by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the meetings of NATO Defence Ministers
Over the next two days, NATO Defence Ministers will take steps to ensure our security in a more uncertain world.
We face global challenges. So we must take a global approach. Keep our Alliance strong militarily, and make it stronger politically.
That is my vision for the reflection on NATO 2030, which I launched last week.
At this meeting of defence ministers we will take decisions on:
- Our preparations for a possible second wave of COVID-19;
- Updating national resilience guidelines;
- Deterrence and defence, including our response to Russia’s new nuclear-capable missiles;
- And NATO missions and operations, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, NATO and Allied armed forces have played a key role in supporting civilian efforts:
- With some 350 flights airlifting hundreds of tons of critical supplies around the world;
- Almost 100 field hospitals;
- And more than half a million of troops have supported the civilian response.
All of this has helped to save lives.
Now, NATO is preparing for any future health crisis. I expect ministers will agree on three things:
- A new operational plan, to be ready for any second wave of COVID-19;
- A stockpile of medical equipment to provide immediate assistance to Allies and partner countries;
- And a fund to acquire critical medical supplies.
These three elements together will ensure that we can strengthen our response to a possible second wave of the pandemic. So that critical assistance gets to the right place at the right time.
But COVID-19 does not mean that other challenges have gone away.
Ministers will also discuss the NATO requirements for national resilience. These cover critical sectors such as energy, transport, and tele-communications. Any vulnerability in these areas can be exploited by potential adversaries.
I expect ministers will agree updated baseline requirements for resilience.
Particularly focusing on threats from
cyber; the security of supply chains; and foreign ownership and control.
We will also discuss and address the security implications of Russia’s growing suite of nuclear capable missiles. Russia’s deployment of the SSC-8 missile system led to the demise of the INF Treaty last year. Since then, Russia has continued to modernise its missile capabilities, including with hypersonic weapons.
I expect Defence Ministers will agree a substantial and balanced package of political and military measures in response.
This includes strengthening NATO’s air and missile defences. Several Allies have announced major investments in new capabilities such as patriots and SAMP/T.
We will also strengthen our advanced conventional capabilities, for example with fifth generation combat aircraft.
And we will adapt our exercises and intelligence to address new challenges.
NATO’s response will also be discussed by Ministers at the meeting of the Nuclear Planning Group. We will continue to ensure the NATO nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure and effective.
NATO will not mirror Russia’s destabilizing behaviour. We have no intention to deploy new land-based nuclear missiles in Europe.
And NATO remains strongly committed to effective arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation, which make a key contribution to our security. So we continue to call for all actors, including Russia and China, to engage constructively.
A new arms race would benefit nobody.
And make the world a more dangerous place.
We will also discuss NATO’s missions and operations, including in Afghanistan and in Iraq. In Afghanistan, the situation remains challenging. NATO will continue to adjust our presence in support of the peace process. But for the peace to succeed, the Taliban must live up to their commitments. To reduce violence, break all bonds with Al Qaida and other international terrorist groups, and engage in intra-Afghan talks in good faith.
In Iraq, we remain committed to enhancing NATO’s training mission. And to increase our presence when conditions allow. In full coordination with the Iraqi Government and the Global Coalition. Iraqi security forces have made great strides in suppressing ISIS and other terrorist groups.
But terrorists are trying to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic. And their attacks have increased in recent months.
I spoke with Prime Minister al-Kadhimi recently, and underscored that NATO stands with Iraq in the fight against international terrorism.
During the meeting of defence ministers we will be joined by our colleagues from Finland, Sweden and Australia.
And by EU High Representative/Vice President Borrell. This is a clear sign of our deepening ties with like-minded countries and organisations.
With that, I am ready to take your questions.