Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the meetings of NATO Defence Ministers

  • 25 Jun. 2019 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 25 Jun. 2019 16:39

(As delivered)

Good morning.

This week, NATO Defence Ministers will take decisions to continue modernising our Alliance.
To ensure our deterrence and defence remains effective, we need to keep investing in our security.
So we will address our progress on burden-sharing.
Today, we are releasing for the first time figures for 2019 defence spending.
And I can announce that the real increase for 2019 is 3.9% across European Allies and Canada.

So we now have five consecutive years of growth in defence spending.
By the end of next year, European Allies and Canada will have added a cumulative total of well over one hundred billion dollars since 2016.

And, as you can see, more Allies are reaching our goal of spending 2 percent of GDP on defence.
This year, we expect 8 Allies to spend at least 2 percent of GDP on defence.
Up from just 3 Allies in 2014. This is a good trend. And we expect this to continue. The majority of Allies have plans to reach 2% by 2024.

In this slide, you see the increase for each individual Ally. When you look at the percentages, most Allies have increased their defence spending by double-digits since 2014. You have all the details in the press release.
We are also investing in more new capabilities. This year, 16 Allies are expected to meet the benchmark of at least 20 percent of defence spending devoted to major equipment. Almost all Allies have plans to do so by 2024.
And Allies are stepping up with more forces for NATO missions and operations.
This is impressive progress. And a sign of commitment.
So NATO is on the right track. But we must keep up the positive momentum.

We will also address Russia's continuing violation of the INF Treaty. Russia has until 2 August to verifiably destroy its SSC-8 missiles, which violate the Treaty.
The United States and other Allies have tried to engage with Russia about their new missile system for years, including in the NATO-Russia Council.
We are planning to hold a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council next week to raise this issue again. We call on Russia to take the responsible path. But unfortunately, we have seen no indication that Russia intends to do so. In fact, it continues to develop and field the new missiles.
And there are just five weeks left for Russia to save the treaty.
So tomorrow, we will decide on NATO's next steps, in the event Russia does not comply. Our response will be defensive, measured and coordinated. We will not mirror what Russia does. We do not intend to deploy new land-based nuclear missiles in Europe.
We do not want a new arms race. But as Russia is deploying new missiles, we must ensure that our deterrence and defence remains credible and effective.
This is NATO's job.
Effective deterrence and defence also means staying ahead of the technological curve. Including artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and next-generation communications.

So ministers will discuss:

  • How NATO's defence planning process will be used to ensure Allies are investing in new technologies;
  • How joint capability development provides access to cutting-edge capabilities which individual Allies could not afford alone,

like next-generation NATO surveillance drones and planes;

  • And how NATO sets standards to ensure our forces can operate seamlessly together.

We are also updating our guidelines for resilient infrastructure, including telecommunications.

We will be joined by our partners Finland and Sweden, as well as EU High Representative Mogherini.
Because these technologies raise challenges and opportunities for us all.
And this could be a promising area for future NATO-EU cooperation.

Ministers will also approve NATO's first-ever space policy.
Creating a framework for how NATO should deal with the opportunities and challenges in space, for Alliance security and operations.
Space is part of our daily lives.
And while it can be used for peaceful purposes, it can also be used for aggression.
Satellites can be jammed, hacked or weaponized.
Anti-satellite weapons could cripple communications.

So it is important that we are vigilant and resilient – also in space.

NATO can serve as a key forum.
Bringing Allies together to share capabilities and information.

Afghanistan will also be an important point on our agenda.
With a meeting of all nations contributing to our training mission.

While the security situation remains serious, we see a unique opportunity for peace.

Allies fully support U.S. efforts to reach a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan.

And our continued commitment,
both with forces and funding, is key to creating the conditions for peace.

Finally, we will host a meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.
The Coalition has made remarkable progress.
Retaking all the territory once held by ISIS terrorists.
Now we must ensure that they do not come back.
This is why NATO's training mission in Iraq is so important.
And why we will continue our efforts together with Allies and partners in the Global Coalition.

And with that, I'm ready to take your questions.

OANA LUNGESCU [NATO spokesperson]: Okay, we’ll start with the Financial Times.

MICHAEL PEEL [Financial Times]: Thank you, Michael Peel, Financial Times. Secretary General, could you tell us some more please about what responses are being considered if Russia does not come into compliance with the INF by August 2nd, in more detail what some of these would be please, thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: I will not pre-empt the outcome of the Ministerial that starts tomorrow. But, of course, we need to respond if Russia does not come back into compliance with the INF Treaty, and the defence ministers will discuss measures when it comes to how NATO will respond if Russia does not come back into compliance.

What I can say is that the deployment of the Russian missiles - the SSC-8 - is something we have been concerned about for several years. We have seen the deployment taking place over several.  The concerns about the new Russian missile was first raised by the Obama administration, and it was also actually addressed at the NATO Summit in Wales in 2014. So this is not something that surprises us; this is something we have seen developing over years, and it’s part of a pattern of increased Russian investments in military capabilities, close to our borders. And, therefore, NATO has already started to adapt and to respond to this pattern of Russian behaviour, by, for instance, increasing the readiness of our forces, by deploying forces to the eastern part of the Alliance.  So we have already started an adaptation to a more assertive Russian behaviour.

OANA LUNGESCU: OK we’ll go to the front row – Ariana News.

QUESTION: [Mohammad Hassanyar, Ariana News]:  If the peace agreement [is] achieved in Afghanistan, will NATO continue its financial and military commitments beyond 2020-2021?

JENS STOLTENBERG: First of all, we are strongly supportive of the peace efforts and all Allies support them and we are in close consultations with the US Chief Negotiator Ambassador Khalilzad. He has been here several times, consulting and briefing Allies and this will also be an issue we discuss at the meeting that starts tomorrow.

Allies are committed to support the peace process, partly by continuing to provide support to the Afghan forces. Our train, assist and advise mission, because we strongly believe that the Taliban has to understand that they will not win on the battlefield. And that’s important to create the conditions for a peaceful, negotiated, political solution. So, therefore, we will continue to provide support.

We will also continue to provide financial support and Allies have committed to provide continued financial support until 2024. Then, of course, the presence of NATO troops in Afghanistan after a peace deal will, of course, depend on the content of the deal. But I think it is a bit too early to speculate exactly on what kind of presence we will have after a potential deal, because we haven’t seen the content of the deal yet.


BROOKS TIGNER [Jane’s Defence Weekly]: I’d like to come back to the INF.  Whatever options you instal, and I can only see three: either an extension and reinforcement of the US nuclear umbrella; or nuclear missiles in the air on aeroplanes; or an European missile defence system. These are all expensive options, regardless of which one you choose. Do you foresee any major impact on defence spending and on the budget of NATO as a result of the options you do choose, thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: Again, it’s absolutely fair to ask questions about what measures NATO will undertake if Russia doesn’t come back into compliance. But I will not now tell you what ambassadors and what the ministers will decide and discuss tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. I think we have to first have the meeting and then tell you what we decided and discussed during that meeting.

Our focus now is to continue to call on Russia to come back into compliance. They still have time. Five weeks.  Time is running out. But Russia still has time to come back into compliance and to respect the INF Treaty.

As I said, the deployment of the new SSC-8 missiles is something that has taken place over years. And it’s part of a broader pattern of Russia’s modernisation of its forces. And NATO is responding already to this pattern of Russian behaviour. Part of that is high-readiness, increased presence of our forces in the eastern part of the Alliance and increased defence spending.

So we are increasing the spending. We will increase defence spending, and this will enable us to invest in new capabilities to strengthen our deterrence, our defence, also in response to a Russian violation - or a continued Russian violation of the INF Treaty.

OANA LUNGESCU: Deutsche Welle.

TERI SCHULTZ [Deutsche Welle and NPR]: I understand that Iran is not a NATO issue, but are you concerned that the tensions in the Gulf will spill over and become a NATO issue? You have the United States on one side, and I understand that Acting Defense Secretary Esper is planning to raise it here at the meeting. Do you expect that? And, and is this another, another issue where the Europeans and the US are on different sides? And how concerned are you about both the actual situation on the ground and the situation it creates within NATO? Thanks.

JENS STOLTENBERG: We are concerned about the situation in the Gulf and we are also concerned about Iran’s destabilising activities in the region; its support for terrorist groups; its missile programme and also the announcement that Iran will restart the enrichment of uranium, and all Allies share these concerns.

I think that we welcome the fact that even though Iran is not formally on the agenda for the Defence Ministerial Meeting, I expect that Iran will be discussed, both in the meeting and in different bilateral meetings that take place on the margins of the Defence Ministerial Meeting. And I also expect that Defense Secretary Esper will brief Allies. And I think this is useful, because then NATO is a platform for NATO Allies and ministers to exchange views - to exchange analyses about the challenges we all face in the Gulf.

OANA LUNGESCU: Okay, we’ll go to our Russian colleague over there.

MIKHAIL KOROSTIKOV [Kommersant]: Thank you very much. Mikhail Korostikov of Kommersant daily, Russia. You said that next week we will see a new Russia-NATO meeting, and I would like to ask you: do you expect any new announcements, any new developments or will it be just a statement of already-known positions? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: I strongly believe in dialogue and, especially, it is important to have dialogue when the situation and relations are difficult. And there is no way to hide that the relationship between NATO and Russia is more difficult now than it was not so many years ago.

But the NATO-Russia Council is an all-weather council, it’s an all-weather institution that facilitates dialogue between NATO Allies and Russia. And I really hope and I expect that we will have an open - we will have a frank – we have a real discussion about the INF issue. I expect, of course, NATO Allies to raise their concerns about Russian violations, but also make clear that if Russia doesn’t come back into compliance with the Treaty, NATO has to respond. And, as I said, we will respond in a defensive and measured way. But, at the same time, we need to make sure that we deliver credible deterrence and defence - also in a world without the INF Treaty and with more Russian missiles.

OANA LUNGESCU: Washington Post, and then we’ll go to AFP.

MICHAEL BIRNBAUM [Washington Post]: Thank you, Michael Birnbaum from The Washington Post. A question about Iran again. Did President Trump warn you last week that he was considering air strikes against Iran? And you mentioned Iran’s destabilising activities within the Persian Gulf region.  How would you characterise US actions in the region right now? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: In NATO we exchange analysis assessments on a regular basis about many different issues including, of course, about the situation in the Gulf and Iran. It’s not right if I go into the specifics of these ongoing consultations and exchange of information.

We, for instance, share intelligence. That’s one of the most important things our new Intelligence Division does: is actually to make sure that we share intelligence - also on the situation in the Gulf. But, as you know, NATO as an alliance is not directly involved in the current situation in the Gulf.

Some NATO Allies are, and I think that the important thing now is to reduce tensions. And I welcome the fact that the United States so clearly has stated that they are ready to sit down and talk with Iran, to reduce tensions and to avoid any miscalculations that can create really dangerous situations.

OANA LUNGESCU: Agence France-Presse.

DAMON WAKE [Agence France-Presse]: Hi, Damon Wake, AFP. Just going back to the space issue that you mentioned earlier. Do you foresee, further down the line, that Article 5 could apply to a space situation?

JENS STOLTENBERG: The important thing of the decision ministers will make during this Ministerial Meeting on space, is that we create a framework.  A NATO framework for how to address challenges in the space, the opportunities and the challenges. And then we’ll build different elements and make decisions strengthening our space policy in the coming months and years.

Of course, NATO Allies have addressed the challenges in space for years. We have satellites, there are lots in space.  We have satellites and capabilities which are important for navigation, for command and control, for communications, for tracking incoming missiles, missiles attacks and so on. So space is already very important for NATO Allies. But the new thing we do today, or at the meeting tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, is to agree a joint, a common NATO framework on how to address the opportunities and the challenges in space. Therefore, I think it’s too early to speculate about all the different elements, including how we will address the issue of Article 5.

OANA LUNGESCU: Wall Street Journal.

JAMES MARSON [Wall Street Journal]: Thank you. James Marson, Wall Street Journal. US officials have been quite vocal recently, raising concerns about the European Defence Fund and PESCO, around questions such as interoperability, access and so on. These are initiatives that you’ve welcomed in the past. Do you think the US criticism is justified?

JENS STOLTENBERG: I strongly believe that EU efforts on defence - including PESCO and the European Defence Fund - can help to improve burden-sharing between Europe and the United States, as long as this is done in a way which complements and doesn’t compete with NATO. And, it has been clearly stated from European leaders again and again that these efforts are there to complement and not to compete and not to be an alternative to NATO.

Then we have a close dialogue, NATO and EU, but also between NATO Allies like the United States and the EU, on the details on how these different instruments are going to be developed and established. And some of the details are yet to be decided. Because it is important that these new instruments - PESCO and the European Defence Fund - that they don’t create new barriers between our defence industries. We have to work together, not least to address the technological challenges we are faced with.

So we welcome EU efforts, as long as they strengthen the European pillar within NATO and not create any new barriers or establish any alternative competing structures. And that dialogue continues.

OANA LUNGESCU: Okay, we’ll go to the front row, gentleman with the brown jacket. Thanks.

QUESTION [Khaama Press]: Thank you, Khushnood Nabizada, from Afghan media, Khaama Press News Agency. Mr Secretary General, as you are aware, Taliban have said and warned Afghan media that, within one week, if they do not stop any advertisements and media programmes that support the military operations and military achievements, they can be targeted. What’s NATO’s stance and reaction towards it?

JENS STOLTENBERG: We strongly condemn any threat against any journalist, because it is an absolutely fundamental democratic right to have freedom of press for journalists to work, to do their work, and to report and write about what they want, in the way they want. That’s really a core democratic value, and; democracy and the rule of law are fundamental values for NATO. And we have seen that journalists have been killed in Afghanistan, but also in other countries and it is extremely important to stand up for their right to report, to work, because that is so important for our efforts to strengthen democracy and the rule of law.

OANA LUNGESCU: Europa Press.

ANA PISONERO [Europa Press]: Thank you Secretary General. Ana Pisonero from the Spanish news agency, Europa Press. After decisions tomorrow on the INF, how quickly do you think that we’ll see these being implemented? And, particularly, I don’t know, of a more conventional or military nature? Will they be straightaway rolled out from the 2nd August? Or do you think that it would be a more scaled-out deployment? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: Again, first of all, we still call on Russia to come back into compliance. There is still a window of opportunity. It’s getting smaller and smaller, but, until the 2nd August, Russia still has the opportunity to save the INF Treaty. And if the treaty breaks down, then the responsibility lies solely with Russia, because they have now violated a treaty for several years.

I expect us to agree on different measures. So, therefore, some we can implement quite quickly, others will take more time. And as I also highlighted earlier, is that NATO has already started to adapt to the fact that Russia is investing more in nuclear capabilities, different kinds of nuclear capabilities, including those who are violating the INF Treaty.

And the biggest adaptation of our Alliance, the most significant reinforcement of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War, is taking place now. And we see that also with the increased defence spending, because it is not free, it has a cost to strengthen our collective defence.

And that’s also the reason why we are increasing defence spending and also why the figures I published today, or we published today, are so important, because they show that NATO Allies have the will, the strength and the commitment to live up to their promises on defence spending.

OANA LUNGESCU: We’ll go to the lady in the back there.

QUESTION [POLSAT]: It’s Dorota from Polish TV, POLSAT. Secretary General, you are in the process of designating your Deputy. I would like to know which criteria are you taking into consideration in this process. When will we know the final decision? And what do you think about the Polish candidate, Krzysztof Szczerski, the presidential minister.  Apparently he has an unofficial backing of the Americans?

JENS STOLTENBERG: We are in the process, or I am in the process of appointing a new Deputy Secretary General. That is an important position. It’s, of course, a person that works very closely with me, and it’s a merit-based process, and I welcome the fact that there are different highly-qualified candidates. But I think it’s wrong if I now start to go into the details of that process. It will be a merit-based process and I welcome the fact that we have several good candidates.


QUESTION [TASS News Agency]: Thank you very much. TASS News Agency, Denis Dubrovin.  Secretary General, a follow up to Jane’s about defence spending and the INF Treaty.  As Russia has already claimed that it has never violated this treaty it will not do anything to return to it, so when the time come to take measures of preparing to the world without INF Treaty, do you expect that the defence spending will . . . will rise even higher, much more than 2 percent that the NATO countries have to pay now? And my question about the cyber defence: do you plan to discuss at the NRC Council next week the information about US hacker attacks against Russia? According to the statement by New York Times, United States has infected Russian energy systems with malware programmes. So do you plan to discuss what may be the Russian answer on how to avoid it? Thank you very much.

JENS STOLTENBERG: There is no doubt that Russia is violating the INF Treaty. And this is something which was then raised by the Obama administration several years ago. And in the beginning, Russia denied the existence of the SSC-8 missile. After some years, they actually accepted that the missile existed, but then they tried to deny that the range violated the INF Treaty.

But again, all Allies agree that Russia is in violation. Several Allies have independently, based on their own intelligence, assessed that Russia is in clear violation of the Treaty. And Russia has not answered our questions - and not in a verifiable way and transparent way - shown that they are in compliance with the Treaty.

So, NATO has shown and NATO Allies have shown patience. And we have actually used years to try to get Russia back into compliance before we did anything. So, I think the fact that all Allies agree that now the time has come to tell the Russians that if they don’t come back into compliance, then we don’t have any INF Treaty anymore, because an arms control treaty doesn’t work if it’s only respected by one side. And it is a strong signal of unity that all Allies agree with the US, both on the assessment that Russia is in violation, and on the decision to start a withdrawal process that ends on 2nd August unless Russia comes back into verifiable compliance.

So there’s no doubt that Russia is violating this cornerstone arms control agreement, which has served us all so well for many decades. Russia still has the chance to come back into compliance, but, of course, the likelihood of that to happen diminishes every day, because time is running out.

Then, one of the reasons why we made the pledge to increase defence spending in 2014, after years of cutting defence spending across NATO, was, of course, a more assertive Russia, which already had started to deploy the SSC-8 - a dual-capable, nuclear-capable missile.  But also many other decisions and actions by Russia to strengthen its conventional and nuclear capabilities.

So yes, part of the reason why we are increasing defence spending is to provide the necessary funds for also responding to the SSC-8 missile, the Russian SSC-8 missile, and a pattern of Russian behaviour, which we have seen over several years.

I think that the NATO-Russia Council is important also because if any Ally, or Russia, has anything to raise with the NATO Allies, then they can raise it, and that’s the reason why we have the NATO-Russia Council, and that’s also the reason why I welcome the fact that we can have open and frank discussions.

OANA LUNGESCU: We’ll go to the gentleman in the second row - in the blue shirt.

QUESTION: [Telma TV, Macedonia]:  Bobi Hristov from Telma Television, North Macedonia. Mr Secretary General, which is your assessment about the process of ratification of accession protocol of North Macedonia, which is going very fast comparing with other country? What is, according to you, the reason? And is it possible for North Macedonia to become the 30th member state til summit in December? And what are the major challenges, both from military and political aspect in this ongoing process? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: The NATO enlargement is a great success story. It has helped to spread democracy, stability, prosperity across Europe and now the latest new member will be North Macedonia. All Allies signed the accession protocol … when was that, last spring? Or in the February I think. In February.  And then the ratification process has now started. And, as you said, the ratification process goes quite fast. Normally, at least last time when Montenegro joined, it took one year. Therefore I’m not able, and it’s not up to me, it’s up to the 28 [29] national parliaments to decide how fast they can ratify the accession protocol. It would be great if all could finish by December when we have the leaders meeting of NATO in London in December, but if not, I expect that to happen soon after.

So, North Macedonia is on the track to be a full member. North Macedonia meets the NATO standards and just the fact that we now can agree on having North Macedonia as our 30th member reflects the fact that the big name issue, the big, difficult name issue has been solved, and that’s because of the courage shown by the two political leaders, Prime Minister Tsipras and Prime Minister Zaev, in Skopje and Athens.

OANA LUNGESCU: Okay, and we’ll go to the gentleman over there.

QUESTION: Miloš Rudović, Daily Press Vijesti, Montenegro. NATO recently decided to donate a 3D radar to Montenegro. So what it means for NATO to help the member states with equipment, especially smaller member states like Montenegro? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: NATO is about solidarity and NATO is about that we protect and defend each other, we help each other. So I think the new NATO radar or the radar we provided to Montenegro shows that we actually help each other, and that’s the reason, especially for smaller countries to be part of NATO, because then you’re part of a family, you’re a part of an organisation where we support and help each other. That is important for Montenegro, but it’s important for for all NATO Allies.

But it’s not only small NATO Allies that receive help. For instance, we now have a big NATO investment, several hundred . . .  a couple of hundred [million] US dollars for infrastructure in Poland, to facilitate more US equipment in Poland. So it just shows that NATO provides help, invests in infrastructure in many different NATO Allied countries, and all of this is good for the whole Alliance.


ALF JOHNSON: Alf Johnson from the VG regional daily. Good morning. On the . . .  if I may ask you on the NATO Readiness Initiative, the 4x30, that is going to be up and standing next year, if you can give us the status on the fourth generation, since we know that certain countries will not be able to reach the threshold of the NATO expectations? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: So we are on good track to meet the pledge we made to have 30 battalions, 30 air squadrons and 30 combat ships ready within 30 days, by the end of this year, or beginning of the next year. And this is extremely important because a very important element in our response to a more unpredictable world, to more threats and challenges - in the south with a more assertive Russia; in cyber with new technologies - is to have high readiness of our forces, to create the culture of readiness, to have forces available on short notice to be able to reinforce, to support any part of the Alliance, when or if needed.

And I expect all Allies to contribute to this high readiness, because all Allies agreed, when we met at our summit last year, to have this four 30s, this increased readiness. Of course, Allies are expected to contribute according to their size. So Allies will contribute in different ways, but I expect all Allies to contribute. We have already a lot of contributions from many Allies.  But we still have some gaps and we will continue to work on those gaps, to make sure that we fill those gaps by the end of the year.

OANA LUNGESCU: Okay, Thank you very much. This concludes this press conference and we’ll see you tomorrow. Thank you.