by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on the release of his Annual Report 2020
Today, I am presenting my Annual Report for 2020.
It covers NATO's work and our achievements throughout the year.
Our response to COVID-19. Our efforts to ensure the health crisis has not become a security crisis.
And our preparations for the future, to make our strong Alliance even stronger.
2020 was dominated by the pandemic. It changed our lives. It threatened our economies and our societies.
But NATO's ability to defend our nations and populations has remained undiminished.
We supported the civilian response to the pandemic, while continuing to defend all Allies against any threats.
Our forces remained ready and vigilant. And we sustained our missions and deployments – from the battlegroups in the east of the Alliance, to Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.
We also continued to invest in our defence.
Despite the economic impact of COVID-19, 2020 was the sixth consecutive year of increased defence spending across European Allies and Canada.
With an increase in real terms of 3.9% as you can see on the chart.
We expect that trend to continue this year. But it is absolutely vital that we maintain the momentum. Because security challenges have not gone away.
While 2020 was a year of significant upheaval, overall support for NATO and the transatlantic bond remained steady and strong.
Last year, NATO commissioned polling across all 30 Allies. It shows high levels of support for NATO membership. 62% of NATO citizens would vote for their nation to remain a member of the Alliance. And only 11% would vote against.
Our polling also shows broad agreement with the principle of collective defence. And with the fact that NATO membership makes an attack by a foreign nation less likely.
And 79 % believe that cooperation between North America and Europe on security, is important.
This is crucial. Because we need a strong transatlantic bond to deal with the challenges we face. Russia's destabilising behaviour. The continuing threat of terrorism. Sophisticated cyber-attacks. Disruptive technologies. The rise of China. And the security implications of climate change.
No country can tackle them alone. And no continent can tackle them alone. That is why Europe and North America must work even more closely together. In NATO. In strategic solidarity.
We stand at an important juncture in transatlantic relations. I welcome President Biden's clear commitment to rebuilding alliances and strengthening NATO. We now have an opportunity to open a new chapter. And we must seize it to set an ambitious and forward-looking agenda at our NATO summit later this year.
This is at the heart of the NATO 2030 initiative to prepare our Alliance for the future.
I have put forward an initial set of proposals, based on the mandate from NATO leaders. And inputs over the last year from the independent expert group I appointed.
As well as from youth leaders, parliamentarians and many others.
We started a constructive discussion with Allies. Including NATO defence ministers last month. And foreign ministers next week.
The best way to keep our nations safe for the future is to reinforce transatlantic unity.
This unity derives from our commitment to defend each other.
We must also strengthen political consultations on all issues that affect our security.
And we must broaden our approach.
By increasing the resilience of our societies, maintaining our technological edge, and addressing the security impact of climate change.
Finally, we must safeguard the rules-based order, which is being challenged by authoritarian powers.
So we have an important year ahead of us, and a lot of work to do. To ensure we can tackle the challenges of today and of tomorrow.
And with that, I am ready to take your questions.
NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Thank you very much. We'll take questions, remotely starting with Antena 3 Radu Tudor.
Antena 3: Thank you Oana Lungescu. Secretary General happy birthday, first if all. Second, what is your recommendation for all Allied nations on relations with Russia and China, because we saw a huge hybrid war launched on our space on our Allied space, and what will be your approach and your recommendations for NATO members, thank you.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: The fact that we see a more assertive Russia, being responsible for aggressive actions against neighbours as we have seen in Ukraine and Georgia, but also Russia being responsible for hybrid attacks, cyber attacks against NATO allies, and also efforts to meddle in domestic political processes, combined with the shifting global balance of power caused by the rise of China and also the fact that China and Russia are working more closely together also conducting military exercises together - all of this together is defining the challenges of NATO and our Alliance in the future.
And that's also exactly why it is so important that NATO continues to adapt and respond to a more challenging security environment caused by, also the rise of China, but also more assertive behaviour of Russia.
And that includes a wide range of issues. Many of them are addressed in the NATO 2030 proposals, but that includes that we need to make sure that we continue to strengthen our deterrence and defence, that we are stepping up when it comes to also our cyber defences, but also that we are doing more when it comes to resilience of our societies, making sure that we have a reliable infrastructure, telecommunications in peace, crisis and conflict, and not least that we maintain our technological edge, and to do all this we need also to strengthen the way we consult our work together as the 30 Allies from both sides of the Atlantic in NATO.
And fundamentally, this is about standing up for our core values, the rules based order, both at home but also internationally. So, this is the main response is that we need to continue to ensure that NATO remains the most successful Alliance in history by continuing to adapt, NATO and that's exactly what I expect the Heads of State and Government to do when they meet at the NATO summit later on this year and also for foreign ministers to discuss next week.
NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: The next question will go to Hans-Uwe Mergener from the Mittler-Report.
Mittler-Report : Good morning, thank you very much for giving me the opportunity. So, happy birthday. And my question would refer to the relationship to the European Union.And I am considering how the burden sharing in responsibilities, and also in task could work, between NATO and EU.. How could it be facilitated in order to share tasks, to cope with risks, and also to demonstrate the united approach, which we see at the horizon is the new administration in Washington. And it may also open the door for dealing with Afghanistan in the future. And I would be interested in how you could scheme that thing. Thank you Sir.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Thank you so much. NATO and the European Union, we are two different organisations with different members and different tasks and different decision making processes and of course while I very much welcome, stronger cooperation between NATO and the European Union, and also welcome the fact that we have been able to lift the cooperation between our two organisations to unprecedented levels over the last years. I do that based on the fact that we have to respect each other and the integrity of the two different organisations.
At the same time, we know that we have a lot in common, because we share the same neighbourhood. We share many of the same trends and challenges, and all these to be chairman of the same members, more than 90% of the people living in the European Union, they live in the NATO allied country.
And therefore, I welcome EU efforts on defence. But this cannot replace a NATO, and knowing that 20% of NATO's defence spending comes from EU allies. Of course, it has to be NATO, that is the cornerstone for collective defence for protecting and defending European allies, and this is also clearly stated from European leaders and actually in many EU decisions and documents that for EU allies or for EU members who are NATO allies, NATO are remains the foundation, the cornerstone for their security for their collective defence.
And that's the reason why NATO and the transatlantic bond remains so important for European security.
I think that we can do more together, including in working with partners, we are working together in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in different role, different tools but we complement and support each other. For instance, working with partners in our neighbourhood.
I think also military mobility on cyber, on countering disinformation, there's a huge potential to step up and do more together and that also includes, for instance, climate change, so I welcome the fact that I met with the EU leadership, last month at the EU Council.
We will have Josep Borrell participating in the Foreign Ministerial, next week and we are closely coordinating our efforts.
NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu:Thank you. We'll now go to NTB and Frederick Lionel Host.
NTB: Good morning, Secretary General, I'll start by joining in the people congratulating you on your birthday.
I have, if you'll allow me, two questions on the poll from last year, but what are you going to do about the one in nine, who are naysayers and the quarter who are on fences on whether NATO is a good thing or not, how you're going to convince those people.
And there's been a lot of talk about restarting and strengthening the transatlantic bond, the timing of this poll, means that you haven't really picked up on the new US administration, how do you see that changing last year which as I understand will be your last report, sorry next year.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Well, first of all, I think that we are 30 different countries and we are 30 democratic nations. And of course there will always be a bit different views, also on issues like NATO, but if you look at all the numbers from all the allies, and they are very strong, when it comes to support for NATO. On average it'ss extremely strong support but even if you look at those allies when you have the lowest support, it's more than twice the number that are supportive of NATO than those who are negative towards NATO, regardless of how you ask the question.
So, these numbers they confirm a very strong support for NATO. But, as a natural thing being democratic societies there are different views I would have been more concerned if we had zero differences in opinions, you find that only in countries which are not democratic - we are democratic societies, and therefore per definition there will be different views.
Overall, strong support across the lines for NATO, trust in NATO, strong voting intentions for NATO. But of course we will continue to reach out, we will continue to engage both as NATO, our governments will do so.
And the most important thing we do is through deeds - to what we do - demonstrate that we are delivering on our core promise to protect and defend all allies, so the most important thing that NATO can do to continue to serve the support of our populations, is to continue to adapt and continue to respond to a more complicated and challenging security environment, and then I'm confident that we will continue to see strong support for NATO across the Alliance.
And then, on the next annual report, and while I haven't written that yet so it's a bit early to say exactly what will be the message there.
But, I am confident that also next year we will be able to demonstrate progress on key areas including on burden sharing, defence spending.
I also hope that next year we can present you with an annual report that reflects that we have stepped up and started to implement an ambitious agenda, which is agreed by Heads of State and Government later on this year for NATO 2030 on how to continue to adapt this Alliance but again, it's a bit hard to preempt a summit that has not taken place, and even more so, to preempt the implementation of decisions - but that's my hope and I'm confident that we'll be able to deliver on that.
NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: The next question, we'll go to Lailuma Sadid from The Kavian Press Agency, Lailuma, go ahead please.
The Kavian Press Agency : Can you hear me? Hello. Yes. Okay, first of all, happy birthday too, and I would like to ask about what's your view on the latest US proposal for the transition government and its implementation for NATO's engagement in Afghanistan, and also, you said months ago that military planning at one time was running out of, leave Afghanistan by May 1st. If this is not still a realistic option, don't you have a responsibility to send, reinforcement for the increasing attack and the Taliban reiterating. Thank you.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:First, let me say to all of you wishing me happy birthday I'm extremely grateful and it's nice to have those greetings from you. Thank you so much.
Then, on Afghanistan, we strongly and all allies strongly support all efforts to try to find a peaceful negotiated solution. That's the reason why we welcome the US -Taliban agreement last year, and that's the reason why we also support efforts to make progress in the peace process, and renewed efforts to try to strengthen the efforts to find a peaceful negotiated solution. I think it's also extremely important, that all regional actors are taking part, they have their part of the responsibility for helping the peace process in Afghanistan, to go forward.
We will, of course, assess, we will discuss and consult in NATO, as we move closer to the 1st of May deadline.
This will be one of the main issues that will be discussed among foreign ministers, when they meet in NATO, next week, and we also continue to demonstrate our commitment to , to the Afghan security forces, partly by continuing to train, assist and advise them, but also by continuing to provide funding for the Afghan security forces.
So, we will assess, we will monitor, we will consult, and then we will make the decision, as we move forward together as 30 allies, we have to remember that, of course, the US i has a significant presence in Afghanistan as part of the NATO presence there. But now the majority of the troops in Afghanistan, the majority of the international troops in Afghanistan they are non-US - demonstrating the strong commitment of European allies, partners around the globe, to participate in the NATO mission in Afghanistan.
NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu:Next question comes to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Sydney Morning Herald : Thank you, Secretary General, going back to your earlier comments about reliable infrastructure and telecommunications being key, can Huawei be involved in the country's 5g network, if that country is to adopt the whole of society resilience that you say is key to countering a more aggressive Russia and an increasingly assertive China.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: We have agreed in NATO, what we call baseline requirements for infrastructure including telecommunications and that covers also 5g networks.
Those guidelines, or those based on requirements, we are specifically addressing risks related to foreign ownership and foreign control. And we ask all allies to carefully assess them, to analyse them and take the necessary steps, decisions to make sure that we have reliable, credible 5g networks, and take into account the risks related to potential foreign ownership.
We don't name specific companies or specific countries, but what I've seen is that more and more allies are now making decisions. Choosing other companies, other providers of 5g than Huawei, and I welcome the fact that we have seen a huge convergence of views among allies on the risks related to 5g networks, and the importance of having a reliable system. So we don't mention specific companies but we have seen decisions taken by allies which I welcome, and I think, reflect the need to have stronger resilience in our telecommunications.
NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Fiorenza next from Janes Defense Weekly
Janes Defense Weekly: Yes, I'd also like to add my birthday wishes. Thank you for taking my question. I don't know if you've been in consultations with the British government but, one of my questions was actually what your reaction to the new Integrated Review which is about to be launched is. I mean, it looks like conventional forces on the British army is going to suffer, quite a few cuts so that could potentially affect the defence of NATO's Eastern flank and other territorial or common defence missions.
And then my second question was it looks like Alliance Ground Surveillance is, it's on its way, to be operational, but what is the status of the defence site in in Poland, And how is the ACCS - Air Command and Control System progressing.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: First, on the Integrated Review of the United Kingdom.
That will be announced later on today so it's not possible for me to comment on specifics in that review, but what I can say is that first of all, the United Kingdom has announced that they will brief allies on the Integrated Review. I will also speak with the Defence secretary, Wallace, this week. And we are closely, informing how the UK is updating and informing other allies on the Integrated Review.
What I can say is that the United Kingdom is a highly valued ally which is leading in many ways, in NATO, they are leading one of the battlegroups we have in the eastern part of the Alliance, the battle group in Estonia. They are providing important capabilities to NATO also when it comes to air capabilities including air policing.
And the Royal Navy deploys with the NATO naval forces in different missions and operations. So, the UK is providing key capabilities on land and sea and in the air. And then on top of that, we also know that the United Kingdom has over several years, been a lead nation when it comes to cyber defence, and including the fact that United Kingdom was the first nation to provide what we call national cyber capabilities to NATO.
And they have the National Cybersecurity Centre, which I also had the privilege of visiting some years ago, showing that the UK is extremely focused on also the new threats and new challenges related to cyber but also new and disruptive technologies.
So I'm confident that the United Kingdom will continue to be a key ally, we have to remember that the United Kingdom has the second largest defence budget in the Alliance next only to the United States, and the United Kingdom meets the 2% target, actually spends more than 2%. So I am confident enough, they will continue to provide key capabilities to NATO and that NATO can count on the United Kingdom, as you know, the United Kingdom can count on NATO, and then I look forward to the announcement of the Integrated Review later on today.
Then, on the ballistic missile defence. Well, there is a new site under construction in Poland, but as you know the ballistic missile defence is an important part of NATO's deterrence and defence.
The key elements are a ballistic missile defence site in Romania, a radar in Turkey, the Aegis ships, US Aegis ships based in Spain.
We also have a command centre in Ramstein, in Germany, and now we are also building a new Aegis Ashore site in Poland, and together this system provides continuous defence of NATO territory in Europe from friends, outside the Euro Atlantic area, and several countries are seeking to develop or acquire ballistic missile capabilities, and we are working together integrating those.
So, this ballistic missile defence system which we are developing together in NATO, and brings together capabilities from different nations, is an important part of a long term development and long term effort of NATO to strengthen our ballistic missile defence capabilities.
On the Integrated Alliance Command and Control System, we are looking into how we can make sure that we are modernising that, bringing together different capabilities from different allies, allied countries.
NATO's Air Command and Control System is a project to provide the Alliance with a single and integrated command system for air operations. It is designed to replace a variety of legacy NATO and national air systems currently in use across the Alliance. And these include aircraft control, airspace management and surveillance. This is a highly complicated, and multifaceted programme, which has been ongoing for some time.
Some NATO entities have been using the system including our Deployable Air Command and Control Centre in Italy, but at our Defence Ministerial meeting in February we decided that we should closely track the progress and look into alternatives and launch a plan, towards future and command and control systems so we are tracking and assessing the progress you are making on this system.
NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Thank you. We now go to Calea Europeana Robert Lupitu
Calea Europeana: Good morning, thank you for the question. First of all for Secretary General, happy birthday. Second of all, I have a question on your proposal for deterrence and defence funding for the eastern flank in the Black Sea. We learn from the international press later last week, that some member states do not see as positive, as resumed. What's the status of this proposal within the consultations with the member states, including the perspective of the Foreign Ministerial next week. And if you plan to discuss this topic with the foreign ministers, including Secretary Blinken, thank you.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Well, based on the mandate, I was given by the Heads of State and Government at the NATO summit in London in December 2019 I have conducted this process about the future of NATO, NATO 2030. Part of that has also been input from the expert group I appointed. I also consulted with parliamentarians, with young leaders with the Capitals of course, and based on that I have put forward some strategic level proposals, which are now discussed in NATO.
The discussions are ongoing and I will not preempt the outcome as we address many different issues, climate change, political consultations, deterrence and defence, technology, resilience, and many other issues.
It's too early to preempt the conclusions, but I'm confident that when leaders meet later on this year, they will agree an ambitious and forward looking agenda to adapt and further strengthen NATO. One element is how to strengthen deterrence and defence and we do our work together when it comes to deterrence and defence.
As we've done for many many years, so the battlegroups in the eastern part of the Alliance, more exercises, high readiness of our forces, and so on air policing and many other activities.
We do more together, therefore I also think it makes sense that we actually fund more together and NATO's common funding is about the funding things together, and I think that will demonstrate to our populations but also to any potential adversary, the unity and the strength of our deterrence and defence.
We have a constructive discussion in NATO now, it was discussed all the different proposals, and the NATO 2030 agenda was discussed at the Defence Ministerial meeting last month, it will be discussed again after the Foreign Ministerial meeting next week, and then we'll continue to discuss, and I will refine and develop my proposals and then I'm confident that we will make good decisions and ambitious decisions when Heads of State and Government meet.
NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Okay. We'll now take a question in writing because the colleague, couldn't join us in vision, and that's [inaudible]. And his question is, in reference to the increased number of countries, exceeding the 2% target, how much is increased military spending, and how much is due to the lower GDP, or the COVID-19 effectin member countries.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: The main reason is increased defence spending, and in my annual report and then, you have towards the end you have a lot of tables showing the numbers, both in current prices in fixed prices as percentage of GDP, over time, and also for each and every ally, there are a lot of numbers here.
But these numbers and the different variables, they demonstrate the following.
That there has been an increase in defence spending in all allied countries since 2014 and we have seen that, across the whole Alliance across Europe and Canada.
So the main reason is, of course, increased defence spending, but then you arrived at especially in 2020 some allies, although they were quite high, they have now come above 2% because of reduction in the estimates for their GDP. Of course, these are estimates, the GDP estimates will change again, especially for 2021.
But what is stable and what we see every year is a steady increase in defence spending across the Alliance.
NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: And for the final question, we'll go to an outcome from Nawab Khan from the Kuwait News Agency
Kuwait News Agency: Yes, NATO opened its first regional centre in Kuwait 2017 And today you have training mission in Iraq. So my question is that, will we see more NATO engagement in the Gulf region and the wider Middle East in the near future. Thank you.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: We very much appreciate and value the partnership we have with countries in the Gulf region as part of the ICI framework - The Istanbul Cooperation Initiative that was agreed, some years ago.
And we also of course welcome the Regional Training Centre we have in Kuwait. I've had the honour of visiting the centre several times. I welcome the fact that we in that centre, bring together, NATO allies, partners in the region and that we strengthen our partnership and that we work together on a wide range of concrete tasks and issues.
The focus now is of course, the increased support for the Iraqi government. Everything we do in Iraq will be based on the requests from the Iraqi government, respecting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Iraq and the NATO mission in Iraq is a training mission, will provide training assistance and advice. The NATO mission in Iraq is not a combat mission.
We are open to further step up cooperation with partners in the Gulf region. Therefore, we continue to consult and work with different partners in that region, because the Gulf region, the Mediterranean region, they are both regions are important for NATO allies and we welcome that those partnership with many countries in that region.
NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu:This concludes the press conference for the launch of the Secretary General's Annual Report, many thanks for joining us and have a good day.
NATO Secretary General: Thank you so much.