NATO: Maintaining Security in a Changing World

Speech by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg - Ambassador Donald and Vera Blinken Lecture on Global Governance, Columbia University

  • 26 Sep. 2019 -
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  • Last updated 27-Sep-2019 13:12

(As delivered)

Speech by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg - Ambassador Donald and Vera Blinken Lecture on Global Governance, Columbia University

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Thank you so much for that kind introduction and thank you so much also to Ambassador Donald and Vera Blinken.  And let me start by saying it's really a great pleasure and honour to be here at the Columbia University today. 

This is one of the greatest universities and most recognised universities in the world, and therefore I really feel honoured to be here.  And then I also have to admit to you that I always have a very special feeling when I visit academic institutions as this university, because as we spoke about just before we entered this room, my plan, my dream has always been to become an academic, to have an academic career, and I actually made a real effort many, many years ago.  I worked with research on econometrics and mathematics for a couple of years and then I was asked to become… so, my plan was then to really do it in the academic life, but then I was asked to become Deputy Minister for Environment and I promised myself, and I promised my wife, to only do that for a couple of years and then go back to some real work, some… the beauty of research.  But I'm still in politics, so my academic career will never take off I think.  So, if you don’t study hard, you end up as Secretary General of NATO, so … you have to be careful! 

But since I am not able to work in an academic institution, I appreciate to visit them and to see the energy of the students and to smell the beauty of research and academic life.  I will be relatively short in my opening remarks, but I promise that I'm… afterwards, I will sit down there and I will answer your questions and respond to all the issues you would like to raise with me. 

Columbia is not only a great university, but Columbia is also situated in a great city, the city of New York.  And New York has shaped the world in so many ways.  It has shaped NATO too.  We recently marked the anniversary of 9/11 with a moment's silence at the NATO Headquarters, right next to the twisted steel beam from the World Trade Centre, which is at the entrance of the NATO Headquarters.  A lasting memorial to all those who died on that terrible day and a daily reminder for all who work at NATO of the enduring importance of 9/11 for our Alliance.  For when the United States was attacked it was not alone.  Within hours, and for the first time in our history, NATO invoked our Article 5, our collective defence clause, which states that an attack against one is an attack against all.  All for one and one for all.  The way our nations worked together after 9/11 shows the strength of the transatlantic bond, and our forces standing together.  We will also need this in the future.  There are many challenges, but today I will focus on three of them: our values are under pressure; the global balance of power is shifting; and new technology is changing the nature of warfare. 

So first, values.  NATO is an extraordinary idea, to bring together nations that share the same values: democracy, freedom and the rule of law, and to unite them in common cause, to maintain our collective security in light of adversaries that no one could face alone.  The Cold War, as much as anything, was a battle of ideas of values, and ultimately it was a battle that we won.  Our democratic values, and continue to be so, are a beacon to oppressed people around the world.  Ambassador Blinken, who was US Ambassador to Hungary in the 1990s, knows this very well. 

As the Cold War came to an end, the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe were anxious to secure their new-found freedom.  The first major step was membership in NATO.  The prospect of being welcomed into our family helped those nations make difficult democratic and economic reforms.  NATO membership gave them the certainty that they were safe and the confidence to focus on growth, on the wellbeing of their people, and soon on membership of the European Union.  Today, they are strong independent nations, thanks in large part to the bedrock of security that comes with NATO membership. 

Today, our values are once again under pressure.  We see this in our countries, where we face sophisticated disinformation campaigns, aiming to undermine our democratic processes, meddling in our democratic elections and cyberattacks on our governments, institutions and companies.  And our values are not universally held.  In many countries, people are denied the right to elect their own leaders, imprisoned for voicing their political views and closely monitored by the governments, using the latest technology.  Yet, from Moscow to Hong Kong, we can always see how people are willing to stand up and fight for freedom, whatever [the] odds.  This shows the enduring strength of our values.  We believe in them simply because democracy is better than dictatorship, tolerance is better than intolerance, and freedom is better than oppression. 

A second challenge is the shifting balance of power.  Today, the countries of the NATO Alliance account for roughly half of global GDP.  20 Years ago, that figure was almost 75%.  Over the next decade, China is forecast to overtake the United States as the largest economy in the world.  And military spending by China has almost doubled over the last ten years, giving it the second biggest defence budget in the world after the United States. 

At the same time, we are seeing challenges to the established rules-based order.  Russia is not the partner we once hoped it to be.  Rather than following international norms and rules, it is undermining them.  From its illegal annexation of Crimea to assassination attempts on NATO territory, from cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns to supporting the Assad regime in Syria.  It is also investing heavily in its armed forces, replacing its aging ships, carriers and aircraft, and investing in advanced weapon systems such as laser cannons. 

We also see proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and aggressive and destabilising behaviour by nations such as Iran and North Korea.  All of this means that, to protect our freedom, we must continue to invest in our defence.  All NATO Allies are increasing defence spending and more Allies are meeting the guideline of spending 2% of GDP on their defence.  By the end of next year, European Allies and Canada will have spent an additional 100 billion US$ on defence since 2016.  Economically, politically and militarily, together we are stronger. 

A third challenge is the rapid pace of disruptive technological change.  This is transforming our daily lives.  Technology changes fast.  We are in the midst of a new industrial revolution.  Artificial intelligence, facial recognition, big data, biotech, extraordinary technologies that have the potential to revolutionise our societies.  They can help us solve some of our most difficult problems: curing diseases, tackling climate change, growing our economies. 

At the opening ceremony of last year's Winter Olympics, we saw one pilot control more than 1200 drones in a stunning light show.  The display was beautiful.  But imagine that same technology being used to cripple a state-of-the-art aircraft carrier, or even to destroy a seat of government.  Some civilian technologies can be used for military purpose and others are being developed specifically for military use, such as hypersonic missiles, autonomous weapon systems and cyber warfare.  All of this is changing the nature of warfare. 

For 70 years, NATO's deterrence and defence has relied upon maintaining our technological edge, on being better and more advanced than our opponents.  We have done this by investing more in research and development than anyone else, but today we are under fierce competition.  For example, President Xi has announced plans for China to become the world's leading power in artificial intelligence by the end of 2030 and is investing billions of dollars to make it happen.  Our future security depends on our ability to understand, adopt and implement emerging disruptive technologies.  NATO has a key role to play in this transformation.  It can serve as a forum for Allies and partners to consider the difficult, ethical and legal questions that will inevitably arise from these technologies.

Importantly, NATO coordinates defence planning among nations, ensuring Allies are investing, developing and adopting the latest technologies.  And it creates common standards, procedures and other means of maintaining our ability to work together, in peace time, in crisis and, when necessary, in combat. 

NATO was created by people who could see beyond the world as it was, towards the world as it could be, and then to act to shape the future.  Back then, they could see the terrible threat posed by the Soviet Union, but they could also see the potential strength of western democracies united for peace. 

NATO is the bedrock of our security.  Its future will be determined by our future leaders.  By leaders with that same ability to shape our world for the better.  You will be among those leaders and by defending our values, investing in our defence and maintaining our technological edge, we will continue to live in a world of freedom, peace and prosperity.  Thank you so much.

Moderator: Thank you, Secretary Stoltenberg.  This was very informative, insightful and I'm sure great food for thought.  Why don’t we follow the tradition and see if Ambassador Blinken would like to ask the first question and then we'll open it up for everyone else.

Ambassador Blinken: Please join me in thanking the Secretary General for taking the time to come up here today, during a very hectic week in New York and a very chaotic week in Washington and London, so thank you very, very much. 

I'm going to ask a question that’s rather specific.  What will the effect of Brexit, when it happens, be on NATO?  Will the UK continue to exercise an important role in NATO or will there be some changes in the NATO structure as a result of Brexit?  Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Thank you so much for making this possible, and also for the question.  The short answer is that Brexit will change UK's relationship to the European Union, but Brexit will not change UK's relationship to NATO.  If anything, it will make NATO even more important, because NATO will then become an even more important platform for bringing Allies, European Allies together to address common political and security challenges.  So, it's not for me to comment on Brexit, but it has been clearly stated by the United Kingdom, from both Remainers and those who are in favour Brexit, leaving, that they will stay committed to NATO and, if anything, the importance of NATO and the UK commitment to NATO will just grow.

Moderator: Very good.  Maybe I'll use the prerogative and ask the next question, and then you'll be following me.  The challenges that you’ve outlined are major indeed and people sometimes ask the question whether NATO is as cohesive as it used to be, you know, one for all, all for one.  Suppose, hypothetically that one of the smaller Baltic countries that has, let's say, a significant Russian population, you know, was subject to an overnight partial invasion and then Russia says, let's negotiate, we just needed to pacify, you know, thing. Would Article 5 be immediately invoked and, you know, a conflict would develop or would there be negotiation?

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: If any NATO Ally is attacked then we will invoke Article 5.  The whole, the core reason, the main purpose of NATO is to make sure that we stand together, and that’s the reason why we have this Article 5 saying that an attack on one will be regarded as an attack on all.  And the whole idea of having that, the Article 5, it's not to provoke a conflict, but it's to prevent a conflict. 

NATO's core mission is to preserve the peace.  And we have to remember that, in Europe, the kind of normal situation was conflict and war for centuries.  And since NATO was established, no NATO Ally has been attacked by another nation.  It's an unprecedented period of peace in Europe we have seen since the establishment of NATO.  It's not only - what should I say - NATO that can be credited for that, I think the European Union has been important, but at least NATO is an important reason why we have seen an unprecedented period of peace in our part of the world.  And the reason why we have been able to deliver this, or to uphold the peace, is exactly that any potential adversary knows that an attack on one Ally will trigger the response from the whole Alliance.  And as long as that message is credible, as long as our deterrence is credible, meaning that we both have the capabilities but also the resolve to act, and that we communicate that, then there will be no attack.  So, then there is peace.  It's as soon as there is some uncertainty, some power vacuum or some void, then there are risks.  Then there may be room for miscalculations, for misunderstandings, and then suddenly you can have conflicts and war, as we have seen so many times before. 

So my answer is yes, we will do what it takes to protect all Allies.  Then you can say this is only something I say.  Well, I say all NATO leaders convey the same message, it's part of our legal binding commitment in the Washington Treaty.  But perhaps more importantly, we underpin that message of collective defence, of standing together, by increasing our military presence in the eastern part of the Alliance.  Because someone asked the question, especially after Crimea, the illegal annexation of Crimea, the use of force against Ukraine, that well, could this happen to a NATO Ally.  We’ve seen Russia is willing to use force against a neighbour, Ukraine, so how can be certain that they don’t do the same against, for instance, one of the Baltic countries? 

To remove any doubt, we decided to deploy NATO battlegroups for the first time in our history, in the eastern part of the Alliance.  So, for the first time in our history, we have combat-ready troops in the Baltic countries and in Poland.  These are combat-ready, highly-trained, highly-equipped troops, together with the home forces.  On top of that, we have the ability to reinforce.  But the main importance of these troops is that they are NATO troops, they are multinational.  So, the US is already in the region, UK is there, Canada is there, Germany is there, and even Norway is there.  And all Allies are together in the Baltic countries, so there is no way a Baltic country can be attacked without triggering a response from the whole Alliance. 

So, that’s the reason why we have implemented the biggest reinforcement, the biggest strengthening of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War, to remove any doubt about our willingness to defend all Allies.  And as long as we demonstrate that will, no Ally will be attacked.

Moderator: Thank you.  That’s powerful.  Next question, here. We would ask if audience members could come to this mike, please. And others can line up if you want to be the next who poses the question.

Question: Secretary General, thank you very much.  My name is Valeriy Kuchinsky. I'm a Former Ukrainian Ambassador and I have one big question.  Joining NATO is Ukraine… has been Ukraine's foreign policy priority for many years, in fact since independence, and we celebrated 28th Anniversary a month ago.  And how feasible, under the circumstances, is this idea, is this quest for becoming member of NATO for Ukraine?  A couple of days ago you had a meeting Ukraine's new… Ukraine's President Zelensky, I'm sure he ask[ed] you the same question and the idea is now part of Ukraine's constitution.  A couple of months ago there was an article in Ukraine's constitution that joining NATO is a top priority.  Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: So, you are absolutely right that when I met the Ukrainian President a couple of days ago, here in New York, he raised the issue of NATO membership for Ukraine.  Because, as you said, this is now part of their constitution. 

And I was present at the NATO Summit in Bucharest in 2008, where we made a decision that Ukraine and Georgia will become members of NATO.  We didn’t say anything about when, because this is about… this is kind of conditions-based, meaning that any nation that wants to join NATO has to meet the standards, have to fulfil the standards we have set up to become a NATO member.  Therefore, I think that the important thing for Ukraine, and for NATO, is to focus on reforms, is to focus on how to modernise, strengthen Ukraine's defence and security institutions, to strengthen the rule of law, to fight corruption.  And everything we now do together with Ukrainians in trying to help Ukraine moving forward towards membership. 

When they are ready it's not for me to say, but I welcome the fact that the government of Ukraine has clearly stated that their focus is also on these reforms, and that was very much reiterated by the President when I met him. 

Let me add one more thing and that is that, for NATO, it is important to convey a clear message that NATO's door remains open.  Two years ago we had the Montenegro - Montenegro became the 29th member of the Alliance, and early next year or within months, we will have North Macedonia becoming a member.  So, it demonstrates that NATO's door remains open.  And it's for NATO Allies and the applicant country to decide when a country can become a member.  Russia, or any other country, has no say in that, because it's the sovereign right of any nation to decide its own path, including what kind of security arrangements it wants to be part of.  So, we are supporting Ukraine, we work with Ukraine, and then we hope that one day we can welcome them.

Question: Secretary General, thank you for a terrific speech, it's an honour to have you here.  My name is Daniel Goldman, I'm an alumni of the college and I work in financial technology.  Can you comment on the rise in civil war, internal repression and ethnic cleansing, since the growth of the multilateral architecture and security apparatus and particularly in recent memory, in Syria, Sudan, Myanmar, the DRC, and how the international security apparatus can be marshalled to afford greater protection to human rights, to repressed populations in such environments, while affording the appropriate respect for national sovereignty?  Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: The question asked is one of the most difficult questions we are faced with as an international community, as NATO, as a strong military alliance, every day.  Because fundamentally the question is when do we intervene, when do we use military power to try to protect human rights, to defend democracy, to try to uphold our values.  And when do we just stay out, because this is about respecting also the sovereignty integrity of nations, also when they violate fundamental human rights.  And the reason why I say this is difficult is that we have examples where the international community has not intervened and we have seen that that was the wrong decision, or at least there has been doubts about whether it was right not to intervene.  We saw that Rwanda in the 1990s.  We saw it for instance after the massacre in Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  So then I think many people believe that we should be have been more forward leaning, we should have used military power to uphold our values, to protect human rights, to avoid killing of thousands, or hundreds of thousands or people. 

But then we also have examples where we have intervened and I think it's right that NATO went into Afghanistan. I think it's right that we also took part in the military operations over Libya.  But we have to admit that it's not a straight line, it's not a clear win, it's not easy to obtain what we try to do, to create stable democratic societies which are respecting our values.  What I'm trying to say is that there are two very extreme positions: either to never intervene or to always intervene.  And I think both of those positions are wrong.  So, we have to look for something in between, where we sometimes, based on our overall assessment/analysis of the situation, believe that the cost of not acting is bigger than the cost of acting, and then we act.  But other times we just think that we might actually cause more damage if we use military power than when we don’t use military power. 

So, it was a quite general question and it was a quite general answer, because the reality is that we have to, not always as NATO, but as an international community, the UN, all of us, have to find a balance, which is extremely difficult but there is no way to escape that dilemma.

Moderator: Thank you.

Question: Good morning, Secretary General, thank you for being here.  My name is Dipali Mukhopadhyay, I'm a member of the faculty here at SIPA.  You opened your comments with the attack on September 11th and the precedence-setting intervention that came thereafter.  I just came back from a month in Kabul where people are wondering and anxious about what the future of the US role in Afghan politics and security will be, and I'm wondering if you can share with us how, in the NATO leadership and among the members, you think about what the future role of the Alliance will be in Afghan security and politics, if and when the US itself pulls back its presence.  Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: I think your question is actually very linked to the previous question and it highlights the difficulty of using military power.  Again, I believe, and I was actually Prime Minister of Norway when we decided in 2001, Norway as a NATO Ally supported the decision to invoke Article 5 and to send also Norwegian troops into Afghanistan.  And as Secretary General of NATO, I have been extremely supportive of the NATO military presence in Afghanistan.  Because we have to remember that the reason we went in, the main purpose of our presence in Afghanistan was, or has been, or still is, to make sure that Afghanistan is not a safe haven for international terrorists. A country where they can plan, prepare, organise, exercise terrorist attacks on our countries.  As we saw 9/11 in the United States, but also as we have seen different places in the world.  And our military presence in Afghanistan - there are many problems, many challenges, there's still violence, there's not stability, we struggle with a lot of tasks in Afghanistan.  But at least we have, together with the Afghans, made sure that Afghanistan is not a safe haven for international terrorists, as we saw before 2001. 

Then our military presence there is to create the conditions for a political solution.  So, we will not stay longer than necessary.  And that’s also the reason why NATO and I strongly welcomed the US efforts to find a political solution: the negotiations that have taken place between the United States and Taliban, in close consultation with all NATO Allies because we are there together.  And we also welcomed the resumption of peace talks, because they were ended some weeks ago.  But to have a result, to have a deal, the Taliban needs to show real willingness to make real compromises and to go into an agreement which, in a credible way, makes sure that Afghanistan doesn’t once again become this safe haven for international terrorism. 

So, we believe that a good deal is more important than a quick deal.  And we also have to understand that we have already fundamentally changed our military presence in Afghanistan.  Not so many years ago we were more than 140,000 troops in a big NATO combat operation. Now we are roughly 16,000 troops in a mission which is mainly focusing on training and advising the Afghan security forces.  So, it is the Afghan security forces which are on the frontline fighting Taliban.  We help them, we support them, but we are not in a big combat operation anymore, we are in a more train, assist and advise mission. 

So, we will stay, but we will also then work for a political solution and we strongly believe that our military presence is trying to create the conditions for a political solution.  Taliban has to understand that they will not win on the battlefield; they have to sit down at the negotiating table and making real compromises.  But to create those conditions, we need to maintain our military presence.

Question: Hello, I'm Cynthia Roberts, a Research Scholar and Adjunct Professor here.  I teach European Security Seminar.  I'm spending the year, my sabbatical year, at the Joint Staff in Washington, where I recently had the chance to go and speak at NATO. 

So, my question is, in an extraordinary development, after the Russians violated the INF Treaty, the United States, under President Trump, as you know, decided to give notice and then withdraw from the Treaty.  And what was really extraordinary was that NATO members unanimously supported this decision.  And given different politics, given different views on security and foreign policies, this was really a surprising development in some ways.  In other ways not so much because, after 30 meetings with Moscow, it was clear that the Russians were not going to change their behaviour and remove the violating missiles. 

So my question is, given the trends in Russian military capabilities and your many statements that NATO's response will not include new nuclear weapons, I'm wondering whether you will promote more development of conventional capabilities or whether you assess that the politics of this will make it too difficult. For example, new kinds of… not new kinds, but actual conventional ground-based missiles that might help the US reinforce NATO and protect their landing bases and so on.  Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: First of all, the demise of the INF Treaty is something we all regret very much, because the INF Treaty, which was signed in 1987, has been a cornerstone for European security and global security.  It didn’t reduce the number of weapons, it banned a whole category of weapons.  It banned all intermediate-range land-based weapon systems globally.  And therefore, it has served our security for decades.  It was signed by President Reagan and President Gorbachev in 87.  Now that treaty has ceased to exist and the reason is the Russian violation of the Treaty. 

Russia started to deploy new ground-launched intermediate-range missiles several years ago.  This was first raised by the Obama Administration and then, in many meetings, as you referred to, then the new Trump Administration continued to raise their concerns and called on Russia to come back into compliance.  All NATO Allies did the same.  So, we gave Russia actually several years to come back into compliance.  They didn’t do so and therefore there was no way that this treaty could continue, because a treaty… an arms control treaty which is only respected by one side doesn’t deliver security.  And I regret that very much, because I am part of the political generation in Europe which actually was very much shaped by … our understanding of security policy was very much shaped by the deployment of intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe in the 1970s and 80s, something called SS-20s and NATO Pershing and Cruise Missiles.

 So, it was a really great achievement to have a treaty banning all these weapons.  And the good thing is that all NATO Allies agree that Russia has violated the Treaty and all NATO Allies also have supported the US position that a treaty which is not respected by both sides doesn’t work, so therefore we support the decision also to start the withdrawal process, and then leave the Treaty. 

What we are doing now is that we are then working on the response.  We are looking into different measures, including conventional.  It's too early to conclude that and for me to tell you exactly what we'll do, but we are looking also into different conventional options. 

We are working on air and missile defence, because these are Cruise Missiles and the Russian missiles are Cruise Missiles and of course our air and missile defence can also be part of the answer.  We are looking into the readiness of our forces, better intelligence, early warning. 

And then let me add that the Russian deployment of new nuclear-capable missiles in Europe is part of a pattern of Russian behaviour over the last years.  So, we have a pattern which we have already responded to.  With the battlegroups in the eastern part of the Alliance, we have tripled the size of the NATO Response Force. We can reinforce if needed, and the fact that also Allies are now investing more in defence, more exercises, also increasing in general our readiness and the capabilities of our armed forces. 

What we have said is that we will be coordinated, we will respond as an Alliance. We will be defensive.  We will not mirror what Russia is doing.  We don’t have any intentions of deploying new nuclear-capable missiles. But, of course, we had to make sure that we have credible deterrence and defence - also in a world with more Russian missiles in Europe and without the INF Treaty.  So, we will respond, but we will respond in a measured and balanced way.

Question: Thank you for coming and sharing your insights.  My name is Nathan Ryan and I'm a first-year student here, studying International Security Policy.  I can only hope my academic aspirations accidentally derail me into being the President of Norway or NATO Secretary General. 

You mentioned cyberattacks and the changing technological landscape as a primary challenge for NATO.  Because of the increasing difficulty in accurately attributing or tracing these cyberattacks to their original source, how cautious does NATO need to be in invoking Article 5 in the event of a major attack on a member state's infrastructure or civilians?  In other words, is there a specific degree of cyberattack that crosses a threshold for NATO, to be considered a declaration of war?

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: So first of all, you are pointing at something which is extremely important and also difficult.  We have decided that a cyberattack can trigger Article 5, meaning that we regard cyberattacks potentially as damaging and as dangerous as conventional attacks or any other attack.  So, we have clearly stated that a cyberattack can trigger Article 5. 

Then, we will never give our potential adversaries the advantage of specifying exactly what triggers Article 5.  They have to live with the ambiguity that we decide when we trigger Article 5.  But we send the message that if we see serious cyberattacks then we have the right, and we have the resolve, and we have declared that, and we can also respond and trigger the full response from the whole Alliance.  Not necessarily in cyber.  It's up to us to decide how we respond.  So, of course, we can respond to a cyberattack in cyber, but we can also respond to a cyberattack in all other domains. 

We have now established cyber as a military domain alongside … we have land, sea, air, but now we have also land, sea, air and cyber.  And that depends on the situation, depends on what we regard to be the best way to respond. 

But then you are pointing at something which is difficult and that is attribution, because attacks in cyberspace are often hard to attribute.  For me that highlights two things. First, that we need to have maximum protection of our networks.  So, regardless of who are attacking us or regardless of to what extent we are able to attribute, we are able to protect the networks. 

Second, we need to improve our intelligence, our procedures, our tools to attribute, because attribution is extremely important if you're going to respond. The problem with cyber is that you partly don’t know that you are under attack, you may only know it after the attack has taken place for a long time, and you don’t always know who are attacking you. 

The last thing I'll say about this is that attribution is not a problem only for cyberattacks. All NATO Allies agree that Iran was behind a conventional attack on the oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, but of course there has been some discussion about the attribution.  So, attribution is a problem not only related to cyber, because many aggressive nations or organisations will try to disguise that they are behind the attack. 

So, intelligence, situational awareness, high readiness, and also the ability to protect regardless who is attacking you, are at least part of the answer to cyber.

Moderator: Thank you.  If I may, we’re coming… nearing an end, but maybe to extend this question, to what extent has NATO been surprised by the severity and sophistication of the cyberattacks?  Or to what extent does NATO have superiority in that area, similarly to land, sea and air in the more conventional way?

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: So, I will not say that we are surprised, because we have the best experts in the world and they are studying and following this every day, and they follow the development of different cyber technologies.  I have seen myself how advanced some of our intelligence communities are in actually tracking what is going on in cyberspace and, you know, it's good to see the quality and the skills and the competence of these people.  And especially in some of the big NATO Allied countries, the really top-quality and big capacity to track and to analyse cyberspace and of course any kind of aggressive actions. 

Having said that, I think we have to admit that the challenge with cyber is that… when it comes to conventional attacks, that’s something we may see in the future, and we prepare for something that is a kind of theoretical possibility in the future.  Cyberattack is happening every day, different levels, different degrees.  And in NATO Allied countries and in NATO, we deal with cyber incidents and attacks almost on a daily basis.  So, it's not a kind of theoretical, potential threat in the future, it's an ongoing thing.  And cyberattacks, as you all know, can be conducted or done by states but also by non-state actors.  So, it's a kind of ongoing challenge. 

We are advanced and we help each other, we have a centre of excellent for cyber, NATO Centre of Excellent in Tallinn, which are organising the biggest exercises in the world, bringing NATO Allies together, increasing awareness and constantly developing and strengthening our tools to deal with cyber threats and cyber challenges. 

I also have to tell you that we have developed what we call sovereign cyber effects, which is often called offensive cyber.  And, for instance, in the fight against Daesh, that has proven to be extremely important - to be able to take down, to be able to go into the cyber networks of an adversary.  And in the fight against Daesh, to take down their systems, because they use cyber to recruit, to mobilise, to finance, to spread their propaganda, and NATO Allies used offensive cyber, or national sovereign cyber effects to go into the systems of Daesh.  So, this is very much about defending but also sometimes actually about using offensive cyber. 

Then I think it was one guy over there …

Question: Only if there's time.

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: It's a lot of time.

Question: OK, great.  Mr Secretary General, thank you so much for being here.  My name's Aiden Burke, I'm also a first-year student at SIPA. 

My question is about the Arctic and specifically, as global warming leads to increasing naval traffic up there and increasing potential access to the resources on the Arctic seabed, we’re seeing increasing interest in the region from most… most importantly from Russia, which is very aggressively building up its terrestrial naval and aerial capabilities in the region.  What is NATO's vision of the Arctic Ocean in the 21st Century and, you know, what capabilities are necessary in order to see that through?

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: I think the reality is that we don’t have so much time, so I'll try to be brief.  But I can briefly say that the Arctic has always been important, but the importance of the Arctic is increasing.  Partly because the ice is melting and partly because we see that there are a lot of natural resources up there and partly also because we have seen an increased interest and presence of Russia, but also of China and other countries, up in the Arctic.  

So, of course, NATO has to find again a balanced way of addressing this.  We are investing now in capabilities which are also enabling us to increase our presence in the Arctic, with ships, with planes, with submarines, maritime capabilities, because the Arctic is mostly sea, and especially when the ice is melting it's more and more sea, and less and less ice.  So, we are increasing our presence, but I strongly believe in what has been a kind of message for decades that, in the High North, we should strive for low tensions.  And, in the High North, we have a unique operation also with Russia, on Search and Rescue, on environmental issues. 

So yes, we need to be present, but we should really work for keeping tensions down and continue to work with Russia in the framework of the Arctic Council, but also the Barents Council, where we have proven able - NATO Allies - to work with Russia for decades and I think that’s extremely important that we try to continue to do so, to protect the environment, to protect our own common interests.  And therefore dialogue with Russia is important, as we also see their increased presence.  I think that’s the end of my academic career today.

Moderator: I think on the contrary, I think we have to thank you for an extremely stimulating presentation and I think if you wanted to restart your academic career, there is always time.  So, let's thank the Secretary General.