Reuters. Secretary General, yesterday evening Washington made clear to Russia that it will withdraw from the INF treaty. Given that NATO as recently as July in the summit declaration committed to upholding this treaty and called it a landmark treaty where does the US decision leave NATO?

NATO Secretary General: The INF Treaty is a landmark treaty but the problem is that no treaty can be effective, can work, if it is only respected by one part and therefore NATO allies have expressed concerns about the Russian behaviour, about the development of a new Russian missile and they have expressed, all of us have, that the most plausible explanation is that Russia is in violation of the Treaty because they have now accepted that they are developing a new missile SSC8. We have had ongoing consultations on this for a long time. This was actually an issue that was raised by the Obama administration. It was an issue that we addressed also at our summit in July where heads of state and government expressed a very strong position on the INF issue and expressed their concerns about the Russian behaviour and at the Defence Ministerial Meeting in October this was one of the main issues discussed in the meeting but also publicly at a press conference I expressed my concerns and addressed the fact that Russia is developing a new missile but also Secretary Mattis also declared and stated clearly that this cannot go on, this is untenable, that Russia is developing the new missile.

Moderator: The lady from Europa Press, the lady in the third row...

Q: Thank you. Ana Pisonero from the Spanish news agency Europa Press and still on the INF Treaty, Secretary General: have any Allies asked for consultations under Chapter 4? Because potentially if the US decides to pull out of the Treaty, it could have a big impact on the security of the whole of the Allies and also the US or if the US is actually going to brief in the future to the Allies on this potential decision? And the second question is, indeed NATO has been for years denouncing Russian violations. Is the whole Alliance on board on the fact that now is the tipping point that the US should start developing its own capabilities to match Russian capabilities, I mean, is it a tipping point and everybody is on board on that? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: All Allies agree that the INF Treaty is important, and that is exactly why we are so concerned about the Russian behaviour. All Allies of course agree with the United States that the United States is in full compliance with the Treaty, but at the same time we state clearly that the most plausible explanation is that Russia now is in violation of the Treaty and therefore the problem is the Russian behaviour that we have seen clearly over many years and we can state that clearly we cannot have a treaty between two parties which is only respected by one of them. We have had ongoing consultations for a long period.

This was one of the main issues at the Defence Ministerial Meeting a few weeks ago, it was one of the main issues I discussed during my visit to Washington and we will also have a meeting later on this week in the North Atlantic Council at ambassadorial level where we will discuss the INF Treaty and the Russian behaviour, which is of great concern for all Allies. We don’t want a new Cold War, we don’t want a new arms race and therefore we strongly believe that it is important to address the concerns we have expressed for a long time regarding the new Russian missile and that Russia has to come into compliance with the INF Treaty in a transparent and verifiable way. We will of course assess the implications for NATO Allies, for our security, of the new Russian missile and the Russian behaviour, but I don’t foresee that Allies will station more nuclear weapons in Europe as a response to the new Russian missile.

Moderator: Deutsche Welle

Q: Hi, Teri Schulz from Deutsche Welle. I’ll start with this, but I promise I’ll get to Trident Juncture. It still remains that you haven’t really answered what you believe, or what you think, what the Alliance thinks of the responses the US has had. Everyone knows Russia is in violation, Russia has admitted it is in violation, to some extent is this still the best way to go forward, for the US to dump the Treaty? If you are going to, I mean, it’s not up to NATO whether there will be an arms race or not, if there is increasing tension and, God forbid, new nuclear weapons, what difference does it make how well your tanks can cross rivers and move to the border of Estonia if there is going to be a nuclear threat, I mean, the Trident Juncture exercises have not proved a deterrent yet so, yes, I want to know the value in light of the nuclear threat. Thanks.

NATO Secretary General: We don’t have an effective INF Treaty if it is respected by only one part. That has been and that is the main problem. All Allies have strongly stated that we are concerned about the new missile and that the most plausible explanation is that Russia is in violation of the INF Treaty and, of course, we also stated clearly that US is respecting the Treaty but we also understand that this is not something that can go on because the Treaty is not working if it is only respected by one side. We will assess the implications and, as I said, we are also having a meeting at ambassadorial level later on this week which is part of an ongoing consultation which has been going on for many months, especially the last months with the Summit and the Defence Ministerial Meeting.

 We already have a nuclear challenge because Russia has nuclear weapons, so even though the INF Treaty has been important because it has abolished all kind of weapons, intermediate weapons, Russia has maintained different capabilities, nuclear capabilities, strategic capabilities but also short range weapons, so what NATO needs is a credible deterrence to respond to a full spectrum, from conventional weapons all the way to nuclear weapons but the deployment of a new Russian missile makes it necessary for NATO to assess the implications for our security and that is exactly what we are doing.

Moderator: Thank you. Kyiv Post. There...

Q: Thank you. Iryna Somer, Kyiv Post Newspaper. Secretary General, on Russian behaviour yesterday the European Parliament Higher Representative Federica Mogherini discussed the issue of the Azov Sea, particularly its militarisation which can lead potentially to the escalation in the region. What is NATO’s assessment on this? Do we have a reason to worry about? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: Yes we are concerned about the situation in the Azov Sea and Russian behaviour there is part of a pattern we have seen over a long time and especially in this region with the illegal annexation of Crimea with the new bridge and of course with the Russian activities to destabilise , the Russian support to the military activity in Eastern Ukraine to destabilise the Eastern Ukraine Donbas. I discussed the situation in the Azov Sea recently with Foreign Minister Klimkin when he visited NATO’s Headquarters I expressed my full support to the sovereignty of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and including also the freedom of navigation and the importance for Ukraine to be able to have open and free sea lines of communication including in the Azov Sea, but it is also important, of course, for NATO Allies, for our ships and for the trade between NATO Allies and Ukraine. So this is something that has been addressed and just highlights the importance that Russia comes into, or respects, its international obligations, including the navigation in the Azov Sea.

Moderator: Kabul Post...

Q: Thank you Secretary General. Today I think that the NAC is talking also about the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan as well. Could you please tell me, these days we have heard that US and also Afghan, they say that the peace negotiation, that it is also a concern that the US have agreed to talk with the Taliban and also representatives of... Khalil has also met some Taliban members in Qatar and you are always saying that you are supporting the peace process by leading the Afghans, and nowadays it is a little bit changed. Is NATO still supporting the peace negotiations with the Afghans? And also after 17 years of war in Afghanistan, with the terrorism, we still have a lot of problems and no one is recognising the Taliban anymore as a terrorist group so if the Taliban is not a terrorist group, with whom are you fighting? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: NATO supports efforts to find a political and peaceful solution to the conflict in Afghanistan. We do that, not by participating directly in peace talks, that’s not NATO’s role, but we support them politically. NATO’s Allies provide support, but our most important contribution to the peace process is to send a clear message to the Taliban and to other insurgents that they cannot win in the battlefield so we have to train, assist and advise the Afghan forces in a way that enables them to make it clear to the Taliban that they will not win on the battlefield, they have to sit down at the negotiating table.

 So that’s the main way we help Afghanistan, with capacity building, train, assist and advise. We support the Afghan-lead and Afghan-owned peace process but at the same time I think that direct contacts between the US and Taliban is also valuable and I am absolutely certain that the US does what it can to make sure this is coordinated with Kabul. For us the important thing is that it is an Afghan-lead and Afghan-owned peace process and I am absolutely sure that the US coordinate their efforts with Kabul and the Afghan government, and I know they have discussed their efforts several times.

It is also an issue we discuss when we meet in NATO and we will meet today so that will provides us with a new opportunity to have US and Afghanistan and all NATO Allies around the table to discuss the peace efforts and the peace process. NATO doesn’t have a list where we list different terrorist organisations. For us it is important that we provide support to the Afghan forces, security forces, they have the main responsibility for security in their own country and we help them and then we leave it to them to decide how they make progress or how they reach out to Taliban to try to have a political process with the Taliban.
M- Associated Press. The gentleman on the left.

Q: Lorne Cook, from the Associated Press. You may be relieved I have a question on the Trident Juncture now even though I realise we are part of the deterrants by reporting order. It sounds like an article 5 scenario so I wanted to be sure that that’s correct, the geographical location, Norway, very close to Russia, we’ve had two big Russian exercises with China, with Belarus last year, I wondered if you have any thoughts on who else a potential article 5 opponent might be. And then, is this exercise also an opportunity to test out some of the cyber, the aggressive or attacking side of capabilities that have been put out for use for NATO in the future? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: It is the biggest exercise since the end of the Cold War and that reflects the adaptation of NATO. NATO has implemented the biggest adaptation of our Alliance since the end of the Cold War because when the world changes then NATO has to change. And that’s exactly what we have done. Highly trained forces, increased presence in the eastern part of the Alliance and investing more in our security in defence. And the exercise is part of that. NATO has always exercised and we exercise and train all the time, but we have these big exercises where we move thousands of tonnes of equipment, heavy vehicles, tens of thousands of personnel and it is important to show that we are able to support and defend any ally against any threat and we did exercise in Norway but, of course, the lessons learnt fom Norway from Trident Juncture are also relevant to other countries.

And just to make sure that 29 allies can work together in the air, sea, land and cyber is important and we need to do that in a real environment, in a challenging climate and NATO has always faced this in Norway. Cyber is an integrated part in any military operation today and of course we will exercise Cyber. Exactly what cyber capabilities we will exercise, I think I will not go into now, but NATO has decided to integrate what we call National Cyber Effects, it is also called Offensive Cyber, so that we can integrate that into NATO missions and operations. We will of course only use the National Cyber Effects in compliance with international law but we need also these capabilities in a modern and more demanding security environment.

Moderator: Le Soir over there. Yes...

Q: Thank you, Philippe Regnier, newspaper Le Soir, in Brussels. Back to the INF Treaty, I have just one simple question. Do you share the European message, which is basically encouraging Russia and the US to resume their dialogue in order to save the Treaty or do you think that it is better now to kill the Treaty or to renegotiate it, even eventually with China. Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: The NATO Allies have encouraged Russia to be in compliance with the Treaty in a transparent, open and verifiable way for years. This is not a new concern. This is a concern that was first raised by the Obama administration. I remember we came here in 2015 when Obama was president and that was an issue we discussed. It was raised by the NATO Allies and it was raised by the US, which is part of the Treaty with Russia, and we called on them to answer our questions, to answer our concerns and to be in compliance with the INF Treaty in a verifiable and transparent way. The problem is that that has not happened and therefore our best assessment is that Russia is in violation of the Treaty and US, which is part of the Treaty, has already determined that Russia is in violation of the Treaty and Russia has now admitted that they are developing and fielding a new missile, SSC8.

So the problem, the threat, the challenge, is the Russian behaviour, which has been ongoing for a long time, and this is a very important agreement, the INF Agreement, because it doesn’t only reduce the number of weapons, but it abolishes a whole category of weapons – Zero. And it was agreed back in 1987 – I remember it very well because that actually shaped the security policies and the understanding of all generations of politicians in Europe at that time. The intermediate forces, the deployment of Russian’s SS20 and the NATO response with a dual-track decision to deploy Pershing and Cruise missiles. But we don’t want to go back to that situation, we don’t want a new Cold War, we don’t want a new arms race and therefore I don’t foresee that Allies will deploy more nuclear weapons in Europe as a response to the new Russian missile. But I see a need, and that’s what is now going on in NATO, is a need to assess the implications of the new Russian missile for our security.

Moderator: OK, we’ll go over there...

Q: The National News Agency of Ukraine. So far we know a few Ukraine officers will be deployed as part of the staff in the exercises, but Ukraine we know is not named as one of the nations taking part in the exercises. Was that like a political decision by NATO or there was no request from Ukraine itself? And the second part of the same question, how deeply the hybrid circumstances in the east of Ukraine reflected in the exercises scenario. Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: Sweden and Finland are the only NATO partners that will participate in the live part of the Trident Juncture in the part of the exercise that takes place in Norway as the live exercise. Several partners, I can’t remember exactly how many, but there are several partners that will participate in the table top that come on exercise that will take place afterwards. So only Sweden and Finland in the live exercise and several partners will participate in the other part of the exercise. And we exercise with Ukraine, but they are not part of the live part of the Trident Juncture. The other part was Hybrid, yes of course Hybrid is a part of this exercise, meaning that we have to be prepared for cyber attacks, for disinformation and all that, so Hybrid and Cyber is now an integrated part of any military operation and of course any large military exercise.

Moderator: Ok, that’s your final question. Europa Press, over there.

Q: Thanks. Are you worried that what’s going on with the INF might have implications also for other agreements, like START which should be renovated in 2021? And my second question is: Is the date for the next NRC Council already set for 31st October? Has this date already been agreed with Russia? And will this be an opportunity to talk about the INF? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: NATO is in favour of arms control but, to be effective, an arms control agreement has to be respected by all parties and, as I said, the problem with the INF Treaty is that it is only respected by one part. We believe in arms control but it has to be balanced and verifiable and therefore I welcome the fact that one of the issues that has been discussed between the US and Russia, which are parties to the New START Agreement, is that they need a new decision to maintain the New START of 2021. I hope that they will find a way to do so because arms control is a way to avoid a new arms race and it is especially important when it comes to nuclear weapons and therefore I welcome it.

We have not yet stated the new date for the new NATO-Russia Council but as you know we have had several meetings in the Council the last couple of years with no meetings between 2014-2016. Since 2016 we’ve had several meetings and we are now discussing with Russia how to convene the new meeting of the NATO-Russia Council. Which items we will discuss, I think I won’t go into details of that now, but what I can say is that we have used the Council to for instance address transparency, force posture, so we have briefed Russia on Trident Juncture and they have briefed also on Vostok, and for NATO this is very important, to be transparent and predictable, and therefore we have briefed them in the NATO-Russia Council.

We have invited them to observe the exercise according to the agreement on the OSCE Vienna Document and I expect also Russia to monitor de exercise, to be up there in the north, and as long as they behave professionally and avoid dangerous situations and behaviour, I don’t think that’s a problem at all that they monitor the exercise of Trident Juncture.

Moderator: This concludes the exercise and hopefully we will see you in Trident Juncture