The Geopolitical Implications of COVID-19

Speech by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA)

  • 30 Jun. 2020 -
  • |
  • Last updated 01-Jul-2020 15:16

(As delivered)

The Geopolitical Implications of COVID-19 - Speech by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA)

Thank you so much, Amrita.

And good morning from Brussels. It’s great to be together will you all today.


A few weeks ago I launched NATO 2030.

To reflect on where we see our Alliance ten years from now. And how it will continue to keep us all safe.

One of my main message is that NATO must become more global. So today I will focus my remarks on three examples of why NATO needs a global approach. COVID-19, terrorism, and the rise of China.


First, COVID-19. A global crisis that shows how something that started on the other side of the world can have huge consequences for us all. Also in NATO.

NATO’s main task during the pandemic is to make sure the health crisis does not become a security crisis.

And throughout, we have remained ready, vigilant and prepared to respond to any threat. We have done what is necessary to keep our forces safe. To maintain our operational readiness. And sustain our missions and operations. From the battlegroups in the Baltics to countering terrorism in Afghanistan.

Beyond that, we have also been able to provide support to civilian efforts to  cope with COVID-19.

Across NATO, we have seen the vital role that our armed forces have played to help save lives.

So far, some 350 flights have delivered hundreds of tons of critical supplies around the world. Across the Alliance, almost half a million troops have supported the civilian response. Constructing almost 100 field hospitals. Securing borders and helping with testing.

For instance, the Bundeswehr airlifted ten million face masks through a strategic airlift arrangement enabled by NATO.

And Germany has helped other Allies by providing medical supplies and transportation of patients.


NATO is currently preparing for a possible second wave of the coronavirus. We have agreed on a new operation plan to provide support to our Allies and partners.

A new stockpile of medical equipment and supplies. And a new fund to enable us to quickly acquire further supplies and services. Many Allies have already offered to donate to the stockpile. And contribute to the fund. In a clear sign of Alliance unity and solidarity.

But the virus has exposed weaknesses in our resilience.

For example, we have relied far too much on global supply chains for essential medical equipment. And so allies recently took decisions to strengthen requirements for national resilience. Taking greater account for cyber threats. The security of our supply chains. And the consequences of foreign ownership and control of critical infrastructure. Such as transport hubs and energy.

The pandemic has also led to an increase in disinformation and propaganda. Aiming to undermine our democracies and deepen divisions. Even insinuating that NATO Allies are responsible for the virus. And that authoritarian regimes are better than democracies at keeping their people safe.  

NATO has been countering with concrete actions of solidarity. With clear facts and myth-busting.  And also by cooperating with other international actors – such as the European Union, the G7 and the United Nations.

These disinformation efforts target all of us, and the rules-based international order.

And we all have a stake in telling the truth, and upholding our values through global solidarity.


The second reason why NATO needs a global approach is the instability and terrorism beyond our borders. One of the lessons from our experience in Afghanistan, where Germany has a leading role,

has been the importance of training local forces. So they can better stabilise their own countries.

Of course, NATO must be able to intervene with large numbers of combat forces when we need to. But prevention is always better than intervention. By focussing on training and building local capacity, by being a training alliance, we can reduce the likelihood that we will ever have to intervene.

Look at ISIS. In recent years, the international community has made great progress. ISIS no longer controls territory in Iraq or Syria. But it remains a threat. We must do all we can to support our partners.

So that it can never return.

That is why we are training local forces in Iraq. So they can better fight ISIS. Without the need for a large scale NATO presence.

We are also working with other partners, such as Tunisia and Jordan. To increase stability and security. For them, and for us all.


And a third reason why NATO needs to take a more global approach is the rise of China. China will soon be the largest economy in the world. It is a global leader in new technologies. And it also has the world’s second largest defence budget.

China’s rise presents opportunities, especially for our economies and our trade.

So it is important to continue to engage with China. China is not an adversary to NATO.

But we must fully understand what its rise means for us – and for our security.

It is clear that China does not share our values. Democracy, freedom, and the rule of law.

We see this in Hong Kong, where the new security law undermines its autonomy. And the liberty of its citizens. With the imprisonment of tens of thousands of Uighurs in so-called ‘re-education camps’.

With the use of Artificial Intelligence and facial recognition to monitor and control Chinese citizens.

And just last month, we saw it when China imposed economic sanctions on Australia after it led calls for an independent enquiry into the origins of COVID-19.

I remember when I was Prime Minister, and the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. The Chinese government froze political relations and imposed sanctions in retaliation.

So there is a clear pattern of authoritarian behaviour at home and increased assertiveness and bullying abroad.


The best way to face each of these global challenges, to keep our societies secure and our people safe, is for Europe and North America to continue to stand together. And for us to take a more global approach.

Working even more closely with our international partners to defend our values in a more competitive world. Partners near and far - like Finland and Sweden. But also Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

The aim of ‘NATO 2030’ is an Alliance that is strong militarily. Stronger politically. And more global.

To support me with this, I have nominated a group, co-chaired by former German Defence Minister, Thomas de Maizière.

This is part of a consultation process that will inform my recommendations to NATO leaders when they meet next year.

We do not need to reinvent NATO. But we do need to ask how we can make our Alliance stronger and more effective.


Germany has an important role. As the largest economy in Europe, with the biggest defence budget in the European Union, the leader of a battlegroup in Lithuania, a contributor to operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo, and from tomorrow, the holder of the EU Presidency.

Germany has a key responsibility to help strengthen NATO for the next decade. Those next ten years will be challenging for us all. But when Europe and North America stand together, we are strong and we are safe.

The NATO Alliance is 30 democracies. Each with their own politics, history and geography. We will always have our differences. But NATO remains the cornerstone of our collective security.

And through NATO, we can continue to live in peace and freedom.

Thank you so much.

PROFESSOR AMRITA NARLIKAR [President of GIGA]: So, SG Stoltenberg, thank you very much for a very inspiring talk. We appreciate that you are so forthright and so clear on several important issues and we especially appreciate the attention that you are giving to the question of values and ways to strengthen the Alliance, also by strengthening some international partnerships. In my eyes, it is only by paying attention to values that one can make multilateralism meaningful again. And we stand with you on the global approach that you have outlined. We at the GIGA in fact offer a global approach to scholarship that complements some of what you have identified.

So, before opening the floor for questions, I have lots of questions too. But I will limit myself to three and you decide which ones you want to take up. And . . . I’ll just pack them together in the interests of time, and after this we will open floor also to our participants.
So, my first question, and one of the big issues that you’ve touched upon is that of weaknesses in our global supply chains. And as you know, we are seeing this debate playing out in the European Union too, where opinion is very divided. Indeed, even within Germany, opinion is very polarised on ideals of decoupling and diversification of global value chains. And especially so, as you know, when it comes to China, and the pressures that we face from big business within Germany on this question. So, my first question to you is: can NATO approach this problem differently and handle it more effectively than the EU has done so far? And how and why?
My second question is about, you know, there’s a lot of attention, a lot of public attention on questions of AI and cybersecurity. But I wondered if you could tell us a little bit about hypersonic weapons. So, the German newspaper Tagesspiegel reported last week that the German Defence Minister had expressed concern on China’s pace in developing these systems, which could change the balance of power even more in East Asia. So what is your view on this? What should NATO and its members be doing?

And my third and last question, as we are in Germany, could you tell us more about US plans to withdraw 9,500 troops from Germany? And this has caused a lot of consternation in Germany, how do you see it? How worried should we be in Germany? And would redeploying these troops to Poland be a breach of the NATO-Russia Founding Act?

So those are my first three questions to set the ball rolling. And over to you.

JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: Thank you so much. And thank you for three very relevant and important questions, I will try to respond to all three of them as briefly as I can.

First, on the issue of global supply chains. I strongly believe in free trade. I strongly believe that countries trading with each other, investing in each other’s economies, has promoted economic growth all over the world, has been extremely important for the prosperity we see in NATO Allied countries, but, of course, also in many other countries, and has been a key to alleviate poverty for hundreds of millions of people over the last decades. At the same time, we have to realise that supply chains sometimes create vulnerabilities. And we have seen that clearly demonstrated during the COVID-19 crisis, where Allies and countries had problems getting access to critical medical equipment. And actually, for NATO, to address these kind of vulnerabilities is nothing new.

What we call the resilience of our civilian societies has been enshrined in the NATO Founding Treaty since 1949. So NATO is not only a military alliance, we are also an alliance which has obligations to focus on resilience, the ability to make sure that our societies are functioning, working, of course, in peacetime, but also in times of crisis. So therefore, we have guidelines for all Allies on resilience in areas such as transportation, energy, telecommunications, including 5G, but also on the health services.

And partly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have updated, revised those guidelines. We agreed the guidelines and then we also have reviews and assessments of to what extent Allies are implementing the guidelines. So, yes, supply chains demonstrates vulnerabilities. We have to address them by agreeing and implementing some minimum requirements for resilience, not least making sure that we have, for instance, the necessary medical equipment in health crises or pandemics, as we have seen during the COVID-19 crisis.

Second, hypersonic weapons. Hypersonic weapons are extremely advanced, extremely fast-moving and manoeuvrable. And, of course, they can carry nuclear and/or conventional warheads.

Russia has actually made some hypersonic weapons already operational. China is investing heavily in hypersonic weapons. And, of course, this is one of the reasons why we need to assess and understand the security implications of the rise of China, is that China is investing heavily in new, modern military capabilities, including hypersonic weapons.

And, of course, these weapons, many of them can reach all NATO Allied countries. They can bring nuclear weapons and, for me, that highlights the importance of the point here that NATO maintains its technological edge. We have, traditionally, always had the technological edge. That’s not always the case anymore, especially when you compare it to China, which is actually leading in some technologies.

But second, it highlights the importance of arms control that we have witnessed, over the last years, that some of the architecture, the arms control arrangements we were able to put in place during the Cold War from the 1960s and actually up to 2010 with the New START agreement, that some of these arrangements, some of these agreements have been weakened. We have seen the demise of the INF Treaty banning intermediate-range weapons and so on. So this is extremely important that we put, also, new technologies on the arms control agenda, because the combination of these technologies – hypersonic weapons, autonomous systems, drone technology, facial recognition – if you combine all that, you see a change in the nature of warfare, which is potentially more dramatic, or at least as fundamental as the Industrial Revolution changed the nature of warfare.

Therefore, we also need to change the thinking when it comes to arms control. Traditionally, arms control has been about counting warheads. Now we need to count algorithms, or at least address totally new technologies in the arms control domain.

So, the last thing I would say about this is that it highlights that China is becoming a global military power. And with that comes global responsibilities. And therefore, China should be part of global arms control regimes. China must be part of any effective global arms control. And therefore, we support the efforts to try to include China in global arms control.

The last question was about US presence in Germany. The US President, President Trump, has been very clear, and I spoke to him also recently on this, that his intention is to reduce the US presence, military presence in Germany by 9,500 troops. I spoke to him before he made the announcement. Now, this is a public statement. At the same time, the President made it clear that NATO and I should consult with the United States, because no decision has been made on when, the timelines, how such a plan will be implemented. And Secretary Esper came to NATO and we now consult with United States on the issue of how to implement such a plan.

At the same time, the US has made clear that their commitment to European security remains rock solid; that they will consult with Allies and that, of course, US presence in Europe goes beyond Germany. Over the last years, we have seen actually an increase in US presence in Europe with a US-led battlegroup, a NATO battlegroup, multinational battlegroup in Poland, led by the United States. More rotational presence by US forces in the Baltic countries where we have new NATO battlegroups also there. US presence in the Black Sea Region, Bulgaria, Romania. We have a new naval presence, more destroyers deployed by the United States in Spain, the Rota Base. And in my own country, Norway, we have more US Marines, more US presence than we ever had before.

So actually, the picture has been that the United States is increasing their presence in Europe. And it’s too early to say whether the troops that will be withdrawn from Germany will be taken back to United States, deployed somewhere else in the world, or redeployed in Europe. That’s part of the ongoing consultations. Whatever NATO does will, of course, be in full compliance with our international obligations. I stop there. Thank you.

PROFESSOR AMRITA NARLIKAR: Thank you very much for answering my questions very succinctly and also with a wide angle view. So thank you for that. We have lots of questions coming in. And so first, what I would like to do is collect a couple of questions using the mic. And I would like to give the mic first to Ambassador Boris Ruge and then to Dr Marie-Agnes Strack. And then to Dr Ali Wyne. So, if you could please go in that order and pass the mic, first to Ambassador.

Ambassador Boris Ruge, Vice Chairman, Munich Security Conference. Then to Dr Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann from the FDP. And then to Dr Ali Wyne from the Atlantic Council. That would be great. And I would request people asking questions to limit themselves to one question and keep their questions succinct, in the interest of time. Boris, over to you.

BORIS RUGE [Vice Chairman, Munich Security Conference]: Wonderful. Can you hear me, Amrita?

PROFESSOR AMRITA NARLIKAR: Very well, thank you.

BORIS RUGE Wonderful. Thank you Amrita. Thank you very much, Secretary General, for your . . . for your statements and for being here today. Last week, Chancellor Merkel gave an interview and speaking about Russia, she said that we could detect a pattern of Russia engaging in destabilisation and hybrid warfare. I would say that was a pretty unusual statement in terms of its directness, describing Russia’s actions. Too often, in my analysis, the German debate is perhaps less clear cut. What can we do, do you think, to bring in the perspective of countries like your own country, Norway, or Estonia, or Poland, who are more exposed to Russian policy and Russian efforts at destabilisation?

JENS STOLTENBERG: Shall I answer that now?

PROFESSOR AMRITA NARLIKAR: What would it be okay if you . . . if we collected them, in the interest of time?

JENS STOLTENBERG:  Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah.

PROFESSOR AMRITA NARLIKAR: Thank you so much. So, to Dr Strack-Zimmermann.

DR MARIE-AGNES STRACK-ZIMMERMANN: Thank you very much.  Just a question to the General Secretary again about the situation, American troops leaving Germany. Do you think that there will be a real chance that something happens before the election in the United States?

PROFESSOR AMRITA NARLIKAR: Okay. Thank you so much. And to Ali, please, Ali Wyne.

ALI WYNE [Atlantic Council]:   Thank you very much, Professor Narlikar and Secretary General Stoltenberg. It’s really an honour and a privilege to spend some time with you this morning. You talked a lot about China and the resurgence of China in your remarks this morning. I wonder if you could elaborate a little bit and, in particular, if you could compare and contrast the challenges that China and Russia pose to NATO’s cohesion. So what are some of the differences, what are some of the similarities? And also, to what extent and in what ways are China and Russia interacting to destabilise NATO’s cohesion from within? Thank you.

PROFESSOR AMRITA NARLIKAR: Thank you. So, over to you, sir.

JENS STOLTENBERG: Thank you. First to the question from the Ambassador on Russia and how to respond to Russia and my own experiences coming from Norway. As you know, Norway is a neighbouring country of Russia. We have a land border up in the north, but most importantly, we have a very long sea border, or delimitation line with Russia in the Barents Sea and the Polar Sea. And I actually very often use my own country and my own experiences, as a Norwegian politician as an example of how it is possible to work with Russia. Because actually, in the High North, we were able, even during the coldest periods of the Cold War, to work with Russia, on issues like the delimitation line, we agreed that; fishery – the management of huge economic values also connected to these big fish stocks up there, cod; on environmental issues; the military of Norway have regular contacts with the military in Murmansk or in the north, they have regular contacts, they meet, they also have direct lines; search and rescue, and so on. And I have been part of that, as Minister of Energy, Deputy Minister of Environment, I worked with Russia, but, of course, also as Prime Minister.

We have also something called the Barents Council, where actually it’s visa-free travel from Russia to Norway and vice versa, for the people living in the northern part of Norway, and also close . . . not so far from the border.

So the thing is that the cooperation, the working relationship between Norway and Russia in the High North is not despite of NATO, but is because of NATO. Because being a small country of five million inhabitants, of course, it’s sometimes a bit challenging to engage with a big neighbour, Russia. But the reason why Norway could do that was, of course, the strength that NATO provided. So, so we were not afraid. We were actually able to go in dialogue, talk with Russia on a wide range of issues, make agreements. Russia has respected them on the delimitation line and fishing quotas, energy issues.

And that’s my main message also for all of NATO, is that we should not be afraid of talking to Russia. Russia’s there. Russia is our neighbour. And we have an interest in de-escalating, avoiding a new arms race, avoiding, preventing a new Cold War. And therefore, I strongly believe in what has been formulated as the NATO approach to Russia, and that’s the dual-track approach: deterrence, defence and dialogue. Because we need to be firm. We need to be predictable. But at the same time, we can reach out for a political dialogue with Russia, because we need to strive for a better relationship.

And, of course, there are differences between NATO Allied countries. But the fundamental idea of combining strength and dialogue, deterrence, defence and dialogue applies for all Allies and for the whole Alliance. And I think that’s the absolute best way to deal with Russia. If they confront us, of course, we are able and ready to respond. If they are ready to cooperate and change behaviour, then we’re ready to do that, too. And that’s our approach to Russia. And I think … actually I’ve spoken with Chancellor Merkel about these issues many times. And I know that this is also very much a German and her approach, and Germany has played a key role in this dual-track approach to Russia.

Then Dr Zimmermann, US troops in Germany. Well, as I said, no decision has been made on how to implement the intention of withdrawing the troops. And therefore, as Secretary General of NATO, of course it would be very wrong if I started to speculate about potential timelines.

What I can say is that, of course, many of the troops in Germany are permanently based there. So this is about families. This is about, you know, housing, this is not only about rotational forces you can move quickly in and out. Permanently-based forces, that will take more time.

And let me also put this in perspective. We have to remember that during the Cold War, there were 250,000 sometimes up to 300,000 US troops in Germany. And then you have to remember that Germany was Western Germany. And that was, in a way, the border of NATO. So we had hundreds of thousands US troops there. Now after the end of the Cold War, it was a dramatic reduction. And now there are roughly 35,000 US troops in Germany.

But, of course, there are US troops and NATO troops elsewhere in Europe, partly on the territory of the former Warsaw Pact countries. So there are fewer troops, US troops and NATO troops in Germany. But there are more US troops in Poland. Of course, there were no US troops in Poland during the Cold War. But now we have a significant NATO presence there, with a battlegroup with an armoured brigade, with the aviation brigade. We’re building a missile defence site, we have more rotational presence and so on. In Poland, we have air policing, naval patrols in the Baltic Sea, we have the battlegroups in the Baltic countries. So there’s significant presence of NATO for the first time in our history in that part of our Alliance and that includes also a lot of US presence.
So it’s at the moment, it’s a bit strange to compare German numbers during the Cold War with numbers for the whole of NATO after the end of the Cold War.

And then Ali Wyne was about China. Well, first of all, I think that it is . . . you have to admit that that’s something new. China has, of course, been important for NATO Allies for a long time. But for NATO as an institution, for NATO as an organisation, China has not been very much on our agenda, because we have traditionally been focussed on the Soviet Union and then afterwards Russia, and after that fighting terrorism, Afghanistan and so on.

For the first time in our history, NATO leaders agreed at the summit in London in December 2019 to address the rise of China. They stated there are opportunities, but also challenges. And now we have started the work in NATO to assess, to analyse the consequences for our security. And I outlined some of them in my speech: technology, defence spending of China. This is not about moving NATO into the South China Sea, but it is about taking into account that China is coming closer to us. We see them in the Arctic. We see them in Africa. We see China investing heavily in our own infrastructure in Europe. And we also see, of course, China very much present in cyber. And, of course, the fact that we have a global-reaching Chinese navy and so on - all of this makes it important for NATO to be able to also deal with the rise of China.

The reality is that we are united on this and Allies have a common approach. And I think it proves the importance of NATO being a platform for bringing North America and Europe together to deal with global challenges, as the shift of the global balance of power caused by the rise of China.

PROFESSOR AMRITA NARLIKAR: Okay, thank you very much Secretary General. Now I have 50 questions, so this is clearly a sign that everybody is very excited and enthused. And now, in the interest of time, what I would suggest I do, if this is okay with you, is that I read out brief versions of three questions. Would that work for you?


PROFESSOR AMRITA NARLIKAR: Yeah? Okay. Very good. So, the first one is by Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, who is from the FDP. He is the Deputy Head of the FDP faction in the Bundestag. And he asks: you said that China is not an adversary of NATO, that is technically correct. The US, however, both the executive and the legislative branches of government, seem to think otherwise. What does that mean for a more global Alliance down the road, i.e. in 2030?

Ambassador Markus Potzel from the Federal Foreign Office in Germany, writes: according to the US-TLB agreement, signed in Doha on 29 February 2020, the US promised to scale down their troop numbers in Afghanistan to 8,600 by mid-July. This has already been completed. US Secretary for Defense Esper announced that there will be a further reduction in autumn. Will there be a political discussion about conditions before that?

And a third question coming from Ambika Vishwanath a former Munich Security Conference Young Leader and now working in really interesting areas, including water security, asks: the SG spoke about the importance of NATO’s role in the current health pandemic and their role in building resilience in certain areas – health, energy – for member states. Does he see a role for NATO in other non-traditional security spaces such as climate change, water security, for example?

JENS STOLTENBERG: Okay, thank you . . . thank you again for very relevant questions. It’s hard to be brief, but I will try. First, what does it mean to be a global alliance and how do NATO Allies deal with the rise of China? Well, the thing is that the process we have launched with NATO 2030, what we have said clearly is that this is also about a more global NATO, reflecting the fact that we are faced with more and more global security challenges, including the rise of China. We, of course, don’t have all the answers. We have actually . . . we have started now a process, we’re going to reach out to Allies, to partners, to civil society, to academia, to think tankers and then listen to their advice. And then, based on that, I will put forward my recommendations to the leaders, heads of state and government, when they meet next year. So this is part of a discussion, part of a process where we try to have an open mind and have as much input as possible. Actually, GIGA, this event, is also part of that possibility for us to reach out, to listen and to have discussions with others.

But if I should mention some elements in what I think will be part of the response, and which is already to some extent there, is, of course, for NATO to work with global partners. And especially those who are, you know, in Asia or Asia-Pacific. So parties like Japan, South Korea - I visited both of them not so long time ago. They are eager to step up. They’re working the partnership with NATO. But also Australia and New Zealand, I also visited them recently. They are also ready to work more closely with NATO.
So these four Asia-Pacific partners, to work more closely with them, I am certain will be part of the outcome of NATO . . . I am quite confident that it will be part of the outcome of NATO 2030.

Then technology, the importance of NATO working with industry, with science research institutions to make sure that we maintain the technological edge, which has always been the advantage of NATO and NATO Allies. That becomes even more important when we see how heavily China is investing in new, advanced technologies, which they also use for developing military capabilities.
And then, of course, the unity of the Alliance, because the reality is that China is not an adversary. China is totally different from the Soviet Union. It’s not the same in any way. We’re not in a Cold War. It’s totally different. But if you just compare the size, of course, China population-wise, is much bigger than the Soviet Union ever was. China’s economy is much bigger than the economy of the Soviet Union or Russia ever was. Because the Soviet Union peaked, their economy peaked at 60 per cent of US GDP. China’s GDP is, in purchasing terms, already bigger than the US economy. So, and of course, technologically, China is much more advanced, compared to NATO Allies than the Soviet Union ever was.

So just the size China makes it important that Europe and North America stands together. And I tell the Americans that very often: that if they are concerned about the rise of China, they should make sure that they keep their friends and Allies very close. Because the Chinese economy is bigger than the US economy. But, of course, if US and Europe stand together, if North America and US stand together, then we are 50 per cent of world GDP and 50 per cent of world military might.

So if anything, the rise of China makes NATO even more important, even more important that North America and Europe stands together.

Then, Afghanistan. Well, we are consulting very closely. I was in Kabul when the peace agreement was signed. We have consulted closely, we will continue to consult closely, because the US is withdrawing, but the US is also part of the NATO Mission. And we have reduced the NATO Mission now currently from 16,000 troops in the NATO Mission – US and non-US – to 12,000. And we will, of course, consider any further reduction as part of our efforts to support the peace process.

Of course, there will be political discussions. We will assess the situation on the ground, to what extent Taliban is delivering on their part of the deal. So this is a condition-based withdrawal, a condition-based adjustment. We went into Afghanistan together. We will make adjustments together. And when the time is right, we will then also leave together. But when that will happen, it’s too early to say.

The best way we can support the peace process now is to make sure that the Afghan security forces are able to be strong and counter the attacks from the Taliban and make sure that Afghanistan doesn’t become a safe haven for international terrorists once again.

Then, climate change. Well, climate change matters for NATO. And climate change is a security issue. We know that global warming leads to windier, wetter, wilder weather. It will force people to move, to change where people can live and conduct agriculture and so on. So, climate change is a conflict multiplier. So when we analyse, and also part of NATO 2030, challenges in the future, climate change is part of those analyses.

Second, global warming affects our military operations. To conduct military operations in more extreme weather, the consequences of increased sea levels on our military infrastructure, especially our naval bases and so on, has consequences for our military operations.
And thirdly, anything that can reduce emissions from military operations will be climate-friendly, but will also increase the resilience of our troops. We know that the supplies of fossil fuels, of oil and diesel and so on to our military operations makes . . . is always a challenge. So if we can make our military operations less dependent on long supply chains of delivering, for instance, gasoline, more energy efficient, able to produce our own energy, then it will also strengthen the resilience of our military operations. Thank you.

PROFESSOR AMRITA NARLIKAR: Okay. Sir, thank you very much. There are some very interesting questions here. So there’s one on smart power. Several colleagues, many of my academic colleagues are asking fascinating questions about Asia, NATO in Asia, especially Indian democracies. Asia . . . NATO in Africa, and the tug of war over Africa. So what I suggest we would do, Secretary General, is we would send your team these questions, with attribution, because some of these might give . . . might be useful food for thought also for you and your team. And there are also interesting … [inaudible] who is an historian, is asking very interesting institutional questions. And my GIGA colleagues are asking questions about sanctions. So we’ll send you these. I want to do one slightly naughty thing. Steve Erlanger has had his hand up for a while, New York Times. Steve, if we give you the mic, would you promise to ask your question, like, in 30 seconds? And can the Secretary General then answer it in a minute? A rapid-fire session, please.

STEVE ERLANGER [New York Times]: Hello. Thank you. Thank you, Secretary General. You have restated, as you always do, the position on Russia very well. But I want to press you briefly, because you have said recently that NATO is engaged in a more serious look at how to deter Russia, on all … [inaudible] including air defence and air and missile defence. So are you finally admitting that air missile defence is being aimed at Russia and not just at Iran or . . . or some sort of Martian invasion? Thank you very much.

PROFESSOR AMRITA NARLIKAR: Brilliant. Steve, thanks. A minute to the SG to answer that not very trivial question.

JENS STOLTENBERG: No, but it’s a very important question and I think the challenge is that we have to distinguish between BMD –  ballistic missile defence – which is a programme we agreed, I think it was back in 2010, and which we are now, step by step, developing and deploying also in Europe. That includes some different radar sites. It includes a site with interceptors in Romania. We are building a site in Poland and we have the new the US Aegis destroyers deployed in Rota in Spain, which are equipped with systems which support our ballistic missile defence.

This system is not aimed at Russia. This system is aimed at threats coming from outside the Euro-Atlantic area. And both the geography, the deployment and the physics makes it clear that this will not undermine or be relevant for the strategic or intercontinental ballistic missiles of Russia.

Then that is a total different thing –and I understand that it’s possible to confuse or to mix them – but that’s NATO’s integrated air and missile defence. And that’s about, like, systems like, for instance, the Patriot batteries or SAMP/T batteries or fighter jets. They all connect. And there are also different radar sites, of course. They connect, they operate, they share information, they share the same radar picture. And that’s about, you know, threats from any direction, including also, of course, from the east. And we have, as part of our response to the new Russian missiles, Russia is deploying new intermediate-range missiles in Europe, violating the INF Treaty that led to the demise of the INF Treaty. Nuclear-capable. Hard to detect. Mobile – can reach European cities within minutes. They are deploying also other kinds of new missile systems. So we have now a process in NATO where we are responding to that. And there are different elements, including arms control. But one element is increased . . . strengthening our air and missile defence. And that part, the NATO integrated air and missile defence is able to cope with threats from all directions.

So that’s two different things. The ballistic missile defence and integrated air-missile defence, which is something we are now strengthening.

Once again, thank you. It has been a great honour to be with you here at this GIGA event. And thank you for raising very many important issues and questions. I’m sad I was not able to answer more questions. The problem is not the questions, but the very long answers. And then please send over the questions and I guess that will inspire us to further strengthen that process, NATO 2030, and then also adapt NATO to a new future. Thank you.

PROFESSOR AMRITA NARLIKAR: Thank you so much, Secretary General Stoltenberg. This was fascinating, a real tour de force, lots of food for thought. We will send you the questions and in my old universities in Oxford, in Cambridge, we used to always say, ‘All good things have to come to an end,’ whenever a really interesting seminar ended. But today, I don’t want to say that. What I want to say is: this is hopefully the beginning of many more brainstorms together and to finding sustainable solutions together. Thank you so much. It has been a great honour. Thank you Team NATO and thank you our wonderful global audience for engaging in such a lively way. Let’s continue the conversation, to address these key questions. Thank you. Goodbye.