NATO: keeping Europe safe in an uncertain world

Speech by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the College of Europe in Bruges

  • 04 Mar. 2021 -
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  • Last updated: 10 Mar. 2021 10:52

(As delivered)

So thank you so much, Federica. Thank you for those kind words. It is really great to see you and to see you again in your new role. And your experience, your knowledge, your background make you the perfect rector for this school and therefore it’s a great pleasure to be here, together with you, and to be able to continue our cooperation, our collaboration, which we have developed over many years, as old friends. But not least in the time when you were EU High Representative/Vice-President of the European Commission.

At that time I saluted you. We were able to lift NATO-EU cooperation up to unprecedented levels and that was very much because of your efforts, your commitment and your leadership. And therefore I’m really glad to be here and to meet with you and in many ways, to continue to strengthen the cooperation between NATO and EU and the European institutions.

So when you reached out and asked if I was ready, prepared to come here and visit, it was very easy for me to say yes. Also because I had never been to the College of Europe, never been to this beautiful city before. But I know a lot about it because I’ve read, I’ve heard, I know that this has been an institution, the College of Europe, has been an important institution for many many years. And I know that some students here have been studying NATO. NATO-EU in particular, and that you also have something called International Model NATO which is a project where you actually address and look at and study NATO. And of course at the Secretary General of NATO I welcome that this institution actually links together and focuses both on the EU but also on NATO and the interaction between NATO and EU.

I’m happy to address all of you in this room but of course also all the students following online. And I also know that the College of Europe is a highly-recognised institution, building expertise on European issues, international issues, and you have done that for many many years.

I know it also because I have some Nordic friends who have attended this school as students some years ago. That is Helle Thorning-Schmidt and Alexander Stub, two Nordic friends who both became Prime Ministers. So for me it’s obvious that students at this college are destined for great things.

So it’s also for that reason, great to be here.

Then, I’m also happy to be here, because I am a committed European. I have campaigned for Norway joining the EU not only once, but actually twice. And the first time I did so I was thirteen years old.

But I strongly believed in the idea of European integration. And I still believe in the importance of countries coming together. Solving and addressing the common challenges they face.

And I also see how EU over the decades has helped to provide peace and prosperity in Europe.

As you well know, we failed to convince the majority of the Norwegian people to join the EU, but for me participating in for instance the European Council last week or coming here as a kind of private membership in the EU. So at least I appreciate that opportunity.

But as a committed European, I do not just believe in European integration.

I also believe in transatlantic integration.

Because a strong transatlantic bond is the bedrock of Europe’s security.

For more than 70 years NATO has embodied this unique relationship.

Our Alliance is the only place that brings North America and Europe together every day to discuss common security challenges.

To preserve peace. And prevent war. Based on our common solemn pledge. To protect one another. All for one and one for all.

For centuries, conflict in Europe was our constant companion.

The Seven years’, the Thirty Years’, the Hundred Years’ Wars.

The Napoleonic Wars, the Franco-German War, and two World Wars, are only a few examples of many.

And NATO was established back in 1949 help make that this didn’t happen again, to stop this meaningless bloodshed in Europe.

The Alliance has had to bring peace and democracy to a divided continent over decades. And enabled strong European integration from the very start.

For 40 years, Europe and North America stood together in NATO to deter the Soviet Union.

After the Cold War, we helped the newly free democracies of Central and Eastern Europe to fulfil their euro-Atlantic aspirations.

NATO membership paved the way for EU membership.

And in the 1990s, NATO ended two ethnic wars in the Western Balkans.

After 9/11 when the US was attacked, NATO Allies stood in solidarity. Deploying hundreds of thousands of troops to Afghanistan.

And today, NATO remains at the forefront of fighting new more brutal forms of terrorism.

Through the US-led Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, we have helped liberate vast territory and millions of people in Iraq and Syria.

Following Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, NATO has implemented the largest reinforcement of our collective defence in a generation. Deploying combat-ready troops in the east of our Alliance, to deter any aggression.

Let’s not forget, that this attempt to redraw borders by force, as we saw in Ukraine and Crimea, happened only a few years ago.

So the need to prevent conflict on our continent and to defend Europe remains very real. And the commitment of NATO and NATO Allies to protect and defend each other has therefore not changed.

Today, NATO stands 30 Allies strong. And keeps almost one billion people safe. But our Alliance continues to change as the world around us changes. And we must continue to adapt,  as we address challenges, both old and new. 

Russia’s destabilising behaviour. Brutal forms of terrorism. Sophisticated cyber-attacks. Disruptive technologies. The security impacts of climate change. And the rise of China.

China is not our adversary. But it has the world’s second biggest military budget, and it does not share our values. The rise of China and all of these global challenges make it all the more important for Europe and North America to work together.

Because no single country and no single country and no single continent can face these challenges alone.

But together in NATO, we represent half of the world’s economic might, and half of the world’s military might.

And we now have a unique opportunity to open a new chapter in relations between Europe and North America.

I welcome President Biden’s clear message on the need to rebuild alliances and strengthening NATO.

And I look forward to welcoming him and all other Allied Leaders to our Summit in Brussels later this year.

At the heart of our preparations for the summit and at the heart of the summit will be NATO 2030, an ambitious and forward-looking agenda to prepare our Alliance for the future.

We must reinforce our unity, which derives from our promise to defend each other.

By strengthening our deterrence and defence, as well as our political consultations.

We also need to broaden our approach to security. By increasing the resilience of our societies, maintaining our technological edge, and addressing the security impact of climate change.

And we must defend the rules-based order. By building a community of global democracies, with like-minded countries that share our values.

Stronger cooperation with the European Union is part of this ongoing adaptation.

NATO and the EU are already working closely together in many areas.

Supporting our partners from Afghanistan to Ukraine. Countering disinformation and cyber-attacks. And working on maritime security.

And I see potential for strengthening our cooperation even further.

I have stated many times that I welcome EU efforts on defence. With the fullest possible involvement of non-EU Allies.

So I welcome therefore the recent US decision to join the project on military mobility, which is a flagship of NATO-EU cooperation.

This can enable US and other NATO troops and equipment to move faster across Europe. For instance to reinforce NATO battlegroups in the Baltic Sea region. 

A European Union that spends more on defence, invests in new capabilities, and reduces the fragmentation of the European defence industry, is not only good for European security.

It is also good for transatlantic security. And that’s exactly also why NATO has called for Europe to do more in addressing these challenges, including increasing the competitiveness of the European defence industry. It would be good for Europe, but also good for the whole of NATO.

At the same time we know that the EU cannot defend Europe alone.

More than 90 percent of EU citizens live in a NATO country. But EU members provide only 20 percent of NATO’s defence spending.

This is not only about money. It is also about geography. Iceland and Norway in the North are gateways to the Arctic. Turkey in the south borders Syria and Iraq.

And in the west, the United States, Canada and the UK link together both sides of the Atlantic. All these countries are vital for the defence of Europe.

And most of all, it is about politics. Any attempt to divide Europe from North America, will not only weaken NATO, it will also divide Europe.

So I do not believe in Europe alone. Or North America alone.  I believe in North America and Europe together. In NATO. In strategic solidarity.

Whatever challenges we face, we are stronger together. In uncertain times we need strong institutions. Like NATO and like the EU. To defend our values, promote our interests, and keep our nations safe and free.

And with that, I’m ready to take your questions, and I think I’ll remain here because then I can keep my mask off.

FEDERICA MOGHERINI [Rector of the College of Europe]: I know a clap of six people in a room is unusual, but you have to imagine the virtual clap and I’m sure some physical clapping also from all the audience connected from the rooms, I see they’re clapping their hands. And Jens, thank you very much for this . . . this speech, this introduction. It’s so great to see you here. And with those three flags behind you, it really feels . . . feels a right combination, thank you very much. I will open immediately to questions. I actually have some myself, but I will leave the floor to the students. And I maybe start with Orkan?

QUESTION: Could you hear me? Thank you very much, Mr Secretary General, for your presentation. So, my question is about you mentioned in your speech, Ukraine. And, my question is about, actually, the Ukraine crisis, that started the same year, in 2014 when you became Secretary General. Actually, if Ukraine was a member of NATO, could this country avoid the violation of its territorial integrity. And as the follow up, we know that until 2008 Ukraine and also Georgia, they were preparing their membership and they could obtain the Membership Action Plan during NATO Summit in Bucharest and my question is, so why these two countries, Ukraine and Georgia, didn’t get MAP that normally leads to NATO membership. Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: The short answer is that it could not have happened, because the core task, the main reason why NATO exists is to defend any Ally against any threat and, of course, to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all members is our main responsibility. So therefore, no NATO Ally has ever been attacked and . . . and has been attacked in the way that Ukraine was attacked back in 2014. Because the whole idea is, if one Ally is attacked, it will trigger a response from the whole Alliance. One for all and all for one. So .that’s the purpose of NATO. But then we also have to understand that the purpose of NATO is to prevent it from happening. So the purpose of NATO is to preserve peace. It’s not to provoke a conflict. But it’s to make sure that if all potential adversaries know that an attack on one Ally will trigger the response of the whole Alliance, they will not attack.

So that’s the thinking. And that has been extremely important and made NATO the most successful alliance in history. And as you know, and as I referred in my speech, the history of Europe is actually a history about wars. Also in the part of Europe that I came from, the Nordic, we were fighting each other for centuries. And then after the Second World War,because of more than NATO, but NATO, the European Union, the institutions we established after the Second World War have played a key role in preserving peace in Europe.

NATO’s door is open, meaning that NATO, again, together with the European Union, has helped to spread democracy, the rule of law, throughout Europe, especially after the Berlin Wall came down and the Cold War ended. Because then, former members of the Warsaw Pact, they first joined NATO and then a few years later they, most of them, decided to join the European Union. And through the enlargement of NATO and the European Union, we have been able to spread democracy, the rule of law across Europe. I’m not saying that this is without challenges, without problems, but at least compared to where we were some decades ago, democracy is much more rooted, much stronger in Europe now than it has been perhaps forever. And NATO has played a part in that, and the security guarantees helped to facilitate the enlargement also of EU and European integration. So that goes hand in hand.

NATO’s door remains open. And I was at that summit, NATO summit, in Bucharest, where we made the decision that Ukraine and Georgia will become members of NATO, but we didn’t set any fixed date. For a country to become member, they need to meet the NATO standards. And therefore my message to both Ukraine and Georgia, two different countries with different geography and history, but both aspiring for NATO membership, my message is that they have to focus on reform. To reform and modernise their institutions, strengthen their democratic institutions, fight corruption, implement reforms. NATO and the European Union, but I can speak on behalf of NATO, we are helping supporting those reforms efforts.

And they are important, regardless of whether you think that these countries will become members of NATO in the near future or more distant future, because these reforms are actually helping Georgia and Ukraine.

The last thing I will say about, there’s two more things about membership. So, we have proven that NATO’s door is open, because just since 2014, actually, two more members have joined: Montenegro and North Macedonia. So NATO’s door remains open.

The last thing I would say about my membership is the following, and that is perhaps the most important thing, and that is that whether a country becomes a member of NATO or not, is to be decided by that country and the members of NATO, no one else. Because sometimes you get the impression that, for instance, Russia has some kind of veto, has the right to deny a country the right to join NATO. And my message is that, actually, it’s enshrined in many documents, including documents that Russia has signed, that it is an absolute right for every sovereign nation to decide its own path, including what kind of security arrangements it wants to be part of, or not want to be part of.

If a country doesn’t want to join NATO, I fully respect that. We have good friends like Sweden and Finland, they don’t want to join NATO. That’s fine. It’s up to them. But if they want to join NATO, like Ukraine or Georgia, it’s for the 30 members of NATO and the applicant countries to decide, no one else, Russia cannot deny a sovereign nation the right to join. And I say that also knowing, because some are telling the story that these are countries bordering Russia, so it would kind of be a provocation to Russia if they join. It will be a kind of aggressive act. No, when the Baltic countries joined NATO, also bordering Russia, they did that through democratic processes and they exercised their sovereign right to decide their own path. And Russia has no right to regard that as a provocation, or to try to deny them the right to make that sovereign decision.

And I say this also because I’m from Norway and Norway is a small country bordering Russia. And Russia, or the Soviet Union back in 1949, when we joined, they disliked that Norway joined. But I’m very glad that in Washington and London and Paris at that time, they said that it’s for Norway to decide, not for the Soviet Union to deny a small neighbour to make his own decision. So, the same principle should apply for all the countries that would like to join NATO today, it’s a sovereign right, by all nations to apply, and then it’s only the members and no one else to decide whether they meet the NATO standards. That was a very long answer to a very short question.

FEDERICA MOGHERINI: But it was excellent. And by the way, I was just thinking there was a time, it seems really long, long, long ago, it seems another life, there was a time when Russia itself was considering partnership with NATO and working in some kind of partnership, not only with NATO but also with the European Union. So things might evolve, hopefully, in the future. Shall we take one question from some students connected from their rooms?

MODERATOR: And we have a follow-up question from Miloš Mirković, so please, Miloš the floor is yours.

MILOŠ MIRKOVIĆ: Thank you very much. Thank you for this opportunity. So, Mr Secretary General, I was interested in how would you assess the state of play of the security in the Western Balkans, especially considering that we have two new member states and also having in mind the Russian influence? So maybe especially commenting on the situation in Bosnia and maybe the state of play also of democracy, let’s say, in the region? Thank you very much.

JENS STOLTENBERG: So first of all, the Western Balkans is of importance for Europe and for NATO. And often we say in NATO that when our neighbours are stable, then we are more secure. And NATO has, again, together with the EU, but again, I speak on behalf of NATO, we have a history in the Balkans, in the Western Balkans. After the end of the Cold War, you have to remember that for 40 years, NATO didn’t operate outside our borders. It was, in a way, beyond our imagination that we should operate beyond NATO borders. We had one task and that was to deter the Soviet Union. And then when the Cold War ended, people started to say that either NATO has to go out of area or out of business, because the Soviet Union was not there anymore, the Warsaw Pact was not there anymore. And then the Balkan Wars, while we were discussing this on kind of a theoretical level, the Balkan Wars dragged us into a position where we had to move out of area. And it was a very long step for us to take, to go from protecting NATO members in Europe to actually be involved in something beyond our borders. The Balkans is not far away, but politically, it was a very long step. And then we went into Bosnia-Herzegovina, helping to end the bloodshed there, in a big NATO mission in the mid-90s. And then towards the end of the same decade, in 1999, we went into, or we had launched, the air campaign in Serbia and Kosovo to help stop the fighting and the conflict in Serbia and Kosovo. And since then, NATO . . . and we also actually had some military presence in North Macedonia or it was called FYROM at that time.

We still have a presence in the Western Balkans. We had some offices and also some military presence in Sarajevo, in Belgrade, until recently also in Skopje, but now they have become members. And we have close partners in the region. I think for NATO, of course, what has really made a difference is that many of the countries in the Western Balkans, they have joined NATO. So you have Montenegro, North Macedonia, Albania. And of course, you have also Slovenia, Croatia – former Republics in Yugoslavia – they are now members of NATO.

This has been important for NATO, but it has also helped to stabilise the region, preserve peace and, again, some of them are members of EU. And together, this has helped to promote economic development, prosperity – important for the whole region. We also have a military presence in Kosovo helping to protect all the communities there. We strongly support the EU-facilitated Belgrade-Pristina, Pristina-Belgrade dialogue, Federica worked hard on that, and I supported her, we continue to support the efforts of the European Union. Bosnia-Herzegovina is a close partner, the three party presidency just made a decision a few days ago to further develop their partnership with NATO. We welcome that at NATO.

There are many challenges and many problems in Bosnia-Herzegovina. But I think that one of the main things that NATO has done there is to try to build multi-ethnic defence and security institutions, armed forces, and by that trying to reduce the risks for new conflicts and new fighting in Bosnia-Herzegovina. We continue to provide help for reform and to reduce tensions in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Then, I would like to add that, of course, some of the countries in the region have joined NATO – free, democratic decisions. Some are still aspiring, like Bosnia-Herzegovina, and we help them with their forms, and they know that this will be a decision for Bosnia-Herzegovina and for NATO. And then we have a country like Serbia. They don’t aspire for NATO membership. They aspire for EU membership, but not for NATO membership. And for me it’s important to say that that’s a decision I fully respect. So we respect, also, when countries decide to be neutral. So when Serbia decides to be a neutral country, is not aiming for, or applying, or working for NATO membership, that’s fine.

We will never force a country to join. But then we appreciate the fact that we can have Serbia as a partner. We don’t agree on all issues as we hardly do inside the Alliance either. But then we work together and, actually NATO and Serbia, we work together on issues also, for instance, we had an exercise not so long ago, I went to Belgrade, an exercise on the civil preparedness and so on.

So, I strongly believe that NATO should strengthen its partnership with different countries in the region, working with the European Union, actually an excellent example of where NATO and the European Union complement each other. EU has many tools that NATO doesn’t have, the economic tools and other tools. We have some military presence there and we are working together. And, because we share the same neighbourhood, we want peace and stability and hopefully we can help to promote that together in the Western Balkans.

FEDERICA MOGHERINI: Thank you Jens, I’ll come to the room, maybe I’ll turn to Marta?

QUESTION: Good morning, thank you so much for being with us today. So, my question: historically EU-NATO corporation has been blocked by some member states of each organisation. In your speech, you mentioned a stronger EU-NATO cooperation. What future do you see for that, keeping in mind these political obstacles? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: You are right that there are some political obstacles, but we have been able to find ways to cooperate and work together, because it’s so obvious that it is in the interest of both the European Union and NATO. And many of the members are the same. So it will be very strange if we are not able to work together.

I am very much aware that not all EU members are NATO members and not all NATO members are EU members. But as I said, more than 90 percent, I think it’s 93 percent of the people living in the European Union, they live in a NATO country. And it would be strange if we cannot cooperate, because for many of these countries it’s about cooperating with themselves. So if we end up in a situation with two institutions that share the same neighbourhood, the same challenges, the same values – in many ways, actually, were established for the same historical reasons – and have the same members to a large extent, are not able to work together, then there’s something fundamentally wrong with the people working in those institutions. And that’s not the case. So therefore, we have been able to work together.

And this was what Federica realised when she was High Representative; it’s something I have seen, and therefore it is really something I am pleased to see, that there are, of course, difficulties and challenges and many other things we had to overcome, but compared to where we were not many years ago, and especially before 2014, we have really been able to lift the NATO-EU cooperation to new levels. We identified, I think it was 76 different areas where we work together.

But, also in respect of the fact that we have not the same members, all the same members, and the fact that we know that there are some political sensitivities, I remember, Federica – and I also try to say that as elegant as Federica – that we respect the integrity and the decision-making procedures of each and every organisation.

So, of course, EU is EU and NATO is NATO and we make our independent decisions, but then we find ways to work together, at least work in parallel to coordinate our activities. So, I think this pragmatic approach is the only way to also continue to do this in the future.

FEDERICA MOGHERINI: You know, Jens, when you were answering this question, I was actually trying to remember the exact wording of that disclaimer. And I perfectly remember now I’m free, I can share anecdotes more than ever, that every time we had a ministerial meeting – because Jens was always invited and kind enough to come to all the foreign ministers meetings, and defence ministers meeting of the European Union, and I was going to the NATO ones – and he, at a certain moment told me, ‘How is it that you always say exactly the same wording at the end of this session?’ And this is because, actually, in the European Union, there is a sort of disclaimer, that is the one that he quoted. And imagine, I forgot it! Maybe we can get a question from the online-connected students?

MODERATOR: Yes, we will have two questions from Anna-Liisa Merilind.

ANNA-LIISA MERILIND: Hello Secretary General, thank you so much for being with us today. My name is Anna-Liisa Merilind, I’m a Masters student, for transatlantic affairs, and I come from Tallinn, Estonia. And actually, my first question is about the rise of China and the military might and then the increasingly assertive behaviour. There is a strategic forum called the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, which is between the US, Japan, Australia and India. And then my question is, with regard to China’s rise, what is the state of NATO’s cooperation with the Quad and how do you see it developing in the future?

And, if I may, then also I had one question from a colleague of mine, a second year Masters student, [inaudible] who is from Georgia, and she was actually asking a follow-up question to already what was being discussed earlier on. And she was asking: if Russia doesn’t have a third party veto, right, then when do you expect the Bucharest summit promises to be fulfilled vis-a-vis Georgia? Would you explain that then neglecting Russian aggression in 2008 led to the Ukrainian crisis in 2014? And where do you see NATO’s role in resolving the creeping occupation of Georgia by Russia? Thank you very much.

JENS STOLTENBERG: First on China. The rise of China is going to be defining for transatlantic cooperation in the years to come, because it will impact and has already started to impact the global balance of power. And again, NATO should remain a regional alliance – North America and Europe. But we have to take into account that the threats and the challenges we face in this region, the North Atlantic region, they are becoming more and more global. That’s the case for the terrorism, cyber, space, disinformation campaign – it doesn’t matter. These are really, truly global challenges.

So NATO should remain a regional alliance, but we need to address global challenges. There’s no way you can protect this region without having a global approach, and that also applies for the rise of China. And China will soon have the biggest economy in the world. That demonstrates, also, that the rise of China also represents opportunities for our economies, for our markets, for trade. And of course, the rise of China has been extremely important when it comes to lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. So, it’s not a black and white issue, black or white, it’s actually something which we also see some opportunities related to, for all of us.

Having said that, we have to understand that it’s something fundamentally new, that the country with the biggest economy and already the second largest defence budget in the world, is an authoritarian country that doesn’t share our values. And we see that in the way they are cracking down on democratic rights. Protests in Hong Kong. How they prosecute the minorities, the Uighurs in their own country. How they actually use modern technology, social media, to monitor people in a way we have never seen before. And how they actually openly say that they don’t share our democratic values. And also how they’re trying to reshape the international order, undermining the rules-based international order that we have built together for decades.

They are investing heavily in new military capabilities, new nuclear weapons, long range missiles, intercontinental missiles. Just over the last five years, they have deployed 80 new battleships, which is actually the same amount of naval capabilities as the total navy of the United Kingdom. So they’re adding a lot, making China a more and more global military power. And then they try to expand their influence in the South China Sea, taking control there, threatening Taiwan.

And we have seen how they are bullying countries all over the world: bullying Australia when Australia asks for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus; Canada, where they have arrested two Canadian citizens as a kind of punishment for Canadian behaviour – which is totally unacceptable. And I know it myself because I was Prime Minister in Norway when the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize Committee awarded the Peace Prize to a Chinese dissident. And then China immediately broke all ties, boycotted trade, political ties, to punish Norway.

So this way of behaving, as a growing economic and military power, is really undermining the world we like to build, based on rules, respect to sovereignty, international law. And the challenge is that this is not one country among many, it is the biggest economy in the world if you measure in purchasing power – taking into account the difference in cost between different countries – and also, the biggest economy in market values, shifting the global balance of power. And therefore, for me, it’s so obvious that for instance, when the United States expressed concerns about the size of China – the military size, the economic size, leading in technology in many areas, artificial intelligence and so on – for me, that makes it just obvious that we need to be together, because if you are alone, we will all be small compared to China, even the United States in many areas: economy.

So, for the United States, this is a big advantage to have 29 friends and Allies in NATO. And I tell the Americans that NATO is not only, anyway, good for Europe, NATO’s not only about the US protecting Europe, NATO’s about we protecting each other, including the United States. We saw that after the 9/11 attack on the United States. But we also see it when it comes to addressing the rise of China.

So NATO has come a long way. Not long ago, we hardly addressed the rise of China at all. At the NATO summit in December 2019, we for the first time had language on China in the statements from NATO leaders. And since then, we have seen development, for instance, when it comes to resilience, protecting our infrastructure, because it’s not about moving NATO into the Asia-Pacific, but it’s about taking into account that China is coming closer to us: in cyber, in the Arctic, in Africa, investing in our critical infrastructure in Europe. We saw the discussion we had about telecommunications and 5G. We have seen an enormous convergence of views among Allies that we need 5G communications, which can be reliable and take into account the risk related to foreign ownership and foreign control. So NATO has stepped up. We address and try to understand, assess and respond, also by strengthening our resilience. Part of that is also, of course, to realise the importance of working with partners. So we are stepping up our cooperation with the partners in the Asia-Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea. And I welcome, also, the United States are, of course, also stepping up, strengthening their partnership, cooperation with partners in Asia and the Pacific.

FEDERICA MOGHERINI: Thank you Jens. We come back to the room, I promised Philip to go next, and then we go to Christine.

QUESTION: Thank you very much, Madam Rector, and thank you very much Secretary Jens Stoltenberg for joining us today. This is truly a unique opportunity, which I’m sure we’re all very happy to be here for. During your position as Secretary General, you’ve signed two agreements with the European Union, the 2016 agreement and 2018 agreement, which I’m sure there was a lot of work with the Rector in her former capacity. However, one of the most important agreements that remains is the 2002 Berlin Plus agreement between the EU and NATO, in the EU being able to use NATO’s capabilities. This agreement has been wavering in these past years. In fact, the only operation that operates under it is Operation Althea, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. So I want to ask you, what do you believe is the future of the Berlin Plus agreement and will it be replaced once, or if indeed, Operation Athea ends? Thank you very much.

JENS STOLTENBERG: You are right, that is only in Bosnia-Herzegovina that this has any practical relevance, the Berlin agreement that was signed many years ago, or agreed many years ago. So far, we have not seen any need for using that mechanism in other missions and operations than in Bosnia-Herzegovina. I will not speculate whether that will be, or may be, the case in the future. But we have actually found other ways to work together, for instance, in Iraq, where you now see an expanded NATO Training Mission. And of course, when I say a NATO Training Mission, that includes a lot of EU Allies and also not only EU Allies, actually Sweden and Finland are considered to be part of this Training Mission. So, it’s a NATO framework, NATO Training Mission, but EU NATO Allies, like, for instance, Germany are planning to be part of this. And many others, France, Italy, they have all declared interest. So, EU members are part of it, through the NATO Training Mission, and then also some partners like Finland and Sweden.

Then the EU, they are also in Iraq, but they are doing different things, complementing each other. And again, a kind of pragmatic way, instead of trying to establish a kind of common mission and operation using the Berlin Plus mechanisms, which may be a bit complicated, we just agree in parallel to work together and then we fulfil and complement each other in Iraq. So there is a big difference between Iraq and Bosnia-Herzegovina, but it illustrates that EU and NATO can find ways of working together without using these formal structures, but just pragmatic ways of working together.

FEDERICA MOGHERINI: I can actually not only confirm but underline what you said indeed, well, I remember I was in office when the European Union established the mission in Iraq. I remember the coordination which it’s doing still now, I think the support to the security sector reform on the civilian side. And I remember that contacts at our level and staff level between the European Union militaries – and not only militaries in that case, mainly not militaries – and NATO staff was constant, especially as NATO was planning to establish their own presence there. And it worked perfectly well. Indeed, there are ways of establishing coordination and cooperation. Afghanistan was another example, where the European Union was training the police. And obviously NATO was doing something different. And there was very close cooperation on the ground and at the level of headquarters. So I can only confirm what you said. Maybe we’ll get one question from the online first?

MODERATOR: OK, so a follow-up question on China from Michelangelo.

MICHELANGELO DE LISI: Mr Secretary General, first of all, many thanks for your most interesting presentation and discussion. My name is Michelangelo and I study in the International Relations and Diplomacy Studies Department at the college. And I also had a question regarding the rise of China and its impact on global security, which you touched upon already. I would like to ask whether, in your own view, you believe that China can rise peacefully in the coming decade, as it has been doing for many years, without provoking a major conflict in the process, which would probably force the involvement of NATO. For instance, do you believe that China can actually win the battle for regional and global hegemony without needing to fight it? Thank you very much.

JENS STOLTENBERG: So, our task, our responsibility is to make sure that China’s rise does not lead to conflict. And that’s also one of the reasons why we are setting the rise of China, why we are putting the rise of China higher on the NATO agenda, because even though we remain a regional alliance, the rise of China matters for our security. And it matters for our values: democracy and the rule of law. And I think that, in many ways, I think this just highlights, again, the importance of standing together. And we have said again and again that the best way to preserve peace is to be committed to collective defence, because there will be no attack against any NATO ally, as long as it’s very clear conveyed that the whole Alliance stands together. I know there are written a lot of analyses and books about the risk of when you have a rising power, challenging hegemon, it will in a way always lead to war. The Thucydides’s trap – it was a book recently written by a professor at Harvard about the Destined for War, and it’s about the rise of China and he goes all the way back to Sparta and Athens, where the rise of Sparta and the fear it instilled in Athens made war inevitable.

That’s, in a way, the main message. But in those historical studies, what they have actually studied, I think, is 16 different cases when you have a rising power challenging an existing big power. Most of those cases ends in war, but not all of them. So it is possible. And therefore we need to learn and make sure that the rise of China does not lead to war and conflict. We will all be losers, also, China, if that leads to conflict. And for me, that just highlights the importance of working with the partners. NATO Allies are strong, 50 percent of the world’s military might, 50 percent of the world’s economic might. But if you add that with likeminded democracies, for instance, in the broader Asia-Pacific region – Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Korea and others, India – then it’s a formidable force. And for me, it underlines the importance of building these relationships, standing up for our values at home, but also the international rules-based order. And also engaging with China.

Of course, then it’s not always for NATO, but for instance, it is important to engage with China on issues like climate change. There’s no way you can solve climate change without working with China. And then convey a message that we are ready to engage, to work, also NATO. I met the Chinese Foreign Minister, there are some military contacts also, between China and NATO, and then, by that, demonstrating our unity, our strength, but also our willingness to avoid, prevent any kind of conflict.

So that’s always the case, to in a way convey a message of strength and unity, a commitment to our values, the rules-based order, but at the same time, an openness to engage, to talk, to solve common problems – climate change, whatever it may be – and also reduce the scope for misunderstandings and miscalculations that can lead to conflict.

FEDERICA MOGHERINI: I would ask one moment of patience to Christine and the others, because I actually have a follow-up question. I think one of the most interesting statements and the policy changes you are introducing, as the Secretary General in the Alliance, is this focus on the global new frontiers of threats and challenges that are not military in nature, but that cannot be ignored by a military alliance like NATO, like climate change, for instance. And as you mentioned, the fact that on climate change, there might be some work to be done with China, and this seems inevitable and indeed very much needed. I was wondering if you can share with us a little bit more about NATO’s plans or NATO’s projects or ideas on what can be the role of NATO, of a military alliance like NATO in addressing climate change, as a as a threat – because already defining climate change as a threat is a shift in paradigm?

JENS STOLTENBERG: Well, NATO, we always say that we have to be able to defend all Allies against any threat from any direction. And again, back in the Cold War it was one threat, one direction, it was the Soviet Union. And now it’s a much more complex, multifaceted threat environment we are facing. And one of the threats we face is climate change. Because climate change is, as we often say, a crisis multiplier. A lot of the conflicts and fight over resources, water, food, arable land is, more or less, directly linked to climate change, global warming, and it will be more so in the future. Migration will be triggered by climate change, because people can’t live and work where they used to do, because the world is changing, climate is changing, wilder, wetter, windy weather will change how people can live and where they will live. That will increase crisis in many places.

And many people have analysed, for instance, the war in Syria and link that also to the fight about resources and link that, again, to climate change, the Sahel region is also . . . it’s not only climate change, but climate change adds to the tensions and the conflict.

So I see for NATO, actually, three roles or tasks related to climate change. One is to understand, monitor, fully assess the security implications of global warming and climate change. Because climate change impacts our security, therefore, it matters for NATO because NATO is about security. And we need to understand that. So that’s about analysing, but to understand is the first step to be able to respond.

The second role NATO should have is that we need to adapt the way we do our work. We need to adapt NATO. And it’s very basic. A lot of our infrastructure will be directly impacted by climate change. Rising sea levels will impact a lot of naval bases’ infrastructure. We have seen that, for instance, in Norfolk, Virginia, where there are naval bases, including NATO headquarters. They see flooding as a big, big problem. And we have seen numbers, very high numbers, related to how much of military infrastructure, NATO infrastructure, that will be impacted by climate change, so, rising sea levels.

But rising sea levels is only one part. Melting ice is another part. It will change the strategic environment up in the High North, where much more will be available for shipping, for traffic, military, but also civilian use, when the North Pole is melting – or, at least, the Arctic ice is melting.

It will impact such basic things as uniforms and the way we do military operations. We operate in Iraq. In Baghdad last summer it was more than 50 degrees for many, many days. And of course, when you have more extreme weather, extreme heat, it matters what kind of uniform, weapon, equipment, vehicles you have. More wet, windy, extreme weather, the military they operate out there in nature, so when nature becomes more extreme, we need to adapt the way we operate. So this is everything from the big decisions about infrastructure to smaller decisions about clothing, equipment, ammunition, whatever. So we need to adapt the way we conduct military operations to be able to operate in more extreme weather, climate change.

And the third element of the NATO response is that we should be part of the effort to reduce emissions. Of course, NATO will remain a military alliance. And the big effort is to get to make new agreements and so on will be done by EU and others, but we should play our part in supporting those efforts. And we know that in military operations, if you see a battle tank or an aircraft carrier and so on, it’s not the first thing you think about, it’s not, ‘It’s green.’ Meaning it’s also green, meaning ‘environmentally friendly’. They use a lot of energy, for good reasons, because this is heavy stuff. But we know that it emits CO2, a climate change or a greenhouse gas – and we also know that there are ways to reduce those emissions, which will both make it more environmentally friendly, but at the same time actually increase our operational strength. Because in many military operations, if you read books about the Second World War or the First World War or the Afghan war and military operations, the supply of fuels. If you read about the Rommel in North Africa, then one of the big, big, big vulnerabilities was the supply of fuel over the Mediterranean.

So supply of fuels has been so critical for so many military operations for so many years. So if you can reduce dependency on fossil fuels, you reduce emissions, but you also increase the resilience, the strength of our military operations. In Afghanistan, one of the most vulnerable things over decades has been the transportation of a lot of diesel for cars, vehicles, but also for just aggregates to make electric power. If you can have more solar power, more biofuels, local produced energy and/or less energy consumption in our military operations, energy efficiency, we will reduce emissions, help curb the global warming, but at the same time also make our military missions less vulnerable.

So we should set the gold standard in NATO for how we conduct military operations in an effective way, but in a way which is also, at the same time, more environmentally friendly.

FEDERICA MOGHERINI: Excellent. I find this fascinating. By the way, we are going to work on our own green deal in the college in the coming weeks and months. Christine?

QUESTION: Thank you so much for your presentation. So, you mention in your presentation the new challenges, the new technologies, so I have a more specific question: do you see any potential EU-NATO cooperation in setting international standards for artificial intelligence?

JENS STOLTENBERG: Yeah, at least I see a need that likeminded countries and likeminded institutions, as EU and NATO come together, and try to figure out how do we develop some ethical standards for these new technologies, especially when it comes to . . . so, for many reasons, but for NATO, especially when it comes to the application, the use of these technologies in military systems, in new weapons. The challenge is, of course, that our potential adversaries, they are now developing these technologies at a very high pace, and they are introducing new technologies in their systems more and more.

And so, we also need to maintain our technological edge. And artificial intelligence is something we already use, in systems. And artificial intelligence is not something separate from what we have. When we have new fighter jets or new drones, they use a lot of new technologies, new disruptive technology. We implement that in those systems already. So we are already in a world where these new disruptive technologies are used, autonomous systems, artificial intelligence, big data and so on.

The challenge is how do we make sure that we keep the technological edge, which always has been the advantage of the West – NATO – but at the same time trying to develop ethical standards and also arms control. We don’t have the full answer to that today. But, again, one part of my NATO 2030 agenda is how to develop ethical standards for new disruptive technologies and how, also, to apply arms control. Up to now, arms control has been mainly about counting warheads putting a number – we agree that it should not be more than 1,050 warheads on each side, Russia, the United States, strategic warheads – that’s an easy number to adjust and to measure.

But now, how do you do arms control in cyberspace? How do you count algorithms, if that’s possible to count at all? And how do you apply the thinking of arms control and then also ethical standards which is banning chemical weapons, banning other weapon systems, as we have done up to now? How do we apply that same kind of thinking in this new area? We have to be honest and say that nobody has that answer today and even to a lesser degree, a political agreement on how to address it and do something about it. But it is an increasing understanding that is an issue we cannot hide or deny.

The last thing I would say about this is that living in Belgium reminds me of the brutality of the First World War. Because I’m from Norway and the First World War, we were not part of that, so, I have to be honest, it was when I came to Belgium that I realised how brutal and how bad that was. For me, the World War was the Second. The First War was something not so much affected. But when you go to the battlefields in Belgium, to the Ypres, for instance, you read about the brutality. And the brutality of that war is that that’s the first big war where they used industrial power to kill each other.

And that changed the many of the soldiers that went into the First World War, they didn’t have helmets and they had [inaudible] because that was kind of the Napoleonic war way of fighting. And they had that kind of equipment moving into industrialised war with cannons and bombs and all that and gas. So the Industrial Revolution changed the nature of warfare in an absolutely fundamental way. These new technologies we are now introducing are going to change the nature of warfare in the same way, as fundamentally as the Industrial Revolution. And therefore, we need to, and then I’ll come back to your question.

Yes, of course, this is an area where NATO and EU should see if there are something we can find to work together on. And also an area where EU has a lot of tools where they address these technologies regardless of weapons. But of course, there’s a blurred line between civilian use and military use of the same technologies.

FEDERICA MOGHERINI: Indeed, I think that’s the famous normative power of the European Union could really helpfully be applied. Maybe this is something for our law department to look into, to how especially, I always thought the accountability, not only the ethical, but also the accountability, the command chain on the weaponisation of artificial intelligence. But maybe we can get, if this is OK for you, Jens, we still have some 10, 15 minutes, we get a couple of questions? Do you want to take, maybe, two together?

JENS STOLTENBERG: Yeah, yeah, I’m good, yeah.

FEDERICA MOGHERINI: You’ve been very generous.

JENS STOLTENBERG: I can try to be shorter. So we can take two and two, and whatever.

FEDERICA MOGHERINI: Perfect, good. We’ll try to take two.

MODERATOR: Okay. So the first question from Ediz, and after from Viktorya.

EDIZ TOPCUOGLU: Thank you very much, Secretary General, for taking the time to come here. And thank you, Madam Rector, and to all the organisers for organising this. My question is about NATO in space. It’s only recently been declared an operational theatre and the EU has quite recently entered into the space domain, too. How do you see that relationship evolving, especially with regards to the fact that the EU considers it not to be a security area, so the questions of duplication of forces, etc. come up. Do you think NATO and the EU will be able to cooperate here or will there be another one of those duplication issues?

FEDERICA MOGHERINI: Can we take another one?

VIKTORYA MURADYAN: Thank you very much. Thank you very much, Secretary General, for the chance to ask a question. My name is Viktorya and I’m from Armenia. My question is the question that my President wanted to ask you back in October. As you know, at the end of the last year, as confirmed by the intelligence services of the US, France and Russia, Turkey has been identified as one of the perpetrators of the disastrous war in Nagorno-Karabakh, with active military support to Azerbaijan. I would like to ask why Turkey, a NATO member, was involved in a war that had nothing to do with NATO or its interests in the region and why nothing has been done to restrain Turkey’s involvement, knowing that the weapons made by NATO, by NATO member states were used during indiscriminate attacks on civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh? And in the same context, this new post-war reality in the South Caucasus, meaning Turkey’s transformation into a regional superpower with a larger control in the South Caucasus and more upcoming connectivity to the Central Asian countries, doesn’t that bother NATO member states? Thank you very much.

JENS STOLTENBERG: Thank you so much. First, on space. First of all, space is becoming more and more important for civilian purposes – it has been for a long time – but also more and more important for military purposes. Not in a way that NATO is planning to militarise space, but what is going on in space matters what takes place on the earth. Everything from communications, command and control, monitoring, intelligence, weather forecasts – all of these things are dependent on space satellites, space capabilities. So we have to make sure that they are protected. We have to make sure that they will function in peace, crisis and conflict, because modern military operations are, already today, dependent on a wide range of space capabilities. And therefore, NATO has developed our cooperation, the efforts, the work we do on making sure that we have available space capabilities. As always in NATO, this is very often about drawing on national capabilities, it is not about NATO owning a satellite, but it is about NATO working with Italy or with Germany or other Allies on making sure they provide to NATO missions and operations, to collective defence missions in Europe or counterterrorism missions in Afghanistan, the necessary space capabilities.

And I, to be honest, I don’t see any big problem, actually, I see a potential for working with the European Union, because the European Union is, of course, investing in these capabilities, or EU members are investing in these capabilities, EU has some work on these capabilities. And well as this, what we always said is that as long as these new European capabilities, civilian or military, are available for NATO Allies, if that satellite is developed by some money from the European Union and from some EU member states, as long as the information this satellite is able to transmit is available for NATO Allies, which it is, because it’s very much the same Allies, the same countries, then it’s fine.

So, often I think we shouldn’t make a problem out of something which is not a problem and that many Allies are both members of EU and NATO and have, for instance, capabilities like satellites providing information both for civilian and military use, for NATO operations and maybe EU activities, whatever it is, that works fine. So, most of all, I think we just have to work together on the issue of space and technology.

Then, Nagorno-Karabakh. First of all, I am, of course, concerned about the situation. I was extremely concerned when we saw the bloodshed, the fighting. I know that it’s still a difficult situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, but I welcome the fact that at least that the fighting has stopped and there is a political process. NATO is not part of that. You are right that a NATO Ally, has supported and expressed support to one party in the conflict. But it’s not a NATO mission. It’s not something that NATO has been part of. And I think it just reflects that NATO, of course, is important and, and we protect each other. But NATO Allies don’t agree on everything. And historically, we have seen that NATO Allies have been engaged in military operations where not all allies agree, so, going back to the Suez crisis in ‘56, or the Vietnam War in the 60s and 70s, or the Iraq war in 2003, I’m not saying that these wars and conflicts are not important. They were extremely important. But Allies had different views. Some Allies supported the Iraq operation in 2003, or war, in 2003 – other Allies were heavily against. It was never a NATO mission, a NATO operation.

So, NATO is not a part, NATO supports the political efforts, and we think it’s extremely important that we prevent a resumption of military conflict, fighting.

FEDERICA MOGHERINI: Thank you, Jens. Maybe we go for the last question to Omar?

QUESTION: Thank you, Rector. Thank you, Mr Secretary General. My question would be more like on the fragmentation of NATO members, like we see Turkey buying S-400 missile systems from Russia and then we see a lot of criticism on that on Turkey, on the other hand, we see Turkey as supporting a government of national accord in Libya, but we see France supporting Haftar against a UN-recognised government of national accord that is supported by Turkey and Italy. So we see NATO members in different sides in different areas of the world in different topics. So how can we explain this fragmentation of NATO members? Is this the new normal for NATO Alliance in the 21st century? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: It’s always easier when all NATO Allies agree and have a common position on every issue. So, as Secretary General, that would make my life much easier. But when you say that, you asked whether this is a new normal, if I could say anything, I would say that this has been the case for decades. It’s to some extent the same issue I just answered. It is nothing new that Allies disagree. The strength of NATO is that despite these disagreements on important issues, we have always been able to unite around our core task: to protect and defend each other.

But in ‘56, just seven years after we were established, we had the Suez Crisis, where Allies seriously disagreed on how to deal with a situation in Egypt and the Suez Canal. Then, in the 1960s, France decided to leave the military cooperation in the Alliance. That was not an easy decision for NATO and for France. In the 70s we had different views about, for instance, colonial warfare of some members in Africa. And we have the Vietnam War – Allies disagreed. And, as I said, we had as recently as 2003, the Iraq War. I’m not saying this because I’m underestimating the importance and the difficulties related to these disagreements. They have been difficult all the way. But it’s nothing new. So, the strength of NATO is that despite these serious differences on serious issues – colonial warfare in Africa, or the Vietnam War, or the Iraq War and other things – we have been the most successful alliance in history because we have been able to concentrate on our core task.

I will always try to do whatever I can to minimise disagreements, to solve differences. And when we are able to do that, that’s the best thing. When we are not able to do that, my task is to prevent those differences for creating problems which are undermining NATO as a military alliance.

On some of the issues you mentioned, Eastern Mediterranean and so on. Well, there are obvious differences, but then I think that what is important for me is to try to then use NATO as a platform to reduce differences, reduce tensions, prevent any escalation. And for instance, when it comes the Eastern Mediterranean and the differences we have seen between two NATO Allies, Greece and Turkey, over the last weeks, months, we have seen at least some positive steps. Partly, we have seen that Greece have declared, sorry, Turkey has declared that, they will not deploy this Oruc Reis, this ship that conducts these seismic surveys, in disputed waters. I have welcomed that.

We have been able at NATO to establish what we call a deconfliction mechanism. Because we need to avoid that when we see more Greek and Turkish military presence in the Eastern Med, we need to avoid coming back to where we were in the 1990s. Because in the 1990s, similar tensions between Greece and Turkey ended with casualties, downing of planes. And that was very serious. We have to do whatever we can to prevent that from happening again. And therefore, we have established this deconfliction mechanism where military experts from Greece and Turkey meet, they have cancelled some exercises and agreed on some basic procedures of communications to try to prevent the same from happening again: that this increased presence, military presence, leads to casualties, real conflict. Talks have started, exploratory talks have started between Greece and Turkey on the underlying disputes in the Eastern Med and NATO has helped to support those efforts by establishing this deconfliction mechanism.

And I’m not saying that we have solved the problems, but I’m saying that, given that we see the value of being together in this Alliance, when we see serious differences, we should try to address, solve, if not at least try to prevent them from spreading and creating even more problems for all of us.

Just briefly on Libya, we support the political process, the UN-led process. We have seen some positive steps there, too. So let’s just be strong supporters of that political process. OK, I think perhaps I’ll leave it to you.

FEDERICA MOGHERINI: I think that, yeah, I think we should now wrap up. If I can ask you one sentence of advice for our students, because you have been, as you said, always a convinced European. You have not studied at a college, but you’ve focussed on Europe a lot and on international issues as well. And here we have, between here and our campus in Poland, in Natolin, we have some 500 young, committed and young people, relatively young people, wondering what to do next. What would be your personal advice?



JENS STOLTENBERG: So, first of all, I think the most important thing is to be a good student, now. No, but it’s not only a joke, it’s serious. I have never planned for anything and I ended up here, to be honest. It’s almost true. For instance, I was a student myself, I made one decision: that I would never become a politician, because I’d been very active in the young party, the young Labour Party, back in Norway. And then I decided I should never go into politics. That was the only clear decision I made. And then I was asked to become Deputy Minister of Environment in Norway back in 1990. And I said, ‘OK, for a year.’ And now I’m here. So I think that, I’m not against planning, actually, as a Secretary General I should be very much in favour of planning, but be focused on what you do now. That’s the best thing.

So, write your thesis, read your books, do your homework, and then some good things will happen. Those who are too focused on the next step, I think they may, may lose the focus on what matters now. So that’s actually my most important advice.

And then I think if you have some good education, and then you have that if you attend the school, this college, then there will always be need for you and your knowledge.

And be open. That’s another advice. You have to be able to work with other people. One of my greatest skills is that I’m very good at receiving help. I love to be helped. And don’t be shy of asking for help. And don’t be afraid of asking stupid questions. I asked stupid questions my whole life and I continue to ask stupid questions. So if you are willing to and able to and open for being helped, and focused on today and not too much on the next job or next task, then you will have a happy and good life.

FEDERICA MOGHERINI: Thank you. Thank you very much, Jens, I fully subscribe. I think that now I can invite you to sign our golden book for guests of honour and also receive a small present, a book of photos of Bruges that I will not hand over to you because we cannot touch common things. But thank you so much for having done this. Maybe one of next year’s next promotions, we will organise a visit to the NATO headquarters.

JENS STOLTENBERG: You’re welcome.

FEDERICA MOGHERINI: And come to see you or your successor there. Thank you so much for coming.

JENS STOLTENBERG: Thank you so much. Thank you, thank you.

FEDERICA MOGHERINI: Having the photo with the disinfectant is perfect! Let me also thank, as you finish, all our staff and also NATO staff that made it possible, all the technical support, all colleagues that have been really working very hard to make it possible in challenging circumstances. Thank you very much and thanks to you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: Thank you so much.