Press point

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on the INF Treaty

  • 02 Aug. 2019 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 02 Aug. 2019 18:05

(As delivered)

Good afternoon.

For over three decades, the INF Treaty has been a landmark in arms control.

It eliminated an entire category of nuclear weapons, making us all safer.

Today, the INF Treaty ceases to exist.

Because Russia has deployed the SSC-8 missile system.

The new Russian missiles are nuclear-capable, mobile, and hard to detect.

They can reach European cities with only minutes of warning time.

And they lower the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons in armed conflict.

All NATO Allies agree that these missiles violate the INF Treaty.

And Russia continues to develop and field these systems, despite years of US and Allied engagement.

Including a final opportunity over the last six months to return to compliance.

We regret that Russia showed no willingness and took no steps to comply with its international obligations.

As a result, the United States’ decision to withdraw from the Treaty is now taking place.

This decision is supported by all NATO Allies.

Because no international agreement is effective if it is only respected by one side.

Russia bears the sole responsibility for the demise of the Treaty.

There are no new US missiles in Europe.

But there are new Russian missiles in Europe.

NATO will respond in a measured and responsible way to the significant risks posed by Russia’s SSC-8 system.

We have agreed a package of measures to ensure NATO’s deterrence and defence remains credible and effective.

But we will not rush implementation or make any rash moves. We will consider our options carefully.

We have decided to work on issues such as:

  • Exercises;
  • Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance;
  • Air and missile defences;
  • And conventional capabilities.
  • We will also ensure our nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure and effective.

Some of these measures can be implemented quickly, and others will take time.

Everything we do will be balanced, coordinated and defensive.

Allies remain firmly committed to the preservation of effective international arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation.

We will not mirror what Russia does.

We do not want a new arms race.

And we have no intention to deploy new land-based nuclear missiles in Europe.

NATO continues to aspire for a constructive relationship with Russia, when Russia’s actions make that possible.

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

OANA LUNGESCU [NATO spokesperson]: Okay, we’ll go to Associated Press, right here.

LORNE COOK [Associated Press]: Secretary General, Lorne Cook from Associated Press. You haven’t given us much detail as to how NATO will specifically deal with the threat of the SSC-8 or when. You say you’re considering options, but clearly you’ve had several months to consider those options. When can we expect something that will address that threat particularly? And then how do you plan to keep this Alliance together, when some European members will be ready to accept American infrastructure on their soil and others clearly won’t?

JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: The demise of the INF Treaty is a very serious issue, because this treaty has been so important for our security for so many years. It has banned a whole category of weapons, all intermediate-range land-based weapon systems. Therefore we will react in a prudent and a responsive way. We will not rush to conclusions, and we will make sure that whatever we do, we will do it as an Alliance, in a coordinated and measured way. And the demise of the INF Treaty is something which we very much regret. At the same time I welcome the fact that NATO has been able to be united on this issue all the way. We are to understand that all Allies have agreed with the United States in their approach to Russia. The United States and many other Allies have reached out directly to Russia, tried over years to convince them to come back into compliance with the treaty. All Allies have agreed that Russia is in clear violation, and many Allies have made that determination, that decision, based on independent intelligence. And all Allies agreed in February, when the United States decided to start the withdrawal process, and all Allies announced today that we agree with the US decision to withdraw from the treaty, because of the ongoing Russian violation of the treaty. Therefore, I’m confident that we will stay united as we move forward in handling the demise of the INF Treaty. We have started the process in NATO. We had the Defence Ministerial Meeting in June, here in Brussels, where we agreed a package. We are working on the different elements. I mentioned them, there are also exercises, intelligence, but also air and missile defence, and conventional capabilities. I think it’s too early now to announce exactly what kind of conventional capabilities, partly because I think we will take the time we need, but also because I will make sure that we are united. Because it is important that when we respond, we respond as an Alliance, united, and keep the unity of the Alliance. And I’m confident that we’ll do so, exactly because we’ve been united all the way through the whole process.


BROOKS TIGNER [Jane’s Defence Weekly]: Yes, Brooks Tigner, Jane’s Defence Weekly. Two questions, if I may. Are NATO’s current air and missile defences structured to meet a cruise missile defence, such as Russia is now deploying? And secondly, many observers maintain that this is going to usher in a new nuclear arms race, whether that be between Europe and Russia, or between the US and China. Do you agree with that assessment or not? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: We don’t want a new arms race. That’s the reason why we will respond in a measured and defensive way. And that’s also the reason why we continue to work for arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament. And therefore, we welcome all efforts to try to also take new initiatives within the field of arms control. At the same time, we have to make sure that we have effective and credible deterrence and defence. And we have to understand that the Russian deployment of the new missiles, nuclear-capable missiles, is part of a broader pattern, where Russia, over years, have invested heavily in new military capabilities, including new nuclear capabilities. And NATO has already started to respond to this Russian military build-up.

BROOKS TIGNER: Do you think a new arms race is underway?

JENS STOLTENBERG: I think it’s possible to avoid, but then Russia needs to change its behaviour. But the Russian deployment of the new SSC-8 missiles are part of a pattern. And NATO has already responded to that pattern, meaning that we have implemented the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War. We have combat-ready troops in the eastern part of the Alliance. We have increased the readiness of our forces. And NATO Allies are, after years of reducing defence spending, now starting to increase defence spending, investing in new modern capabilities. Among them are air and missile defence. They’re buying, investing in new advanced air and missile defence systems, for instance . . .

BROOKS TIGNER: Which are unsuitable to meet that, correct?

JENS STOLTENBERG: Which are able to . . . both the missile defence systems like, for instance the Patriot batteries which some Allies now are investing in, buying, but also new, modern aircrafts are part of NATO’s integrated air and missile defence. And they can, of course, also defend us against cruise missiles. So NATO’s integrated air and missile defence, which is . . . what should I say . . . improved and strengthened now, as we speak, because Allies are investing in new capabilities, which are integrated in our integrated air and missile defence systems. We share the radar pictures, we integrate the systems. They are also capable of defending us against cruise missiles. So this is an ongoing process. What we are looking into is what more we need to do. That’s a process which is ongoing in NATO now.


QUESTION [TASS News Agency]: Thank you very much. Mr Secretary General, about the most advanced anti-missile systems: Turkey has already bought, paid and received Russian S-400 missile defence systems. Can you tell us, do you plan to integrate this system into the NATO air missile and anti-missile defence to deter and defend against Russian cruise missiles? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: No. The answer is No. There are no plans to integrate the Russian S-400 into any NATO integrated air and missile defence system. What I also welcome is that Turkey is in dialogue with the United States on the possibility of buying Patriot batteries and also in dialogue, talking to other NATO Allies, Italy and France, about the possibility of buying SAMP/T, Eurosam system and deploy that in Turkey. On top of that, we also have to remember that NATO is already augmenting the air defence system of Turkey, with the deployment of a Spanish Patriot battery system, an Italian SAMP/T system. And as I mentioned, NATO Allies are now investing in new modern air and missile defence systems. And we are strengthening the integrated air missile defence system of NATO. And this is also relevant for the threat from cruise missiles.


STEFAN LEIFERT [ZDF]: Stefan Leifert, ZDF, German TV. Secretary General, how high are the chances that it comes now to the negotiation of a new treaty that includes powers like China and Pakistan? And if it comes to a new treaty, should it also include sea-based systems?

JENS STOLTENBERG: Today is the day where we see the final demise of the INF Treaty and I regret that, because this treaty has been so important for all of us for so many years. Then I support, NATO support efforts to take new initiatives on arms control and, of course, also include other nations like, for instance, China. Because China is heavily developing new missile capabilities and NATO also supports all efforts to avoid proliferation of nuclear weapons and nuclear missiles. We are, for instance, concerned about what we see in Iran, the development of Iranian new missile systems. That’s part of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. We strongly support the full implementation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. We also support initiatives to try to establish new arms control arrangements. But I think it’s too early now to say anything about how and when that can take place. And, at the end of the day, it will be the parties that are negotiating those treaties which will decide how and when we are able to reach an agreement.

STEFAN LEIFERT: On the sea-based point?

JENS STOLTENBERG: Well, sea-based missiles and nuclear weapons are already part of the START agreement. This new START, the strategic arms control regime. So there are already agreements which covers both air, sea and land-based strategic weapons. We all know that the new START Agreement has to be renewed, or that’s an issue which is now on the table. And I think we have to also to recognise how much we have achieved, because when the new START agreement, the new START and the whole START process has brought down the number of nuclear weapons from thousands, tens of thousands, to now a limit of 1,550, which is the limit in the new START agreement agreed in 2010. So if you look at the history, we have been able to achieve a lot through arms control. For instance in Europe, NATO has reduced the number of nuclear warheads with around 90 percent. And when we had the first START agreement there were 12,000 warheads on each side, now there are 1,550. So I think that could actually inspire us to once again try to strengthen and develop arms control regimes, because we have been able to do that before.

OANA LUNGESCU: Deutsche Welle / NPR

TERI SCHULTZ [Deutsche Welle/NPR]: Hi, Teri Schultz with Deutsche Welle and National Public Radio. We have known for years that Russia has developed this missile, according to US documentation, without even the public pressure of the INF. What’s to stop Russia now from being more aggressive with its capabilities? And secondly, the Pentagon has now announced that it is going to test a new non-nuclear cruise missile within the next few weeks. Are you concerned about Russia being able to say this is a provocation? And has the US been consulting its NATO Allies already about these tests? Thanks.

JENS STOLTENBERG: The United States has consulted, and is consulting, very closely on, with all NATO Allies on all issues related to the INF Treaty. And I welcome that. And that’s one of the reasons why we have been able to maintain so strong unity of the Alliance. And, and we all agreed today, again, that we are going to stay coordinated and measured in the way we are responding to Russia, the Russian violation of the INF Treaty. So, again, I’m confident that we will continue to consult and continue to respond in a measured and coordinated way. Well, I am absolutely certain that, in the long run, also Russia will realise that they would benefit from effective arms control. They realised that during the Cold War, they realised that also after they started to deploy new intermediate-range missiles in Europe the SS-20s in the ’70s. But finally they agreed to the INF Treaty ’87, which banned all these treaties. So it is very serious that we see the demise of the INF Treaty today. But I still believe it is possible to reach agreements with Russia on arms control, because in the long run it will also benefit them, it’ll benefit us all to avoid a new arms race. It’s dangerous, it’s extremely costly and we have proven before that we are able to make agreements, reach agreements on limiting, reducing the number of nuclear weapons.

OANA LUNGESCU: Wall Street Journal.

JAMES MARSON [Wall Street Journal]: James Marson, Wall Street Journal. The US has said that Russia has had this missile system for, for years, and NATO is only just now, from what you’ve said, considering what to do about it. Why has it taken so long?

JENS STOLTENBERG: So, first of all, it’s not only US that has assessed that Russia has had these weapons for years. All NATO Allies have agreed that Russia, for years, have developed, and over the last years have started to deploy these new missiles. And therefore also all Allies have agreed on every step. And all Allies have raised their concern about the new Russian missiles. The new Russian missiles are part of a broader pattern and NATO has already started to respond to that pattern of Russian behaviour. As I said, we have already started to invest in new modern air and missile defence capabilities. Allies are investing more, spending more, for the first time in many, many years and a big portion of this increased spending actually is invested in new capabilities, including air and missile defence. We have increased our military presence in the eastern part of the Alliance. We are buying new modern fighter jets. We are increasing the readiness of our forces. So it’s not as NATO is not doing anything, but everything we have done is within the borders, within the limitations of the INF Treaty. Today the INF Treaty ceased to exist. That’s the big difference. But we will continue to make sure that we find the right balance between being strong, providing credible deterrence and defence, but without overreacting or rushing to conclusions. So we will continue the work we have done for some time now, to strengthen NATO in a balanced and measured way.

OANA LUNGESCU: A question from Kabul Times.

QUESTION [Kabul Times]: Thank you very much, Lailuma Sadid, freelance journalist. I would like to ask about Afghanistan, because US Special Envoy for Peace two days ago announced that soon we could conclude agreement we have been working on. And also they said that before election of US they will announce the pull-out of the US troop in Afghanistan. As I remember it, you said that, ‘We went in together and we will leave together.’ Is that the time that you also announce the same? And what’s the reaction of the NATO for that? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: First of all, I strongly support and welcome the talks which are now taking place between United States and Taliban. Second, I welcome also that there’s a very close coordination between the United States and other NATO Allies on this issue. I spoke with Ambassador Khalilzad a few days ago. He has been here many times. He has briefed Allies and partners who are in Afghanistan. And we will continue to be very closely coordinated on the peace process in Afghanistan. But as Ambassador Khalilzad has said many times, nothing is agreed before everything is agreed. We are closer to a peace agreement now in Afghanistan than we have been ever before. But we are still not there, where we can announce an agreement. I hope we can do that in the near future, but no one can say anything with certainty before everything is in place. What is certain is that we will do this together, because there is a NATO mission in Afghanistan with around 16,000 troops. And non-US Allies and partners have been in Afghanistan for many, many years for almost close to 20 years. And we went in together. We will make decisions on our future presence together. And when the time is right, we will leave together. So we welcome the efforts, we strongly also support the work to establish an inter-Afghan dialogue, because the Afghan government has to be part of a peace process and we have to do whatever we can to preserve the gains we have made in Afghanistan, to avoid Afghanistan becoming a safe haven once again for international terrorists, and to maintain the enormous social and economic progress which has been made in Afghanistan, not least when it comes to the rights of women. So there are many challenges ahead, but I welcome the fact that we are making progress in the dialogue with the Taliban.


OANA LUNGESCU: One last question. One last question ZDF, thank you.

STEFAN LEIFERT [ZDF]: Once back to the INF issue, you’re probably aware of the statement of the Deputy Foreign Minister from, from Russia. He proposed a moratorium. What’s your answer to that?


JENS STOLTENBERG: This is not a credible offer, because Russia has deployed missiles for years. So it is zero credibility in offering a moratorium on missiles they are already deploying. There are no new US missiles, no new NATO missiles in Europe, but there are more and more new Russian missiles. So to offer a moratorium is without any credibility. What they could have done, and what they should have done, was to respect the INF Treaty, which is not a moratorium but which is a legal ban on all these missiles. So if Russia really wants to avoid intermediate-range weapons systems in Europe, first of all they could stop deploying their own systems. Second, they could destroy those systems they have now deployed for some years. And third, they could have respected the INF Treaty. To offer a moratorium, to replace an effective, legal ban is not credible.

OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you very much. This concludes this press point.