by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Lowy Institute (Sydney)
Thank you so much for that kind introduction, Dr. Fullilove (Michael). And I cannot promise you the same kind of magic speech as last time you listened to a Secretary General of NATO, I cannot promise that anyone will meet their future spouse during this evening. But I can promise you that I will say a few words about NATO and I will be quite brief in my introduction and then I’ll be happy to sit down and to answer you questions. Let me also thank the Lowy Institute for hosting us all today. It is a great honour and pleasure to have this opportunity to meet with you and to be back in Australia, it’s great for me to be here.
I was here in 2011, then in capacity as Norwegian Prime Minister. This is the first time I’m in Australia as Secretary General of NATO.
And we may be oceans apart, it’s a long distance from Brussel, NATO HQ, to Sydney and to Australia but we are the closest of partners. And the close partnership between NATO and Australia is of great importance but I’m absolutely certain that the importance, the value of that partnership just has to increase because we face more and more global challenges which we’ll only be able to address and face if we work together.
And the shared challenges we face bring us actually closer together.
We work side-by-side, NATO and Australia, fighting terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq. We are together upporting partners like Ukraine.
And we are standing up for the international rules-based order, NATO and Australia together.
This afternoon, I signed with Defence Minister Reynolds a renewed partnership agreement between Australia and NATO. This will deepen our cooperation and strengthen our ability to work together even further.
It was also a privilege to meet some of the incredible women and men serving in the Royal Australian Navy aboard HMAS Hobart. We were actually with the ship at the naval base here in Sydney. Wherever I go, whenever I meet members of the Australian Defence Force, I am impressed by their dedication and professionalism.
So I am proud that Australia and NATO are deepening our cooperation. And we will need that cooperation even more in the future because security challenges are becoming increasingly global. And let me mention three of them.
First, increasing great power competition.
This puts our global system and values under pressure. From Crimea to North Korea, and from Syria to the South China Sea.
Just a few days ago, Russia´s disregard for rules and norms led to the demise of one of the great pillars of the post-Cold War arms control regime. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
For over three decades, this Treaty eliminated an entire category of weapons which threatened European security.
Unfortunately, Russia has deployed a new missile system, the SSC-8, which violates the Treaty. The new Russian missiles are mobile, hard to detect, reduce warning time to minutes, and lower the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons in armed conflict.
This makes the world less safe for us all.
NATO remains committed to effective arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation.
And to keeping our people safe.
In recent years, Russia has demonstrated a pattern of destabilising behaviour.
It has illegally annexed Crimea, continues to destabilise eastern Ukraine, and has attempted to interfere in domestic political processes in NATO countries.
Australia has shown strong support in calling out Russia´s unacceptable actions.
And in promoting the rules-based order.
China´s role and influence is another sign of increasing global power competition.
Its economic rise and technological prowess is powering global growth.
This brings many opportunities, financially and politically.
But China´s 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. So we need to better understand the challenges and opportunities China presents.
Second, international terrorism is another challenge we have to confront together, NATO and Australia. That is why we are in Afghanistan.
NATO Allies and partners like Australia are working side-by-side. Together we work to ensure Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists. And we help the Afghans create the conditions for peace.
We are now closer to a peace deal in Afghanistan than we have been ever before. And we strongly support efforts to achieve a negotiated settlement to the conflict.
NATO and Australia are also both members of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. Where we have made enormous progress.
We have liberated territory the size of the UK. And freed millions from oppression.
So now ISIS no longer controls any territory in Iraq and Syria. Australia is playing a key role by training local forces in Iraq. Complementing the efforts of NATO´s new training mission in the country.
We strongly believe that prevention is better than intervention. And in the long-run, training local forces is one of the best weapons we have in the fight against terrorism.
A third global challenge we have to face together is cyber. Cyber challenges know no boundaries and no borders. They cannot be overcome by any one nation. And cyber is fundamentally changing the nature of conflict.
NATO is adapting. We protect our own networks from cyber-attacks. We have rapid responders on 24/7 standby that can help NATO countries under attack. And we are setting up a Cyberspace Operations Centre at our HQ in Mons.
We are also sharing information, real-time, about cyber threats with members and partners, including with the EU. And we hope to step up our cyber cooperation with Australia in the future. That was actually one of the issues I discussed, both with Prime Minister, the Defence Minister and the Foreign Minister this morning.
So Ladies and gentlemen,
Australia and NATO are stronger together when it comes to defending our shared values. Freedom, democracy, human rights.
Respect for the global rules and institutions which have helped keep us safe for 70 years.
Today, the world is becoming more complex and more contested.
So whether great power competition, international terrorism, or threats from cyberspace, we are always stronger and safer when we work together.
And NATO is grateful to have a reliable partner and friend in Australia.
Thank you so much and then I’m ready for some questions.
Moderator: Some of the world leaders that you mentioned, or perhaps you didn’t mention but we talk a lot about at the Lowy Institute, and let me start with the United States, because the United States is in the cockpit of the liberal international order. Now, in Mr Trump's early months in office, he caused alarm in a lot of NATO capitals because he seemed reluctant to affirm Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, the mutual defence clause. He did reluctantly… or he did belatedly endorse it and of course he's subsequently said that he's a big fan of NATO. But you've dealt a lot with the President, what's your observation of how he approaches alliances, how he thinks about the principle you ended with, which is that we are stronger when we work together?
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: I think we have to remember that NATO is an Alliance of 29 democracies, meaning that we have governments, presidents, prime ministers, representing different political parties. We are coming from different cultures, we have different history, different political traditions, we have different parties in government, we are coming from both sides of the Atlantic. So, there are differences between NATO Allies and sometimes also real disagreements. And therefore, there is no way to hide or… actually, I'm not trying to hide that there are disagreements also inside the family and some Allies disagree with President Trump and President Trump disagrees with some Allies. The strength of NATO, and President is representing that, is that despite differences we have always been able to unite around our core task, and that is to protect and defend each other. And President Trump is committed to NATO. As you said, he told me, and not only told me, he said at the press conference that he is a big fan of NATO and he has, at the same time, of course expressed very clearly that he strongly believes that we need fairer burden sharing in the Alliance. Meaning that it's unfair that the United States, which has a GDP the same size as the GDP of the European NATO Allies and Canada, but the United States pays around three times as much for defence than the other Allies do. That’s not fair. That’s not fair burden sharing. So, he has been very clear, he has a very… what shall I say… direct way of communicating that, that this has to change. I agree with him. But even more important, 29 Allies, or 28 other Allies agree with the United States. And this is a message not only communicated clearly from President Trump, but also from the former President, Obama. And it was back in 2014 when we made the decision that we needed fairer burden sharing, that those Allies who are spending less than 2% of GDP on defence have to increase defence spending. The good news is that, after years of reducing defence budgets, all Allies have now started to increase defence spending. More Allies meet the 2% guideline and the majority of NATO Allies have put forward plans to reach the 2% goal within a decade, within 2024, which was what we decided. So yeah, so if you ask me whether United States and President Trump is committed to NATO, the answer is yes. But they want NATO Allies to have a more fair burden sharing, that we share the burden in a more fairly way. And the good news is that we are on track to doing exactly that.
Moderator: And should we give President Trump some credit for that? I mean is there a sense in which, by putting the issue of burden sharing so directly on the agenda, he's energised other NATO capitals?
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: I strongly believe that the strong message from President Trump is having an impact on defence spending. And again, it's possible to disagree on issues as climate change or trade, but agree on the main issue for NATO, and that is that we protect each other and that we have to invest more in defence. And European Allies are stepping up, but we have to also understand that the United States is committed to NATO and to European security, not only in words, but also in deeds. Because, after the end of the Cold War, United States reduced their military presence in Europe, which was the natural thing to do after the end of the Cold War, the end of the Warsaw Pact, and tensions went down. The last American battle tank left Europe in December 2013. Now, the United States is back with a full armoured brigade, many battle tanks. There are more US soldiers, more US prepositioned equipment, more US investments in infrastructure now than it was… than it has been for many, many, many years. So, I cannot think about any stronger expression of US commitment to NATO and to European security than the fact that they are sending more US soldiers to Europe. And therefore, I'm not underestimating the differences and the challenges we have, but when it comes to again the core responsibility of NATO, we see that European Allies and North America are doing more together than we have done for many years. European Allies are investing more and US is increasing their presence in Europe.
Moderator: One president who is certainly focused on NATO is President Putin.
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Yeah.
Moderator: What is your sense of what President Putin is trying to achieve in Europe and what does he want to do to NATO, do you think?
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: So, I think that the goal of Russia and the goal of President Putin is to re-establish a system where you have some kind of spheres of influence, where big powers, Russia, can decide or at least have a big say of what neighbours do, or don’t do. And that’s extremely dangerous, because that’s the system where actually small nations are not really independent, are not really a sovereign. And that system has led to wars many times in Europe. So, the whole idea that Russia has the right to decide what neighbours can do is dangerous and it violates some absolutely fundamental principles which NATO believes in. But I think that they dislike the idea of having neighbours that do what they want, especially because the neighbours then want to join NATO, when they can do what they want. And that’s the reason why he… Russia has been responsible for aggressive actions against Ukraine, against Georgia. They have Russian troops in Moldova, and also why they dislike the fact that for instance the Baltic countries, Poland, have joined NATO. Our answer is that we don’t… that’s not acceptable and that’s also the reason why we have so strongly conveyed the message to Russia that all European nations have the same right to choose their own path, including what kind of security arrangements they want to be part of. And, over the last years, we have been able to invite two new European countries to become members of NATO; Montenegro and North Macedonia. Russia doesn’t like that, but well, they don’t decide, it's up to Montenegro and NATO Allies to decide, and North Macedonia has decided and we have decided they are welcome to NATO and they have joined NATO.
Moderator: One of the big discontinuities in Europe in recent years has been the British people deciding to exit the European Union. Will Brexit have an impact, do you think, either on the British commitment to NATO or the historic role that the British plays as a key western country, an outward-looking country that’s able to project its power and its influence.
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Brexit will change UK's relationship to the European Union. Brexit will not change the United Kingdom's relationship to NATO. If anything, I think the UK commitment to NATO will just increase because it will be even more important for the United Kingdom to show that while they leave the European Union, with or without a deal, but that doesn’t mean that they're leaving the international community. And then NATO will become an even more important platform for UK to engage with other countries and to bring European Allies together, because then EU will not be that platform for UK, but NATO will be that platform. And the UK is the biggest defence spender in Europe and the second largest in the whole Alliance, so it matters what UK does and therefore… so, Brexit will not change anything when it comes to the relationship to NATO, if anything it will strengthen the importance and the relevance of NATO. That was the first question, the second I have forgotten, but I think I answered.
Moderator: Alright, let me bring you closer to this part of the world.
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Yeah.
Moderator: Also in Asia, just like in Europe, you have an order that has existed since the Second World War, but you have a number of powers that are seeking to change that order, and in particular you have China that is, some people would say is seeking to become the dominant power in Asia, certainly doesn’t subscribe to everything that western countries say about the rules-based order in Asia. It's different from Russia because it's larger, it's richer, its future is brighter I think than Russia's future. As a visitor to Asia, what do you… how would you diagnose China's intentions? What would be your advice to a country like Australia that is trying to balance a deep economic relationship with China, but at the same time is a western country, a treaty ally of the United States?
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: So, first of all, I'll be very careful giving advice to Australia. I concentrate on the 29 members I have and that’s enough for me. Second, I think that what matters for NATO now is that we strengthen the partnership with Australia and the rise of… and also New Zealand and other partners of NATO in this region, Asia-Pacific region, which includes also our close partners Japan and South Korea, and that the rise of China makes that even more important. Because, as you have already alluded to, the rise of China provides us with opportunities; the economic growth of China has been important for all of us. It has helped… it alleviates a lot of power in China and it has fuelled growth in our own countries, and we should welcome that. But at the same time, we see that there are obvious challenges related to the rise of the military power of China and of course you are closer to China than European NATO Allies are, and traditionally NATO has been focused on the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and Russia after that. But what we see is that the rise of China is having an impact on our security, partly because China is coming closer. We see them in the Arctic, we see them in Africa, we see them investing heavily in critical infrastructure, also in Europe. We see them in cyberspace and we also see that decisions by China and Chinese investments in new modern military capabilities have direct consequences for us. Perhaps the most recent example is the demise of the INF Treaty, because one of the reasons why Russia started to violate the INF Treaty, and the INF Treaty really has been a cornerstone for arms control in Europe for decades. It didn’t reduce the number of intermediate-range missiles, it banned all of them, eliminated a whole category of weapons, extremely important for our security. One of the reasons why Russia started to violate that treaty and deploy new intermediate-range missiles in Russia, also as I say able to reach Europe, but also other parts of the world, was that China had developed these kind of weapons and deployed many of them. China was not or is not bound by the INF Treaty, so the deployment of Chinese weapons triggered the deployment… or at least contributed to the deployment of similar weapons in Russia, which then led to the demise of the INF Treaty, with direct impact on us. So, great power competition is global, affects us all.
I mentioned terrorism and cyber, two global challenges that affects us all. So, that makes it even more important that we work together, and that’s exactly what I have discussed here during my visit to Australia, but also when I, earlier in the week, visited New Zealand. So, I think it's up to Australia to decide what to do, but I really hope that you… and I don’t want to hope, because that’s an expressed wish from Australia, is to work closer with NATO to deal with some of these global challenges, including the rise of China.
Moderator: And just one more question on that front. Do you think that European nations are really seeing… take a three dimensional view of China and understand the security challenges as well as the economic opportunities? Because often in Australia, I mean our history is of… is often trying to contribute to the rules-based order in Europe, from the First World War to the Second World War, but often it feels here that European countries see the economic upside of dealing with China, especially given economic difficulties in Europe, but are not so quick to see the challenges to the international order that China presents.
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: I think that maybe that was right before, but I think that more and more European allies are aware of the different dimensions of the rise of China, including the challenges. And one thing that reflects that is that, in NATO, we have now started more systematic work on analysing and assessing the security consequences and the challenges. So I think… and just the fact that we are looking into what more we can do with partners in this region also reflects that. And again, it is in your interest and our interest that we work together.
Let me just also add that the last time I visited Australia was in 2011 and I went to the war memorial in Canberra and, to be honest, I should have known that before, but I am an example of the many Europeans that have not been fully aware of how much you contributed to our freedom, both in the First and the Second World War, and especially the First World War. And I think it's extremely important that we express the gratitude to Australia because one thing is to participate in the Second and the First World War if you are already part of it or a European country, but you were actually sending people around the whole… to the other side of the world and you suffered a lot to help us gain the freedom or maintain our freedom. So, that’s a lesson I learned when I was here the last time and I feel a bit ashamed that I was not aware of that before I came.
Moderator: Alright, well thank you for that very generous comment. Let me go to the audience for questions.
Moderator: I'm going to go first to Deborah Snow. Deborah, if you and other questionists can wait for the microphone, if you can tell us your affiliation before you put your question and then keep your question brief, if you don’t mind, thank you. Just behind you, Lavs. Deb, do you have a question?
Question [The Sydney Morning Herald / The Age]: Thank you, I was just trying to find this quote. Oh yes, here we go. Deborah Snow from The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Secretary General, thanks for your very interesting speech. I was looking just before you spoke at a Time Magazine article from earlier this year and it quoted former Kremlin Adviser, Sergei Karaganov, saying that history could have looked different. By not allowing Russia to join NATO, he said this was one of the worst mistakes in political history. It automatically put Russia and the West on a collision course, eventually sacrificing Ukraine. That’s… he's not alone in thinking that NATO was perhaps… I won't say reckless, but hadn’t thought through the consequences of allowing the Baltic States to join it in the wake of the dissolution of the former Soviet Union. So, I'd like to get your response on that, please.
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: So, that is reckless to allow the Baltic States to join NATO?
Question [The Sydney Morning Herald / The Age]: There are those analysts who say that promises were made; Yeltsin has claimed that promises were made that that would not happen.
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Yes. OK, then I understand. I understand, yeah.
Question [The Sydney Morning Herald / The Age]: Yeah, you understand the history.
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Yeah.
Moderator: You may have heard this argument before.
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Yeah, but first of all, no such promise was made. And second, just the idea that… so, first of all, if NATO was going to make such a promise, then we need… at that time I think we were 16 members of NATO, then all 16 members have to sit in a meeting and agree. And I can absolutely assure/guarantee you that that meeting has never taken place. So, there has been no guarantee from NATO and the only way to make decisions in NATO is by consensus, so of course no such decision, no such promise to Russia that after the end of the Cold War, after the end of the Warsaw Pact, that the former Warsaw Pact members, or republics in the Soviet Union, should not be allowed to join NATO. But another version of the same idea is that this was a promise made by, for instance, United States, that’s also wrong. But second, if that had taken place, it would have been absolutely unacceptable, because the idea that in a way the United States, or any other country in NATO, should promise on behalf of other sovereign European nations what they can do is actually violating their sovereign right to choose their own path. So, how can… that’s to re-establish the idea of great powers, big powers deciding what small powers can do. And that the whole idea of that I am a big power, so I deny you to do this or that. And that’s absolutely against everything I believe in. I believe in the sovereign right of every nation to make their own decisions, including what kind of security arrangements or military alliance they would like to join or not join.
We have good friends and partners, like Sweden and Finland, they have decided to not join NATO and I fully respect that, as I respect the Baltic countries that decide that they wanted to join. And of course, Russia has no right to deny Latvia to join NATO. If Latvia, through democratic processes, comes to the conclusion they would like to join NATO, it's for them to decide and then for the NATO members to see if they meet the NATO standards. Not for Russia to say that’s a provocation. And I use very often the example that if we accept that thinking, then how can Norway be a member of NATO? We are a small country bordering Russia and I know, I was not born then in 1949, but then of course Joseph Stalin was boss in Russia and the Soviet Union, he really disliked that Norway joined NATO. But I'm very glad that the British government and the American government and Truman and Clement Attlee and all the others, they said no, Norway is welcome to NATO, despite the fact that we are a border country of Russia.
So, first of all, it is wrong that such promises were made and, if they were made it would have been wrong. So, this is twice wrong, if you understand what I mean. And therefore, I believe in the right of every nation to decide their own path and that’s what the NATO is pursuing.
Moderator: I saw Hervé Lemahieu from the Lowy Institute.
Question [Hervé Lemahieu]: Thank you, Secretary General. Hervé Lemahieu from the Lowy Institute. Another area where Australia and NATO have worked together on is in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and that has been an enormous effort, has cost the lives of both NATO soldiers and Australian soldiers. Australia dedicates $80million a year on Afghanistan’s post-reconstruction building and yet President Trump is now negotiating with the Taliban and has hinted towards withdrawing the troops that remain in Afghanistan. How do you feel the peace process is going and is this not reneging on the commitment which you made, which is to tackle international terrorism?
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: First I would like to express my gratitude to Australia for participating and contributing to the NATO mission and presence in Afghanistan over many years, and also pay tribute to those who have paid the ultimate price and express my condolences to all those who have lost loved ones, family members, and Australia has paid a high price, as other NATO Allies and partners have in Afghanistan.
Then we have to remember why we went into Afghanistan. We went into Afghanistan because Afghanistan was a safe haven for international terrorists, a place where Al Qaeda and other groups could plan, organise, train terrorist attacks on us, after 9/11. And the main task/purpose of our presence in Afghanistan has been to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming such a platform for international terrorism.
There are many problems in Afghanistan; we see continued violence; we see instability, where there are many, many challenges, but we have also seen some important progress. First of all, Afghanistan is no longer a safe haven for international terrorism. There are terrorists there, but they are not operating… what shall I say… in a free and safe environment; they are constantly under attack.
Second, we have helped, supported, enabled in economic and social and political progress, which has allowed millions of young people to get education. During the Taliban era, there were no girls getting education at all. Now, millions of young girls are getting education. So, the rights of women has made enormous progress, related to the rights and the role of women in Afghanistan.
I welcome the fact that we now have real peace talks going on; we are closer to a peace deal now than ever before. Ambassador Khalilzad, the negotiator from the American side, is closely consulting with all NATO Allies and partners because we went in together and we have made it clear that we will make a decision of our future presence in Afghanistan together, and when the time is right we will also then leave together.
What is important is that a deal preserve the gains we have made, meaning that it's important that we have a deal that preserves that Afghanistan doesn’t once again become a safe haven for international terrorism, and that we also create the best possible framework to preserving the social and economic progress we have made, especially for when it comes to the rights of women.
I cannot tell you anything exactly about when there will be or if… or when or if there will be an agreement, because negotiations are difficult and nothing is agreed before everything is agreed. But we are closer to a deal now than we have been ever before. And we have to remember that NATO is there to create the conditions for peace, meaning that Taliban has to understand that they will never win on the battlefield, so they have to sit down at the negotiating table. And now they're actually sitting down at the negotiating table and hopefully that will lead to something that will create a situation in Afghanistan where we are able to reduce our presence, without risking the gains we have made related to the fight against terrorism and the social and economic progress.
Moderator: Alright, who else would like to ask a question? Yes, I saw this gentleman in the middle. Yes? If you could wait for a microphone.
Question [Desmond Woods, Royal Australian Navy]: During the Cold War, there were only two NATO countries that had borders directly with the Soviet Union, your own and Turkey, and Turkey was the reliable southern bastion of NATO. President Erdoğan's rhetoric suggests that he sees Turkey as semi-detached from NATO and we know that there's a considerable dispute currently over the arrival of F-35 joint strike fighters and Soviet missiles capable of shooting them down in Turkey, and this is quite a standoff going on. How reliable do you regard Turkey's current and future membership of NATO?
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: The Turkish decision to acquire S-400 Russian air defence system is a national sovereign decision by Turkey, but I am concerned about the consequences of that decision. In NATO, it is a national decision what kind of systems different nations buy or acquire, but what matters for NATO is interoperability, that it can be… that they can operate together. And of course a Russian air defence system, S-400, will not be integrated into the NATO integrated air and missile defence.
And as you mention, there are also consequences for the delivery of the F-35, the fighter aircraft, and therefore I am concerned about the consequences.
Having said that, I welcome the fact that the United States and Turkey are talking together on the possibility of a US delivery of a US system, a Patriot system. There are also talks between Turkey and Italy and France on the possible delivery of a French-Italian system, air defence system called SAMP/T. And we have to remember that NATO is already augmenting the air defences of Turkey with the deployment of two air defence batteries, one SAMP/T and one Patriot battery, in Turkey.
Again, the S-400 issue is a serious issue, but Turkey's contributions, Turkey's role in NATO runs much deeper than the issue of S-400. Even those that’s important, Turkish contribution is much more than that, and not least in the fight against terrorism. We have to remember that some months ago, a couple of years ago, Daesh/ISIS controlled a territory as big as the United Kingdom, as I said. They were threatening Baghdad. And now they have lost all the territory they controlled. That has been possible not least because we have been able to work with our NATO Ally, Turkey, in attacking ISIS in Iraq and Syria. With Turkish infrastructure, the fact that we were able to control the border, all that has been extremely important. So, when it comes to the fight against terrorism, Turkey is an extremely important Ally. So yes, it is a problem. I am concerned about the consequences of the S-400, but I am absolutely certain that Turkey will remain a highly-valued and important NATO Ally, and we will address a lot of other challenges together with Turkey, despite the fact that S-400 is creating some problems.
Moderator: We've time for a couple more questions. I saw this gentleman over here, on the edge.
Question [University of New South Wales]: Thank you very much. Anthony Zwi. I work on development at University of New South Wales and while I understand that NATO's primarily focused on hard power and security in relation to military security, I was wondering if you could say something about some of the other things that you’ve referred to; issues like climate change; issues like the Belt and Road Initiative; maybe also thinking about the importance of development assistance and how, for a country like Australia, one should be thinking about the balances between these different forms of power.
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Sorry, the last question was? The last issue?
Moderator: How do you balance the different kinds of power, soft power and hard power?
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: First of all, I think we have to understand that NATO is the answer to many problems, but NATO is not the answer to all problems, so we have different tools, different institutions, different multinational institutions and organisations addressing different challenges. And I'm very proud of NATO and NATO has been the most successful Alliance in the history and we have achieved our main task, our main goal, and that is to keep peace, preserve the peace in Europe. And that is not a small task, because we have an unprecedented period of peace in Europe, since NATO was established. That’s not only because of NATO, but the establishment of NATO has been key to maintaining peace in Europe. We have to remember that the normal situation in Europe before was that we were at war and at least it's hard to find, in the East of Europe, at least for that part of Europe which is a member of NATO, any period as long as the period we have seen since the Second World War, which has been peaceful.
I sometimes refer to my own part of Europe, the Nordic countries; we used to fight each other all the time. That was the normal thing Swedes and Danes and Norwegians did, was to fight. And French, also France and Germany. Europe is full of conflict, kind of the Middle East, based on ethnic divisions, religious divisions, political divisions, we were fighting each other almost all the time. Now, we live at peace. So, I say this just to say that it's not a small thing, it's not a minor issue to maintain peace, that’s a big thing and NATO has been key, essential to do exactly that.
Then I agree that there are many other issues which are extremely important, for instance fighting poverty, alleviating poverty, promoting economic growth, dealing with climate change. And in my previous political life as a Norwegian politician, actually I was more engaged in those issues than in defence and security, but I ended up in NATO, so then I thought it was time to also focus on defence and security.
But of course there are links; climate change can fuel conflicts, can force many people to move and that can create conflicts. Poverty can create conflicts. So of course, the more progress we are able to make in the fight against poverty, the more economic development we are able to create, the easier it is also to create a peaceful and stable international environment.
And climate change of course, if we are successful in dealing with climate change we are also helping to underpin peace and stability. But my answer is in a way that NATO is not the tool to deal with climate change, there are other… the Paris Accord, the UN efforts, that’s the platform to deal with that. And NATO is not a development aid agency. We are important for prosperity because, without peace and stability, you're not able to create prosperity. And if we look at the least developed countries in the world, what characterises them is that there's war/conflict. So, a kind of first step to create prosperity/economic development, is to create peace, and NATO helps to do that. But then there are many other efforts which has to be done by others. So, I don’t know whether I really answered your question, but I'm saying that yes these are important efforts, but I think NATO's task is to maintain peace and then we need to use other tools, international institutions, to address the other challenges.
Moderator: You’ve got enough on your plate is what you're saying, Secretary General. We'll take one more question, before we finish up. Alright, this gentleman here, if you could wait for the microphone, sir.
Question: Thank you very much. Paul Hatfield, private citizen, no affiliations.
Moderator: That’s allowed.
Question: The United States was one of the original founding members of NATO in 1949, when there was only 48 states, and Hawaii didn’t become a state of America until 1959 and Hawaii has never been a signatory to NATO and today is separate. Therefore, if there was an attack on Hawaii, even though America is a signatory and a member of NATO, NATO couldn’t do anything… it's my understanding that NATO couldn’t do anything.
Moderator: Alright, that’s a very technical question. Thank you, sir.
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Now, if one Ally is attacked, and Hawaii is part of the United States which is part of NATO, then Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty states clearly that that should be regarded as an attack on us all and we can trigger Article 5. So, that’s in a way the answer to that.
Having said that, I think that we have to understand that, at the end of the day, this is a political issue, meaning that, at the end of the day, this is about a political commitment that we are standing up for each other and just to have the idea that one Ally should be attacked and then we not reacting will undermine the credibility of the whole of NATO. And therefore I think it's also quite interesting to think about or reflect about the fact that those who wrote the Washington Treaty back in 1949, I think when they wrote the Article 5 the idea was to protect European NATO Allies against an attack from the Soviet Union. We never invoked Article 5 addressing the Soviet Union, because the Soviet Union never attacked us, because we had credible deterrence. They knew that if they attacked one Ally, it would trigger a response from the whole Alliance, and that prevented a conflict. So, it is a paradox that the first time we invoked Article 5 was after an attack on the United States, by a terrorist organisation, by Al Qaeda. And again, it's not easy to ask those who wrote the article back in 49, but I guess none of them have thought about the idea that the first and only time we invoke that article was after an attack by a terrorist organisation on the United States.
Moderator: So, I think the Hawaiians can rest easy. I'm going… because I don’t want to finish on that point, I'm going to ask you one final question, Secretary General. You mentioned… I mentioned in the introduction that you were a… you're a national politician, you were Prime Minister, and you mentioned in your answer to the last question on climate change and the BRI, that you deal with very different issues as the head of an alliance, and now you're focused on defence and military issues. Can I ask you to reflect a bit more broadly on the differences between being a national leader and being the leader of an alliance, especially in the context of a world in which a lot of western countries, there seems to be distrust of international organisations and Davos Man and so on, what have you found… which of the roles have you found more satisfying? How are they similar and different? Do you feel that one can do good work at the international level as well as the national level?
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: There are many similarities and many differences. One big difference is that, as least when you are Prime Minister you are responsible for many different things. So, you address one… so, in the morning you work with… on education and then on health and then on transportation and then on climate change, and then on defence and security, and then… yeah, you deal with the challenges in the parliament and so on. So, there's a broad range of issues all the time mixed together. Now, as Secretary General of NATO, I'm focused on one set of topics, security and defence. So, that’s a difference. Then there are… yeah, and then another difference is that… and I have to be honest and say that it's sometimes easier to see the link between a decision when you're a national politician and… what shall I say… the result. We build a hospital, the hospital stands there and we can cut the ribbon and everyone applauds and everyone is happy. It's less of that in international politics, it's more of a process, it takes time. But at the same time, when we are able to agree, when we are able to do something, it's really of great importance. So, I am extremely proud of what we have been able to achieve in NATO; the biggest adaptation, the biggest reinforcement of NATO since the end of the Cold War, in a generation. So, if anyone have told me that we were able to have combat-ready troops, thousands of troops, combat-ready troops in the eastern part of the Alliance, told me that in 2015, I would have said that will be highly unlikely. Now we have that. We have tripled the size of the NATO Response Force and just the fact that we were cutting defence budgets, now we are increasing with billions, you can like it or not like it, but that’s huge differences and it's hard to imagine anything more important than preserving the peace. So, I am happy when I go to bed, feeling that I have a meaningful job. But it's sometimes easy to… yeah, you make a decision one day in the budget of Norway and then you have the road, at least yeah, not so long after that. Then there are similarities. One similarity is that you need to negotiate, you need to make compromises. Perhaps that’s a bit different in Australia, but at least in most European countries, including Norway, we have different kind of coalition or minority governments. So, you always have to sit down with some other parties and find some solutions. And to be honest that… I have never participated in any more difficult negotiations than when negotiate, for instance budgets, in Norway. So, there is no diplomatic or international negotiation which is in any way as hard than to agree on exactly how much money we are going to spend on that road compared to that road, or that hospital, or whatever it is. So…
Moderator: You should see the budget negotiations at the Lowy Institution, Secretary General.
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: And I think that’s actually a valuable experience to have in NATO, to know how to find compromises. And at the end of the day, we need compromises. Compromise is not a bad thing; compromise is a good thing. That’s the way to find a solution, to be able to come to a conclusion and to make decisions, both on the national level and on the international level.
Moderator: Well Ladies and Gentlemen, that’s all we have time for. I want to thank you very much for joining us today.