by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the meetings of NATO Defence Ministers
Defence Ministers will meet here tomorrow and the day after tomorrow to address pressing security challenges.
We will discuss Russia’s violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
Moscow continues to develop and deploy several battalions of the SSC-8 missile.
Despite the efforts of the United States and other NATO Allies – over many years – to encourage Russia to return to compliance.
We all know that a treaty that is only respected by one side cannot keep us safe.
That is why the United States, with the full support of all NATO Allies, has announced its intention to withdraw from the Treaty.
This will take effect within six months.
So Russia has a last opportunity to take the responsible path.
To return to compliance and save the INF Treaty.
We urge Russia to take this opportunity.
At the same time, we are planning for a world without the INF Treaty.
At this meeting of defence ministers, we will discuss what steps NATO should take to adapt to a world with more Russian missiles.
And maintain effective deterrence and defence.
I will not speculate on what those steps will be.
But let me say this:
Any steps we take will be coordinated, measured, and defensive.
And we do not intend to deploy new ground-based nuclear missiles in Europe.
At the same time, we remain committed to meaningful arms control and non-proliferation efforts.
NATO does not want a new arms race.
Because that would be in nobody’s interest.
We will also discuss NATO’s deterrence and defence more broadly, including work on our new Readiness Initiative.
This will add to our readiness with 30 combat ships, 30 land battalions, and 30 air squadrons, available within 30 days.
Burden sharing and defence spending will be high on our agenda.
All Allies have now submitted their annual reports on their national plans to meet the Defence Investment Pledge.
And we will review progress on all three dimensions of the pledge: cash, capabilities and contributions.
On all three measures, the trend is up.
Since 2016, European Allies and Canada have spent a cumulative 41 billion US dollars more on defence.
And based on the latest reports, this will rise to one hundred billion dollars by next year.
Allies are also investing more in modern capabilities.
And contributing more forces to our missions and operations.
We still have work to do.
But I am encouraged by the significant progress so far.
We will also discuss NATO missions and operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo.
In Afghanistan, the situation remains difficult.
But we also see efforts for peace.
Allies have been kept closely updated by the United States.
We continue to consult on the implications of a possible peace deal and how NATO can support it.
Yesterday we met with the US envoy Ambassador Khalilzad.
This is the third time in the last few weeks we meet with him.
It is too early to say if there will be a deal.
NATO continues to help the Afghan security forces create the conditions for a peaceful solution.
What is clear is this: we went into Afghanistan together, and together we will determine our future posture.
Based on conditions we determine with the Afghans.
In Iraq, our new training mission is now up and running.
Our support will help Iraq prevent the resurgence of ISIS or other terrorist groups.
We will also address our KFOR mission, which has made an important contribution to stability in the Western Balkans region for the last 20 years.
At the same time, we will review the level of our support for the Kosovo Security Force after the change of its mandate.
We will have a session devoted to NATO-EU cooperation and the EU efforts on defence.
Done in the right way, EU efforts can strengthen the European pillar in NATO, and lead to fairer burden sharing.
But of course, EU efforts on defence cannot replace NATO.
So we must ensure our efforts complement and do not compete with one another.
To conclude, let me say that I am extremely glad that at this meeting we will welcome for the first time our colleague from Skopje, minister Radmila Sekerinska.
The future Republic of North Macedonia now has a seat at NATO’s table.
With that, I’m ready to take your questions.