by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Brussels Forum
Announcer: Welcome to Brussels Forum 2020. We are pleased to introduce the Vice President for Foreign Policy at the German Marshall Fund, Dr Ian Lesser.
Dr Ian Lesser [German Marshall Fund]: Good morning and good afternoon from Brussels. Welcome to our continuing Week 4 of Brussels Forum 2020, a week in which we’re talking about some of the very, most important, big-picture issues affecting all of us: on the economy, on technology and, not least, on security. And we get to continue our conversation today with a very important discussion around precisely that last topic of global security, transatlantic security and the role of NATO. And we’re really delighted to have with us NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg. We’re very grateful for his joining Brussels Forum, but we’re also very, very grateful to him and to NATO for their support over 15 editions, actually, for NATO of Brussels Forum – whether we’re working on the NATO summits together, or things throughout the year, we’re always very grateful for that cooperation. So, Secretary General, thank you for being with us.
Let me also thank our partners. Our founding partners, Daimler and the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, our Forum partner Deloitte and all our associate and supporting and knowledge partners, we’re very grateful to all of them.
It goes without saying that NATO has really been at the centre of critical transatlantic debates recently and there’s very good reason for that, which I’m sure we will get to in our conversation: the proliferation of security challenges, both traditional and untraditional, from East from South and globally. And I’m sure that in our conversation today, we’ll talk about NATO’s role not just in terms of its role as a military alliance, but also possibly its future as a political alliance as well, which it’s always been.
So we look forward to the conversation today. We’re really delighted to have with us Markus Preiss, who is the Brussels Bureau Chief of ARD to moderate this conversation. Markus, welcome back. Thank you for doing this. And let me turn it over to you.
Markus Preiss [Moderator] [Brussels Bureau Chief, ARD]: Thank you very much, Ian, for this introduction and a warm welcome again to Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, a Brussels Forum regular.
Since the last Forum, a lot of things happened in NATO. We saw the withdrawal of US troops from Syria. We saw the announcement of the withdrawal of troops from Germany. We saw the interview by Emmanuel Macron, calling NATO ‘brain dead’. And today, the release of the book by a former US National Security Advisor, John Bolton, which touches a lot of questions, really, on questions related to NATO.
But before we start, I’d like you to engage as well. You can send us your questions to Secretary General Stoltenberg by using the hashtag #BrusselsForum or by sending an email at BrusselsForum@gmfus.org.
Before we come to the book – I expect everybody wants me to ask those questions first – but let’s start with something different. Yesterday we saw the arms control talks between the US and Russia in Vienna. I suppose you have much better sources than we do. What can you tell us about the outcome and what’s your take on what happened?
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: First of all, I welcome the fact that Russia and the United States are now sitting down, starting to negotiate, to look into how to reach an agreement on arms control for nuclear weapons. That is of great importance for all of us, for the whole world, but especially, of course, also for all NATO Allies, because arms control is the best way to prevent a new arms race. Arms control is the best way to reduce the number of nuclear weapons, and that will make us all safer and reduce the risk of any use of nuclear weapons. So NATO is a strong supporter of arms control and has been that through decades.
I also welcome the fact that the talks were constructive, that Russia and the United States agreed to meet for a second round, and also that they agreed to establish working groups.
Still, of course, there’s still a long way to go before they reach an agreement. But these are important first steps.
Special Envoy Billingslea, who is responsible for the negotiations, he consulted with NATO Allies last month here in Brussels, in the NATO Council. And he will actually come back to Brussels, to NATO tomorrow, because the United States is very closely consulting with NATO Allies on these issues. It’s a bilateral talk, or relationship, between Russia and the United States, but, of course, it matters for all NATO Allies.
Markus Preiss: One wish of the US side was that those talks should also include China. As we all know, they were not present yesterday. Are you in favour of an agreement between Russia and the US if there’s no contribution from the Chinese side?
Jens Stoltenberg: I welcome that Russia and the United States are now sitting down and talking to each other on arms control. But having said that, I also strongly support that China should be involved. China is a . . . it’s a global power. China has a responsibility to be part of global arms control arrangements. And the fact is that China is investing heavily in new delivery systems, investing heavily in new . . . in increasing the number of warheads.
We assess that within a decade, China will have doubled the number of nuclear warheads. And, of course, that matters for all of us. So therefore, China should be part of arms control and by being part of arms control, we are also making sure that we have transparency, predictability related to, also, the Chinese nuclear arsenals. So . . .
Markus Preiss: Yeah, but how do you convince them? I completely understand that it would be better if they were part of the talks, but how do you convince them?
Jens Stoltenberg: Fundamentally, in the same way as we convinced the Soviet Union during the Cold War or Russia today: that verifiable, balanced arms control is in the security interest of all of us. We are just safer, all of us, when we have ceilings on the numbers of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are dangerous. Nuclear weapons are extremely expensive. We want to prevent a new arms race. And the best way of doing that is, actually, to put ceilings to reduce the numbers.
The Soviet Union and the United States were able to do that during the Cold War. And I strongly believe that we should be able to do that also today, but now with a big difference: that China is a growing power, the second largest defence budget in the world, investing heavily in air, sea, land capabilities. And therefore, China should be part of these talks and be part of global arms control arrangements.
Markus Preiss: Should an arrangement also reflect the fact that China is not the China it was 20 or 30 years ago? So should it have another . . . or more opportunities in terms of military spending, of nuclear arms . . .
Jens Stoltenberg: China has the right, of course, to invest in their military. China has the right to, as all other nations to exercise their forces. And no-one is denying China that right. What we are saying is that, as China is growing, as China is becoming more and more a global military power with the ability not only to protect their own waters and their own territory, but to project power far beyond China, then it matters what they do. Then they are becoming a global power, which has a global responsibility to engage in global arms control. And especially the fact that they are now planning to double the number of warheads. They have conducted more missile tests than the rest of the world over the last year.
So the reality is that China is becoming a more and more important military power with long-range capabilities, the ability to project power around the whole globe and therefore, they should engage in arms control. Arms control is the best way to prevent a new arms race, the best way to reduce the risk of any nuclear escalation.
Markus Preiss: And again, if they are not part of the talks, are you in favour of a Russia-US only agreement?
Jens Stoltenberg: In the absence of any agreement which includes China, I think the right thing will be to extend the existing New START agreement to provide the necessary time to find agreement – US, Russia – but hopefully also with China. Because we should not end up in a situation where we have no agreement whatsoever regulating the number of nuclear weapons in the world. And with the demise of the INF Treaty that happened last year, because of the Russian violation of the INF Treaty, the deployment of the new SSC-8 missiles, then we cannot risk losing the New START agreement without having something else in its . . . to replace the New START agreement.
Markus Preiss: Now to the book. The book today came out by former National Security Advisor, John Bolton. It’s called The Room Where It Happened. As far as I gather, Donald Trump’s comments on the book were that it consists of highly-classified fake news. One of the things Bolton is writing about is the fact that Trump wanted to pull out the US, out of NATO. You were also in the room. Is it highly-classified, what happened there? Or is it fake news what Bolton writes?
Jens Stoltenberg: There’s no secret that President Trump has been very clear and very strong and very vocal and very direct in his message about the importance of . . . that European Allies and Canada are investing more in defence.
Markus Preiss: But that’s something different than saying, ‘otherwise we’re pulling out.’
Jens Stoltenberg: Yeah, but at the same time, it is also clear that President Trump has stated his clear commitment to NATO. And not only that, he has also now publicly, several times, recognised that European Allies and Canada are investing more. And we have to remember this summit was two years ago. And since then, we have seen President Trump again and again recognising that European Allies are investing more. He speaks about the money pouring in, and that European Allies have not delivered what they should, they’re not 2 per cent for all of them, but at least that European Allies are investing more. 130 Billion extra US dollars since 2016 matters. And that helps and it strengthens the solidarity within the Alliance.
Markus Preiss: Perhaps I didn’t read and listen to everything, but what I heard and saw over the last weeks was that the US President said, ‘Germany has an abusive behaviour and therefore we pull out our troops.’ That’s what I heard.
Jens Stoltenberg: Well, what President Trump has stated is that he has the intention of reducing the number of US troops in Germany by 9,500. I spoke to President Trump before he made that announcement and he stated his intention clearly in that conversation.
At the same time, it is also clear that no final decision has been made on how and when to implement this intention.
And second, that the United States remains committed to Europe, to European security.
And thirdly, we have to also understand that, of course, US presence in Europe goes beyond Germany. Over the last years, we have seen increased US presence in many countries in Europe. The US leads a battlegroup in Poland. They are more present in the Baltic countries, in Norway, in Romania, a new naval deployment in Rota in Spain and so on.
My message to President Trump has been, and was in that conversation, and also when the defence ministers met in Brussels, or met virtually, last week, is that US presence in Europe is good for NATO, it’s good for Europe, but it’s also good for the United States. Peace and stability in Europe is adding to the security of the United States. And we also have to remember that Europe, the US presence in Europe, is also about not only protecting Europe, but also projecting power of the United States beyond Europe, into the Middle East, into Africa. The Sixth Fleet has its bases . . . their base in Naples, in Italy. The US Africa Command, it’s not in Africa, it’s in Stuttgart in Germany. And we know that Ramstein and all these other bases in Europe, in Germany, they are important for the United States.
So I really conveyed the message to the United States, that we are grateful for US presence, but it is also in the security interest of the United States to stay in Europe.
Markus Preiss: But if we have a look at that, you are convinced, of course, it’s your role also as Secretary General to form a consensus and not to be too outspoken about that, but aren’t you sometimes worried about what’s happening? You also, two weeks ago, you spoke about NATO 2030. You said it’s very important to make NATO more political, to make it a more forum for political debate as well. And then we see statements like that, like we saw about abuse of Germany. Where . . . where, how are you trying to form that?
Jens Stoltenberg: Well, NATO 2030 is about the future of NATO. It’s about how NATO should adapt in the next decade. And NATO is the most successful alliance in history, because we have been able to change. That’s the key to our success, is that when the world is changing, NATO is changing.
Now we have to change again. It’s about keeping NATO strong militarily. It’s about strengthening NATO politically. And it’s about developing a more global approach of NATO, because we are faced with more global challenges and threats from the rise of China, or cyber, and many other challenges.
Of course, to be Secretary General of NATO is, in a way, to always be a bit concerned, because there are many challenges, both around NATO, but, also, always some difficulties and some differences within the Alliance. But I’m not deeply worried about the future of NATO. I’m confident that NATO absolutely could remain a strong alliance, because I’ve seen throughout history there have been differences between NATO Allies, from the Suez Crisis in 1956, to when France decided to leave the military cooperation of NATO in the 1960s, or the Iraq War, which really divided NATO Allies. We have always been able to overcome these differences and then unite around our core task: to protect and defend each other. I’m absolutely confident that will manage to do that also this time.
Markus Preiss: I read this morning that Joe Biden, presidential candidate of the Democrats, said to Forbes magazine, if Donald Trump is re-elected, there will be no NATO in the future. Are you not concerned enough, or has he no clue what happens at NATO?
Jens Stoltenberg: I think the key for me to be Secretary General of NATO, to chair the North Atlantic Council, is to make sure that I will do whatever I can to keep this big family of 30 Allies from both sides of the Atlantic – actually, the only platform where Europe and North America meet on a daily basis – keep us together, despite our differences, which are obvious: different histories, different political parties, different views on many issues between the Allies.
If I start to comment on something that will be interpreted as I go into domestic political campaigns in the different member states, I will really undermine my platform, my possibility to succeed as the Secretary General of NATO, uniting this Alliance. So . . .
Markus Preiss: But would you argue that NATO should be out of political campaigns? Or electoral campaigns?
Jens Stoltenberg: I will argue that NATO should not be part of domestic political campaigns. NATO is the political Alliance. We are campaigning every day for core values: democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, freedom. That’s why NATO exists. But that’s not the same as being part of domestic political election campaigns. NATO has to stay out of that.
Markus Preiss: We’ll leave the book aside for now. Something that affected all of us was coronavirus, COVID-19, over the last couple of months. It also affected NATO. What implications do you see in terms of the challenges NATO’s facing, but also on burden-sharing? Because we are in a situation where all member states have strain on their budgets and perhaps the 2 per cent spending goal could also be more difficult. How is your take on that?
Jens Stoltenberg: NATO’s core task has been to make sure that a health crisis, the COVID-19 crisis, doesn’t become a security crisis. So we have made sure . . .
Markus Preiss: How could it be?
Jens Stoltenberg: Well, it’s easy to foresee possibilities, either that non-state actors, terrorists, or others have tried to seize or misuse the vulnerability we have seen across the whole world and then to launch attacks.
We have seen some increased activities of some terrorist organisations, especially in Iraq. But to avoid a real security crisis from happening, we have to make sure from the start of this pandemic that our missions and operations are operational, that our operational readiness remains, that we’re able to continue our air policing, naval patrols, the battlegroups – that they were able to conduct their task in the Baltic countries and so on.
The success of NATO has been that we have been able to do exactly that. So the operational readiness, our ability to defend then, all Allies, protect all Allies during this crisis has been absolutely in place throughout the crisis.
And actually, one of the things that it was good to see was that NATO has been planning for this, different pandemics, different health crises, so we were actually able to implement measures quite early, already in January, to start to protect these headquarters, other NATO headquarters, impose measures to reduce access to the buildings and to make sure that soldiers were protected as much as possible in different NATO missions and operations. So that’s our primary task, is to protect Allies throughout a pandemic. We deliver on that.
Then, beyond delivering security, what we have seen is that NATO and our military forces throughout the Alliance have provided a lot of support to the civilian efforts coping with the pandemic. We have seen militaries providing field hospitals, hundreds of military planes, aircraft lifting patients, protective equipment, military forces helping to disinfect public spaces. So the military across the Alliance also very much organised, supported by NATO, has played a key role as a surge capacity, supporting the civilian efforts.
Markus Preiss: And concerning the 2 per cent target and burden-sharing, do you see that COVID will also affect that debate?
Jens Stoltenberg: Well, I absolutely recognise and understand that for NATO Allies, they are faced with, now, severe economic challenges because GDP is going down, tax revenues are going down . . .
Markus Preiss: Which might bring us closer to 2 per cent.
Jens Stoltenberg: Yes, but of course, what matters is the total spending and then expenditures are going up, of course, there are more and more expenditures for health purposes and to cope with the COVID-19 crisis.
Having said that, I think we have to realise that the COVID-19 pandemic, which is extremely serious, has not led to that other threats and challenges have gone away. There are still there. So the reasons why we decided to invest in our security: terrorist threats, cyber, the shifting balance of power with the rise of China or a more assertive Russia – all of that is still there. So, we need to continue to invest in our security. And on top of that, we also saw during . . . we have seen and we still see that the military actually helps the civilian society. So, investing in military also provides Allies with capabilities that has proven extremely helpful during the pandemic.
Markus Preiss: I turn to the questions which are coming in and perhaps gives us the opportunity to touch upon some other issues we did not touch upon so far. I start with the question by Martin Banks, a Brussels-based journalist. He asked: what impact do you think a no-deal Brexit will have on defence for Europe? And is a no-deal Brexit looking increasingly likely? But start with the first, what do you think a no-deal Brexit, what kind of impact will it have on defence of Europe?
Jens Stoltenberg: Brexit changes UK’s relationship to the European Union, but Brexit does not change UK’s relationship to NATO. And that is regardless of what kind of deal UK ends up with, with the European Union, because UK will remain a key NATO Ally. If anything, Brexit makes NATO even more important, because then NATO becomes even more important as a platform for bringing European Allies together to discuss issues of common concern. Because then UK will not be in the EU, but they will be in NATO, so NATO will be a platform for European Allies to meet and, of course, also meet with North America.
Markus Preiss: So, to make it short, your answer is: Brexit has no consequences for the defence of Europe?
Jens Stoltenberg: No, no. But if anything, it makes NATO more important. And we also have to understand that the UK is the European NATO Ally with the biggest defence budget. So, of course, it just highlights that the EU is important, we strongly welcome more NATO-EU cooperation, we have seen a lot of progress over the last years. That’s very important. And I support, also, EU efforts on defence. I think that can improve burden-sharing within the Alliance. I think it can help to develop new capabilities.
So we welcome EU efforts on defence as very good. But EU cannot replace NATO. EU cannot defend Europe. We have to understand that 80 per cent of NATO’s defence expenditure is coming from non-EU Allies. While, you know, more than 90 per cent of the people living in the European Union, they live in a NATO country. But only 44 per cent of the people living in NATO are living in an EU country. And we have to protect a hundred per cent of our population. So EU efforts on defence are much welcomed, but they cannot replace NATO.
Markus Preiss: One question by John Koski, Capture Manager at the European Region, goes into the same direction. How are European initiatives like EDF and PESCO impacting military cooperation within NATO? I think you answered that already a bit. And specifically the cooperation with the US, because we also heard comments from the US that are not so much in favour of stronger integration of European defence?
Jens Stoltenberg: I think it is important for the European Union to try to work more together to also overcome the fragmentation of the European defence industry. There are so many different platforms.
One example is that the United States, which has, actually, many, many battle tanks. They have one main type. In Europe they have much fewer battle tanks, but they have seven or eight different types. And of course, that adds very much to the cost of production, of development, of training, of spare parts, of maintenance. It reduces interoperability. And we see that, when it comes to all the different platforms – also ships, planes or whatever it is. So, if the EU can overcome some of this fragmentation of the European defence industry, that will reduce costs. It will mean that we will get more defence out of the defence budgets of European NATO Allies. And that, it will increase, of course, the competitiveness of European defence industry.
So that’s welcomed. That’s good. So, the aim of some of these initiatives, of EU initiatives, is to try to overcome that. We, NATO, has supported that for years. It is great if the EU succeeds. But again, this is not as an alternative to NATO, because the EU efforts represent 20 per cent of NATO’s total defence spending. We just look at the battlegroups in the eastern part of the Alliance: three of four are led by non-EU Allies – the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. So . . . we have to keep North America and Europe together. Any attempt to divide North America from Europe, or Europe from North America would not only weaken NATO, but it would also divide Europe. And that’s not in our security interest.
Markus Preiss: John Heffern, former US diplomat from D.C., asked: if any Ally wants to make troop adjustments affecting the Alliance, what is the right way to decide and announce such an adjustment? I think it refers to what we saw over the last two weeks.
Jens Stoltenberg: Of course, in NATO, we always welcome consultations. And the United States has now made it clear. Secretary Esper participated in a NATO defence ministerial meeting last week, and he made it very clear that the United States will now consult with NATO Allies on the implementation of the intention announced by President Trump. And as I said, I spoke with him before he made the announcement. And I think the important thing now is to try to sit down and find the best way to coordinate or to consult on the implementation.
Markus Preiss: Speaking about coordination and announcements, a question concerning Turkey, France and Libya, from Thomas Cole, political analyst, London: it seems NATO members are on the opposite sides on Libya and there have been public fallouts, for example, between France and Turkey. French President Emmanuel Macron yesterday said, ‘Turkey is playing a very dangerous game in Libya.’ Can the Alliance have a coherent position on Libya?
Jens Stoltenberg: There are differences between NATO Allies on the situation in Libya. At the same time, all NATO Allies agree that we are concerned about the increased Russian presence in Libya. This is part of a pattern with more Russian presence in the eastern Mediterranean. We see them in Syria. We see them elsewhere. So increased Russian presence, with fighter jets and other military capabilities, Russian mercenaries in Libya is of concern and all Allies are concerned about the increased Russian presence.
We also agree that we need to monitor and follow this very closely and share intelligence and information on the increased Russian presence.
Markus Preiss: But still, two NATO Allies are on different sides of that conflict.
Jens Stoltenberg: Yeah, but then the third issue we agree on, which is perhaps the most important, is that we agree that we need to support the UN efforts to find a political negotiated solution to the conflict in Libya.
If you refer to the incident in the Mediterranean, that’s a different thing. But then the incident in the Mediterranean, that happened some days ago. The fact there is that two NATO Allies are involved and those two NATO Allies have totally different views on what actually happened. And therefore, the NATO Military Authorities are now investigating, looking into that instance to try to establish the facts.
Markus Preiss: A question concerning, it’s still written right now, but I think it’s concerning the talks between Serbia and Kosovo: what would be a good outcome of a meeting between Pristina and Belgrade, the fact that Vučić and Thaçi are in the same room, or something more than that – asks Jela de Franceschi, Voice of America, USA.
Jens Stoltenberg: The good outcome will be that they agree to really restart the Pristina-Belgrade dialogue and agree to really make an effort to find a political solution to the situation in Kosovo.
NATO is present in Kosovo, we have our KFOR mission there with some thousand troops to protect all communities in Kosovo.
Serbia is a partner of NATO. I have visited Serbia several times. We actually conducted an exercise together with Serbia not so long ago, on civil preparedness.
And NATO has a history in the Balkans, helping to end the two wars in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in Kosovo.
And, of course, we will strongly welcome the resumption of talks between Belgrade and Pristina to try to find a solution. It’s not for NATO or any other countries to dictate the outcome, but the fact that they meet is at least encouraging. It’s hopefully a first step to have a resumption of real talks between Pristina and Belgrade.
Markus Preiss: But isn’t that something that should be done by the EU, rather than the US?
Jens Stoltenberg: We have supported the EU-facilitated dialogue, but we also welcome . . . we welcome any effort to try to bring Pristina and Belgrade together. And I’m absolutely certain that EU and the United States are able to coordinate their efforts.
At the end of the day, it is no-one outside that will dictate the outcome. At the end of day, it has to be the parties – Pristina, Belgrade - that have to own the process, they have to define the outcome. So what the US can do, what the EU can do, what others can do, is to support, but the parties have to find a solution.
Markus Preiss: A question from … [inaudible] – Euro Defence Committee member from the Netherlands: what is your opinion of nuclear weapons in this day and age? Is it still the deterrence it used to be? It seems to be increasing in numbers instead of decreasing as stated as an intention in the non-proliferation treaties?
Jens Stoltenberg: I am in favour of a world without nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are brutal, inhumane and dangerous. At the same time, I strongly believe that a world where NATO destroys all our nuclear weapons and then we end up in a world where Russia, China, North Korea have nuclear weapons while we don’t have – that’s a more dangerous world.
So the way to a world without nuclear weapons is balanced, verifiable arms control, disarmament. That’s the reason why I so strongly support the talks that started yesterday between the United States and Russia. That’s the reason why I strongly regret the demise of the INF Treaty, because of the Russian violation. That’s the reason why I want China to be part of arms control arrangements. And that’s also why I also support efforts to try to include not only long-range strategic weapons, but also what is referred to as non-strategic weapons, or more short-range weapon systems or delivery systems. Because we should do whatever we can to continue to press down the number of nuclear weapons.
We have seen some serious setbacks and the arms control regime that was established over decades is now really in danger of breaking down.
At the same time, I think we should have some encouragement from what we have achieved. When you had the first START agreement in the beginning of the 1990s, there were 12,000 warheads on each side. Now there are 1,550. That’s a significant reduction. NATO has reduced the number of nuclear warheads by roughly 90 per cent in Europe. So we have achieved a lot. The danger is that now the trend is going, maybe going … we see it going in the wrong direction. And we see, of course, the risk of proliferation of nuclear weapons. So that’s the reason why we are pushing so hard for arms control.
Markus Preiss: I think the question also referred a bit to technologies. So is . . . in a time where we have other kind of weapon system, other kind of cyber systems, is it still nuclear weapons that are the heart of the matter?
Jens Stoltenberg: They are important, but they are not the only challenge.
And it’s absolutely correct to focus on new, disruptive technologies: artificial intelligence, autonomous weapons systems, facial recognition, new types of drones – all of this is really changing the nature of warfare.
I believe it’s actually changing the nature of warfare as fundamentally as the Industrial Revolution. I think people in Europe, or the world, were not able to realise the brutality of warfare until they saw the First and the Second World War, where that was really the first war where they used industrial capacity to kill people.
Now we are moving into a new technological revolution. And the combination of, for instance, nuclear weapons with these autonomous systems, artificial intelligence and so on, is very scary. It’s extremely demanding. And therefore, we need to focus on nuclear disarmament. But we need to also expand the arms control agenda to find ways to cover new technologies.
The challenge is that we have to do that in a different way, because nuclear arms control is about counting warheads and making sure that we have precise verification mechanisms. To count algorithms in cyberspace is very different, if it’s possible at all. So we need also to develop new tools to implement, to verify and to establish arms control regimes with addressing the growth of new, emerging technologies.
Markus Preiss: Another question that relates in a way to that is Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports . . . sorry, I think it’s about INF and NATO response to the end of the treaty, and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports that conventional missiles would be deployed to Europe, with the possibility of receiving nuclear warheads in a crisis. Can you confirm or deny that? And would that contradict your earlier statement that no new land-based nuclear missiles will be stationed in Europe to counter Russia’s growing nuclear arsenal?
Jens Stoltenberg: NATO Allies reiterated that position at our defence ministerial meeting last week, that we have no intention of deploying new land-based nuclear-capable missiles in Europe.
What we agreed was a balanced package where we had to look into air and missile defence, strengthening our air and missile defence capabilities, looking into conventional capabilities, also advanced conventional capabilities. Exercises, intelligence is part of this.
Then we have to make sure that our nuclear deterrence, the NATO nuclear deterrence, which is actually something we have developed; European Allies together with the United States over decades, with dual-capable aircrafts, common command and control. We have to make sure that that stays safe, secure and effective. And then arms control. These are the elements in the package we agreed. And we will follow up on them.
But we don’t want a new arms race, and we stand by the decision not to . . . that we don’t have any intention of deploying new land-based, nuclear-capable missiles in Europe.
Markus Preiss: On that subject, you repeat time and again that you don’t want to mirror what Russia does. But if we are not . . . if I’m talking to people who are not in the security area, just normal people, they say, ‘Why not? If we see that Russia has this capability, why shouldn’t we have it here as well, or the answer?’
Jens Stoltenberg: Because what we have to make sure is that we have credible deterrence and defence. And we are able to maintain, to uphold and to achieve that without mirroring what Russia does. If we started to deploy the same kind of intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe as Russia has done over the last years, we are risking to launch a new arms race. And I think it would also increase tensions in Europe in a way which is not good for any of us.
But there is always a balance. There is no way to escape that there is a dilemma and a balance that we have to strike, and that is between preventing a new arms race, preventing to escalate the situation, but at the same time, providing strong deterrence and defence, because we have to send the message to any potential adversary, that if any Ally is attacked, the whole Alliance will be there and protect them. And the reason to do that is not to provoke a conflict, but to prevent a conflict.
The purpose of NATO is actually not to fight, but to prevent a war. But the only way to do that is to send the message that we are able. And that’s the reason why we now are responding to the new Russian missiles. It’s not only about the SSC-8 or the intermediate-range missiles, but many other missiles, too. They have now made hypersonic weapons systems operational. They are developing new cruise missiles, new sea-based systems and so on. So we are responding to that, but we don’t . . . there’s no need to mirror what Russia does. We have other ways to respond and we are doing exactly that.
Markus Preiss: There’s also a question related exactly to what you just said. Where is it? When it comes to disruptive technology, today, NATO is mostly focussed to China’s plans for artificial intelligence. Is Russia’s progress on new projects like hypersonic weapons less important to NATO?
Jens Stoltenberg: No, we have to address both of them. They are different, but NATO doesn’t have the luxury of either looking in one direction or the other direction. NATO has to be able to defend all Allies against any threat from any direction, including also from East or from West, or from North or wherever it comes from and including from cyberspace.
So, that’s one of the purposes of NATO 2030, is to make sure that we adapt, that we change, as we see the world is changing. This is partly about, you know … Russia, which has been there all the time. Russia’s heavy investments in new, advanced missile systems. But also the fact China is investing in not only missiles and nuclear weapons, but also, in many ways, actually leading when it comes to some of the new technologies, like, for instance, artificial intelligence. And combined with nuclear weapons, of course, this is potentially a great challenge.
Markus Preiss: In the past, it was always clear that the West was leading, technologically speaking. Would you agree, still agree that that’s the case also on that new kind of systems?
Jens Stoltenberg: No, the West did not . . . it’s not leading in all areas. Actually, we see that China is leading in some of these areas. And that just illustrates, demonstrates the importance of the rise of China. Soon, the largest economy in the world; leading technology, technological, in many areas and investing heavily in new, advanced military capabilities.
We don’t see . . . we don’t regard China as an adversary. We don’t see any threat against any NATO Ally. But just the fact that we have such a growing power, which is actually coming closer to us in the Arctic, in Africa, in cyberspace, investing in our infrastructure here in Europe and with weapons systems that can reach all NATO Allies, of course matters. That’s the reason why this is part of NATO 2030.
For me, there is one lesson to be learned. And that is that Europe and North America have to stay together. If you compare Europe with China, Europe is small. If you compare the United States with China, the United States is small in many areas, as Europe is. Together, Europe and North America, we are 50 per cent of the world’s GDP, 50 per cent of the world’s military might. So if anything, the rise of China, the shifting global balance of power makes it even more important that North America and Europe stay together. And the platform for doing that in the security domain, is NATO.
Markus Preiss: I have one question still from my side on that. What do you see behind China’s ambition, China’s rise? What do they want? You said they are not an enemy, they are not posing any threat to NATO countries right now. But what . . . where do they want to go?
Jens Stoltenberg: I will be very careful about speculating about that.
Markus Preiss: But that’s . . .
Jens Stoltenberg: Yeah, but regardless of their intentions, we can see their capacity. That we can measure. We see, for instance, that they have developed their navy from kind of a more coastal navy to something that has a global reach. Just over the last five years, China has added 80 ships and submarines. That equals roughly the same number as the total UK Navy, which is one of the largest in the Alliance, next to the United States.
We have seen the new weapon systems, we have seen what they are investing. So, instead of speculating too much about their intentions, we see what they do in Hong Kong, we see what they do in the South China Sea, we see their behaviour in many other domains. But, instead of speculating too much about the intentions, we just have to relate to the fact that they are becoming stronger militarily, economically and technologically.
And therefore, we need to take that into account when they now are adapting NATO to NATO 2030. And we have to then stay together, North America and Europe.
Markus Preiss: I think China will be a big issue in your reflections on NATO 2030. Thank you very much for your time today, for your insights. Thank you very much, Secretary General Stoltenberg. And thank you very much, all of you who watched us today here from the NATO Headquarters. And now, enjoy the book. Thank you.