Joint press conference

with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Minister of Defence of Norway, Frank Bakke-Jensen at the Trident Juncture 2018 distinguished visitors’ day

  • 29 Oct. 2018 -
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  • Last updated: 30 Oct. 2018 15:54

(As delivered)

God morgen.

I’m very glad to be here with Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen.

To welcome you to Trident Juncture 2018.

We are facing the most challenging security environment in a generation.

And NATO has responded with the biggest adaptation of our collective defence in a generation.

Because when the world changes, NATO has to change.

Trident Juncture is the largest NATO exercise since the end of the Cold War.

With 65 ships.

250 aircraft.

10,000 vehicles.

And over 50,000 personnel.

From all 29 Allies.

Along with our partners, Finland and Sweden.

This exercise is long-planned.

It is not directed against anybody.

And it is purely defensive.

We train in peacetime to make sure our forces can work together in crisis and conflict.

We also train to test and certify the NATO Response Force for 2019.

Led by Germany next year.

With the participation of Norway, the Netherlands and Italy.

This force must be able to move at short notice in an emerging crisis.

And we train to send a clear message.

To our own nations, and to anyone who might want to challenge us.

NATO is ready and NATO is able to protect all Allies against any threat.

The scenario for Trident Juncture is that a NATO Ally – in this case, Norway – has been attacked by a fictitious adversary.

Our task is to defend Norway and to drive back enemy forces.

Trident Juncture will show our ability to reinforce an Ally in need.

With troops and equipment travelling long distances from Europe and North America.

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

Because NATO Allies respect the letter and the spirit of our international commitments.

So Trident Juncture is not only a great example of NATO’s strength, but also of NATO’s transparency.

It is very nice to be here, to meet the soldiers and thank them.

Now let me pass the floor to Frank.


Frank Bakke-Jensen [Minister of Defence of Norway]: Secretary General, thank you.  Welcome to Norway.  And thank you for bringing so many friends.  Good thing with an alliance is that your friends are my friends. 

Norway cannot realistically hope to deter on our own, that’s why our membership in the NATO Alliance is the cornerstone of our security.  Being a responsible and credible Ally is of great importance to us.  We invest in transatlantic security.  We take our responsibility seriously.  We remain committed to do our share in the Alliance.

Trident Juncture 18 is a great opportunity for Norway to train and exercise our ability. To receive and handle a large number of troops and equipment from abroad.  To operate collectively with Allies and partners.  It will also test Norway's total defence concept, because it involves several civilian authorities.  Exercising in our challenging climate and our rugged terrain gives us confidence that we are better prepared to operate in the North and operate together.  Collective defence and deterrence was the founding principle of the Alliance.  Demonstrating the member countries' ability and will to defend each other is deterrence in practice.  With all 29 NATO members participating, as well as our partners from Sweden and Finland, the exercise sends a strong message of unity.  We stand together.

And with that, we are ready to proceed.

Oana Lungescu [NATO Spokesperson]: Okay.  Please introduce yourselves and say who your question is addressed to.  We'll start with the BBC, in the second row. 

Question [BBC]: Secretary General, you say that this is not directed at anybody, but Russia has made clear they see this as an anti-Russian exercise.  How do you respond to that?  And also, we now hear that Russian warships might test… fire missiles through the area that you're exercising in.  Do you that as a provocation?

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: This is a defensive exercise.  NATO is a defensive Alliance, and all nations have the right to exercise their own forces, and we are exercising on NATO territory in Norway, and we exercise with our close partners, Finland and Sweden.  We are transparent about what we do.  This is a long time planned exercise and we have also used the NATO-Russia Council to brief Russia on the exercise, and we have invited observers from the OSCE to observe the exercise.  They can talk to the soldiers, the troops participating in the exercise.  They can conduct overflights and they will also be briefed on the scenario of the exercise.  NATO always invites observers to our exercises.  Russia has not invited international observers to any exercise since the end of the Cold War.  We are transparent and we inform them about our exercises and we invite them to observe them.  So, this is a necessary exercise, to make sure that NATO continues to provide a credible deterrence.  And the reason why we do that is to prevent a conflict, of course not to provoke a conflict.  We were notified last week about the planned Russian missile test outside the coast here, outside the coast here. Russia has significant forces, naval forces in this area.  They are regularly exercising their naval capabilities, maritime capabilities, off the coast of Norway.  I expect Russia to behave in a professional way and it will not change the plans of our exercise.  We will of course monitor closely what Russia does, but they operate in international waters and they have notified us in the normal way.

Oana Lungescu [NATO Spokesperson]: Okay.  Gentleman over there, in the fourth row. 

Question: [Klassekampen] Hi.  Secretary General, as you know, the Russians has announced that they will exercise firing missiles into near area designated for Trident Juncture exercises.  Will NATO respect the Russian exercise and keep all activity out of the area on the 1st - 3rd November?

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: This is a thing that happens quite often, and that is that nations announce or send out notifications about that they are planning exercises.  It has happened before, that nations are able to exercise not far from each other without creating a dangerous or difficult situation.  So, I am absolutely confident that the Russian forces will behave in a responsible way and act safely, as will of course the NATO forces do.  So, I think that what we should do now is to take note of the Russian notification.  We were informed last week.  But we will conduct our exercise as planned and I don’t expect that that will cause any serious problems.  But, as I said, we will follow the movement of the Russian maritime capabilities closely, and they are informed about our exercise, so we do whatever we can to avoid any dangerous situation.

Oana Lungescu [NATO Spokesperson]: Okay.  We'll go to the gentleman over there.

Question: Matthew Fisher from Canada.  My question is about the Arctic Ocean and the Russian military build up in the Arctic Ocean.  What are NATO's plans?  It affects Norway, so perhaps this is a question for both of the people here today.  And also of course Denmark, Canada and the United States.  Are you going to put more assets there?  Are you going to do exercises in the Far North?

Frank Bakke-Jensen [Minister of Defence of Norway]: Well, thank you.  Good question.  We're putting more effort in situational awareness.  We will be present with Norwegian planes, ships, and Norwegian troops, because this is our home guard too.  So, we’re exercising, we're moving our land forces up north, back to Finnmark.  This is to create the understanding of the situation, we need to avoid misunderstandings.  This is the way we developed the Norwegian forces and it's also the way we developed the cooperation with our NATO Allies.

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Let me just add that we used to say that in the High North we have low tensions, and I think we should still work for avoiding increasing the tensions in the High North, because this is an area where we need also to work together with Russia.  For instance, I know that several NATO Allies are working with Russia when it comes to Search and Rescue and we have the cooperation in the Arctic Council, with several NATO Allies and Russia.  And we have the cooperation within the Barents Council and the Barents Cooperation.  So, it shows that it is possible for NATO Allies to combine being strong, predictable, firm, but at the same time have a practical cooperation with Russia, as individual nations, within the framework of the Arctic Council or the Barents Sea Cooperation.

We have seen increased military presence of Russia in the Arctic.  NATO is not mirroring, plane by plane or submarine by submarine or ship by ship, exactly what Russia is doing, but of course one of the reasons why we are strengthening our collective defence, why we are strengthening our presence also in the High North, is because of what we see from the Russian side, especially the need to also protect the sea lines of communications in the North Atlantic.  Linking North America to Europe is vital for NATO, so anti-submarine warfare is something we exercise.  Several NATO Allies, as Norway, investing in new planes, in new maritime patrol aircrafts, but also the UK, Denmark - of course, Canada and the United States, are also investing in new maritime and air capabilities which are relevant for the High North.

So, we are responding, but not by mirroring exactly what Russia is doing, and we still work for keeping the tensions low, because the High North is a challenging environment for all of us.

Oana Lungescu [NATO Spokesperson]: Okay, we have Jane's in the centre there. 

Question [Jane's Defence Weekly]: Nick Fiorenza, Jane's Defence Weekly.  I know you're insisting that this is not… this exercise is not directed at anybody, but it sure looks like a Cold War exercise.  So, I was just wondering how does this exercise, and the way it envisages defending Norway, how does it differ from the Cold War exercises?  I mean one thing I'm beginning to realise is that the US and other Allied presences may be a bit more permanent than I realised.

Frank Bakke-Jensen [Minister of Defence of Norway]: Developing our forces, we're developing our forces through a long-term plan.  One part of that is to exercise more with our Allies, with our Allied forces also in Norway.  The focus for NATO has been other places, you know, back in the… where it started, the Atlantic Sea, the communication lines, the North Atlantic.  Then it's natural that our Allied forces also would like to exercise more in Norway because of the climate, because of the rugged terrain.  That’s why we have troops from the US, UK, Germany, Dutch troops, on a rotational basis, we don’t have them on a permanent basis, but they are here on a rotational basis to exercise with our troops.  That helps us building better troops in Norway and we help them building better troops for this climate.

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: We are not in a Cold War situation, but we are exercising collective defence, because that’s the core task for NATO, is to show that we have the resolve, that we have the capabilities, that we have the will to defend all Allies.  And again, this is about preventing a conflict.  Because, as long as all potential adversaries know that an attack on one Ally will trigger the response from the whole Alliance, then there will be no attack.  So, the best way to preserve the peace is to have credible deterrence.  Not to provoke conflict, but to prevent conflict.  And therefore, in a more challenging and more demanding security environment, we need to strengthen our collective defence, and Exercise Trident Juncture is one part of a bigger picture, where NATO has significantly built up our ability to deliver deterrence, to do collective defence, with higher readiness of our forces, with the deployment of battlegroups in the eastern part of the Alliance, with a new Command Structure.

There are big differences between now and the Cold War.  During the Cold War, you had two military blocs confronting each other, the Warsaw Pact and NATO.  You had hundreds of thousands of combat-ready troops on both sides, along the east/west border in Europe.  You don’t have anything similar to that today.  And you had tens of thousands of nuclear weapons, in Europe.  So, that was a very different situation compared to what we have today.  What we see today is a more unpredictable situation, where it's harder to foresee exactly what will happen and there is less agreement on what are the rules of the game.  So, there is less tensions, less confrontation between two military blocs, but the challenge today is more unpredictability and also of course more use of what we call hybrid tactics; cyber attacks, meddling in domestic political processes, and of course the risk of terrorist attacks.  So, it's a very different security situation and NATO has to adapt to respond to that.

Oana Lungescu [NATO Spokesperson]: DPA, over there.  Third row.

Question [DPA]: Ansgar Haase, German Press Agency DPA.  Secretary General, you mentioned the NATO-Russia Council, what do you expect from the discussions tomorrow in the NATO-Russia Council?  Do you see any chance to save the INF Treaty?  And second question, if I may, is it possible to get a short interim conclusion of the first days of Trident Juncture?

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: We will convene the NATO-Russia Council on Wednesday this week, meaning tomorrow actually, and I welcome that because, after a couple of years with no meetings of the NATO-Russia Council, we have been able since 2016 to convene six meetings.  I think it is important that NATO and Russia meet.  We brief each other, we have discussions where we address many different issues of importance for Euro-Atlantic security, and I look forward to also the meeting we'll have this week.  Because especially when the relationship between Russia and NATO is difficult, then it's particularly important to have dialogue, and there is no contradiction between strength and dialogue.  Actually, for me, as long as NATO is united, as long as we are predictable and firm, we must engage in dialogue with Russia.  Because Russia is there to stay, Russia is our biggest neighbour.  We don’t want a new Cold War.  We don’t want a new arms race.  So therefore we need to work for a better relationship with Russia.  And even without a better relationship with Russia, we need to manage a difficult relationship with Russia, meaning that with more military presence, more exercises, higher tensions, we need to make sure that we prevent incidents, accidents, misunderstanding, miscalculations and, if they happen, make sure that then they don’t spiral out of control.  So, I welcome the fact that we'll have the meeting this week.

I will not go into the details about the agenda; we will inform you about the meeting after it has taken place.  But, when it comes to the INF Treaty, we have to remember that the problem is the deployment of new Russian missiles.  There are no new US missiles in Europe, but there are more and more new Russian missiles, missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.  And those missiles puts the INF Treaty in jeopardy.  And all NATO Allies have expressed their concern about the new Russian missiles and we are clear about that US is in compliance with the INF Treaty.  No treaty can be effective if it's only respected by one part, and therefore we call on Russia to ensure that they are in full and transparent compliance with the INF Treaty, because we don’t want a new arms race.

Frank Bakke-Jensen [Minister of Defence of Norway]: And if I may, for the exercise so far: if you don’t count the cold feet, cold fingers and cold noses, we have succeeded to move a huge amount of troops; we have gained skills which could be necessary to defend any member country, because this is collective defence in practice and we have already shown that we are able to do that when needed.

Oana Lungescu [NATO Spokesperson]: We'll go to the lady over there, third row, in the centre.  If we can get a microphone over there?  Thank you.

Question: Yes, I'm from Dagbladet. I wonder, there has been protests in the biggest city in Norway against the NATO exercise, and today's event has also been called a "War Parade".  What's your comment on that?

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: This is an important exercise to make sure that forces, troops from more than 30 nations, are able to operate together, in land, air, sea, cyber.  That we're able to move thousands of tons of equipment, thousands of soldiers, supplies, and we do that to prevent conflict.  If there is any doubt about our ability, our resolve, our will to protect Allies, then we risk that a potential adversary misunderstands, miscalculates, and uses force.  So, the main purpose of NATO, the reason why NATO was established and the reason why NATO is still there, is to prevent conflict, is to prevent an armed attack on a NATO Ally.  We have successfully done so for almost 70 years and we will continue to do so in a different security environment.

Then, I am aware that not all… NATO, we are an Alliance of democracies, we strongly believe in democracy, in the freedom of speech, in open political debates, so it is the case in many NATO Allies that we find people who disagree.  That’s fair enough.  That’s part of a political debate, and I welcome political debate.  I actually know some people who are against NATO.  I know them from a long time back.  So, that’s not the problem.  The problem is if someone tries to attack the idea of an open and free society.  So, we are not afraid of open debates, we will meet them with our arguments, and what we have seen, based on the opinion polls, is actually that the support for NATO is stronger all over the Alliance than it has been for many, many years, and I think that partly reflects that they see new threats, new challenges, with a more assertive Russia, with the terrorist attacks, with ISIL, instability, Iraq, Syria, but also cyber, and they see that NATO has been able to respond, to adapt, and therefore we have seen an increase in the support for NATO.

Frank Bakke-Jensen [Minister of Defence of Norway]: In short, we based the Alliance on a set of values.  One of them is that we defend their right to demonstrate against us.  Simple as that: freedom of speech.

Oana Lungescu [NATO Spokesperson]: Okay, we have VG in the second row here.

Question [VG]: My understanding is that Allies come here and they pay their own expenses to exercise and they bring a lot of resources into Norway.  But Norway is, at the same time, one of the countries that pay below the NATO 2% threshold.  So, can we expect harder pressure on nations in that position in the future?  And could there be a reluctance to come and defend countries that lag behind the burden-sharing?  Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Well, I raise the issue of burden- sharing and defence spending in all my meetings, in all the capitals I travel, and I tell them that I expect that they make good on the promises they made.  Back in 2014, when I was elected as the Secretary General, that was the year 29… 28 NATO Allies made the commitment on spending 2% of GDP on defence.  I think that this exercise shows that NATO Allies and NATO honour its commitments to Norway, that we are able to come and help and reinforce Norway, if needed.  And therefore of course I also expect that Norway will make good on their commitments to NATO and to other NATO Allies.  This is about working together, standing together.  All NATO Allies, except for Norway, bordering Russia have now met the 2% target.  The Baltic countries, some of the were quite far from 2% a few years ago, they are now at 2%.  Poland is at 2%.  I expect that all Allies, including Norway, will make good on their promises.  I know, as a former politician, that it's sometimes hard to argue in favour of more money for defence, because there are so many other areas where we'd like to spend money: education, health, infrastructure.  But when we reduce defence spending when tensions are going down, as most NATO Allies did in the 90s and the beginning of the 2000s, then we have to be able also to increase defence spending when tensions are going up, and that’s exactly what we have seen across Europe and Canada, and I expect of course also Norway to deliver on that.  The majority of NATO Allies have now delivered plans on how to meet the 2% target.  We haven’t received any plan from Norway, but I expect Norway also to deliver such a plan soon.

Oana Lungescu [NATO Spokesperson]: Thank you very much.  This concludes this press conference.  Stay warm.