by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Centre for Strategic Studies at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand

  • 05 Aug. 2019 -
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  • Last updated 12-Aug-2019 10:52

(As delivered)

Speech by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to students and academics at the Centre for Strategic Studies at Victoria University of Wellington

Thank you so much.  Thank you so much, Dr Capie, for the warm welcome and it is really a great pleasure to be here this evening and to see all of you.  And it's great to be back in New Zealand because I'm from Norway and I feel very much at home in New Zealand, for different reasons; partly because we are two relatively small nations, around five million inhabitants; partly because we are two very beautiful nations, with the mountains and the fjords; and also because we have some great explorers.  The last time I was here in 2011, I was here on my way to the South Pole, to celebrate the first man to set foot on the South Pole, and that was a Norwegian of course; Roald Amundsen.  But then I also learned that the first man to be at the top of the Mount Everest was Sir Hillary.  So, it’s always great to be back in New Zealand.

 Then, we have more in common than just the beautiful nature and the great explorers; we have also in common that we are faced with and we have to address the same security challenges, and that’s the fact despite the fact that we are far apart, the NATO Alliance, the North Atlantic Alliance in the North Atlantic, and then New Zealand here in the South.  We are far apart, but we are facing the same challenges and I will be very brief, so we have time for questions and interaction afterwards, but I will reflect on that main message that, despite that you are not a NATO member, that you're not the North Atlantic Council, you are actually faced with the same security challenges, or many of the same security challenges, because more and more of the security challenges we all are faced with are global, are becoming less and less regional and more and more global.  And let me therefore dwell with three main challenges both New Zealand and NATO, NATO Allies, are facing.  The first is increased competition between great powers, great power competition.  And we see the consequences of that from Crimea, the illegal annexation of Crimea, to North Korea, from Syria to the South China Sea.  We have seen a significant build up of the Russian military capabilities, we see a more assertive Russia and just a few days ago we saw an example how this increased great power competition is undermining the rules based order, the respect for international treaties and obligations, when Russia… or when the INF Treaty, the Treaty of Intermediate Range Nuclear Weapons, ceased to exist on 2nd August.  And for those who are not so very familiar with the INF Treaty, this has been a cornerstone for arms control for decades, since 1987.  It has not only reduced the number of nuclear weapons, but it has banned/eliminated all intermediate range weapons, nuclear and conventional, land based.  And it has been of great importance for arms control and especially in Europe.  This treaty ceased to exist on Friday, last Friday, because Russia has violated the treaty now for several years.  They have deployed new missiles; something called SSC-8, which are intermediate range missiles, able to reach European cities within minutes.  They are mobile, hard to detect and the fact that the warning time was so little, reduces the threshold for any potential use of nuclear weapons in an armed conflict.  So, the increased great power competition, a more assertive Russia, is putting the rules based order under pressure, and the latest example is the demise of the INF Treaty.  But we have seen other examples, for instance the illegal annexation of Crimea, the first time in Europe that one country has taken a part of another country since the end of the Second World War.  And we have seen an increased Russian presence in the Middle East, in Syria, and also Russia trying to meddle in and undermining the trust in democratic institutions in several NATO Allied countries and also elsewhere.  We also see the rise of China.  China's role and influence is another sign of increasing global power competition.  Its economic rise is powering global growth and its quickly becoming a technological leader in many fields.  This brings many opportunities, financially and politically, and while China presents a very different set of challenge than Russia, its rise also has implications for the global rules based order and for our security.  We see this in the South China Sea, in cyberspace, and in Chinese investments in critical infrastructure in many countries, including in Europe.  So therefore, we need to better understand the challenges and the opportunities the rise of China presents.  So, these are two different global powers, China and Russia, they represent challenges for all of us, both NATO Allies and New Zealand, and many other countries.  And we see that the rules based order, which New Zealand has championed and supported so strongly for so many years, is now under pressure because of increased competition and violation of many of the rules we have developed together over the decades.  So, that’s one of the challenges that we have in common, despite the fact that New Zealand is not part of or a member of NATO. 

Another is terrorism.  Terrorism knows no borders.  Terrorism is something which is a threat to every country.  We don’t see any imminent risk of any military… conventional military attack on any NATO Allied country, but we see a constant threat of potential terrorist attacks.  We have seen it in many European countries, we have seen it in United States - 9/11, but we have also seen it in New Zealand.  So, no country can 100% guarantee or be 100% secure against terrorist attacks and terrorist threats.  NATO plays a role in the fight against terrorism.  We have to remember that the reason why NATO is in Afghanistan - we have been there for many, many years - is to make sure that Afghanistan doesn’t once again become a safe haven for international terrorists, where they can organise, plan, finance, prepare terrorist attacks on our countries, as they did against the United States, organised and planned from Afghanistan in 2001, 9/11.  New Zealand has been together with us in Afghanistan, as one of our closest partners.  New Zealand is still contributing troops and forces to our training mission in Afghanistan and we are extremely grateful for that.  New Zealand is also part of the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh/ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and elsewhere.  And the fight against Daesh is not over, but we have made significant progress and I'm grateful and I thank New Zealand for being part of the efforts that made this progress possible.  Then, I think that you know better than anyone else that terrorism comes in many forms and wears many different guises.  You saw that in Christchurch in March, I saw that as Prime Minister in Norway on 22nd July 2011, where right wing extremists attacked innocent people, in Christchurch, in Oslo, at a summer camp just outside Oslo, and that reminds us that terrorism is not about religion, it's about hatred, it's about extremism, it's about people that believe that they have the right to use violence against others.  And therefore, we need to condemn and fight terrorism/extremism, regardless of what kind of guise, what kind of form it comes in.  It is something that threatens our fundamental values, regardless of what kind of ideology or religion the terrorists try to misuse.

The last common challenge I will mention is cyber, because cyber is truly global and we see that there is no… new and emerging technologies and cyber… so, new and emerging technologies, as artificial intelligence or quantum computing or autonomous weapons, combined with cyber which has been here for some time already, is now changing the nature of conflict as fundamentally as the industrial revolution changed the nature of conflict before the First World War.  And therefore NATO, New Zealand, all of us, have to fully understand and react based on the fundamental changes we now see when it comes to technology and how technology applies when it comes to conflict between nations, and also the potential use of cyber by terrorists and non government organisations.  And for NATO, this is so important that we have of course realised that a cyberattack can be as damaging as a conventional attack.  It can cause as much damage, as much suffering, as conventional attacks.  One of the big problems with cyberattacks is attribution, who is behind, and therefore intelligence, better systems to protect our cyber networks, more exercises, and we also can work together with New Zealand, better technology, shared best practices, everything we can do to protect our networks and also protect our institutions, is part of what NATO is now working more and more on because we understand that, in any potential conflict in the future, there will be a very big and important cyber dimension. 

So, I promised to be brief, therefore I will just end by saying that my message to you today is that we are living in a world which is more unpredictable, where security challenges are more and more integrated, where it's harder to speak about regional challenges, they are becoming more and more global, so we are all affected in one way or another.  And in uncertain and unpredictable times, with global challenges, we need to build multilateral institutions, strong international cooperation, like the UN, like the European Union, like NATO, but of course also the cooperation a regional organisation as NATO has with partners as New Zealand.  So, to build cooperation, to build institutions, is the best way to deal with all the uncertainty and all the unpredictability we are faced with in today's international climate. 

So with that, I thank you for your attention and I'm ready to take your questions.  Thank you.

MODERATOR:   . . . non-military, people not in uniform to change the status quo. How’s NATO responding to these sort of hybrid warfare strategies?

JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: Well we are responding to hybrid warfare strategies by implementing the biggest adaptation, the biggest change of NATO in a generation. Because what we have seen, especially in Crimea, which is, you know, close to NATO, is that the use of what was called ‘little green men’ and so on, military personnel, in uniform, but without insignias, they were extremely critical, or they were key in making it possible for Russia to illegally annex, take control over Crimea.

We have seen other ways of conducting what we then call hybrid warfare, which is this kind of mixture of covert and overt operations, military and non-military means of aggression, cyber-attacks and meddling in political processes and many other ways of trying to intimidate or to force countries to behave in a way which the aggressor wants them to behave. And we are responding to that partly by increasing and improving the way we do intelligence, because it is important to understand what is going on, because that’s the purpose of hybrid warfare, is actually to try to disguise what you’re doing. And improve the intelligence is one important part of it. Higher readiness of our forces is another part of what we are doing because, especially because it’s hard to understand, we have to react quickly, then the readiness of our forces is of great importance.

We are also responding partly to the risk of hybrid threats by deploying forces to the eastern part of the Alliance. We have never had combat-ready troops of the eastern part of our Alliance before, now we have that. And that’s sending a very clear signal that any attempt to do something similar against a NATO member in the Baltic countries, Poland, that Russia did against a non-NATO member, Ukraine, will be impossible, because NATO is already in those countries. So we do many things at the same time, because hybrid is about many challenges at the same time.

QUESTION: You mentioned in your analysis several countries, where does the United States fit in?

JENS STOLTENBERG: The United States is the biggest NATO Ally and they are, of course, extremely important for the NATO Alliance. NATO is a transatlantic Alliance, established after the Second World War, in 1949, and NATO is a framework for binding Europe and North America – the United States and Canada – together. For Europe, you know, it’s unprecedented to have such a long period of peace. And there are many reasons why we have peace for more than 70 years in Europe, but there is no doubt that one of the main reasons is that we were able to build institutions like NATO after the Second World War, to make sure that nothing like that happens again.

Then, I don’t know exactly what you’re asking about, but of course there are differences. NATO Allies don’t agree on everything. Actually, it is very easy to identify disagreements between NATO Allies, on climate change or on trade issues, or on the Iran nuclear deal, and many other issues. But the strength of NATO is that despite all these differences, we have always been able to agree around our core task: that we protect each other, that we are stronger together than alone. And as you know, NATO is based the principle, ‘one for all, all for one’ – so if one Ally is attacked, then it is regarded as an attack on all Allies. And by doing that we provide what we call credible deterrence, and the reason to have credible deterrence is to make sure that no potential adversary attack any NATO Ally, because they know that that will trigger a response from the whole Alliance. And by doing so we don’t provoke a conflict, but we prevent the conflict. And again, I don’t know exactly what you ask me about, but the United States is fundamental for that the credible deterrence.

QUESTION: What implications does Trump’s nationalist and America First rhetoric have for NATO and its Allies?

JENS STOLTENBERG: As I said, NATO is an Alliance of 29 democracies and there are differences. I mentioned the differences we see today: trade, or climate change and other issues, where we see serious disagreements between NATO Allies on serious issues. We have seen that before. A few years after NATO was established, we had the Suez Crisis where two NATO Allies went into Egypt, and the United States was heavily against that. And that divided us very much but we overcame those differences and we continue to stay strong as NATO.

NATO’s headquarters, in the beginning, was in Paris. Then France and the United States … the relationship deteriorated. So de Gaulle, President de Gaulle decided to ask NATO to leave, and NATO left Paris and we moved to Brussels. And then, for instance, the Iraq War in 2003 some NATO Allies were heavily involved. And part of the Iraq War in 2003, all the NATO Allies were heavily against. I’m not saying this to try to minimise or to say that these differences are not important, they are important, because there are serious disagreements historically and also today about serious things. But I’m saying that to convey a message that, of course, the best thing would be if we were able to solve the differences, on climate change, trade, whatever it is. But as long as we’re not able to solve all those differences, at least what we have to make sure is that we’re able to make sure that NATO functions and delivers on what is NATO’s core task. And that is that any potential adversary knows that if one Ally is attacked, the whole Alliance will respond. And that we keep and we stand together.

And my message is that, yes, there are differences in policy, in rhetoric, in messaging on many issues. And you mentioned some of them. But my message that despite that, we actually deliver NATO’s collective security, collective defence, stronger now than we have done for many years. Because the United States is not pulling back from NATO, the United States is actually increasing their contributions to NATO. The best example of that is that the United States is now increasing their military presence in Europe. During the Cold War, there was several hundred thousands of US soldiers in Europe. NATO and the Warsaw Pact confronted each other in Europe. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, after the end of the Cold War, the United States and Canada reduced significantly the number of troops, forces in Europe. Now they are coming back. Canada is back, leading one of the battlegroups. We have established one battlegroup, NATO battlegroup in Latvia, led by Canada. A few years ago we didn’t have that. The United States is increasing their military presence. The last US battle tank left Europe in December 2013, after the end of the Cold War, because they gradually reduced and the last battle tank left in December 2013. Now the United States is back with a full Armoured Brigade in Europe. They have equipment for yet another. They have more troops, more exercises more US investments in supplies, in prepositioned equipment. So the reality is that the United States is more present, and I cannot think about any stronger demonstration of commitment to European security than sending more US troops.

So, my message is that, well, there are differences and they are serious. But when it comes to what’s NATO’s main responsibility – that we protect and defend each other, to prevent conflict – NATO’s main purpose is peace. That’s the reason why, why we exist. Because we have seen the devastating effects of war. On that, actually, NATO is and has been able to deliver, despite the differences. And that’s the strength of NATO.

QUESTION: Mr Stoltenberg, thank you for being here. I’d love your take on this, since you are a former Prime Minister of a … [inaudible], oil and gas exporter. But we know that reliable and affordable access to natural sources … [inaudible] major sectors of the economy and heavy industry and manufacturing and the like. As well as those sectors which are derivative of that, most notably the arms industry, so obviously, we need a petrochemical industry. But at the same time, we know that oil and gas production and other forms of mineral extraction is going to make the climate change problem worse. So how do you balance those, well, how would you think about balancing those two priorities?

JENS STOLTENBERG: I’m a bit in doubt, because as the Secretary General of NATO, I have, how should I say, a limited mandate to answer that question precisely. Then, of course, I can tell you what I would have said if I had been Prime Minister of Norway. Because then I would have said something like, that we need to reconcile the need for development with the need for environment, also we cannot choose between either environment or economic growth. And I think you also indicated the same, because we have two main challenges in the world today. We have some global warming, environmental challenges, but we also have the need for economic growth to alleviate poverty. So you cannot choose either economy or environment, we need both.

The way of doing that is to do the same as we have done so many times before when we are faced with big challenges as in the humankind or in the world. And that is technology. I’m a strong believer in technology. We have been able to develop, for instance, new sources of energy, like solar and wind, which is now becoming more and more competitive with more traditional sources of energy. And I believe also in carbon capture and storage. We have some examples. I think it’s possible to make that technology more competitive. Without carbon capture and storage, meaning that we actually capture the CO2 coming up from power stations, from coal-fired power stations or oil and gas-fired power stations or industries, we will not be able to get significant reductions in emissions. So by doing that we can then continue to produce and use fossil fuels, if we are able to combine that with carbon capture and storage.

So, I would perhaps have said even more, but my message would have been we need to combine. I don’t know the numbers for New Zealand, but I know the numbers for many European countries and also, actually, the United States, not so many years ago it was a kind of one-to-one relationship between economic growth and emissions. Now we have been able to break that link. So economic growth continues, but emissions are gradually starting to go down. We need it to go down faster, but the link - the absolute link between growth and emissions has been broken, and we’ve been able to push that more and more down by technology, then we can have both growth and environment.

But that was the Prime Minister, the former Prime Minister of Norway speaking.

QUESTION: … [inaudible]. I’m interested in how you handle disagreement. You’ve made the point that there are serious disagreements among your own members. And taking Iran as a case study, I wonder, first of all, does NATO have a policy about Iran, and in particular about sanctions on Iran? And if you don’t, doesn’t that limit your ability to perform what you said is your main task, which is preserving peace? Because if there were to be a confrontation between, for example, the US and Iran, wouldn’t NATO’s lack of a fixed policy inhibit your ability to play a constructive role?

JENS STOLTENBERG: The Iran nuclear deal is, I think, one of the examples I mentioned, where you see disagreements between NATO Allies. And there is nowhere to hide that, because you can only read the newspapers and you see that different NATO Allies have different views on the issue of the Iran nuclear deal. So if I try to say something else, it will be not credible at all. Then all NATO Allies agree that we are concerned about Iran’s destabilising activities in the region, its support for different terrorist groups, its missile programme, and also the fact that they are now, again, started to enrich uranium. And, of course, all NATO Allies also agree that Iran should not be able to develop nuclear weapons. The disagreement is about whether the Iran nuclear deal, the … [inaudible] is the best tool to achieve that. So on that issue, on the Iran nuclear deal, NATO is not playing an active role, simply because as it is now, we don’t have a common position.

But that doesn’t mean that, of course, we are not able to protect us, because we have to understand that NATO for 40 years, NATO didn’t move beyond, we didn’t do anything beyond NATO territory. For 40 years we did only one thing, and that was to be in Europe deterring the Soviet Union – finished. And we did that very successfully. The Cold War ended without a shot being fired and peace preserved, despite the fact that we had some full confrontation.

Then, when the Cold War ended and the Berlin Wall came down in 89, then people started to ask, ‘Do we need NATO anymore?’ because the Warsaw Pact, which was, in a way, the opposite of NATO, ceased to exist. The Soviet Union was dissolved and then the question was asked whether NATO should also cease to exist. It was said back then that NATO had either to go out of business or go out of area, meaning going out of the NATO territory in Europe and North America. And we decided to do the last thing, we went out of area, we helped to end two ethnic wars, wars in the Balkans, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. We helped to fight piracy off the Horn of Africa. We started to fight terrorism in Afghanistan after 9/11 and so on. So there are examples that NATO is operating beyond NATO territory.

But NATO is not a world policeman responsible for solving all conflicts. So we are not, as NATO, involved in every conflict around the world. So, some conflicts, some international conflicts, NATO is not taking an active, direct part in that.  NATO’s core task is to defend us against any attack on NATO. So if we were attacked, regardless from whom, we would trigger Article 5 and defend each other.

So sometimes I think we mix NATO’s core responsibility, to protect all Allies against any potential adversary, against an attack, which applies for any country or area, and the issue whether NATO should be involved in every conflict. That’s two very different things. And NATO will protect us against any attack, but NATO will not be involved in all conflicts outside NATO territory.

QUESTION: Do you think that Boris Johnson and the possibility of a hard Brexit will have a serious effect NATO’s cohesion and its ability to conduct future operations?

JENS STOLTENBERG: Brexit will change UK’s relationship to the European Union. And, of course, whether it’s a hard Brexit or a negotiated deal will affect how Brexit will change UK’s relationship to the European Union.

But Brexit will not change UK’s relationship to NATO. So, again, Brexit is an important issue and how Brexit happens is, of course, important for the United Kingdom and for EU. But it doesn’t change UK’s relationship to NATO. And I’m certain that, regardless of how Brexit happens or when, and so on, the United Kingdom will remain a very important, key NATO Ally. You have to remember that United Kingdom has the biggest defence budget in Europe, the second largest in the Alliance after the United States.  They contribute key capabilities to NATO, and they lead all of the battlegroups in the Baltics, and they are in Afghanistan. They are important for NATO in many, many ways.

If anything, I think that Brexit will make NATO even more important as a platform for bringing European Allies together, and North American and European Allies together, because then NATO will be the framework that includes also the United Kingdom and some other European Allies, which are not members of the EU, like, for instance, Iceland and Norway, two nice countries. With fjords.

QUESTION: You mentioned before the great power of competition is one of the biggest challenges facing the international system. I wanted to ask you: do you see a future where the US and China can co-exist bilaterally within the international system?

JENS STOLTENBERG: Yes, I do that. And I think we all should strive for that to happen. And I think that that’s one of the reasons why we now are assessing and analysing the consequences of the rise of China. And, as I said, there are some opportunities. The economic rise of China is a big market. There’s a big economic opportunity for all our countries. And I know that New Zealand, as all European countries, many companies are working closely with China.

So the rise of China has some opportunities but also some challenges. They are investing in new, modern military capabilities. We see what they do in the South China Sea. So, therefore, we need to find a way to deal with that. But, of course, the reason why we do that is to make sure that we can continue to live peacefully. And, therefore, yes, I believe it’s possible to co-exist in a peaceful way.

QUESTION: You’ve talked about internal problems and external problems relating to Iran and Russia. My question is …well, it’s more of a discussion point, can you comment more on Turkey and what type of strain comes from, for example, Turkey buying defence weapons from Russia when there a NATO programme for interchangeability with weapons, for example, and the differing approaches between, for example, between the US, Syria, etc.

JENS STOLTENBERG: The Turkish decision to acquire the Russian air defence system, S-400, is a Turkish decision and it’s a national decision and in NATO it’s up to each and every NATO Ally to decide what kind of equipment they acquire.

Having said that, I am concerned about the consequences of the Turkish decision. Of course, for NATO what matters is what we call interoperability, and especially when it comes to air defence, it is important to make sure that the different air defence systems can work together, that they can have integrated radar picture, that they can operate together, that they are linked. And, of course, a Russian system will not be integrated into the integrated air and missile defence system we already have in Europe. Turkey has other capabilities like their fighter jets or radars and so on, which already are integrated into NATO’s air and missile defence. But the new Turkish system, the S-400 will not be integrated.

Then I welcome the fact that Turkey is also now looking into, or discussing, with United States the possibility of buying Patriot, which is another system and, of course, interoperable with NATO, it’s a US system. And they’re also in dialogue with France and Italy about the possibility of buying something called SAMP/T, which is a French/Italian air defence system. On top of that, it is important to remember that NATO already augments the air defences of Turkey, with the deployment of one Patriot battery and one SAMP/T battery in Turkey.

So yes, you’re right: this is an example where we see disagreement. Turkey’s contribution to NATO runs much deeper and it’s about much more than S-400. Again, I’m not saying it’s a minor issue, but I’m saying that Turkey’s contribution to NATO is much more than the issues related to the S-400.

Which brings me then to the second part of your question. Turkey is and has been extremely important in fighting terrorism. We have to remember that not so many months ago, Daesh, or ISIS, controlled a territory as big as the United Kingdom in Iraq and Syria. They controlled big cities like Mosul, Raqqa. And a few years ago they were threatening Baghdad. And they controlled a population of around 8 million people. So now they have lost all the control over territory. I’m not saying that ISIS doesn’t exist, they’re still there on the ground and they are also in other countries like, for instance, they’re trying to get a foothold in Afghanistan and North Africa and elsewhere. But, but the caliphate, the physical territory they controlled recently, they have lost. Which is a big achievement. And that achievement has been possible not least because of Turkey – infrastructure, support the border – so Turkey plays an important role. And that’s important for NATO, for the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh.

There are some disagreements, again, between the United States and Turkey on the role of some of the groups in northern Syria. NATO is part of the Global Coalition, we provide support to the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh. We’re not in the ground in Northern Syria, but we welcome again that Turkey and the United States are talking about how to deal with the specific situation in northern Syria.

QUESTION: You’ve said that NATO’s core mission is to defend Alliance members against any attack. What role does, or should, NATO play against a cyber-attack, particularly election interference, where military, physical power is less relevant?

JENS STOLTENBERG: We have decided that a cyber-attack can trigger Article 5, meaning that a cyber-attack can trigger the collective defence clause of NATO. Because we regard a cyber-attack as potentially as damaging as a conventional attack. And we have also decided that cyber is now a military domain. We have established an operational Centre for Cyber. We are establishing cyber as a domain alongside air, sea and land. So, the answer is, we will respond as an Alliance collectively, if there is a serious attack on a NATO Ally. We have that provision, we have that possibility, we do that if we deem that necessary. We don’t have to respond in cyber, we will respond the way we find the right way to respond. So, that’s the easy part of the answer.

The difficult part of the answer is that: does that mean that we will trigger the collective defence clause to any cyber-attack? No, because it has to be what we call above the threshold of Article 5. And that, at the end of the day, a political issue: when is an attack so serious that we trigger the collective defence clause of the Alliance? And we will never give any potential adversary the benefit of defining that exactly. But they just have to know that at some stage, we will trigger the collective defence clause, and respond.

And we have also developed what we call ‘sovereign national cyber effects’, which is also called offensive cyber, something which NATO Allies have used, for instance, against Daesh. Offensive cyber has been extremely important in fighting Daesh. We have … [inaudible] their systems, their networks. But the problem with cyber is that you have a lot of aggressive activities which are not above the threshold of triggering the full response from the full Alliance, but they are still serious. So then, we deal with them by increasing the resilience of our systems, by improving the awareness of all our nations, just to make them aware of the risks, by sharing best practices, and by conducting big exercises. So we help each other, also, when it comes to cyber-attacks below Article 5. But we have also potential to trigger Article 5 if we deem that necessary.

QUESTION: Hello. So, my question is looking towards NATO’s future. So long-term given the shifting power balance and the tactics that China has already employed, how do you see that affecting NATO countries and their relationship within NATO?

JENS STOLTENBERG: NATO is the most successful alliance in history. And we are the most successful alliance in history for two reasons. Partly because we have been able to be united, despite disagreements. The other reason why we are the most successful alliance in history is that we have been able to change when the world is changing. So, as I said, for 40 years we needed collective defence in Europe, then the Cold War ended and we went beyond our borders.  We managed crises beyond our borders in the Balkans and Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Now we see more great power competition. We see that several countries are investing in modern, high-end military capabilities. We see a more unpredictable, uncertain world. And part of the shifting global balance of power which you referred to is part of that picture. And all of that is reason why NATO again is changing. We have now implemented the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War. For many, many years NATO Allies reduced defence spending because tensions went down, threats went down. And it’s quite natural then that when you live in a less uncertain world, with reduced tensions, then we invest less than defence. But the strength of NATO is that when tensions are going up and when challenges are increasing, then we are investing more. So, NATO is now investing much more in defence than we did a few years ago. And I’m very surprised that I haven’t had more questions about defence spending, because that’s one of the big issues. Because I have told many audiences before that I’m a politician and I know that most politicians they prefer to spend money on something else than defence. They want to spend money on education, health, whatever, or infrastructure. But now, when tensions are going up, then we need to invest more and NATO Allies are doing exactly that. That also includes the need for developing technology, to deal with the new challenges we see. And the good thing is that we are now investing also more in developing technology. So this is not specifically directed to one specific country, but it’s making NATO stronger, increasing the readiness of our forces, acquiring new capabilities, investing in modern technology, maintains NATO as by far the biggest alliance and the strongest alliance in history. As long as we are together, we are 50 percent of the world’s GDP, economic might, and 50 percent of the world’s military might. So, if we are united then we are, by far, the strongest power in the world.

MODERATOR: We are almost out of time. So what I’m going to do is just take a couple of questions, one from up there, one from down there and one from over here and the Secretary General will respond to them together.

QUESTION: Thank you very much, I’m Director of the Institute of International Affairs. You mentioned the expansion of NATO. At the time of the break-up of the Soviet Union, Gorbachev was given an assurance that NATO would not increase membership, that’s my understanding. As you know, Russia has extreme sensitivity about borders and national security, etc, China at the other end … but particularly in NATO as well. Are you increasing your diplomatic discussions with Moscow over that increase or do you just say there it is, we’ve decided to go ahead and expand?

MODERATOR: Okay, thank you, and this gentleman here.

QUESTION: Thank you for being here. You mentioned some of the challenges that both NATO and New Zealand are facing. Do you think there’s some room to increase cooperation between both NATO and New Zealand in the future? And if so, where would you like to see this happen?

MODERATOR: And then, finally, because we’ve been underrepresented in gender equality with questions, I’m going to give this last question to this lady here.

QUESTION: I mean, you just asked the question I was about to ask.

QUESTION: [inaudible].  Related to Afghanistan.

JENS STOLTENBERG: Okay, thank you so much. First about NATO expansion. So, first of all, NATO never gave any guarantee to Gorbachev or to any Soviet leader that NATO was not going to have new members. Second, just the idea that, you know, some big Allies were going to give that kind of guarantee, is, in a way, violating some very basic principles. So, no such guarantee was given.

Second, if it would have been given, it would be completely wrong to give it. Because what we then are saying is that Russia has a right to decide what small neighbours can do or not do. And I’m not saying that you said it, but people say it’s very provoking for Russia that Latvia has decided to become a member of NATO. I mean, that Latvia cannot do what they want to do, because they’re a neighbour of Russia. And that’s the old-fashioned thinking about big powers’ right to decide what small neighbours can do. It’s a sphere of influence and there are a lot of people also now, all the countries, which think like that. Ah, but, no, they understand Russia is provoked. No. And actually it’s to violate some really fundamental principles for how nations should live together in a peaceful way.

Nations have the right to choose their own path, including what kind of security arrangements they want to be part of. That’s not only something I say, but it’s actually enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act, which also Russia has signed. Therefore when we have good friends and Allies like Sweden - not Allies but good friends, and partners like Sweden, and they have decided not to become a member of NATO and I totally respect that. But we also have friends and soon-Allies, like North Macedonia, who would like to become a member. And then I accept that. It’s for Sweden to decide whether they want to be a member or not, and it’s for North Macedonia to decide, or Montenegro to decide. It’s not for Russia to decide what North Macedonia or Sweden should do.  Or Latvia. If you for one second accept that, then you’re back to a world which, you know, big powers decided the future of small powers. And we don’t want that world.

I am from a small country bordering Russia. And when we joined NATO in 1949 Russia didn’t like that. But if Clement Atlee, who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and Truman, President of the United States said, ‘Oh, Norway, that will provoke Russia’, so Norway had to stay outside of NATO, that would violate the sovereignty of Norway. So just the idea that some men in a dark room should decide what Latvia could do or not do is a provocation. That’s the provocation. Not Latvia, through a democratic process, or Poland, or Hungary or Montenegro, through a democratic process decided to join NATO.

It’s wrong, and if it was right, it was still wrong. If you understand what I mean.

Then, cooperation with New Zealand. Now, I think there’s a great potential for more cooperation with New Zealand. First of all, we work with New Zealand in many different areas, but I think it’s a potential for working more together when it comes to fighting terrorism, in many different ways. Because this is partly about military operations as we have in Afghanistan, in Iraq fighting Daesh, al-Qaeda and so on, which is important. I mean, it is extremely important that we have made the progress we have made against Daesh, and that didn’t come without the use of military power. But we know, you know, that to fight terrorism requires more than military power. It requires intelligence, police, but also building aptitudes, defending values, looking into our own societies – more and more terrorism is home-grown. And to understand how that works, understand how we can make sure that we don’t have terrorists like the perpetrator in Christchurch or the perpetrator in Norway. It’s not NATO’s main task, but it is extremely important as part of the broader efforts to fight terrorism. And to stand up for our values: open, democratic, tolerant societies. It’s exactly those societies that terrorists attack, and how we can work together defending them.

And I think New Zealand has been outstanding in the way you have stood up for those values. So the way New Zealand dealt with the terrorist attack in Christchurch has inspired people all over the world. And I commend you for the way you reacted. So we can learn from each other in the way we deal with and fight terrorism. Cyber, we can work together with New Zealand. We can work too together with New Zealand on gender issues. You know that women are often very vulnerable in armed conflicts, gender issues are extremely important and we can, again, work together with New Zealand on all those.

Then, on Taliban. So, we welcome and we closely consult and discuss with the United States and Ambassador Khalilzad, on the ongoing dialogue with Taliban. NATO is present in Afghanistan to create the conditions for a negotiated peaceful solution. Therefore we welcome that now there are talks. But it is extremely important that what we are negotiating now, or what Khalilzad is now negotiating with the Taliban is not a leave deal, it is a peace deal – meaning that it is a deal where we have to make sure that we preserve the gains we have made in Afghanistan, partly about making sure that Afghanistan doesn’t once again become a safe haven for international terrorists, because that’s not only a problem for Afghans, but it’s also a problem for us. We are in Afghanistan to protect ourselves, meaning NATO Allied countries, or New Zealand, or the partner nations.

Second, we need to do as much as we can to preserve the gains we have made when it comes to social and economic progress, not least the rights of women in Afghanistan. Therefore we need an inter-Afghan dialogue. And I know that the United States, Ambassador Khalilzad, they are extremely focussed on establishing the framework, the conditions for an inter-Afghan dialogue and hopefully we will have that as soon as possible, because there can be no lasting peace in Afghanistan without, of course, the Afghan-owned process, where also the Afghan government has to be part of that.

Nothing is agreed before everything is agreed. But I think it’s right to say that we’re closer to a negotiated solution in Afghanistan now than we had been for many, many years, or ever have been. That is a great achievement. We will support that. We went into Afghanistan together, the United States and NATO Allies and partners like New Zealand. We will make decisions of our future presence there together. And when the time is right, we’ll also leave together.

But we will, and we have to make sure that Afghanistan doesn’t once again become a safe haven for international terrorism and that we make sure that the gains we have made, not least for women are preserved. Because this has been a sacrifice, which has been made by hundreds of thousands of troops which have served there for decades, including many troops from New Zealand and also some of them have paid the ultimate price. So I think we owe them that we make sure that we preserve the gains we have made together. Thank you.