by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the European People's Party
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]:
Manfred Weber, Ursula,
It’s really great to be back and to meet you again. This is actually the second time I meet the European People’s Party, and I know that you are in the middle of a European election campaign, and it’s not for me to give you any advice about campaigning, but what I can say is that I really recognise the importance of the European People’s Party, EPP, and the European institutions, because you are the biggest party in the European Parliament.
You represent the parties which have always been very strong supporters of NATO, and I thank you for that staunch support. But also because I fully realised, also based on what Ursula just said, the importance of the close cooperation between the European Union and NATO. And one of my top priorities as Secretary General of NATO has been actually to strengthen cooperation between NATO and the European Union, and together with Ursula and with all the many other political leaders in Europe, I, we have been able to lift the cooperation between NATO and the European Union up to new and unprecedented levels. This is important, because despite the fact that we are two different institutions, we have a lot in common.
We have history in common – we have to understand that both the European Union and NATO, we were created after the end of the Second World War, as multilateral institutions, to make sure that we never again experienced anything like what we experienced during the Second World War. So we are . . . we are institutions, which are there to preserve the peace, to build cooperation and . . . and to help to promote freedom and democracy. We have been successful and we have supported each other, the European Union and NATO. So we have a common history.
Then we have also common values: democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty.
And, of course, we share also very much the same members – many, many of the same member states. But I actually also like to remind us on the following fact that more than 90 percent of the people living in the European Union, they live in a NATO country. So there is no way you can strengthen the defence of EU or Europe without at the same time strengthening the defence of NATO. That’s very much the same thing.
And . . . and we also have to realise that by working together we are also addressing common challenges. We work together in cyber, in hybrid, in maritime operations. NATO is present in the Aegean Sea, helping to implement the agreement between Turkey and the European Union on, on . . . migrant and . . . on the migrant crisis.
So I see a lot of areas of cooperation between NATO and the European Union, and I welcome the fact that we have been able to lift that to a new and unprecedented level. But, at the same time, I also see the purpose and the need to strengthen European efforts on defence as Ursula just mentioned. I have welcomed that, because I really believe that more EU efforts on defence can help to strengthen . . . it can help to develop new capabilities, increase defence spending and also help to address what we call the fragmentation of the European defence industry.
And I have mentioned these examples, and Ursula and also Manfred actually mentioned the importance of improving efficiency when it comes to European efforts on defence. You know that in Europe there are 17 different types of main battle tanks. In United States there is only one. In Europe there are 13 different types of air to air missile. In United States they have three. And European nations have 29 different types of naval frigates. The United States has four. I mention this because it highlights the importance of more cooperation in Europe when it comes to European defence. Therefore, European Defence Fund is good, the PESCO is good, because these are ways to try to address this fragmentation, to increase efficiency and to make sure that European Allies, the European Union, is delivering more when it comes to defence. This is something I strongly welcome, and . . . and which I, on behalf of NATO, has many times expressed that we support.
At the same time it is extremely important to also understand what Ursula also mentioned, and also Manfred mentioned, and that is that the EU efforts on defence should not compete, not duplicate, not substitute NATO – partly because we historically have been working together. The success . . . the success story about the enlargement of the European Union is very much linked to the presence of NATO. NATO provided the security guarantees, the security framework for enlargement, of both NATO and the European Union. So we have worked together to make sure that this historic enlargement, which Poland, many of the countries here are part of, was possible. And we have to make sure that we continue to work together and to make sure that we need to maintain the transatlantic bond. And make sure that European unity doesn’t substitute transatlantic unity. We need both European unity and transatlantic unity, not either/or. And I say this also because perception matters, rhetoric matters and therefore we should never create the impression that one is going to . . . to substitute the other.
This is also about . . . so this is about history, it’s about political messaging, but it’s also about money. After Brexit, 80 percent of NATO’s defence expenditure will come from non-EU Allies. Three of the four battlegroups we have in the eastern part of the Alliance will be led by non-EU Allies: United States, Canada and . . . and United Kingdom. Then the one in Ukraine is led by Germany.
And it’s also partly about geography, because Turkey is not an EU member but Turkey is important for the defence of Europe in the south, fighting Daesh/ISIL. Norway and Iceland not, not very big countries, but they are important because it’s up in the north. And then in the west you will have Canada, United States and United Kingdom.
So, I appreciate very much EU efforts on defence, but I also appreciate very much every time you highlight that this is not to compete with or replace or duplicate NATO. The more you can highlight that this is part of strengthening the European efforts within the NATO framework, the better, because then we avoid any misunderstanding.
Then, I am aware of that questions are asked – and that’s also part of the European debate – about whether we can trust the transatlantic partnership. Whether, whether, whether we have to develop something independently or outside NATO because the transatlantic partnership is not reliable. The paradox is that while there are asked questions, or there are questions asked, both in Europe and in North America about the strength of NATO, the strength of the transatlantic partnership. At the same time, we are actually doing more together than we’re done for a . . . for many years, North America and Europe. I am not denying, or actually I think we just have to all realise, that there are disagreements between NATO Allies, between Europe and North America, but also within Europe and also we see between, for instance, between North American member states, on trade, on climate change, on the Iran nuclear deal, on burden sharing, and on other important issues. The paradox is that despite those disagreements, within the NATO framework, when it comes to security and defence, we are actually able to do more together, North America and Europe, than we have done for many years. We have, for the first time in our history, we have now combat-ready battlegroups in the eastern part of the Alliance, with the four battlegroups in the three Baltic countries and one in Poland. We have Forward Presence, NATO Forward Presence in the Black Sea region, in Romania, and we have . . . we are now significantly increasing the size of our Response Force, increasing the readiness of our forces, tripling the size of the NATO Response Force and adding even more forces to . . . to our high readiness capabilities. We are reforming the command structure and European Allies are investing more in defence. So my message to the United States is that: yes, I accept that they want fair burden sharing, but actually we see now that European Allies and Canada are, after years of cutting defence budgets, starting to increase. All European Allies have stopped the cuts. All European Allies have started to increase. More European Allies now meet the 2 percent target.
Back in 2014, when we made the decision, this was only three, now it’s seven, and we will soon be even more. And also those who have not yet reached 2 percent are significantly increasing defence spending. So European Allies are doing more within the NATO framework, but also United States is doing more. Because the impression is sometimes that . . . that the US is . . . is reducing their commitment to Europe. The reality is that after the end of the Cold War, the United States reduced their presence in Europe. But over the last years, the United States is now again increasing, with more military presence, with more exercises. The last US battle tank left Europe in December 2013, now the United States is back in Poland with a rotational armoured brigade, many battle tanks, and it shows an increased US commitment to . . . to European defence. So I’m not trying to deny that there are differences. I’m not trying to say that trade, climate change, and all the other issues where we see differences are not important. They actually are.
But I am saying that despite these differences we have proven that within security and defence we are actually stepping up, strengthening the transatlantic bond. And we need that transatlantic bond because in a time with more uncertainty, more unpredictability, we need stronger international institutions: the EU and NATO, not either EU or NATO.
The last thing I would just briefly mention, because I understand that we should have some time for Q&As afterwards, is that we have many challenges we have to address as a transatlantic alliance. Europe and North America together fighting terrorism, we have made a lot of progress. Cyber: the challenge is related to, also, a rising China – I see a great potential for partnership, but also see some challenges. But there is one urgent issue we need to address together and that is the question related to intermediate range weapons. Ursula, she is 60 years old, I am 60 years old in a few days, two young people, Ursula and I, but . . . but we are old enough to remember the discussion in Europe about intermediate range weapons in the 1970s and 80s. And then we deployed, the Russians deployed, a lot of SS-20 missiles, nuclear capable. NATO responded with Pershing and cruise missiles. And it was a great debate, a big discussion, that shaped understanding of security in the minds of many many Europeans including me.
Then we reached this milestone agreement, the INF agreement, back in 1987. And that was the agreement that didn’t reduce the number of missiles, it actually . . . it actually banned all of them. Zero. And that is a . . . has been an agreement which has served us all well for many decades. Now Russia is violating the agreement. Russia is deploying new missiles SSC-8. They are hard to detect. They are mobile. They are nuclear capable. They can reach European cities. They have little, if any, warning time at all. And thereby they also reduce the potential threshold, or the threshold for any potential use of nuclear weapons in a conflict. All nuclear weapons are dangerous, but weapons with little warning time, hard to detect, mobile are, if anything, even more dangerous. And therefore the Obama administration raised this issue with Russia: the violations of the INF Treaty. It has been followed out with the current US administration, and all NATO Allies have agreed that Russia is in violation and all NATO Allies call on Russia to come back into compliance with the agreement. At the same time, we have started to prepare for a world without the agreement and with more Russian missiles in Europe. For me, this is a strong example of the importance of transatlantic unity. Because this is US having an agreement with Russia, but it’s directly impacting the security of Europe.
So there’s no way we can address this issue of new nuclear missiles without, within the transatlantic Alliance. And the great thing is that, faced with this very serious challenge, NATO has proven that we are united, both in putting the onus, the responsibility on Russia violating the treaty, but also agreeing that we need to respond to this in a united way, as an Alliance, coordinated. Not with bilateral arrangements, but NATO as . . . as…as a whole. Transatlantic. It’s far too early to say what will be the outcome of our process, but what we can say is that we will be measured and we will be coordinated and we don’t have any intentions of deploying new nuclear missiles in Europe. No new ground launched weapon systems, nuclear.
The last thing about this is that, for me, this highlights the importance of NATO’s approach to Russia: deterrence, defence and dialogue. We need to be certain that we provide credible deterrence and defence, to avoid any misunderstanding of our resolve and our capability to defend all Allies. That’s the way to preserve the peace, to prevent conflict. At the same time, Russia is our neighbour, Russia is here to stay. We need to talk to them. We need dialogue and we need to continue to strive for arms control, because we don’t want a new arms race, we don’t want a new Cold War. So therefore this dual track firm, strong but also open for dialogue is the way we need to approach our neighbour Russia, because at some stage we need to try to improve the relationship with Russia. To do all this we need strong Europe. We need European unity, but we need also transatlantic unity. Two World Wars and the Cold War have taught us that we are stronger and safer together – not apart.