Pre-ministerial press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the meetings of NATO Defence Ministers in Brussels

  • 11 Feb. 2020 -
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  • Last updated: 11 Feb. 2020 16:30

(As delivered)

Press conference by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the meetings of NATO Defence Ministers in Brussels on 12 and 13 February

Good morning.

Over the next two days, NATO Defence Ministers will meet to address key issues for our Alliance.

Including what more NATO could do to build security and stability in the Middle East, our support for Afghanistan, and the challenge posed by Russia’s missile systems.

First, the Middle East and North Africa.

Violence and instability in our southern neighbourhood have caused suffering in the region. Driving the refugee and migrant crisis. And also fuelled the threat of terrorism.

That is why NATO Allies have been engaged for many years in the region, and built close partnerships.

 The Global Coalition, NATO and our partners have made remarkable progress in the fight against ISIS. Millions of people have been liberated from oppression. And ISIS no longer controls any territory.

But we can do more. Ministers will discuss the future of our mission in Iraq. Which trains and advises the Iraqi armed forces, to help ensure ISIS cannot return. NATO fully respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq. That is why we are closely consulting with the Iraqi government as we look to the future.

Allies will also discuss tomorrow how NATO can coordinate with the Global Coalition even more closely. And will consider what more NATO can do in the wider region to build long-term stability and security. Training local forces is one of our best tools in the fight against terrorism. And NATO has tried and tested structures and procedures which bring added value. These ensure political consultation, transparency and oversight and force generation.

On Thursday, we will review NATO’s response to the challenge posed by Russia’s new missile systems. The development and deployment of the SSC-8 missile led to the demise of the INF Treaty last year. NATO Allies have stood united on Russia’s breach of the Treaty. Because a treaty that is only respected by one side cannot defend us. We agreed on a balanced and coordinated package of defensive measures. At the same time, restating our strong commitment to arms control and disarmament. The SSC-8 is just one challenge we face. So we will discuss our response to the whole range of Russian missile systems. Conventional and nuclear. Currently deployed or under development.

We will conclude the ministerial by meeting with all nations contributing to our training mission in Afghanistan. Our Resolute Support Mission is making a difference. Despite the challenging circumstances, the brave Afghan security forces are getting stronger. And they are helping create the conditions for peace. We fully support the efforts led by the United States to end the conflict and to achieve a peaceful solution.

Allies are consulting closely on the way forward. The US Special Representative, Ambassador Khalilzad, was recently here to discuss the latest developments.

I expect ministers will address the peace process and how our Resolute Support Mission can best support it. The Taliban must understand they cannot win on the battlefield. They must commit to a reduction in violence, and show that they are genuinely committed to a peaceful future for Afghanistan.

Defence ministers will also meet with their Ukrainian counterpart to review the country’s reforms and NATO support.

And we will also have a wide-ranging discussion on NATO/EU cooperation with our partners Finland and Sweden. Which will also be the first opportunity to welcome High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell to a NATO ministerial meeting in his new position.

With that, I am ready to take your questions.

OANA LUNGESCU [NATO Spokesperson]: Okay, we’ll start with Radio Free Europe, gentlemen in the middle.

MUSTAFA SARWAR [Radio Free Europe]: Thank you very much, Mr Secretary General. Mustafa Sarwar, from Radio Free Europe. Do you see real and serious compromises made by the Taliban on the peace efforts ahead of the group’s traditional spring offensive season in Afghanistan? And there was a high-profile attack in Kabul this morning, what does it mean in terms of security? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: I strongly condemn the attack in Kabul this morning. It shows once again the consequences of horrendous violence against innocent civilians. And it also demonstrates the strong need to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.

And that’s exactly what we . . . that’s exactly why we continue to provide strong support to the Afghan security forces.  Because we believe, and we are convinced, that the best way for NATO to create the conditions for peace is to support, train, assist and advise the Afghan security forces, so then . . . so they are able to send a clear message to Taliban, to terrorists that they will never win on the battlefield. And they have to sit down at the negotiating table and make real compromises, reduce violence and engage in the inter-Afghan dialogue to try to create a lasting peace.

We hope that we can see progress as soon as possible. And that’s exactly what we are working for. And that’s also why we are consulting, of course, closely between all Allies and also with the US and the US envoy negotiating with the Taliban, Ambassador Khalilzad.

This will be an important issue to be addressed and discussed among Allies tomorrow and the day after tomorrow when we meet, because we are pushing for progress on the peace process as soon as possible.

Let me also add that, we went into Afghanistan together, all Allies and partners. We will make decisions on the adjustment of force levels together. And one day we will leave together. Because we are not in Afghanistan to stay there forever. We are there to create the conditions for peace and to enable the Afghan security forces to protect themselves without our help.

OANA LUNGESCU: Washington Post.

MICHAEL BIRNBAUM [Washington Post]: Hi, Michael Birnbaum for The Washington Post, thanks very much. I wanted to ask, a couple of days ago there was a Pew study released about public attitudes toward NATO, in a bunch of different countries, that showed that opinions . . . favourability of NATO is dropping sharply in lots of European countries, also in the United States. And I wanted to ask you why you thought that was and is it connected to President Trump’s politicisation of . . . of support for NATO? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: Well, I think the overall message from that opinion poll is that its strong support for NATO, overall, across NATO-Allied countries. Then, of course, it goes a bit up and down and it varies a bit between different Allies and from year to year in different Allied countries. So, for instance, the UK, it goes up, in the US it has gone a bit down, but still at a high level.

So I think it just illustrates that we are 29 democracies, where there are different views and different opinions. And of course, they vary a bit between Allies and over time.

But the overall message from that opinion poll, but also from other opinion polls, is a continued strong commitment to NATO and strong support to NATO. So . . . yeah, so that’s that.

And let me add that one thing is opinion polls and, of course, they are important because we are democracies and the only way NATO can remain the strongest alliance in the world is that we have public support from the people in the countries which are a member of the Alliance. And we have that. But at the same time, the collective defence clauses, the collective defence commitments of NATO, is treaty commitments by all Allies. And so they . . . they are in place, regardless of whether opinion polls goes a bit up and down. We are committed to defend each other.

OANA LUNGESCU: We’ll go to the gentleman in the front row here.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.  I have two questions. First question is on Ukraine, because the Ukrainian minister will be here, you said. So, Ukraine asked to be granted enhanced opportunities, partnership status. So what is . . . I understand the risks, there are discussions still ongoing, but what can you say to these discussions and when could be any decisions made on this? The second is on this response to Russia’s new missile systems. When this response package will be adopted, could you explain a little bit more what . . . what could be in that package? And is there this response to this new Avangard hypersonic missile there? I mean, what can NATO do about this Avangard system? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: We will meet with the Ukrainian Defence Minister. We will have a . . . there will be a breakfast hosted by the Canadian Defence Minister for all NATO Allies. And then we will meet with the Ukrainian Defence Minister and discuss the importance of continuing the reform process. But also, of course, express our strong support to Ukraine – political support, practical support – and, of course, support for the efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict.

And NATO Allies are committed to supporting Ukraine. We welcome the progress we have seen to try to find a peaceful solution. And I visited . . . the whole North Atlantic Council visited Ukraine, not so many . . . last fall. And then we, for instance, visited also the Naval Academy in Odessa, where we have NATO trainers, where we also then help them to build naval capabilities.  Just one example of how we are working together to help Ukraine modernise their armed forces and modernise their defence and security institutions.

Then, I think we have to understand that the SSC-8 missiles and also the other new missiles, partly already deployed and partly under development. Like, for instance, the Avangard. They are part of a broader pattern we have seen in Russia over several years, with heavy investments in new, modern military capabilities, nuclear and conventional, new modern missiles.

And NATO has already started to respond to this, because we have increased the readiness of our forces. We have, for the first time in our history, deployed combat-ready troops to the eastern part of the Alliance. We have increased our presence in the air, on land and at sea. And we are investing in new, modern capabilities, including in air defence systems and missile defence. So air and missile defence is one of the strands.  We are now looking into what more we can do. We are also looking into conventional capabilities, exercises, but also arms control.  Because we strongly believe that the best answer to this is to have effective arms control, to make sure that we avoid a new, big arms race. It is dangerous and it’s costly. But as long as Russia does not respect existing agreements, like the INF agreement, then of course there is no way that we can maintain that treaty, because a treaty that is only respected on one side doesn’t keep us safe.

So we are working on different strands. We have already started the adaptation of NATO. It has actually been going on for some time. We will continue to look into areas as conventional, air and missile defence, exercises. And we also are already investing more in new, modern capabilities.

The last thing I will say is that we will not mirror what Russia is doing. We have no intention of deploying new nuclear land-based weapon systems in Europe, but we have to make sure that we maintain a credible deterrence and defence, also, in a world without the INF Treaty and with more Russian missiles.

OANA LUNGESCU: The lady in the front row.

QUESTION [Ukraine TV]: Mr General Secretary, I am also a Ukrainian correspondent from Ukraine TV channel, and you’ll know that our country has ambitions to become full-fledged member of North Atlantic Treaty Organization. What … [inaudible] task should we do, eventually, to achieve this goal? And I mean, long-term and short-term also?

JENS STOLTENBERG: Well, I think the main focus of Ukraine is what Ukraine has clearly stated itself, and that is on reform. To modernise, to improve, to meet NATO standards. That’s good for Ukraine. And that will strengthen your defence and security capabilities, your defence and security institutions. And we help you with that. We provide support. We have trust funds, we have trainers, we have ways to . . .  NATO Allies provide different kinds of support, NATO provides support, on the command and control, on cyber, on fighting corruption, on modernising your defence institutions. So we work with you to help you meet NATO standards and modernise and strengthen your defence and security institutions. And also NATO Allies provide training. And I just referred to the Naval Academy where we have NATO trainers helping you.

So that’s the focus. And I think that’s also the best way to move towards NATO membership. So there are . . . you should do it anyway. But the good thing of . . . because when you modernise and reform, you are strengthening your own institutions, but by doing that you are also moving closer to membership.

I met President Zelenskyy and I had a very good meeting with him not so long ago. And we have very good dialogue on the importance of reform and the importance of NATO. And NATO Allies continue to provide support to Ukraine.

OANA LUNGESCU: Okay, we’ll go with Anadolu over there, lady on the third row.

ŞERIFE ÇETIN [Anadolu Agency]: Thank you, Secretary General Anadolu Agency, Şerife Çetin. I’d like to know whether you expect the situation in Idlib to come up at the ministerial, and what is your personal opinion on the recent increase of attacks by the Syrian regime, supported by Russia? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: I am very concerned about the situation in Idlib, because we have seen horrendous attacks against civilians. We have seen, again, that hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee. And we have seen indiscriminate shelling of, also, civilian targets. And we condemn this, because we condemn indiscriminate attacks against, also, civilian targets.

And therefore, we call on Assad and Russia, because Russia provides support to the Assad regime, to stop these attacks, to respect international law and to fully support the UN efforts to try to find a peaceful solution.

This is urgent, because people are suffering today, as we speak. And hundreds of thousands of people are forced once again to flee. And therefore, the Russian-backed regime, Assad regime, has to stop this killing, this horrendous attack of innocent people in Idlib. And I expect, of course, this to be an issue that Allied ministers will raise during the ministerial.

OANA LUNGESCU: Wall Street Journal, gentlemen in the last row.

JAMES MARSON [The Wall Street Journal]: Thank you, James Marson from The Wall Street Journal. Secretary General, do you feel like you have a clear understanding of what President Trump actually wants NATO Allies to do in . . . in Iraq and the Middle East? And can you give us some more specifics on what is actually being discussed for NATO to actually do, because Trump has been quite vague in his . . . in his public statements?

JENS STOLTENBERG: President Trump has been very clear on two messages regarding NATO from the day he became President. And in my first conversation with him, a few weeks after he took office, he had two messages. Message number one was about burden-sharing, defence spending, and message number two was about the need for NATO to do more fighting terrorism.

On burden-sharing, we are making significant progress. Allies will have added 400 billion extra US dollars for defence spending by the end of 2024, based on the current plans.

We are also stepping up when it comes to fighting terrorism, but I think we have a potential to do more. We already play an important role in Afghanistan. We have the Training Mission in Iraq. We work with partners, Jordan and Tunisia and other partners in the region. For instance, I recently visited a Joint Training Centre we have in Kuwait. So NATO Allies and NATO already play a role in the region and in the fight against terrorism.

But we can do more. And now we actually discuss that. And President Trump has expressed a clear wish for more support from NATO. We have a good dialogue among NATO Allies and, of course, also with the countries concerned, for instance, Iraq, on how we can do this, how we can do more. But we will announce decisions when we make them. So I think it’s a bit early for me to announce any specific decisions. But we are looking into, for instance, what more we can do in Iraq when it comes to training. We believe that one of the best weapons we have in the fight against terrorism is to train local forces, enabling them to fight terrorism themselves.

Prevention is better than intervention and NATO has a long experience in doing exactly that. You have to remember that in Afghanistan, we had a big combat operation, more than 130,000 troops. Now we are there with 16,000 troops, training and helping the Afghans so they can fight terrorism themselves. And our aim is not to stay in these countries forever. Our aim is to enable these countries to stabilise their own countries and then reduce or eventually leave. But we have to make sure that when we leave, we don’t create the conditions for ISIS to return or international terrorists to return, but that we have created strong local, national institutions that can protect and defend themselves.

OANA LUNGESCU: Deutsche Welle/NPR, lady at the back.

TERI SCHULTZ [Deutsche Welle/NPR]: Hi. Thank you. Acknowledging the strong signal that Defender 2020 sends, at the same time, we saw the US budget proposal yesterday and the Pentagon’s request for the European Defence Initiative is down for the second year in a row. So I wanted to know if that concerns you at all? They say that some projects are completed, at the same time I’m sure you’d like to see the spending stay up. And at the same time, the Munich Security Conference’s report was released, which says that these debates over funding and possible reduced funding is a signal of a lack of continued faith in the West, this ‘westlessness’ term that we’re going to hear so much about. Do you . . . do you believe that? Thanks.

JENS STOLTENBERG: What we see is a strong US commitment to European security, and we have seen that, actually, not . . . over years, but we have seen it in words but also in deeds. With more US presence. And the European Deterrence Initiative is, of course, helping to finance this. But of course, the US is also providing support to Europe in other ways than through the European Deterrence Initiative. So the US security guarantees for Europe is not only dependent on relying on the European Deterrence Initiative, it actually relies on the full capacity of the US armed forces. And that’s much more than the European Deterrence Initiative. The European Deterrence Initiative and the funding for that increased significantly, and then it has gone somewhat down again. But it’s still at a high level and it’s still important to finance exercises, infrastructure in Europe.

And the exercise Defender Europe 20 is the biggest exercise, or is the exercise that will include the biggest number of US troops deployed to Europe for decades. So for me, that’s just another example of . . . that the US is committed to NATO and to European security.

So I think it’s quite natural that when you have big investments projects, when they are finished and, of course, there’s less money for investment, because you have finished the projects. So the main message is that while the European . . . the money for the European Deterrence Initiative goes a bit up and down, it varies a bit, but overall it’s still significant. And if you add all the other US capabilities which are relevant for NATO, and you see what the US actually do in Europe with more troops than they had for many years, I’m confident that the US is committed to European security.

TERI SCHULTZ: ‘Westlessness’?

JENS STOLTENBERG: Yeah, ‘westlessness’, well, I will speak about that when I go to Munich later in the week. But for me, if the question is whether the West, meaning North America and Europe and also partners, which are in many places in the world, whether we still are strong, whether we still are capable and able to defend our values, my answer is yes. If you ask me whether that’s easy, no, of course it’s not easy. And it’s not straightforward. And of course, sometimes we see differences and disagreements between Allies. I think I’ve stated again and again, yes, there are differences on issues like trade, climate change and so on. But when it comes to NATO and security, the reality is that North America and Europe are doing more together now than we have done for decades. The US is increasing their presence in Europe and European Allies and Canada are stepping up. So for me, this is not an example of that the West has lost its way, it actually proves that, yes, there are differences, there are difficulties and sometimes we struggle, but the reality is that we need the West, we need the transatlantic bond as much as ever. And therefore, I welcome the fact that we actually are able to prove that we stand together.

OANA LUNGESCU: We’ll go for a couple of questions to the upper tier. Agence France-Presse? Gentleman with glasses.

QUESTION [Agence France-Presse]: Good morning. I’ll speak in French, if I may. The French President, Emmanuel Macron, wanted that the new instrument that will replace the INF Treaty will be negotiated with the Europeans. In other words, the Europeans will have the possibility to have their voice heard, rather than having just a treaty that’s been negotiated between the US and the Russians. And do you think this is something which is advisable? And regarding the Pew Research, what do you think of President Trump’s last comment when he said, sorry, I’m putting on my glasses here, NATO was going down, was a rocket ship before he took office. What is your comment regarding this statement by President Trump?

JENS STOLTENBERG: First on the INF Treaty. I think the demise of the INF Treaty, which is a bad and negative thing, shows the importance and the strength of NATO. Because what we saw was that when Russia started to violate the INF Treaty many years ago, we actually started also to have close consultations within NATO on how to deal with that. And NATO has been a platform that has brought together European Allies and the United States to find a way forward where we have been united on how to deal with the Russian violations of the INF Treaty.

We all know that, of course, the INF Treaty is a bilateral arrangement between Russia and the United States, because we speak about the Russian and US missiles. But of course, it affects European Allies, because these missiles were deployed, the SS-20 and the Pershing and Cruise missiles, which triggered the INF Treaty back in 1987, they were deployed on European soil. So, of course, President Macron is right when he says that this also affects European Allies. And that’s exactly why it is so important that we have NATO as the platform where we have consulted on these issues closely for many years.

It started during the Obama administration, because it was the Obama administration that first raised the concerns about Russian violations, Russian deployment of the new SSC-8 missiles, and then it has continued under the current administration.

And the reality is that we have agreed on every step. First, we all agreed, all Allies agreed, that Russia was violating the treaty. And we raised that issue with Russia again and again. And this was not only based on intelligence from one Ally, but from several Allies. And then we agreed that we called on Russia to come back into compliance. Russia did not come back into compliance. Then we set a time limit and Russia didn’t come back to the compliance. And then we all agreed on the US decision to withdraw, because a treaty which is only respected by one side doesn’t work.

And then we have agreed, after close consultations, on the way forward, including the work which is now being done related to issues related to air and missile defence, conventional exercises and so on. So we will continue to consult, continue to agree and work together on a balanced and defensive response to the Russian violation of the INF Treaty.

So my message on the INF Treaty is that it is very bad that we have seen the demise of the treaty, because of the Russian violation of the treaty. But it’s actually good to see how NATO has been able to respond to that in a coordinated and united way. So it shows the importance and the strength of NATO being the platform, bringing Europe and North America together, addressing these kinds of strategic issues.

President Trump has been very clear and outspoken about NATO many, many times. But I also welcome the fact that he recognises the progress European Allies and Canada are now making on burden-sharing, defence spending, not least at the Leaders Meeting in London in December. He clearly expressed recognition of the progress we are making. And I also welcome the fact that we now are working together, all NATO Allies, on how NATO can do more in the fight against terrorism, including in the Middle East region.

OANA LUNGESCU: The Jordan Times, gentleman on the fifth row.

QUESTION [The Jordan Times]: The Jordan Times. I have a follow up question. The US President is asking for more NATO involvement in the Middle East, at a time you shifted some of your personnel out of Iraq and you, last month, suspended training in Iraq. What would more involvement in the Middle East mean for regional allies, in this case I’m referring to Jordan? And would that be discussed in the coming few days? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: Yes, it will be discussed and we will discuss many aspects of this challenge, meaning we will discuss what to do in Iraq, but we’ll also look into what we can do beyond Iraq.

We already have . . . we are already working with Jordan. The King of Jordan visited NATO a few weeks ago and NATO is working with Jordan on issues like special operation forces, intelligence and other things, and of course Jordan is important for the whole region, because Jordan has been a key member of the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh and a close partner of NATO.

So we are looking into what . . . we are discussing what more NATO can do. But again, before we have made any final decisions, I think it is a bit early for me to announce those decisions. But we will see what more we can do.

OANA LUNGESCU: Frankfurter Allgemeine.

THOMAS GUTSCHKE [Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung]: Thank you. Thomas Gutschke, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Secretary General, on this same issue, two questions. First of all, have you received a firm political commitment from the new Iraqi government that it wants foreign troops to remain operating on its soil and especially want NATO to continue their presence? And the second question is: how do you assess the security situation on the ground right now, meaning when do you think the entire operations will be able to resume in Iraq?

JENS STOLTENBERG: First of all, we have NATO personnel, NATO troops in Iraq now, as we speak. We will resume training as soon as possible, but there is NATO personnel, NATO trainers, advisers in Iraq. But for security reasons, both the Global Coalition and NATO suspended training. Our aim is to resume that training as soon as possible.

We are in close consultation with the Iraqi government. I have spoken with the Iraqi Prime Minister, with the Iraqi President, with the Foreign Minister. And we are, of course, in close consultation with them, because we will only stay in Iraq based on an invitation from Iraq. So we fully respect the territorial integrity, the sovereignty of Iraq. We are there based on the invitation from the Iraqi government, I think it was back in 2016. And all the legal arrangements are in place, which have been there for a long time for our Training Mission.

I have spoken with the Iraqi Prime Minister on these issues. And we are now looking into how we can continue to provide support and we have to understand that we do this because we have a common goal, and that is to fight ISIS/Daesh, and to make sure that they never return and threaten the people of Iraq, but also threaten people in our own countries, in Germany and in other NATO-Allied countries.

I would like to commend Iraq for being at the forefront in the fight against terrorism. They have made huge sacrifices in that fight. We support them. We would like to continue to support them. But we have to remember that the biggest sacrifices are made by the people of Iraq and the security forces of Iraq, and I commend them for their courage and the bravery they have shown.

OANA LUNGESCU: We’ll go to the front - Pobjeda, from Montenegro. Lady over there in black.

QUESTION [Pobjeda]: Jovana Durisic - daily newspaper, Pobjeda. First, NATO counter-hybrid team was in Montenegro last . . . late last year, so can you tell me what was the task of this team? And was it in any way connected with the upcoming elections in Montenegro, as Montenegrin authorities said? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: Well, we agreed at the NATO summit in Brussels in 2018 to establish counter-hybrid support teams to assist Allies in preparing and responding to hybrid threats, because we have seen that hybrid threats have become more and more a reality for more and more NATO Allied countries. This mixture of covert and overt operations, military and non-military means of aggression, cyber and other means of aggressive actions against the NATO Allied countries.

And at the request of the government of Montenegro, we deployed the first NATO counter-hybrid support team to Montenegro. We did so in November and they stayed there for some days. So this is based on requests from the government of Montenegro - and they are no longer in Montenegro.


NAWAB KHAN [Kuwait News Agency]: Nawab Khan from the Kuwait News Agency, KUNA. Mr Secretary General, how do you see the role of the Gulf countries like Kuwait in contributing to peace and security in the Middle East region? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: We highly value the partnership, the cooperation we have with countries in the Gulf region, including Kuwait. And the North Atlantic Council and I, we visited Kuwait in December and we met with the political leadership. We had good discussions and we also, actually, had them, some of our meetings at the new regional centre, the ICI-NATO Regional Centre in Kuwait, which is a clear demonstration that we are working together. Also, on how we can help and support each other. And the centre is a great success, helping to train, advise, teach personnel from the region. And it’s a concrete example of how Kuwait supports the partnership between Kuwait and NATO.

OANA LUNGESCU: Okay. Last question. Lady in the second row.

QUESTION [Telma TV]: Tamara Grncharoska, Telma TV, North Macedonia. Secretary General, North Macedonia has not adopted Article 5 from the Washington Treaty in its legislation due to the inability to pass the defence law in the parliament with two-thirds of majority. Until when can NATO wait for a nation to adopt collective defence, which is a core value of the NATO? And is it acceptable for the NATO to pass this law, with the old name of the army, Army of the Republic of Macedonia, on what current position insists? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: Well, Collective Defence, Article 5, will be a treaty obligation for North Macedonia as soon as North Macedonia becomes a full member. We signed the accession protocol last year and soon all NATO Allies will have ratified the protocol in their parliaments. So as soon as that happens, the treaty will apply for, also, North Macedonia. And Article 5, Collective Defence, is Article 5 of that treaty. So then that will be a treaty obligation for, also, North Macedonia.

OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you very much. This concludes this press conference, we’ll see you tomorrow. Thank you.