by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg folowing the meeting of the North Atlantic Council at the level of Foreign Ministers
Foreign Ministers just finalized a meeting which addressed a wide range of security issues in preparations for our upcoming Leaders’ meeting in London in just two weeks.
We had excellent discussions and we all agree that NATO remains indispensable for our security. And that despite our differences, we are stronger as we face the future together.
Today, ministers took important decisions for NATO’s continuing adaptation. We have agreed that space should be a new operational domain for NATO – alongside air, land, sea and cyber. Space is part of our daily life here on Earth. It can be used for peaceful purposes. But it can also be used aggressively. Satellites can be jammed, hacked or weaponized. Anti-satellite weapons could cripple communications and other services our societies rely on, such as air travel, weather forecast or banking.
Space is also essential to the Alliance’s deterrence and defence. Including the ability to navigate, to gather intelligence, and to detect missile launches. Around 2,000 satellites currently orbit the Earth. And around half of them are owned by NATO countries. NATO has no intention to put weapons in space. We are a defensive Alliance.
And our approach will remain fully in line with international law.
But making space an operational domain will help us ensure that all aspects are taken into account to ensure the success of our missions. For instance, this can allow NATO planners to make requests for Allies to provide capabilities and services – such as hours of satellite communications or data for imagery.
Ministers also agreed recommendations to consolidate NATO’s role in energy security, as this plays an important role in our common security. The recommendations aim to improve situational awareness and understand the risks; protect critical infrastructure and enhance Alliance resilience; and enable NATO forces to have the necessary energy resources at all times.
Ministers also reviewed the implementation of the package of measures on the Black Sea security that we adopted in April. This includes the training of maritime forces and coast guards. Port visits and exercises. And sharing information.
The recent visits of the North Atlantic Council to both Georgia and Ukraine were a good opportunity to see this package in action. NATO’s standing naval groups have been exercising with Georgia and Ukrainian ships, improving our ability to work together.
And Allies also continue regular patrols and NATO air policing in the Black Sea region.
At the same time, we welcome that Russia has finally returned the Ukrainian vessels it seized last November. This is what the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea had requested. And it is a step in the right direction ahead of the Normandy format summit next month.
Ministers also endorsed our updated action plan on enhancing NATO’s role in the fight against terrorism.
This includes sharing more intelligence on significant terrorist activities, including attacks in our countries and foreign fighters.
NATO continues to play a key role in the fight against terrorism, through our training missions in Iraq and in Afghanistan.
And through our surveillance flights in support of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.
Finally, ministers adopted a policy that sets the standards in the prevention and response to sexual exploitation and abuse.
This brings together best practices into one overarching framework, applies to all NATO personnel, and underlines our zero tolerance approach.
It is another practical way in which we show our commitment to our principles and core values, including the respect for human rights.
Today we also addressed our progress in the three areas of burden sharing: cash, capabilities and contributions.
This is the fifth consecutive year of rising defence spending across European Allies and Canada. With over $100 billion added to their defence budgets by the end of next year. The trend is up. It is unprecedented. And we are determined to do more.
Tonight, ministers will discuss our coordinated approach to three strategic issues: Russia, China, and arms control.
NATO is the only platform where Europe and North America engage every day on such strategic issues, which matter to our shared security. As we look to the leaders’ meeting next month, Europe and North America are doing more together than for many years.
We are stepping up across the board, and focused on the future.
With that, I am ready to take your questions.