"The Future of the Transatlantic Alliance"

Session at the World Economic Forum with participation of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

  • 24 Jan. 2019 -
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  • Last updated: 26 Jan. 2019 20:55

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg participates in the Plenary Session: The Future of the Transatlantic Alliance at the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland

Moderator: This is the line up that I’m really happy to have been asked to lead us through this. What we will be doing now is I’ll ask a couple of questions of the panellists and I hope that within twenty minutes or so, we would then open it up to you, to the audience and if you wish to speak, ask a question or offer a brief comment, hopefully only a brief comment. Please for the benefit also of the cameras please do us a favour and get up, identify yourself and if you have a question it would be helpful if you said whether the question is addressed to the entire panel or to just one specific member of the panel and that way I think we will use this hour most effectively. Let me start with Secretary Stoltenberg. Seventy years of NATO. Unfortunately, at the beginning of this year some of the newspaper headlines, commentaries are filled with the idea or the vision that we are entering a new age of great power competition. Russia, United States, China, etc. Where is NATO, what is the role of NATO in this unfolding situation and how confident are you that we are actually going to have something to celebrate in April?

NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg: We will all celebrate in April but, NATO’s role is today, fundamentally, the same as it was back in 1949. And that is that we protect and defend each other. That we really believe that we are safer together than apart. NATO is based on the idea that it’s one for all and all for one and that has kept us all safe and secure for seventy years. The big difference is that we are doing that in a very different world because for forty years from 1949 to 1989 it was one well-defined threat and challenge and that was the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. Now, neither the Soviet Union nor the Warsaw Pact exist, actually eight of the Warsaw Pact members or eight they are now members of – no, there were eight members and seven are members of NATO and the eighth number doesn’t exist anymore - that was the Soviet Union. So, we have to do collective defence. Provide security in a very different world where we have many threats, many challenges at the same time. Cyber, terrorism. We have proliferation of nuclear weapons, weapons of mass destruction. We have tendencies to great power competition between China, Russia, United States. And we have also a Russia which is much more assertive, responsible for aggressive actions from the Kerch Strait to the streets of Salisbury using their agent there. So, we have to do fundamentally the same in a very different security environment. The good news is that NATO is adapting and that is actually the reason why we should celebrate is that NATO has been able to change while the world is changing. We have implemented the biggest reinforcement of collective defence since the end of the Cold War with higher readiness of our forces. We have deployed forces in the east and part of the Alliance for the first time in our history, battlegroups there. And we are doing more together – North America and United States. And contrary to what many people believe the US is not leaving Europe. They reduced their presence after the end of the Cold War and the last US battle tank left Europe in December 2013 but, now the US is back with a full armoured brigade. So, actually the US is now increasing their presence in Europe as a response to the need to strengthen NATO and collective defence in Europe. European Allies are also stepping up. Since 2016 they have increased defence spending across Europe and Canada by 41 billion US dollars. We had a NATO summit in July – last year in July - and there we agreed to further strengthen our efforts and we now see the results based on national plans coming in from all the Allies: they will add hundred billion US dollars by the end of next year. So, things are changing. By 2024 we expect 350 billion US dollars. So, it has been a lot of focus from not least the US on burden sharing and my message to the United States is that actually we are improving burden sharing, we see the results European Allies are stepping up. The last thing I’ll mention, which we are – the most immediate challenge we are faced with is the potential breakdown of the INF Treaty. The INF Treaty is a cornerstone for arms control for our security. It’s a treaty that was signed in 1987. It didn’t reduce the number of missiles; it banned all missiles – zero. And it has served us all very well. The problem now is that Russia is deploying new missiles in Europe, violating the treaty. The United States stated at the NATO foreign ministerial meeting in December last year that by the 2nd February if Russia has not come back into compliance by then, then they would start to process a withdrawing from that treaty. We will meet Russia tomorrow in a NATO- Russia Council in Brussels with NATO Allies. And our task, our main goal is to continue to call on Russia to come back into compliance because these missiles are mobile, they are nuclear-capable, they are hard to detect, they have short warning time, they can reach European cities, so they are by also using the threat of any potential use of nuclear weapon. So, there are many reasons for staying strong together in NATO also for the next seventy years. Thank you.

Moderator: Thank you very much. That’s an explanation of essentially NATO as a healthy organisation faced with serious challenges. But, let me turn to John Kerry. In my country, in Germany, we had for the first time in decades newspaper articles, not many but, some that started arguing – apparently we can no longer trust the United States, maybe we should have a European or even a German bomb. Can we still rely on the United States? What’s your take on the health of this Alliance and how it should be taken forward?

Former US Secretary of State, John Kerry: Well Wolfgang, first of all, thank you for asking me to join you here today; this is a really timely and important topic. I am delighted to be with all of our panellists but, I particularly want to say what a pleasure it is to be back with Jens. We worked so closely together for such a long period of time without ranker and without insults - gratuitous or otherwise. And that’s what I want to try and talk about today in the context of NATO and Europe. And I ask all of you to think about this discussion in a larger context. NATO was created, and the European project was created to stop Europeans from killing each other – bluntly put – and if you go back to the 1940s and 50s and the challenge of a, then, Soviet Union just because the nature of the entities have changed, ie, Soviet Union to Russia, to a federation and so forth. Europe, etc. Just because that’s changed does not change the fundamental interests and values that underscore not just NATO but, Europe and NATO is integrally a component of the European project. And it has to be viewed as such. And there are countless ways and Jens could run through a long list of ways in which NATO has proven itself as a bull work in support of the European project. Now, large globally this is a moment in human history, it’s a moment in the movement of the challenges on this planet and they are massive and growing right now. This is a moment for the world to be coming together not to be breaking apart. And you have to measure the breaking apart whether it’s a Brexit, whether it’s the turmoil in several European countries. The sort of neo-populism / I would say demagoguery that is pulling people into a place of fear again in Europe. You have to stop and measure history, folks. No place has done well when economies become tense, when people don’t do well economically and shared prosperity of globalisation, when you have demonstrable discrimination and fear promoted through exploitation of religion or sect or tribe or geography or background. The history is not good when those forces are unleashed and then when you add to it a demigod who comes along and wants to exploit it and I think all of you can find one or two or three or four demigods at work today. The fact is that there are leaders of major countries in the world who are promoting a new narrative about the liberal order of the west, which is part of what NATO is. It’s part of this bull work that was built in the aftermath of World War Two and the history of the Twentieth Century. And the numbers of people who died in that century - World War One, World War Two, Vietnam and so forth. It’s vastly more killing that is taking place anywhere on the earth today. And part of the reason for that is NATO, part of the reason for that are the values that are lived out in Europe. Frankly, it astonishes me and troubles me that there aren’t greater and more voices in Europe. There are voices, you know … background people who have stood up for Europe. But, there aren’t enough voices celebrating the extraordinary meaning of the last seventy years – Europe has the highest standard of living in the world, Europe has the best healthcare system in the world, Europe has higher wages, Europe has the best education system in the world. Europe has a remarkable quality of life and the least violence in the world and yet, people are putting it at risk. Frankly, it’s incomprehensible and when you look at NATO, you know, the United States of America was attacked from Afghanistan, Europe is still with the United States of America in Afghanistan. Now, not in my judgment in the best strategic way today because I think we need to transition and transition away and there’re ways to do that using a platform against terror that would benefit all of us without maintaining an unsupportable, forever presence, which I think is unsustainable but, we’re not trying to do that and we’re not doing it and NATO is the entity that would do it and is there right now. I’ve sat at a table in Brussels with 52 nations around the table, maybe even more, 50 sub-nations. Extraordinary. And each nation would report on what it was doing in Afghanistan. Do the Chinese or the Russians call on the world to do that? Do we see the kind of response that NATO has been able to promote in the interest of helping Europe stabilise to some degree during the migration when we called on NATO to become involved and deal with that. And what about, obviously, the extraordinary efforts with respect to Ukraine? We pulled together a major reassurance programme for the front-line states. We made clear that we were serious about Article 5. And the only nation in the world that I know of in the 21st Century that has sent its military personnel in uniform, though disguised, across international lines, is Russia. And Russia is one of the countries promoting the notion that the liberal order of the west is dead, and the United States of America is in decline. Among other things. So, folks this is a time to be pretty hardnosed about where our interest lies and how we protect our interests. We are of common value, values – Europe and the United States - a transatlantic alliance. And what anybody will tell you, I think if you talk to a lot of republicans – Bob Corker was here yesterday. Others they will tell you what is happening in our country today, in this administration, it’s an aberration. It’s even hard to predict for people in the administration where it’s going to be tomorrow or the next day. So, yes, there are legitimate questions being asked today of a president who attacked NATO, who personally insulted the Chancellor of Germany, who pulled the rug out from under the Prime Minister of Britain who was trying to negotiate on Brexit. Who has, you know, you can run a list, right? And the problem is, yes, there is a question about will this president, in fact be there? And that’s why this discussion about 100,000 troops – but, I can guarantee the vast majority of the American people and every person that I know on either side of the aisle, bipartisanly, who has any chance of being a president of the United States in the future believes that NATO is critical and they would object to any movement away from it and they will support Article 5. So, I do not accept some of the literature I have read where people are saying, irreputable damage to the transatlantic alliance. No, I don’t believe that – not irreputable. I think much of it curable in a matter of days and weeks, if not hours. By reaffirmations, by restatements of support, by recommitments. But, what is important, my friends, is that Europe itself begin to define these values and these interests and that Europe itself articulate with greater strength, the value of standing together to have partners in developing defence capacity in Poland, defence capacity in Lithuania and Latvia and Estonia and so forth. That’s vital and having our ability to be able to move to arms control and other efforts that brings up a different topic, I won’t go there now. But, I think the – we have two billion young people in the world about 15 years old to 24. Many of them live in places where if they don’t get enfranchisement and a part of the world, this globalised world, that satisfies their knowledge of what everybody in the world has because everybody has a smartphone, they may not have a job but, they have a smartphone, they may not have a future but, they have smartphone, they may not have a vote but, they have smartphone and they see what everybody else has. And I’m telling you with one point eight billion kids 15 years old or younger – 350 million of whom are not going to go to school and they live, many of them in countries that do affect Europe already as a consequence of conflict, you need a NATO. And NATO has the ability to adjust to those kinds of threats. We shouldn’t be limited just by what created NATO, we face threats going forward, perhaps the biggest of all was mentioned earlier - cyber. You can bring countries to their heels in nanoseconds pushing a button – 20 people in a barn somewhere in Eastern Europe or somewhere else in the world who are properly funded have the ability to be able to terrorise a nation, if not, bring it to its heels. That’s our threat and we need an entity like NATO that can help guide what our protocol is going to be with respect to cyber going forward. We began to do that with President Obama but, there is nothing happening today that convinces me that we are doing the kind of things we did to reign in nuclear weapons. We’re not doing that with cyber. We need the same type of nuclear negotiations for cyber that we had to begin to go from 50,000 warheads pointing at each other in Reykjavik when Regan and Gorbachev sat down – now we’re down to 1500 and some and we propose going lower. So, NATO is critical to the ability to give confidence to people about those values, about those interests and it is the strongest vehicle we have right now to provide cohesion to the defence and security of a critical friend, ally, trading block and value-based alliance. And I think that is irrefutably a moment of strength and something we should adhere to - not seek to undermine and destroy.

Moderator: Thank you, John. Thank you, very impressive. Now, let me turn to the German Defence Minister – listening to John Kerry, one question that might come up is – if it’s like that why would we need a European army? Why do we need to talk about autonomy of Europeans, etc? Can you explain to us a little bit what the motivation is and to what extent these ideas about European capabilities are or are not helpful to the larger NATO effort, please?

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen: Yes, thank you. Thank you John, and I can underline each of your words. You know, NATO if we wouldn’t have it today we should invent it. It is an indispensable NATO we do have, and I reinforce what you said, we are totally aware that NATO – yes, it is the strongest military alliance in the world but, why do we have it? Because it is an alliance of values and an alliance of democracy who have sworn to each other that we will defend each other. Undisputed. Without any regard whether it’s a mighty and a large country or a small and little country. And this sentence of – and this feeling in NATO that we are defending together – values of democracy, the freedom, the rule of law, the dignity of every single person, and humanity. These are the values why we came together as you pointed out seventy years ago. But, today, if we look around those are all values that are under pressure again. And therefore, NATO is again, in a period of transformation. Indispensable and it’s our task to make it – to have it adapted to the new challenges we do have. Now, referring to your question, NATO is an alliance of 29 and we will, as you said, Jens, one for all and all for one. If one square centimetre is being attacked in our territory we will stand up together. Be it Montenegro or be it the United States. You reminded us of the one time the Article 5 has been pulled for collective defence - that was 9/11. And we all stood up together to defend the freedom and to fight terror. So this principle is iron-clad. Europe has always been asked to step up and to get organised, Europe, now 28 countries, is what defence matters are concerned has been for a very, very long time. Very fragmented. 28 different armed forces, no planning process. A huge amount of different weapon systems. An enormously ineffective way to maintain them. To train the personnel that is necessary for it to have the procurement to buy the procurement or to develop the procurement. There was always the demand from our friends towards Europe – get organised. And there is a second reason why Europe is getting organised. There are many, many threats and situations where I do see NATO without any question and you mentioned many of them. I will not repeat them. But, there are places or problems that are of upmost importance for Europe, but I do not see NATO there. One typical example is Africa. This is our immediate neighbourhood. And Europe has to act and react together with our neighbourhood, Africa, in what we call comprehensive security which is diplomacy, economic development and the ability to stabilise by military or police. A couple of years ago, Europe in general was not able to react to a crisis that concerned our interest in a timely manner because we had neither structures nor procedures for that. Now with the evolving crisis around us Europe one and a half year ago decided to build up the European Defence Union to get organised as Europeans what our defence is concerned the planning process, the European defence fund for funding that. To harmonise the weapon systems and the different armed forces we do have. And I am deeply convinced it will not only strengthen the ability and the credibility of Europe to act and react in its immediate neighbourhood or when its interests are concerned. But, it will also and is also strengthening NATO because, of course, we are complementary to NATO. As I am sitting here as the German Defence Minister, I have the NATO hat, I’m a member of NATO and I am member of the European Union. And I do have one single set of forces that is the Bundeswehr and, of course, it is sensible and effective to work together with our friends in Europe and together with our friends in NATO that each of the two structures is able to work complementary together but we have different fields where we are called upon. So, NATO will always be collective defence, NATO will always be Article 5 but, the European Defence Union will represent in future the ability of the European Union to protect Europe and to act in a comprehensive way with diplomacy, economic development and, if necessary, military means.

Moderator: I’m looking at our clock, which is ticking, and I think we need to try to speed up a little bit in order to have sufficient time for our Q&A session. Turning to the Polish Foreign Minister, maybe a question that would go directly, you know, to Poland is the following question: about twenty years ago – twenty one years ago or so, we negotiated the so-called NATO-Russia Founding Act, which contains strict limitations, for example, no nuclear weapons in new member states … future member states, etc, etc. I would be interested in your view, should we, given Russia’s behaviour over the last four almost five years in Ukraine etc, should we now stick to the NATO-Russia Founding Act to this agreement, should we adhere to the limitations? Or should we, as some are proposing, should we throw that overboard and do even more in terms of bolstering countries like your own?

Polish Foreign Minister, Jacek Czaputowicz: Very important question. I think that it’s right to ask this question but, let me just start by saying that we will celebrate this year the seventieth anniversary of the creation of NATO but, also very important anniversary for Poland and other countries from our region, which is the twentieth anniversary of joining NATO – Poland together with Hungary and Czech Republic - we celebrate that anniversary in March. And it was a very important step. Since that time we feel really secure and safe in Europe – we joined the community of free democratic states. It was very fortunate decision because after that time Russia started to change its foreign policy. Becoming more aggressive you can now call this policy revolutionist policy with aggression in Georgia in 2008 and then also Ukraine so it was a very good decision maybe today would be much more difficult to simply have acceptance to that enlargement of NATO. Very important decision was taken at Warsaw summit 2016 to deploy forces from NATO countries in Baltic States, Poland through Romania, in order to guarantee and to demonstrate to Russia that aggression will not go unnoticed or unpunished. So, for us, NATO is very important to deter Russian forces. Now, you asked about NATO-Russia Founding Act. Of course, the similarity to certain extent both parties should obey to what they decide and should follow – Russia broke that Act - and you cannot break something which is already broken. Therefore, we have the right to defend ourselves and to deploy forces. It was already provided in that treaty - one division or what would have been substantial forces. Poland does not share with Germany, France, other countries in the west the same security or threat perception. We share that threat perception with the countries from our region. We simply fear Russian aggressive policy. Therefore, we are much more so to say, we want more American deployment of troops because in our opinion transatlantic, Balts and American army is the only deterrent Russia takes into consideration when they think about its foreign policy. We are not against European army; it’s very justified action to mobilise countries within the European Union to spend more on defence and to create forces so each can act on their own. But, in our opinion only transatlantic links – therefore, only NATO is a real security guarantor for our countries. So, this is how we see the situation. So, I can just summarise my short introduction: that in Europe there are different threat perceptions and countries to the east, eastern flank of NATO have got kind of different priorities. Therefore, for us, American … cooperation with the United States in the … [inaudible] of military is crucial and also Poland has decided to spend much more on defence and we will increase from 2% now to 2.5% in future. In order to take also our burden to invest in common defence.

Moderator: Thank you very much. Kishore, you published a book not so long ago with the very provocative title ‘Has the West Lost it?’ So, here is my question, has the west lost it when you listen to this discussion? Or, to put it a little more, I guess, intelligently. What role do you see as looking at NATO and our region from the outside from an Asian perceptive – what role do you see for the transatlantic alliance in the evolving international system - in this new landscape of "great power competition" etc etc? Kishore - incredibly brief?

National University of Singapore, Professor Kishore Mahbubani: I know you’re watching the clock, so I will make three very quick points to answer your question directly. The first point I want to make and it’s an important point. I think from the point of the view from the rest of the world at a time when everything is changing, right? We are entering a new era of world history. And just to give you how dramatic the change is, you have 200 years of western domination of world history. Today, in GDP terms, the number one economy is China, number two is United States, number three is India, number four is Japan. Not one European country in the top four. It’s a different world. So, with everything changing it’s good to have some pillars of stability in the world. Right? And since the west created in many ways the global architecture post-1945, which is still, I think, working and holding the world together. And I spent ten years as Ambassador to the UN, so I know that many of these global, multinational institutions work and they rely on the transatlantic alliance as the sub-structure of the global governance architecture. So, the rest of the world doesn’t want to see this transatlantic alliance being shaken. It’s good if it stays together. But, my second point at the same time is that, at the end of the day an alliance is about threats. Now threats as you know, we are talking about geo-political threats, the word geo-political means geography political. Now, the geography of Europe is very different from the geography of the United States of North America. And the number one threat that Europe is going to face in the 21st Century is not the number one threat that America is going to face in 21st Century. To put it very bluntly what Europe is going to face: in 1950 Europe’s population was twice that of Africa’s. Today Africa’s population is twice that of Europe’s. By 2100 it is going to be ten times the size of Europe – I guarantee. You have already seen what a few boats have done, right? They have distorted the whole political process in Europe. You have these populous parties coming in because people are frightened of these boats coming and the leaders haven’t paid attention to the people’s fears. The people are not worried about Russian tanks coming tomorrow, they’re more worried about the African migrants coming. And, yeah, Secretary of State John Kerry is absolutely right when he talks about the young 2 billion people with a smartphone. More and more of them are going to come and how do you keep them out? That brings me to my third point – you’ve got to develop Africa economically. There’s only one solution. And who’s the number one potential partner for Europe for the economic development of Africa? Who is the number one investor in Africa today? It’s China. So, it would be quite natural, if you look at geography – geo-political interests -there is a convergence of interest within Europe and China to develop Africa economically and hold back the boat people. But I guarantee you, and that’s what my next book is about – in the next ten years there will be a spike in US-China rivalry. No number one power gives up its number one power that easily. And China’s economy in nominal market terms will become number one in ten to fifteen years. There will be a tremendous sign on American political struggles coming. And then where does Europe stay? Does it look after its own geographic interest and work with China in Africa, or does it work with the United States to counter-balance China and sacrifice its interests? Now, these are hard questions – there are no easy answers but, what I would recommend to the transatlantic alliance is we want you to continue, we want you to remain strong. Please have some very hard-headed discussions among yourself about how you keep this transatlantic alliance strong in a 21st Century, which is completely different from the 20th Century.

Moderator: Great. Thank you very much, that’s a thought-provoking point that you’re making. We are now inviting all of you to ask questions. Who would like to ask the first question? Again, please identify yourself if you could.

Question: I have a question to Mr Stoltenberg, Mr Kerry and Mr Czaputowicz. Recently in foreign media, in press, there has been dispute whether Russia will occupy Belarus, so I was wondering what is your opinion whether this will happen, how this will happen, whether it will be like a military aggression or not, and; if it will happen what could be the response of NATO? Thank you.

Moderator: All right, Jens?

Jens Stoltenberg: First of all, I think that we have to just assume that that will not happen. So, because I think it’s extremely important to stand up for the sovereignty and the territorial integrity for every nation in Europe. Having said that, we have seen that Russia has violated the territorial integrity of several neighbours. Russia has troops in Moldova without the consent of the government in Chisinau. They have troops in two parts of Georgia – Abkhazia and South Ossetia. And, of course, they have illegally annexed Crimea and they are destabilising eastern Ukraine and we have seen the aggressive actions of Russia in the Sea of Azov. What NATO is doing is that, as a response, not least to this more assertive Russia and the more aggressive actions of Russia, we have, as I said, significantly strengthened the readiness of our forces, increased our presence in the eastern part of the Alliance and European Allies are now investing more in defence and US is increasing their presence in Europe. And the reason why we do that is to prevent conflict. The main reason for NATO’s deterrence is to send a clear signal to any potential adversary that if any Allies are attacked, the whole of NATO will be there and that’s the best way to avoid any conflict. And so, NATO is responding, and we are ready then to, of course, defend any NATO Ally, but Russia is not a member of NATO.

Moderator: John, you want to add something to that?

John Kerry: I think that covers it.

Moderator: That covers it?

Jacek Czaputowicz: If I may just add to this. Of course, Belarus is a very important neighbour of Poland and we support sovereignty to territorial integrity and independence of Belarus. So, I think that also, there is a role for the European Union to support pro-European orientation in the country. We will celebrate this year; indeed, we do it already - the tenth anniversary of Eastern Partnership Programme, so we have to be creative and try to somehow simply support society. Of course, you ask about some dramatic events concerning aggression that will be breach of international law by Russia, if it happens. Therefore, I think the reaction of international community should be strong and NATO, both European Union and other actors, should give clear signals to Russia that it will not to be tolerated.

Question: I just wanted to ask you, in terms of the cohesion of Europe and standing up for its own and to be legitimately looked at in the world as a force for good and power. Could you comment a little bit on what its relationship should be to a divisive country, such as Iran?

Moderator: Now, who will take that question? Any takers?

John Kerry: I want to preface my answer to that and I will answer it very directly. By also stating that, as I talk about the importance of Europe and the importance of the values and the interests being represented, I don’t close my eyes to the notion that Europe needs to make some reforms and engage in some significant discussion about some of the institutional atrophy, if you will, a little bit. Or … I think Angela Merkel, in her speech yesterday, made some comments about this. So, I would agree with that. And I think the same thing with respect to looking at these threats. The fact is that if suddenly we’re out of the INF Treaty and you have new kind of arms race, that’s just going to put an exclamation point at why you need a NATO. Because that’s a geo- political threat and so, I think that the arguments build rather than diminish. Now with respect to Iran – Europe played a very important role. I mean, this was a partnership, which is again an argument for multilateralism. Russia, China, even in the midst of Ukraine, Russia cooperated and worked very closely in order to get the nuclear arms agreement with Iran. And helped to create a structure where we had a responsible use of enriched uranium and we dealt with the challenge in a multilateral way and seven countries signed this agreement. And what’s significant about the agreement, and Iran is, is that those countries are working very hard right now to keep that agreement alive. They still believe in it. What is it that President Xi, President Putin, President Macron, and Chancellor Merkel, and Prime Minster May know about the Iran deal that Donald Trump doesn’t? Actually, maybe I shouldn’t ask that question. But, I mean, seriously, think about it. They are all staking, even as they know Iran is mischievous and is doing things in Yemen, doing things with missiles, doing things with Hezbollah, threatening Israel, engaged in Iraq, all of which we object to. And the Obama administration objected to. By the way we did things about it. We kept the sanctions in place on each of those things. We raised the sanctions because they were doing it and I agree with the notion that we need a follow-on agreement with respect to what Iran is doing. But, are you stronger getting a follow-on agreement by coming to the Europeans and others who have signed the agreement and say to them, hey guys, I don’t like this deal. And I’m prepared to get out of it but, I’m going to do it in a year. And I’m going to call on you to join me to get a follow-on agreement from the Iranians with respect to Hezbollah and missiles and other things. Don’t you think we’re stronger going into that together – to leverage the follow-on agreement? That’s not what we did. The president just pulled out. Walked away. And, has engaged in an effort to create such rigid applications and secondary sanctions and other things that what he is really engaged in is a regime change initiative. That’s obvious to anybody who understands this. But, in effect what it has done is strengthen the IRGC, strengthen the very people who didn’t want a nuclear agreement and who said to their supreme leader, don’t negotiate with the United States, you can’t trust them. So, it’s turned everything on its ear in a way that will not achieve the very goal we want to achieve with respect to Iran. So, I think you also have to look inside Iran. You can’t just be blanket statement about a whole nation. There are huge differences between Arab Suni and Shia Persian. And people don’t acknowledge that in any way whatsoever when they start talking about a Gemini in the region and this and that. It’s not going to happen. So, you know, particularly with the United States locked in with our other friends in the region and making it clear we’re not going to let that happen. So, false threats should not command the attention of – and I’m not saying – the missiles are a real threat. The transfer of weapons are real threats but, in other ways, some things have been exaggerated that I think make it very difficult to find a way forward that the world merits in this kind of situation. Iran … in many ways I tried to get Iran and Saudi Arabia’s Salman … and King Salman actually said to me, I think we can make that happen and we should. And it’s never happened. One of the things I learned fighting in a war as a young man was, before you commit your people to go fight somewhere you really owe it to them to exhaust the opportunities of diplomacy, not rush the war. But, we were, before we got the Iran deal rushing into conflict. There are three major leaders of countries who came to us and said, you have to bomb Iran. And President Obama said, you know what, I’m going to do diplomacy before we do that. And look what happened. So, that’s how I think we manage Iran: by building our alliance with our friends; by working in a way that cohesively leverages the diplomatic outcome that you want to get. Rather than just unliterally going off and pulling out of Paris, pulling out of TPP, pulling out of this, pulling out of Iran, pulling out of Syria. What happened to the greatest negotiator?

Jacek Czaputowicz: If I may add to this picture, within the European Union Foreign Ministers Council, we discussed very often this situation with Iran and I think that we share - the Europeans and the Americans - the shared assessment of the role of Iran, which is a problem in the Middle East. We do not agree on how to deal with that. Poland together with other EU member states says that JCPOA has positive impact and to stand by that agreement. The United States decided to withdraw. Now the problem is that, in my opinion, only acting together as a transatlantic community we can be effective in generally dealing with the Middle East. Therefore, myself, with my invited ministers from all over the world to the conference in Warsaw which will be held on the 13th and the 14th February to discuss that issue. So, we will listen to ministers, to countries of the region, how they see their problem. Because we think that again, transatlantic community is a value and we have to find the possibility to work together and to address that very important problem today.

Moderator: It’s an important point. Ursula von de Leyen …

Ursula von de Leyen: Thank you, John, again for your words because if I may refer to your brilliant analysis, yes, they are the two superpowers - the United States and China. But, you were asking where is the role of Europe in between? Well, the European experience is the experience that if we have a club of egoists and if we fight each other we’re all losing. So, our bitter experience of the last century was if we work together, it might be slower, it might be bumpy and messy sometimes and loud and chaotic but, at the very end, it’s a win-win situation for all of us, the middle powers and countries. And, therefore, it is a question of, do we want a zero-sum game that always needs one winner who needs a loser? Or do we want to invest in the win-win situation that can occur? They are slower, as I said, and they need a lot of diplomacy, they need a lot of compromises. But, I think over time this is going to be the model that’s going to keep our world peaceful and inclusive and therefore, I see a European role in promoting this logic of win-win situation and in promoting because we are 28 a very different countries, in promoting the value in itself of multilateralism, a vibrant multilateralism to be vanguard for that principle and this is a role which I expect Europe to play.

Professor Kishore Mahbubani: Just one thing. I completely support it. But, please show some determination.

Ursula von de Leyen: May I just say that when I was born there was six countries in the European Union. Today I’m 60 years old, we have 28, it’s a huge success story. It’s an economic superpower.

Professor Kishore Mahbubani: I agree. I agree.

Ursula von de Leyen: So, 500 million people peacefully together after reunification. Our friends who joined us, it was a win-win situation for all of us. Prosperity rose. So, there is a lot of dedication behind it and we want to complete this ride on this success story in the defence sector but, always keeping in mind that multilateralism is the foundation of our work.

Moderator: There was somebody back there – yes, please?

Question: My question is directed to the Minister of Defence of Germany. So, one of the things you mentioned about was that NATO was the coming of common values and democracies and the survival of the Alliance is clearly important and top of mind for you all. How do you deal with a member of NATO who is no longer sharing the values of democracy, putting thousands of people in jail including many journalists and it has become a pseudo democracy, a strongman, if you will, pretending to be a democracy? How do you deal with that because you have the survival of NATO but you also have members who will start not sharing the values you have?

Ursula von de Leyen: The principle of an alliance is that – and the examples that you are pointing out, if you look at the history of NATO, we had over and over these situations where one member state took a wrong turning, if I may so. And the principle always was it is better to have the country in our Alliance and to work over time to find the road back to democracy and our values than to have it excluded as an opponent. And there are many, many people in the country you are referring to that are thriving for democracy, that are working for these values. So it’s worth to work hard together. We have different issues without any question. But, the discussion about these issues and the work together to find back for the cohesion within the Alliance concerning these values is 100 times more worth it than exclusion and then conflicts that are almost unsolvable.

Moderator: I think we have time for maybe one very brief question but really just a sentence or so and one brief answer because we are practically running out of time now.

Question: My name is Lina and I’m from Singapore – my question is, with the enthusiasm from the eastern European countries the NATO members in China’s [inaudible] initiated, do you see the weakening of unity within the NATO members?

Moderator: Okay, who wants to take that one? Jens?

Jens Stoltenberg: I don’t see any weakening of unity within the NATO. Actually, I see the opposite but, having said that, we have to understand the following, NATO is an alliance of 29 Allies. They are different, they have different histories, different backgrounds, some from North America, many of them from Europe. Different political leaders are elected, sometimes they disagree on important issues as trade or climate or many other issues and they choose different parts on many different things. But, they unite around the core task of NATO and that is that we defend and protect each other because especially in a world with more uncertainties, more threats and more challenges, this is extremely important. And some are concerned about the size of China – well, China is big, that’s fair. But, NATO - meaning one billion people – Europe and North America together - is really a big Alliance, which is able to cope with all threats and challenges we face in the world today. As long as we stand together.

Moderator: I think that was a pretty good closing remark. Thank you very much.