Keynote speech

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the ''NATO Talk around the Brandenburg Tor'' Conference

  • 12 Nov. 2018 -
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  • Last updated: 13 Nov. 2018 12:00

(As delivered)

So president Schmidt, congratulations with the strong election result and I was never able to obtain anything like that when I did election campaigns in Norway.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is really a great pleasure to see you all and to be here in Berlin today and to be able to participate in this very important forum. And I really feel that I’m among friends of NATO. 

Twenty-nine years ago – almost to the day – a peaceful revolution brought down the Berlin Wall.

And the Brandenburger Tor ceased to be a Cold War symbol of division.

It returned to what it was intended to be:

An opening. A passage. Truly a gate, not a barrier.

Soon the Brandenburger Tor became a symbol of unity and freedom that helped to usher in the end of the Cold War.

And the spread of freedom across what was then a divided continent. 

Yesterday, I was in Paris to mark another historic moment.

The day the guns of World War I fell silent.

One hundred years ago.

And the carnage and devastation of that terrible conflict came to an end.

Both these anniversaries remind us of what Europe had suffered in the twentieth century. War. Chaos. Destruction.  And oppression.

The anniversaries also remind us of the importance of the transatlantic bond.

And how Europe, together with the United States overcame two world wars.

And the Cold War.

And how the US security guarantees underpinned the integration of Europe.

So that we entered the twenty first century with peace and freedom.  

But today, some doubt the strength of the transatlantic partnership.

And we have to be honest and admit that we see differences and disagreements.

Over issues such as trade, the Iran nuclear deal and other issues.

But we should remember that we have had our differences before.

The Suez Crisis in 1956. The French withdrawal from the NATO command structure a decade later. And of course the Iraq war in 2003. 

So difference of opinion is nothing new.

We are 29 democracies.

With different history, different geography and different culture. Disagreements are natural. But the lesson of history is that we have been able to overcome our differences.

We unite around our common goal. We stand together. We protect each other.

We must ensure that we continue to do so in the future. Because we have a shared strategic interest and shared values. And because we face a more uncertain security environment together.

That is the reason why we are now making the security ties between Europe and North America even stronger.

The US is increasing its military presence in Europe for the first time since the end of the Cold War, with more troops, more equipment, and more exercises. Including here in Germany. 

In recent years, the US has increased the funding for its military presence in Europe by 40 percent.

And for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Canadian troops are back in Europe. Leading a battlegroup in Latvia,

Europeans are also stepping up. Raising the readiness of their forces. Improving equipment. And spending billions more on defence. 

And just last week we saw the end of NATO’s biggest exercise since the end of the Cold War.  With more than 50,000 troops. Almost half came from North America.  And 8,000 from Germany.

A demonstration of the real defence cooperation between our two continents. 

This transatlantic partnership is about deterrence and defence. But also about dialogue and disarmament.

Over decades, arms control agreements built up trust and cut down nuclear weapons. One of these agreements was the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the INF Treaty. A Treaty born out of transatlantic efforts. And a cornerstone of arms control in Europe.

In the 1970s and 80s, and I see that some of you lived at that time, as did I, a whole generation of political leaders was shaped by the debate on intermediate nuclear forces in Europe. And I am part of that generation.

The deployment of Soviet SS20s missiles was of profound concern.

And Germany was at the center of that debate.  

Thanks to courageous politicians, such as Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, NATO decided on a dual track, the double track decision. Combining firmness with dialogue.

Therefore, in 1979 NATO defense ministers decided to deploy new nuclear missiles in Europe in response to the Soviet Union.

While at the same time reaching out for dialogue with the Soviet Union. That was not an easy decision. But in doing so they laid the ground for the INF treaty. Signed by the US and the Soviet Union in 1987.

This didn’t just reduce the overall number of nuclear weapons. It banned a whole category of weapons that were specifically designed to target Europe. So it was a real achievement in the work for nuclear disarmament.

The deployment of new Russian missiles is putting this historic treaty in jeopardy.

For years, Russia has developed, produced, tested and fielded a new missile system. The SSC-8. These missiles are mobile. They are hard to detect.They can be nuclear-armed. They reduce warning time to minutes. They lower the threshold for nuclear conflict. And they can reach European cities like Berlin.

For years, Allies, including Germany, have raised their concerns. Time and again.

The US has raised the matter formally at senior levels more than 30 times.  Starting under the Obama administration.

Allies have repeatedly pressed Russia. To ensure full, verifiable and transparent compliance. And, after years of denials, Russia now acknowledges the existence of a new missile system. 

The United States is in full compliance with its obligations under the INF Treaty. So while there are no new US missiles in Europe. There are new Russian missiles.

The new Russian missile system poses a serious risk to the strategic stability of the Euro-Atlantic area.

NATO has no intention to deploy new nuclear missiles in Europe. But as an Alliance we are committed to the safety and the security of all Allies.  We must not allow arms control treaties to be violated with impunity. Because that undermines the trust in arms control in general.

So we call on Russia to ensure compliance, and to return to constructive dialogue with the United States. 

The threats to the INF Treaty are serious but they are not the only ones we are facing. Our security environment is challenging. And requires us all to stand strong. Therefore, increased EU efforts on defence are important for the security of Europe. And it can make NATO stronger. So I welcome these efforts. But only if they are anchored within the transatlantic partnership. Which has been the foundation for European peace and security for the past 70 years. 

As we move forward on defence in Europe, we should do so in order to strengthen the transatlantic relationship. Because non-EU Allies play a central role in European security.

It is impossible to envisage the defences of Europe without countries like Turkey in the South, being key in the fight against terrorism, and all the violence and instability we have seen in Iraq and in Syria.

Norway in the North. And without Canada, the United States – and the UK – in the west. Because after Brexit, 80 percent of NATO defence spending will come from non EU NATO allies. So European unity can never be a substitute for transatlantic unity.

Ladies and gentlemen.

A section of the Berlin Wall stands vigil at the entrance to NATO’s new headquarters in Brussels. It is a solemn reminder of the cruel division and the real dangers of the Cold War.  Today, I am proud to stand with you in Berlin.

To celebrate the Brandenburger Tor as a symbol of openness, freedom and peace. And to honor the foresight and fortitude of Allied nations. That built an enduring, transatlantic partnership after the devastation of the two World Wars. Let us continue to stand united. In support of our shared values. And our shared security. We owe that to ourselves. To future generations. And to those who fought and sacrificed to secure a more peaceful world.

Thank you.

Moderator: Okay, Mr Secretary General, many thanks for this important keynote speech.  I am absolutely sure what you have just said will have a great impact for the discussions in the two panels later in this conference.  So again, many thanks for this.  Ladies and Gentlemen, we now have about 30 minutes for questions and answers.  But before opening the floor for your comments and your questions, please allow me to raise two questions from the Chair.  Question number one: my first question, Mr Secretary General, is about next year.  NATO will celebrate its 70th anniversary.  Do you personally think this could be a good idea to start the process of developing a new strategic concept for the Alliance, taking into account that the security policy situation has changed dramatically since the 2010 current Lisbon Strategic Concept was approved?

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: I think we have to understand the following and that is that NATO is now in the midst of our biggest strategic adaptation since the end of the Cold War.  We have implemented the biggest reinforcement to our collective defence, we have stepped up in the fight against terrorism, and we have increased the readiness of our forces and, for the first time in our history, we have actually combat ready battlegroups deployed in the eastern part of the Alliance.  We are changing, adapting the command structure and we are significantly stepping up what we do, for instance in cyber and addressing hybrid.  So yes, strategic concept is always important, but even more important is strategic action.  And NATO has really implemented big strategic decisions over the last couple of years, especially since 2014.

So, I think that what has actually impressed me is NATO's ability to change when the world is changing and to have a strategic ability to adapt when the strategic environment is changing, as we have seen, especially since 2014, both with Crimea, the illegal annexation of Crimea, Russia destabilising Eastern Ukraine, but also with the rise of ISIS/Daesh in Iraq/Syria, and then increased threats within the cyber and hybrid domain.

So, there is a discussion about strategic concept, but for me it is even more important that we have strategic actions, and that’s exactly what NATO has been able to deliver.

Moderator: Okay, thank you very much.  My second question is about NATO's strategic approach vis-à-vis Russia.  You have mentioned Russia in your speech in the context of INF, but there is a more fundamental issue of the relations between NATO and Russia.  The NATO Summit in July has again confirmed the double track approach of deterrence on the one hand and dialogue on the other hand.  What is your experience, Mr Secretary General, from the NATO-Russia Council in Brussels?  Is Moscow really interested and, maybe more important, willing to enter into a substantial dialogue with NATO?  And would could be areas of common interest?

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: I strongly believe in the NATO strategy, the NATO approach to Russia, which is as you said, a combination of deterrence, defence and political dialogue.  And for me there is no contradiction between being firm, strong and engaged in political dialogue.  Actually, I believe the opposite; as long as we are strong, as long as we are united, as long as we deliver credible deterrence and defence, we can also engage in political dialogue.  Because dialogue is not a sign of weakness, dialogue is a sign of strength.  And I say that also very much based on my own experience as a politician in Norway for many years.  I remember when I became State Secretary in the Ministry of Environment in 1990; one of the first things I was responsible for was actually a joint environmental commission between Norway and Russia.  And as Secretary of Energy, Prime Minister for ten years, I have been working with Russia up north for many years.  And that has been possible for a small country like Norway to develop a practical cooperation with Russia up north on border issues, delimitation line in the Barents Sea, defence, search and rescue, environment, energy, many other areas, not despite NATO, but because of NATO.  Because NATO provided the platform, the strength, the predictability, that enabled the dialogue.  And then, on some areas we were able to make progress, on others we have not been able to make progress.  But the reality is that we have to continue to work for a dialogue with Russia, because Russia is our neighbour, Russia is there to stay, Russia is not going to go away.  So, partly we need political dialogue with Russia to try to improve the relationship, to reduce tensions, and to also make the conditions possible for a better relationship.  But even without an improved relationship, we need to work for dialogue with Russia, to manage a difficult relationship.  So, I meet some people telling me that we will never be able to improve the relationship with Russia, well that’s some of the same people that were not able to predict the fall of the Berlin Wall.  So, people do predict things.  I'm very sceptical about them.  I used to tell audiences like this, when I finished my exams at the University of Warsaw, I started to work in the Central Bureau of Statistics and I was responsible for collecting and analysing forecasts for oil prices.  I can just tell you we were wrong all the time.  We were not able to predict the level and not when it was turning up and down.  And when I meet people in the security environment, you are not better than economic… than in the… economists who predict the future.  Because most people were not able to predict the fall of the Berlin Wall or 9/11 or the Arab Spring or the annexation of Crimea.  So, the point is not to predict too much, but the point is to be able to handle the unforeseen, to manage uncertainty.  And therefore, regardless of whether we believe that Russia will change in the near future or the distant future, we need to work with Russia and to also manage a difficult relationship with Russia.  Therefore, one of the things we discuss in the NATO-Russia Council is exactly how to manage a difficult relationship, meaning making sure that despite the fact that we now have more weapons, more military, more activity, military activity close to our borders, we need to make sure that we avoid incidents and accidents, and if they happen make sure that they don’t spiral out of control and create really dangerous situations.

So therefore, one of the most… one of the important things we have addressed in the NATO-Russia Council is briefings on exercises, military posture, risk reduction, that kind of things, military lines of communications.  So, let me end this answer by saying that defence and dialogue is nothing new in NATO, that was actually developed in the last 60s as part of something called the Harmel Report and, as I mentioned in my speech, the dual, the double track decision, or the double [inaudible] 22:43 or whatever you call it.

Moderator: Double [inaudible]

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Yeah, double [inaudible], in 79, that’s actually defence and dialogue.  It's a very strong message on defence.  We start to deploy new missiles, but we also sit down and start negotiations on reductions.  And actually it was a great success because we ended up with zero intermediate range forces.  So, that’s defence and dialogue really providing some real results.

Moderator: Okay, thank you very much, Mr Sec Gen.  As every year, the Youth Atlantic Association Germany, YATA, is organising a side event to our conference here, where we invite young people from various countries to discuss about transatlantic issues in the seminar.  This seminar, Ladies and Gentlemen, has taken place during the weekend with the topic "NATO's Future".  36 participants, from 19 NATO and partner countries, have discussed two days, with security policy experts, about the challenges for our Alliance.  They are joining us today here in the conference.  We are very thankful that NATO Headquarters has supported the seminar, with experts from the international staff and the international military staff.  I have asked two participants of the seminar to start our discussion with their question.  So, I would like to invite Mrs Helly Tuguy from the United States and Mrs Letitia Benetis Fetis from Spain, to start the question and answer period with their question.  So, Helly, the floor is yours.

Question: Hello?  Oh, yes.

Moderator: Yeah, it's okay.

Question: Great.  Thank you very much.  Hello, Mr Secretary General.  I am here, I am from the United States and I'm here representing YATA Denmark as well.  And my question is, if you have a sudden windfall in NATO spending, what would be on your personal shopping list of NATO capabilities?  Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: No, I will go to defence planners because they have long lists.  And that’s one of the good things with NATO is that we actually are doing a lot of defence planning and… I see in the audience a man called Heiner Brauss and he is an expert in doing exactly that.  So actually, it is… we have a very… we have, for years, developed systems of how to make sure that Allies work together when it comes to developing different capabilities.  Very few Allies can have the whole spectrum of capabilities and therefore one of the important aspects of the NATO cooperation is that we bring Allies together and then we decide on different capabilities.  So, I would just start on top on that list and then work my way downwards.  But to do so I need more defence spending, including from Germany.

Moderator: Okay.  Well understood.  [laughter]  Now, Letitia, your question, please?

Question: Hello, thank you for having us here.  We would like to know how is NATO going to approach and address its strategy actions to the ongoing shifting environment of the 21st century, especially with the political friction that has emerged due to the rise of populist movements.  Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: So first of all, I think we have to be not too nervous about disagreements.  I'm not saying that disagreements is fine and I welcome them, but it's a reality that when you have 29 Allies, from both sides of the Atlantic, then there will be disagreements and there will be different political parties.  Again, I can use my own country as an example; there have always been some parties there against NATO for instance, and that’s part of a political discourse.  And I think people have been nervous before about… not perhaps populist movements, but strong political movements that were very critical towards the transatlantic relationship or NATO membership, and we have also seen, as I mentioned before, disagreements, serious disagreements between Allies, like the Suez Crisis in '56 or the French withdrawal from the command structure or the… the Iraq war in 2003 was a serious disagreement between Allies.  I mean some Allies were heavily in favour of that war, some Allies were heavily against.  And we see serious disagreement today also, on climate change and trade and many other issues.  But my message is that the lesson we can learn from history is that NATO Allies have been able to deal, to handle and to overcome disagreements.  Because, when it comes to the core responsibility of NATO, that we stand together and protect each other, that we are stronger together than alone, that is actually something we have been able to unite around, regardless of the disagreements.  So, I'm not saying that disagreements on climate change or on the populist agenda or on migration or trade is not important, but I'm saying that what we have seen historically is that that hasn’t undermined the core security cooperation between North America and Europe.  And to some extent, that’s exactly what we see today, because yes there are disagreements between Europe and North America, but North America are increasing their military presence in Europe now, as we speak.  More troops, more equipment, more spending.  In the two years that President Trump has been President, they have increased spending for the European Deterrence Initiative, for US presence in Europe, by 40%.  I visited the Trident Juncture exercise in Norway, the biggest NATO exercise in a generation, half of the troops, almost half of the troops came from North America.  So, that’s not a sign of NATO weakness, even though I admit that there are differences between North America and Europe, and between other Allies.

So, I don’t exactly whether I answer your question, but if the question was how we deal with these differences and including populist movements, I think that we need to focus on that, regardless of differences on different issues, we have to protect each other, stand together when it comes to security and defence, because in a more dangerous world it is important that we maintain the strength of NATO, and that makes us all safe regardless of what we think about trade tariffs or climate change, which are important issues but which we should not allow undermining the security cooperation.

Moderator: Thank you very much.  Now, Ladies and Gentlemen, let me open the floor for the audience.  Please raise your hands, stand up and wait for the microphone, and raise your question as short, as precise as possible, preferably of course in the English language.  [Spoken in German]

Question: Mr Secretary General, thank you very much for your impressive statement.  I'm a former German Permanent Representative of… to the EU, and so I even, in that capacity, former capacity, I agree with you, the EU will never be able to substitute NATO defence, with what you said.  But wouldn’t it be advisable for the EU to supplement NATO, in particular in view of the possibility that we might require European missions without necessarily be able to count on American leadership or strong involvement, in a given case?  Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Yes, also I welcome stronger EU efforts on defence, because I think that can actually help to strengthen NATO, because it's a good thing if European Allies develop more capabilities; that they work closer together, addressing the fragmentation of the European defence industry.  I used to say that, you know, I think in the United States they have one main battle tank, in Europe we have something like eight different kinds of main battle tanks, which makes our sort of industry, our capability development much more expensive.  So, as long as the EU efforts takes place in a way that strengthen the European pillar within NATO, that’s something we should welcome.  There are… what we should not welcome is if EU starts to develop duplicating structures; two command structures for instance.  The reality is that we need one strong and capable command structure, we cannot divide those resources on two.  Because I remember, I think it was Ursula von der Leyen that said in one of the discussions we had about this, was that it will be totally meaningless for a country like Germany to allow NATO and EU to compete, because Germany, as most other NATO and EU members, they are members of both NATO and EU, so that will be like Germany competing with Germany.  And therefore, we should not allow… it will be not a wise decision by all those nations who are members of both NATO and the European Union to start to have two sets of command structures, or duplicate what NATO is doing.  Then this is partly about… yeah, and then of course, sometimes European Allies should be able to do things without United States, but actually they can also do that using the NATO command structures.  I mean we haven’t said that all operations in NATO has to be with United States.  It's very often with United States because they are so big, and actually the reality is that we are very often dependent on them.  I know this is a bit sensitive issue, but I remember very well the Libya operation, because I was then the Prime Minister of Norway, and Norway participated.  You have to remember that the Libya operation was not a NATO operation in the beginning, it was a European initiated operation, not so much by Germany, but by France and the UK.  Yeah.  And I was there in Paris, as the Norwegian Prime Minister and they asked who will join this coalition of the willing, and Norway said yes, and we joined.  And the whole idea with that was to do something without NATO and without United States being in the lead.  But the reality is that we soon discovered that we needed NATO and the US to help us.

Question: [inaudible]

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Yeah, but it started as an EU… not an EU, no, no, not an EU, but a European initiated operation.  I know very well because I was part of all those preparations.  When we met in Paris and made the final decision, NATO was not at the table, NATO was not there.  It was after some time that we discovered that we needed the command structure, the capabilities of NATO and United States.  And then we brought them on board [inaudible]  So, I say this because… so, just to say that yes, more European efforts on defence is great, but it should never undermine the strength of the transatlantic bond.  And which… and that this is partly about substance, but also partly about perception, because perception matters.  So, if we speak too much about, you know… for instance, this phrase "Strategic Autonomy", it's not totally clear what that means, but it sounds a bit like they're going to do these big strategic things alone, and I don’t think that’s wise, because actually the two world wars and the Cold War taught us the importance of doing things together.  Yeah.  So, I… yeah.

Moderator: Thank you.  Henning Riecke?


Question: Henning Riecke, German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin.  Thank you, Secretary General, for your speech and your lecture.  I would like to hear a bit more what NATO does for the southern partners.  I'm concerned that NATO does a lot to meet the Russian threats and the challenges there, but with the Black Sea strategy stalled, the Iraq training mission running, but a bit moderate, without German support, crisis reaction stability missions out of fashion, what could NATO offer to the southern partners and Allies?  And what could Germany do to strengthen that?

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: So, when we speak about the challenges in the South, we speak about many different challenges, and it's also sometimes a bit unclear where is the South.  I mean if we are in United States and speak about the South, we speak about Mexico.  So, of course, we don’t speak about that South.  But what we usually mean by the South is North Africa, Middle East, and also actually all the way to Afghanistan.  And again, the challenges vary a bit, but what is… what shall I say… a kind of common challenge is instability, sometimes weak governments, and different kind of terrorist organisations.  NATO and NATO Allies have, either as NATO or outside NATO, engaged in big combat operations to defeat these terrorist organisations, as we did in Afghanistan after 9/11/2001 or as all NATO Allies, including Germany, but… did in the coalition to defeat Daesh in Iraq and Syria.  So, one part of that strategy is that NATO Allies have to be ready and capable of engaging in big combat operations to defeat state like terrorist organisations, as Daesh.  So, part of the strategy is to have those capabilities.  And, as we have seen since 2014, you have to remember that Daesh/ISIL controlled a territory as big as the United Kingdom in Iraq and Syria.  They was actually able to threaten Baghdad and they controlled around eight million people.  So, that was a serious threat and we needed real military capabilities to defeat Daesh.  But having said that, I think that the long term strategy of NATO and NATO Allies in addressing the instability, the terrorism we see emanating from the South, should not be mainly combat operations.  Because I think that the lesson learned, both from Afghanistan, from Iraq, yeah, from Libya, is that in the long term we need to build local capacity, so people in the region can stabilise their own country.  And therefore I more and more believe that what we should try to do is to train local forces, build local security and defence institutions and help them stabilise their own country.  And that is exactly what we now do in Afghanistan.  There are many problems in Afghanistan, but at least we have been able to go from a NATO combat operation with more than 100,000 troops doing combat operations, to now have a more limited NATO presence, 16,000 troops training the Afghans.  So, when the Taliban is attacked now, it's not the German or Norwegian or UK soldiers who are responding, but actually the Afghan forces themselves.  We train them, we advise them, but they are on the frontline.

The same in Iraq; I strongly believe that to prevent Daesh from coming back in some version or another, we need to train and build local capacity in Iraq to prevent us being forced to come back in a combat operation.

So, the main message when it comes to the South is the more we can do, from training soldiers to building Ministry of Defence, intelligence, command structure, enabling them partly… countries like Iraq or Afghanistan, but also working with partners like Tunisia and Jordan, prevention is better than intervention.  If we can help them now, so we are not forced into intervening in a military operation, that’s much better.  So, prevention is better.

The last thing about Germany, I welcome… Germany is very present in Afghanistan, I was there a few days ago, I met the soldiers, extremely professional committed soldiers in Afghanistan, in the north, they are also present in Iraq, I welcome that.  For me, it's a bit hard to understand why Germany can be present in Iraq in the US led coalition, but not in the NATO framework.  I strongly believe in institutions and I strongly also believe that in terms of uncertainty, and also in times where we see someone questioning the strength of the transatlantic bond, we need institutions, because they overcome the different personalities and the political differences, as long as you have the strong institutions.  So, I… one thing is to discuss whether we should do training in Iraq, but given that we all agree that we should do training in Iraq, then I can't understand why we shouldn't do that also in the NATO framework, where we have all Allies sitting round a table, in Brussels, and all have the same say than… I am not against the US led coalition, NATO is part of… we support that, but it's hard to understand why the US coalition is so much better than me, or than NATO.  So, that’s my challenge.

Question: Very good.


Moderator: Okay, I have a request from the lady in the back, please?

Question [Reuters]: Secretary General, Andrea Shalal with Reuters.  Just in the last couple of hours, the Finnish Prime Minister has said that the GPS system in Finland was disrupted during Trident Juncture and he suspects Russia could have been behind it.  Do you have any further information and any insight into what that would mean, if that is in fact proven to be true?

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: We have seen there have been similar reports from Norway and I cannot share more precise information with you, but what I can say is that we see that cyber, electronic warfare, electronic means are used more and more frequent in different operations, and therefore we take all these issues very seriously, partly to be able to deal with electronic warfare and to develop our capabilities to handle that, but also of course cyber.  I will not pinpoint at any specific nation now, but I will just say that we have increased our abilities to deal with these kind of challenges and threats, including during military operations.

Moderator: Thank you.  I have much more requests for the floor than we have time, so I think we have another one or two questions and then we have to close the discussion because of your former schedule, Mr Secretary General.  So, I have a question over there, please, in the last row.  And then the final one, Mr Wittmann.

Question: Thank you.  My name is Michael Day from the Weekly Targus Post.  Mr Secretary General, my question is concerning China.  China is not a part of the INF Treaty.  What's the role of the… but China has a lot of intermediate range missiles, they are a threat to Taiwan too, they are a threat to the US Navy in the Pacific too.  How important is the role of this Chinese armament, concerning the INF Treaty negotiations for United States and perhaps for Russia too?

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: So, you're pointing at something which is extremely important and that is that when we agreed the INF Treaty back in 1987, the US and the Soviet Union, then this was merely an issue for… or this was actually an issue that only was about the Soviet Union and United States.  Then, since then, the world has changed and China, but also other countries, have developed missile capabilities which, if they had been part of the INF Treaty, would have violated the INF Treaty.  So, this is something that is of concern for all of us.  Partly China, but you know, also North Korean, Iran and other countries have their missile programmes, which would have violated the INF Treaty if they had been part of the INF Treaty.  So, we believe that internationalisation of these kind of agreements would be beneficial.  At the same time, I strongly believe that we should now do whatever we can to make sure that Russia is in compliance with the existing INF Treaty and we continue to call on Russia to ensure full and transparent compliance with the INF Treaty as it is.  Some years ago, there was a proposal in Geneva, in the UN framework there, to globalise or to internationalise the INF Treaty to also include China.  There has been no progress in those efforts.

In general, I will say that NATO has a very strong track record on nuclear disarmament.  We have been advocating working for that for decades.  We have reduced the importance of nuclear weapons in our strategy, our… for years, and the number of warheads has been reduced by 90%, nuclear warheads on the NATO side, since the end of the Cold War.  But we are concerned about the new Russian missiles and of course, we are also concerned about the fact that more and more countries, outside the INF Treaty, are developing systems which would have violated the Treaty if these countries were part of the Treaty.

Moderator: Thank you.  Whitman, please?

Question: Thank you.  Former General, Klaus Wittmann, Aspen Institute and Potsdam University.  I would pursue for a moment, if I may, what was said about Russia earlier.  I fully endorse NATO's stance and the reconfirmation of the Harmel philosophy, and at recent Summits the dialogue offers was reiterated.  However, I would like to see NATO spell out with much more creativity the content of such dialogue.  Of course, we are all aware of the intransigence of the present Russian leadership and also of the fact that, in NATO, different member states have different views about the dialogue with Russia.  Now, if I may ask you directly, if you could personally set the agenda, what should the content of such dialogue be?  Perhaps more long term than discussions in the NATO-Russia Council about present concerns, and with the long term view of cooperation as opposed to confrontational security.

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Well, I think that one obvious issue should be the INF Treaty, which we have discussed today.  Just to make sure that… that’s really a great example of what we can achieve through dialogue; it's arms control, and the INF Treaty is a cornerstone of the arms control regime in Europe.  So, if you ask me about substance, I think that the most urgent and the most important question now, in the NATO-Russia relations, is to ensure that Russia is in full compliance with the INF Treaty.  Then I also strongly believe that, with the tensions and with the difficult relationship we see now, it is also important that we develop, strengthen, all mechanisms to have predictability and transparency, when it comes to military activity, and this is something called the Vienna Document, which is for instance regulating the notification and observation of military exercises.  There are some loopholes, some problems in that document, which has led to that Russia has not invited any NATO Ally to observe any Russian exercise since the end of the Cold War.  And they claim that they are not violating the Vienna Document, because they interpret and they use all the loopholes, but by doing so they are at least undermining the intentions of the Vienna Document, which is an important tool to make sure that we have transparency.  Every nation, also Russia, has the right to exercise their forces, but we need transparency, we need predictability, and we need the mechanisms for military lines of communications, and this is undermined by the fact that Russia is not very constructive in modernising the Vienna Document.

So, these are at least two areas where we could work more together.  I think that fundamentally this is about that Russia needs to give up the idea of spheres of influence, because Russia has, in a way, the understanding that big powers have a kind of right to decide what small neighbours should do.  And to be honest with you, there are some… and sometimes I meet the same arguments in… also in Europe, that we should understand that.  I don’t understand it and I don’t accept it.


Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Because just think, if you accept that, then you accept a world order where big powers decide what small neighbours can do.  And we don’t want that world order.  Therefore, when I hear that it's a provocation against Russia that we have accepted Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia as members, it's totally meaningless.  They are three independent sovereign nations who have decided that they want to join NATO.  It was not NATO going, in a way, East and grabbing them.  It was them, through democratic decisions, wanted to join NATO.  And one of the cornerstone of the… what should I say… the NATO-Soviet era was this Helsinki Final Act, with… clearly it's stated that every nation has the right to decide its own path, including what kind of security arrangements they want to be part of.  So, when Sweden decides not to be a member of NATO, I totally respect that.  As a Norwegian, I will never try to convince [laughter] Sweden to join anything.


Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: But I also accept when Latvia or Lithuania says that we want to join.  And sometimes I use my own country as an example again, because I am absolutely certain that Joseph Stalin didn’t like that Norway joined NATO in 1949.  But I'm very glad that London, Paris, and so on said we… it's for Norway to decide.  Not for Moscow.  Or not for Washington.  It's for Oslo to decide whether Oslo would like to be a member of NATO or not.  And that’s of course still the case.  So, I think the fundamental problem now is that Russia wants to move back to world order, where they had the kind of say over neighbours.  That’s very, very dangerous.  So, that’s my last world.

Moderator: Thank you very much.


Moderator: Looking at the watch, I believe we have to come to an end to this session.  Sorry for those who have raised their hands and weren’t able to present their questions.  So, I take the conclusion from this, Mr Secretary General, you have to come back, because there are still some open questions.  Let me take the opportunity to thank you on behalf of the whole audience for joining us here in Berlin, at the NATO Talk Conference 2018.  It was a great honour and a great pleasure to have you here in Berlin.  Thank you very much.  Goodbye.  And all the best for your work in Brussels.


Moderator: Thank you.  And behalf of us all, [Spoken in German]