by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the meeting of the North Atlantic Council at the level of Heads of State and/or Government
Thank you for joining me so early.
United Kingdom was NATO’s first home.
So it’s only fitting that we meet here to mark and celebrate 70th years of our Alliance.
I expect Leaders to address a wide range of issues when they meet here later on today: the fight against terrorism, arms control, our relationship with Russia and for the first time in NATO’s history we will also sit down with the NATO Leaders and address the rise of China.
This provides both opportunities but also challenges and we have seen the rise of China including their investment in defence capabilities.
China is the second larger defence spender in the world next to the United States and recently displayed new modern capabilities including nuclear weapons.
So we have to address the rise of China together and I look forward to the Allies doing that at this Leaders meeting for the first time.
We will also recognise the progress that our Allies are making when it comes to burden-sharing. Since 2016 European Allies and Canada have added 130 billion US dollars to the defence budget. This number will increase to 400 billion by 2024. This is unprecedented. This is making NATO stronger.
And of course also Leaders will address many other issues including readiness of our forces, space as operational domain and also resilience of our critical infrastructure, including 5G.
So there is a wide range of issues that will be addressed and I am looking forward to welcoming all the Leaders later on today.
QUESTION: How can you make sure that the Turkish … [inaudible] agree to the conclusion to … [inaudible] the engagement of NATO [inaudible]?
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: First of all, we have plans in place to protect all NATO Allies, including, of course, the Baltic countries and Poland. And more than that, we have not only plans, but also forces. And for the first time in our history, we have combat-ready troops deployed to the Baltic region, one of the battlegroups being led by Germany in Lithuania. Second, I am confident that we will be able to also find a solution to the issue related to updating the revised defence plans. And I also discussed this issue with President Erdoğan last night and we are working on the issue as we speak.
QUESTION: Sir, what do you make of Mr Macron’s comments, that he said yesterday about NATO now being brain dead?
JENS STOLTENBERG: That’s not the case. NATO is agile, NATO is active, NATO is . . . is adapting. And that NATO is the most successful alliance in history, because we have been able to change again and again when the world is changing. And we have just implemented the largest reinforcement of our collective defence in a generation, with a higher readiness of forces, with presence in the eastern part of the Alliance for the first time in our history, and with European Allies now investing more in defence. After years of cutting budgets, they are now increasing budgets. We have modernised the NATO command structure and we see also the US is increasing their military presence in Europe.
So what we see is actually that North America and Europe are doing more together than we have done for many, many years. And we have to remember that NATO is the only place where North America, Europe meets every day, discuss, decide and take actions together every day. Addressing security issues, strategic issues, which are important for our security. So it’s nothing new that there are differences in this Alliance. Going back to the Suez Crisis in 56 or to the Iraq war in 2003, there has always been differences. What we have proven, and what we also show today, is that NATO is able to overcome these differences and then be united around core task: to protect and defend each other.
JENS STOLTENBERG: What we will do is that we will show that NATO is delivering, that we are doing more together, North America and US, than we have done for decades. And as long as we are able to deliver substance, both stronger deterrence and defence, address new issues like declaring space as a domain, strengthening our cyber defences, or making sure that we have resilient critical infrastructure, including 5G, and also addressing the impact of the rise of China – there are opportunities, but also the challenges – then NATO proves once again that we are able to respond to a shifting security landscape, and that’s the best way to also provide unity of this Alliance.
OANA LUNGESCU [NATO Spokesperson]: Thank you very much.
JENS STOLTENBERG: Thank you.