by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the meetings of NATO Defence Ministers
We have just concluded a meeting focused on NATO’s deterrence and defence.
As well as our missions and operations.
COVID-19 does not mean that other challenges have gone away.
State and non-state actors continue their attempts to destabilise, disrupt and divide Allies.
So NATO’s job is to remain ready to defend all Allies against any threat.
Today, we addressed Russia’s extensive and growing arsenal of nuclear-capable missiles.
And their implications for NATO’s security.
Last year, Russia’s deployment of SSC-8 missiles led to the demise of the INF Treaty.
The SSC-8 missiles are dual-capable, mobile, and hard to detect. They can reach European cities with little warning time. And they lower the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons.
Russia is also modernising its intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Its hypersonic glide vehicle has entered operations.
Russia has tested its air-launched ballistic missile system. And is developing a nuclear-powered cruise missile. We have also seen a pattern over many years of irresponsible Russian nuclear rhetoric, aimed at intimidating and threatening NATO Allies.
Russia’s behaviour is destabilizing and dangerous.
At our meeting today Ministers discussed these challenges and agreed a balanced package of political and military elements.
This includes strengthening our integrated air and missile defence.
A number of Allies have announced they are acquiring new air and missile defence systems, including Patriot and SAMP/T batteries.
We also agreed to strengthen our advanced conventional capabilities.
Allies are investing in these new platforms, including fifth generation fighter aircraft.
And we are also adapting our intelligence, and our exercises.
Ministers also met in in the Nuclear Planning Group format.
NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements have served us well for decades. Allowing us to forge common ground on nuclear issues.
The NATO nuclear deterrent in Europe remains vital for peace and freedom in Europe. And today we decided on additional steps to keep the NATO nuclear deterrent safe, secure and effective.
We will maintain our deterrence and defence but we will not mirror Russia.
We have no intention to deploy new land-based nuclear missiles in Europe.
NATO has a strong track record on arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation. NATO has reduced its nuclear arsenal in Europe by 90 percent since the end of the Cold War.
But others now need to engage.
As a major military power, China also has major responsibilities. So as a rising global power, it is high time for China to participate in global arms control.
We also discussed NATO’s missions and operations, including in Afghanistan and Iraq. Allies reiterated their strong commitment to Afghanistan’s long-term security. This commitment is vital to ensuring the peace process continues to move forward.
To support the peace process we are adjusting our presence in Afghanistan.
And we will consider further adjustments in troop levels in close coordination with Allies.
The Taliban have to live up to their commitments, take part in intra-Afghan negotiations and make real compromises for lasting peace.
In Iraq, security forces have made enormous strides. ISIS has also tried to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic. So when I spoke to new Prime Minister al-Kadhimi last month, I stressed that NATO remains committed to working with Iraq in the fight against international terrorism.
To ensure that ISIS does not return.
Today, Allies reiterated their commitment to stepping up our efforts in Iraq. In full consultation with the Iraqi government and the Global Coalition.
Both Afghanistan and Iraq have requested NATO assistance in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. And both have received aid from NATO Allies, including critical medical supplies.
So our partners can count on us – not only in countering terrorism, but also in countering the pandemic.
I also discussed with the Ministers my reflection on NATO 2030. This is about keeping our Alliance strong militarily, making it stronger politically, and more global.
Tomorrow, we will take further important decisions. To ensure NATO is prepared for a possible second wave of COVID-19.
With a new operational plan. A stockpile of medical equipment. And funding for the quick acquisition of medical supplies.
So with that, I’m ready to take your questions.
Piers Cazalet [Deputy Spokesperson]: And for the first question, we will go to Thomas Gutschker from Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
Thomas Gutschker [Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung]: Thank you very much. Secretary General, thank you. This is a question on deterrence. In recent years, one of the major challenges for NATO and also for partnering nations has been that Russia was able to claim the escalation dominance in conflicts. To which extent can and will the decisions that you have taken today on deterrence counter that escalation dominance by Russia? Thank you.
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: NATO does not want a new arms race. We do not want to mirror, we’re not going to mirror what Russia is doing and we don’t have any intention of deploying new land-based nuclear missiles in Europe. Having said that, of course, NATO is responding to what we see when we see Russia investing heavily in new, modern capabilities, updating and modernising the nuclear weapons systems, and especially when it comes to all the new, different missile systems they are deploying or are in the process of developing.
NATO has the capability, the strength to defend all Allies against any threat. We are, we are ready and capable of doing that. And we have increased the readiness of our forces over the last years. We have deployed battlegroups in the eastern part of the Alliance in the Baltic countries and Poland. We have increased our presence in the Black Sea Region. And we have modernised, also, the parts of our defence, modernised and adapted the command structure. And we are also seeing that the fact that NATO Allies are now investing more in defence. NATO Allies are also acquiring more and a wider range of different capabilities, including air defence, fifth generation aircraft, investing in naval capabilities and, for instance, also upgrading their cyber defences.
So the main issue that NATO is adapting, because the security environment is changing. Part of that change is Russia’s more assertive behaviour and Russia’s investments in new military capabilities. And therefore, we are adapting to make sure that we maintain the readiness and deterrence and defence, which is the cornerstone of our collective security.
Piers Cazalet: And for the next question, we move to Julian Barnes from The New York Times. Okay, we don’t have Julian. We will move to Lorne Cook from AP.
Lorne Cook [Associated Press]: Secretary General, Lorne Cook from The Associated Press. I hope you can hear me well, if I can follow up perhaps on Thomas’s question a little bit with deterrence. We’re entering . . . I’m wondering who’s going to pay for these measures, actually. We’re entering a huge recession. Many thousands of people have lost their jobs with COVID-19. And why should citizens invest in NATO, when its biggest member is undermining your credibility by raising tensions with the Allies? The other quick question I wanted to . . . to add, the EU is hoping to get some help from NATO with Operation Irini. But I understand that not everybody is enthusiastic at NATO. What kind of response should the EU expect? Thank you very much.
Jens Stoltenberg: So, first of all, there are differences between NATO Allies and sometimes we also see disagreements. That’s nothing new. It has been like that for decades. It has been like that since the Suez Crisis back in 1956 and up to the Iraq War in 2003. But the strength of NATO, what makes NATO the most successful alliance in history, is that we have always been able to overcome these differences and unite around our core task that we protect and defend each other because we are safer together than apart. And that’s exactly what you see today, too. I don’t deny that there are differences on different issues, from trade and also on burden-sharing and other issues.
But what I am saying is that if you look at the reality, North America and Europe are doing more together than we have done for many, many years. And North America and Europe are investing more in defence together than we have done for many years. More exercises, more prepositioned equipment. We have the multinational battlegroups in the eastern part of the Alliance, something we never had before, combat-ready battlegroups, deployed and led by the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Germany. But then contributions from many, many other Allies.
So, I’m not denying that there are challenges and problems, we addressed some of them during the meeting today. But what I’m saying is that when you look at actually what we are doing, we prove that, as before, as we have done many times before, we are able to, in a way, overcome differences and then deliver on our core task, deterrence and defence.
We made decisions today on how to further strengthen our deterrence and defence in response to the new Russian missiles. As I mentioned, air and missile defence – many Allies are now investing heavily in that. Advanced conventional capabilities – Allies are investing heavily in that, too. And then intelligence exercises, but also, of course, political initiatives related to arms control, because we don’t want a new arms race.
So, the whole idea that … NATO’s core idea is that when we work together, it benefits all Allies and both North America and Europe.
When it comes to payments, of course, I understand that the COVID-19 crisis, pandemic, creates severe economic challenges for many Allies. At the same time, what we have seen is that the military action has been very helpful, very supportive of the civilian efforts coping with a pandemic. So if anything, it has proven that military capabilities are useful, not only addressing security threats, but also, that they also provide a surge capacity to support the civilian efforts dealing with a health crisis. And then, of course, the fundamental challenge remains that, despite of . . . or, the COVID-19 pandemic, the Corona crisis, hasn’t led to the removal, or does not mean that other threats and challenges have disappeared or diminished. They are still there. So we don’t have the luxury of either addressing health crises or addressing security crises. We need to be prepared for both. And that’s reason why NATO is then updating and modernising and adapting our deterrence and defence, including by responding to the new Russian missiles.
Piers Cazalet: And we will go back to Julian Barnes from The New York Times.
Julian Barnes [The New York Times]: Secretary General, thanks for the question, sorry about the technical difficulties. Mr Pompeo wants the Alliance to take a tougher line on China. I want to know what you think the possibilities of that are. I also wonder if personally you think Allies should re-evaluate working with Huawei or other Chinese telecom countries [sic, means companies] on 5G networks. And then, finally, you mentioned bringing China into international arms control. We had the demise of INF and Open Skies. Is there any possibility of new arms control efforts or . . . and what is the possibility, what can NATO do to bring China in to a future arms control agreement?
Jens Stoltenberg: I will respond to those questions in a moment, but I just forgot to answer the question about Operation Irini from the . . . in the last round and NATO’s Operation Sea Guardian, which operates in the Mediterranean, provided for a long time, for many years, support to Irini’s predecessor. We provide support to the EU operation, Sophia. Now the EU has changed from or moved from Operation Sophie to Operation Irini. There are talks, there are contacts between NATO and the EU, where we’re looking into possible support, possible cooperation, but no decision has been taken. So there is a dialogue, contacts addressing that as we speak.
Then on China. Well, China is high on the NATO agenda, and that was not the case before. So that’s something new. And that also reflects the decision taken by NATO leaders, heads of state and government, at the Leaders Meeting in London in December. That’s the first time NATO leaders specifically mentioned China in a joint statement in the way they did when they met in London.
They point to the fact that there are, of course, opportunities. China is a big trading partner for many Allies. The rise of China has fuelled economic growth in our own countries. And, of course, the rise of China has also helped to lift millions, hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. So, there are opportunities.
At the same time, there are obvious challenges. And that’s the reason why China is now high on the NATO agenda. China has the second largest defence budget in the world. They are investing heavily in new long-range weapons systems and missile systems that can reach all NATO countries. They are modernising their maritime capabilities with a more . . . with a more global reach of their naval forces. Just over the last five years they’ve added 80 more ships and submarines to their navy. That equals the total amount of ships and submarines in the navy of the United Kingdom.
So it illustrates some of the magnitude of the Chinese military build-up. And of course, this has consequences for NATO. And as we also have discussed, this is about China coming closer to us. It’s not about NATO moving into the South China Sea, but about the fact that China’s coming closer to us. We see them in the Arctic. We see them in Africa. We see them investing heavily in infrastructure in our own countries. And, of course, we see them also in cyberspace.
So, for instance, tomorrow . . . so, resilience, the protection of our infrastructure, the concerns about foreign ownership and foreign control, is on the NATO agenda. And tomorrow, I expect that NATO defence ministers will agree to update our guidelines, our baseline requirements for resilience, when it comes to critical infrastructure, energy, transportation, also health systems. And we will address threats and challenges like cyber, supply lines . . . chains of supply, and then also, of course, challenges related to foreign ownership and control.
So these guidelines actually reflect some of the concerns we have and provide a platform and requirements for Allies to implement. So we have a common approach to some of the challenges, also, increased Chinese presence has for our Alliance.
We don’t mention specific countries or specific companies, but when we now recently updated one of the other baseline requirements on telecommunications, we were very specific about what kind of concerns, what kind of threats Allies should take into account, analyse and make risk assessments about before they make decisions on, for instance, 5G. And, of course, the fact that NATO represents one . . . close to one billion people, half of the world’s GDP, then, of course, these guidelines matter, because they have consequences for, what should I say, big economies and a large part of the economic activity we see in the world today.
Let me also highlight that NATO 2030, which is about how to strengthen NATO politically and adapt NATO to the challenges we see in the next decade, part of that will, of course, also be addressing how NATO should coordinate, work, address the opportunities, but also the challenges related to the rise of China.
Lastly on arms control, well, it goes in a way without saying that when China now becomes a more powerful country with more global reach of their weapons systems, from the missile systems to their navies to their air forces. Then, of course, it is more important that they engage in arms control. And this is a message NATO Allies convey individually to China. It was mentioned several times in the meeting today, the need for including China in arms control. And it’s expressed many times from me, the need that China should engage constructively in arms control, because as a global major military power, they also have global major responsibilities for engaging in arms control. So we will convey this. The US has also, of course, stated this clearly. And that’s a clear political message which is conveyed by many Allies, several times.
Piers Cazalet: And now we will move to Wojcheh Cegielski from Polish Radio.
Wojcheh Cegielski [Polish Radio]: Good afternoon. I would like to come back to the issue of US engagement in Europe. Yesterday at the press conference, Secretary General, you mentioned that there is a possibility that this case also will be raised during the . . . this . . . this video conference. So have you had any chance to hear some explanations from the US side of the drawdown in Germany, of the troops drawdown in Germany? If yes, what kind of explanations have you heard from the Department of Defense? And what is also connected, I guess, to this issue of US engagement in Europe, White House is about to confirm officially a meeting of Polish President with President Trump next week in Washington in the White House, which meetings is supposed to be a final stage of the finalising of the extra US troops being sent to Poland. Have you been notified of the meeting with US and Polish President in Washington? And how can you assess this stage of finalising the agreement from the last year? Thank you very much.
Jens Stoltenberg: During our ministerial meeting today, we addressed and discussed US presence in Europe. Secretary Esper and several other Allies addressed that issue. And Esper also, of course, updated us on the deliberations in the United States. And Allies addressed the announcement from the United States about the intention of reducing the US military presence in Germany.
We had a good discussion and Secretary Esper stated very strongly that, of course, the US stays committed to European security and the United States will consult with other Allies as we move forward. Because, of course, a US presence in Europe matters for the whole Alliance. US presence in Germany is, of course, a bilateral issue between the United States and Germany. But at the same time, it is a matter that is important for all Allies.
So therefore, we discussed it today at the ministerial meeting. No final decision has been made on how and when to implement the US intention. And, of course, US presence in Europe goes beyond Germany. Of course, Germany is a place where US today, but also historically, has had a significant presence. But what we have seen over the last years is actually that the United States has increased their presence throughout Europe and also in other countries, including in the Baltic countries, in Poland, in the Black Sea Region. We have more US exercises, we have BALTOPS going on now, where roughly half of the troops there are US troops. And we have also, for instance, in my own country, Norway, more US Marines than there have been there ever before.
So the US has not reduced, the US has actually, over the last years, increased their presence in Europe. But this has been adjusted and the character and the composition of forces have changed over the time. And we also see, for instance, the missile defence site in Romania and the new ships, based or deployed in the naval base in Rota.
One of the countries where we have seen increased US presence is Poland. The US is now leading a combat-ready battlegroup deployed in Poland. And that’s a multinational NATO battlegroup, with US troops and US forces, US capabilities, but also other Allies contributing to that.
And it’s not for me to comment on or to announce anything about meetings between heads of state and government in NATO-Allied countries. I think I have to leave that to them to announce. But what I can say is that the US and Poland, also in consultation with NATO, with me, have decided to increase presence in Poland. And that’s a decision that was taken some time ago. And it just reflects that what we see is, actually, that over the years, over the last years, we have seen increased NATO . . . US presence in Europe.
And then I welcome the fact that the Secretary Esper in the meeting with the NATO defence ministers today, was so clear, both on the US commitment, but also that the US will consult with NATO Allies on the way forward.
Piers Cazalet: Now we go to Hamid Haidari from 1TV in Afghanistan.
Hamid Haidari [1TV]: Thank you so much, Mr Secretary General. I am Hamid Haidari from 1TV in Kabul, Afghanistan, I have two questions. My first question is regarding the Taliban. Do you think that the Taliban are willing to cut their ties with al-Qaeda? If they don’t, what will happen? And my second question is about corruption in Afghanistan. In times of upcoming austerity, how important it is that corruption is tackled in Afghanistan and is the Afghan government doing enough to tackle it? Thank you so much.
Jens Stoltenberg: So first on the corruption. Corruption is a problem in Afghanistan. That’s also clearly stated by the political leadership in Afghanistan, and actually, part of NATO’s presence in Afghanistan is to support efforts is to help to fight corruption, because corruption is like a disease. It really, really undermines the strength of any society. And therefore, also, NATO, when we and NATO Allies, when they provide support to the security forces, or NATO Allies also provide different types of development aid, of course they focus extremely much on how can we make sure that the NATO support is not, what should I say, destroyed by corruption, but it actually gets to where it’s meant to go. Corruption is a problem. Corruption has to be fought with strength and conviction and with joint efforts and therefore that’s an issue which we, which NATO has raised and is addressing in our dialogue and cooperation with Afghanistan.
Then, on the Taliban and the peace process and al-Qaeda. Well, we have adjusted, we are in the process of actually adjusting our presence in Afghanistan, from roughly 16,000 troops in the NATO Mission down to roughly 12,000 troops. We are prepared to further reduce that presence in a coordinated, planned and orderly way. But of course, that depends on the peace process, because this is a direct result of the US-Taliban agreement and the efforts to have a real peace process in Afghanistan. And, of course, what we expect and what we call on Taliban to do is to, of course, reduce violence. We haven’t seen the reduction in violence that we expect and that we think is necessary to see, to really underpin the peace efforts, but we call on Taliban to reduce violence.
We call, of course, on Taliban to, in a constructive way, engage in intra-Afghan negotiations. Hopefully those can start soon.
And thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, is that Taliban has to break all bonds with al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations. This is actually a very explicit condition in the agreement with Taliban. And therefore, we expect them to do that. And one of the reasons why we will measure developments while . . . one of the reasons, the main reasons why we also have made it clear that we will only leave Afghanistan when the time is right, is that we have to make sure that Afghanistan doesn’t once again become a country where al-Qaeda, other terrorist organisations can operate freely. So this is an important part of the peace efforts. It’s one of the main conditions; is, of course, the need that Taliban breaks all bonds with al-Qaeda.
Piers Cazalet: And now we will go to Mohammad Al-Rikabi from Al Iraqiya TV in Baghdad.
Mohammad Al-Rikabi [AL IRAQIYA TV]: Thank you so very much for your time, Mr Secretary General. My question is simply: your future vision for the NATO in Iraq and operating in Iraq and what kind of support you are planning to give the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government? Is it going to be training that the coalition forces use to provide the Iraqi people? Is it going to be security measurement, especially if there are numerous threats against the Iraqi border, from different countries, Syria, and even we are living currently the situation a crisis, the difficulties with the Turkish, on the Turkish borders also? What is your own take on this, Mr Secretary General?
Jens Stoltenberg: We are in Afghan— . . . sorry, we are in Iraq on the invitation from the Iraqi government. And we will only stay in Iraq as long as we are welcome. And therefore, I appreciate the fact that I had the opportunity to speak with the new Iraqi Prime Minister, Al-Kadhimi and I expressed my support to him. I expressed my support on behalf of 30 Allies to Iraq, to the government of Iraq, to the people of Iraq. And we are in Iraq to support Iraq. That’s why we are there: to help Iraq build security institutions, to help Iraq modernise their armed forces, to help Iraq in the ways they would like us to help them.
Our . . . the NATO Mission is not a combat mission. It’s a mission where we provide support, help, advice to the Iraqi military, so they can be even stronger in fighting terrorists. We commend the Iraqi security forces for their bravery, for the sacrifices they have made in fighting ISIS. And we should all be thankful, because ISIS was not only a threat to the people of Iraq, but it was also a threat to all NATO Allies. And therefore, the Iraqi forces, they have been and they still are on the frontline of this fight, which is important for all of us. So we are in Iraq to support the Iraqi security forces. We do that because that is in the interests of Iraq, but it’s also in the interest of NATO Allies because we need to do whatever we can to prevent ISIS from returning.
The details about the NATO Mission is something we are now consulting with the Iraqi government. And again, we will only stay in Iraq as long as we are welcomed and we will only conduct activities which are agreed with the Iraqi government. We are there to support Iraq.
Piers Cazalet: Okay. And now we will move to Oleg Ovcharenko from Echo Moskvy.
Oleg Ovcharenko [Echo Moskvy]: Good evening, Mr Secretary General. A question on Ukraine and its Enhanced Opportunities Partner status that Kyiv will now have more joint exercises with NATO, would you please give more details? Does this means that Ukraine will be engaged in the exercises? Will it have more access to exchange of military information, or there will still be certain restrictions? And finally, was the new status of Ukraine discussed with Russia? Thank you.
Jens Stoltenberg: So, I would like to congratulate Ukraine on being recognised by the North Atlantic Council, by all NATO Allies as an Enhanced Opportunity Partner. This is an important step in the partnership between NATO and Ukraine, and it stands as a recognition of Ukraine’s strong contribution to NATO-led missions and operations. For instance, in Afghanistan, in Kosovo and elsewhere. And we highly value the contributions of Ukraine to different NATO missions and operations.
As an Enhanced Opportunity Partner, Ukraine will benefit from enhanced access to interoperability programmes, meaning programmes where we develop our ability to work together, to operate together. And they will have increased access to NATO exercises and more sharing of information, including lessons learnt from different assessments we make in NATO.
So yes, Ukraine will then participate in more NATO exercises. They will have more access to information. So they will come even closer to NATO as we have now also some other Enhanced Opportunity Partners – Finland, Sweden, Georgia, Jordan and Australia, and then we’ll have Ukraine added to that list.
Piers Cazalet:: And now we will go to Jovana Djurisic from Pobjeda in Montenegro.
Jovana Djurisic [Pobjeda]: Good afternoon, Secretary General. Can you hear me?
Jens Stoltenberg: Yes, absolutely.
Jovana Djurisic: Thank you. So, I have a question about Pristina-Belgrade dialogue. So, meeting between representatives of these two countries should be held in White House in the end of this month. What do you expect from this summit? Because President Vučić said he . . . they will not talk about recognition of Kosovo. So do you think that this summit can be different from previous meeting in this format in terms of result, please? Thank you.
Jens Stoltenberg: I will be very careful about speculating about the outcome of a summit that has not yet taken place. But what I can say is that I welcome dialogue. I welcome that Pristina and Belgrade are talking to each other, because the only way to solve the challenge we see in the region and the disagreements related to Kosovo is by sitting down and talk, and look into how can we find a political negotiated solution? So I don’t believe this is easy. And . . . but I believe that it is important that they meet. It is important that after now a long period without any meetings, without any real dialogue, it looks like the dialogue is now resuming again. And at least that is a first important step in the right direction.
NATO will continue to be present in Kosovo. We are there with three or four thousand personnel. And we are there to provide security and a secure environment for all groups in Kosovo. And I think that it is recognised by both Belgrade and Pristina that we now need to calm, to reduce tensions and try to find a way forward. And therefore, I welcome the fact that we now see new initiatives to resume dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade.
Piers Cazalet: We have time for one last question. We will go to Ansgar Haase from DPA.
Ansgar Haase [DPA]: Secretary General, President Trump did not coordinate with you or Allies before the decision to cut troops in Germany. How confident are you that he won’t announce a unilateral US pull-out from Afghanistan until November? And how is NATO preparing for this worst case scenario? And I would also like to know, you mentioned additional steps on nuclear deterrence. Can you give us some concrete examples of what NATO will do? Thank you.
Jens Stoltenberg: Well, on deterrence, I . . . what I can say, some of these decisions are secret and I cannot go into all the details, but what I can say is that we have a balanced package and we agreed some more elements to that package today. This is about air and missile defence, because we speak about how to respond to Russian missiles. And Allies are already investing significantly in augmenting their air and missile defence systems. It’s about advanced conventional capabilities. And, of course, that’s important for making sure that we have the necessary capabilities to provide deterrence and defence, responding to a more modernised Russian military force.
And then there are . . . there is a wide . . . or a big group of other measures which is related to intelligence, reconnaissance, exercises and different activities.
And then we also had a meeting today in the NATO Nuclear Planning Group. And we are constantly making sure that we adjust, modernise our nuclear deterrence so it stays safe, secure and effective. And we have to remember that the NATO nuclear deterrence in Europe is a system which has been tried and tested for years. It has provided Europe with nuclear-sharing arrangements where we have command, control, we have assistance for political consultations. We bring US and European Allies together in a joint effort to provide a nuclear deterrence for Europe. So the NATO nuclear deterrence in Europe is key; it’s the ultimate security guarantee for Europe. And that’s something European NATO Allies and United States provide together.
And then we always make sure that we have that safe, secure and effective, and therefore, we always . . . we make adjustments to the way we are setting up these nuclear-sharing arrangements.
So that was . . . what was the first question? That was on . . . yeah, on Afghanistan. Well . . . well, we discussed it today and we, as part of a coordinated decision by NATO Allies, we made a decision earlier this year to move to what we call Phase A-Light which is a reduced NATO presence in Afghanistan. But we maintained the bases, the regional presence of the NATO forces in Afghanistan, including with a German-led presence in Mazar-i-Sharif in the north, with many other Allies. And also the Italian-led presence in Herat, in the west of Afghanistan.
And we will now have a process in NATO where we will sit together, the US and all other Allies and discuss different options, different possibilities for further reductions. But of course, that will be done in a coordinated way, in an orderly way, and it will depend on the developments in Afghanistan. And perhaps the most important thing now is to make sure that Taliban breaks ties, bonds, all their bonds with al-Qaeda, and also that we have intra-Afghan negotiations. So we are prepared for further reductions. It was an issue that was addressed by Secretary Esper in detail during this meeting. And we will further consult on that.
Piers Cazalet: That’s all we have time for this evening. Thank you very much for joining us. And we hope that you will join us for the Secretary General’s next press conference tomorrow afternoon.
Jens Stoltenberg: Thank you. And stay safe and healthy.