by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the Munich Security Conference
It is always a pleasure to be in Munich and to attend the Security Conference.
I just attended a meeting with the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, and we discussed NATO’s plans to enhance our presence in Iraq. To help Iraqis fight ISIS and make sure that ISIS never return.
I will also, we will of course, the NATO mission and presence in Iraq will be conducted in close consultation with the Iraqi government. We fully respect Iraq’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
I will also meet many other leaders during my stay here in Munich, including the foreign ministers of China and Russia, and also President Zelenskyy and many others.
Later on today I will meet with President Ghani and we will discuss the efforts to find a peaceful, negotiated solution to the conflict in Afghanistan. And NATO currently has around 16000 troops in Afghanistan and we are ready to adjust that force level if Taliban is able to demonstrate real will and real ability to reduce violence, and we see a path to peace. The best way NATO can support the peace efforts is to continue to support the Afghan army and security forces, so Taliban understands that they will never win in the battlefield and will have to sit down and negotiate.
So, I’m looking forward to be here, and Iraq, Afghanistan and many other issues highlights the importance of North America and Europe standing together, when we stand together we are safe and secure.
Question: … [Inaudible].
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Well, we have been discussing the West for decades. It's not a new issue. As long as this conference has existed, the future of the West has been on the agenda. And debate and discussions are always welcome.
At the same time, I think we have to understand that it's not new that people question the strength of the transatlantic bond, the strength of the West. But the reality is that, when we look back, to the Suez Crisis in 1956 all the way to the disagreement we saw between NATO Allies on the Iraq War in 2003, or the disagreements we see today on trade and climate change or the Iran nuclear deal, the lesson we have learned and what we have seen every time is that we have been able to overcome these differences and to unite around our core task as NATO, and that is to protect and defend each other. And that’s actually what we do today. Because, despite the questions that are being asked and despite the differences we see on serious issues as climate change or trade, NATO Allies, North America and Europe, we do more together now than we have done for many, many years; more US presence in Europe and European Allies are stepping up.
So yes, I welcome discussion about the West, but the most important thing is that we actually are able to act, and NATO is acting; we are delivering security for one billion people every day.
Question: How does NATO need to change and adapt, to respond to the rise of China globally?
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: NATO leaders, when they met in London in December, we stated that we have to address the rise of China; we have to better understand the rise of China. There are opportunities, but also challenges. And therefore, I welcome the fact that this was so clearly stated by NATO leaders.
I think there are a wide range of issues where it is also important that we have dialogue between NATO and China, and I will meet the Chinese Foreign Minister later on today. Middle East, Afghanistan, arms control, these are examples of issues where I welcome… I think there's a need for closer dialogue, NATO and China.
Question: Can we also discuss the Coronavirus situation?
[Audio goes silent]
Question: Black Sea security.
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Well, the Black Sea is of strategic importance for NATO and NATO has a presence in the Black Sea. We have Allies like Bulgaria, Romania, and of course Turkey; and we have partners like Ukraine and Georgia. And we have increased our presence in the Black Sea region with more air policing, with presence at sea and on land, and we also of course work closely with Ukraine, to address the security challenges they face, because Russia has illegally annexed Crimea.
Question: … [Inaudible]
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Georgia is a close partner. We work closely with Georgia. We support them, we support them on their efforts to implement reform, but we also welcome the fact that Georgia provides support to NATO in many different ways.
Question: What NATO want to support Peshmerga in north of Iran and what's exactly your plan for Iraq? I want to know exactly.
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: NATO is already present in Iraq with a training mission. We strongly believe that to train local forces is one of the best weapons we have against terrorism/Daesh because, to enable local forces, enable local governments to stabilise their own country, is extremely important, and that’s exactly what we do in Iraq.
We have now decided to enhance our presence in Iraq, with more training, with more capacity-building, and we are consulting closely with the Global Coalition. All NATO Allies and NATO are members of the Global Coalition and of course we will consult closely with the coalition, but also with the government of Iraq.
Some NATO Allies are also present in the north, in the Kurdish parts of Iraq. NATO as an alliance is not present there, but NATO Allies provide support and training.
We will now decide exactly how to scale up the NATO presence and maybe we will also take over some of the activities, some of the training activities that NATO Allies provide within the coalition today.
Laurence Norman [Wall Street Journal]: Laurence Norman, Wall Street Journal. President Trump said the other day, you were his greatest fan. So, is… would another five years of Donald Trump be good for the NATO Alliance?
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Well, I have a good working relationship with him and for me, it is important to have a good working relationship with all leaders in NATO countries.
And the fact is that, of course we are an alliance of 29 different nations, with different history, different geography, different political parties in government. But despite these differences we are actually able to do more together, North America and Europe, than we have done for many, many years. We see a strong commitment of the United States to European security, with more US troops, but we also see European Allies are stepping up.
So yes, there are differences between NATO Allies, but yes we are actually, despite those differences, able to strengthen the transatlantic partnership within NATO. And I know that United States, there is a strong bipartisan support to NATO and I welcome that.
Question: Secretary General, what is it about organise in [what] can be partners of NATO?
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Which countries can be partners? So, NATO has many partners and we have many partners, and we appreciate the partnership with partners all over the world, from New Zealand and Australia to neighbours as Finland, Sweden, Ukraine and Georgia, and many other countries. So, partnership is part of the way NATO works. We support them, but they also support us. Many partners contribute to NATO missions and operations, for instance in Afghanistan or Iraq.
Oana Lungescu [NATO Spokesperson]: Thank you very much, colleagues.
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Thank you.