Pre-Summit press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

  • 11 Jun. 2021 -
  • |
  • Mis à jour le: 11 Jun. 2021 20:40

(As delivered)

Good afternoon. 

NATO leaders will meet here in Brussels next week at a pivotal moment for our Alliance, and for our collective security. 

We are in an age of global competition. 
And we must respond to many threats and challenges at the same time. 

Russia and China pushing back against the rules-based international order. 
The continuing threat of terrorism.
Sophisticated cyber attacks. 
Disruptive technologies.
And climate change. 
No country and no continent can deal with all these challenges alone.
But Europe and North America are not alone.
We stand together in NATO.

And it’s good to know that, according to our new polling, over 80 percent of NATO citizens consider the transatlantic relationship important to our security and defence. 

At our Summit, we will open a new chapter, by agreeing the NATO 2030 initiative.
An ambitious agenda for security and defence. 

We will agree to more political consultations. 

We will reinforce our collective defence.
With a strengthened military posture.
Increased readiness.
And a recommitment to the Defence Investment Pledge. 

We will strengthen our resilience.
For our critical infrastructure, supply chains, and communications. 

We will sharpen our technological edge. 
I expect Allies will agree to establish a defence innovation accelerator, a centre for technology. 
To promote technological cooperation between Allies.
And work with start-ups, industries, and universities. 

I also expect agreement to establish a NATO Innovation Fund.
Where Allies can support defence and security-related start-ups. 

We will step up in safeguarding the international rules-based order.

We will deepen our cooperation with like-minded countries and organisations. Including our strategic partner, the European Union.
And we will forge new engagements around the world.

I expect we will also agree to boost NATO’s ability to train the militaries of our partners, and build their capacity.  

At the Summit, we will also address the security impact of climate change.
For the first time, making this an important task for NATO. 
My ambition is a clear commitment from Allies to significantly reduce military emissions.
And for NATO to contribute to the goal of Net Zero. 

We will also agree to develop NATO’s next Strategic Concept. 
To reaffirm our values.
And reflect the significant changes in our security environment over the past decade. 
All of this work will require continued investment in defence. 

As you can see in the new figures released today, we are on the right track.

With seven consecutive years of increased defence spending across European Allies and Canada.

By the end of this year, they will have added 260 billion US dollars to their defence budgets since 2014. 

But we need to invest even more, and better.
Therefore, we should invest together, and meet our high level of ambition.

At the Summit, we will also take decisions related to our two newest operational domains: 
cyber and space.

I expect Allies will agree a new cyber defence policy for NATO. 

It will recognise that cyberspace is contested at all times.

And ensure that we have strong
technical capabilities, 
political consultations, and 
military planning in place to keep our systems secure. 

Space is also essential to NATO.
Including our ability to gather intelligence, to navigate, and to detect missile launches. 

This is why we will send a clear message at the Summit that NATO is determined to defend itself in space as effectively as we do in every other domain: 
Land, sea, air, and cyber. 

Leaders will also endorse NATO’s new policy on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence. 
Ensuring we do everything we can to prevent and respond to these heinous crimes. 

Allies will also address a range of other issues.
Including the security implications of the rise of China,
Russia’s aggressive behaviour and our dual track approach of strong deterrence and defence and dialogue,
As well as NATO’s continued support for our valued partners Ukraine and Georgia. 
We will also address Afghanistan.
Our military presence is ending, but our support for the Afghan forces and people will continue. 

At our Summit on Monday, we will have far-ranging discussions, and take substantial decisions.
To make our strong Alliance even stronger. 
And keep our one billion people safe. 

With that, I am ready to take your questions. 


NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu:
And we'll take those questions remotely, starting with Michael Birnbaum from the Washington Post.

Michael Birnbaum (The Washington Post):
Thank you, Secretary General, for this. I know that the US policy about defence spending has not changed from administration to administration, but no one expects President Biden to threaten to leave the Alliance on Monday, at the Summit. And so how is the absence of threats from the United States [going to] change the discussion about spending, and are you already seeing that with the discussion about common funding that you mentioned just now? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:
So first of all, I think, we have to understand that it has been a message from the United States over many years that Allies need to invest more in defence. And not only from the United States, but actually, all Allies agreed in 2014 that we needed to invest more. And this was actually when we had the Obama-Biden administration at that time. And the good news is that since then, all Allies have invested more, and they have added 260 billion extra for defence since the pledge was made in 2014.

So of course, the message has been conveyed in different ways, but the core of the message has been the same. And that is that we need fairer burden sharing, and those Allies who are not spending 2% of GDP on defence need to increase. And the good news is that's exactly what we do, and also based on the plans that Allies have submitted to us, I expect this increase to continue.

We have to invest more, as we do. But we need to also invest better. And common funding is a force multiplier. Common funding is a way to enable our collective defence. And common funding is an effective way to invest. And therefore, I expect that Allies will agree that we need to fund our high level of ambition, as stated in the NATO 2030 agenda, and also in the other decisions we make, including implementing the different plans we have in how to further strengthen our collective defence, when they meet on Monday.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu:
Next question goes to Robin Emmott from Reuters.

Robin Emmott (Reuters):
Thank you very much, Oana. So you said yourself, Secretary General, that this Summit is a pivotal Summit. Obviously in 2018, Donald Trump considered leaving the Alliance. What do you need to hear publicly from Joe Biden, at this Summit, that would heal the wounds of the Trump era? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:
I had a very good meeting with President Biden this week in Washington. And he is a strong supporter of NATO, the transatlantic bond, and all Allies welcome his very clear message on the importance of reinvigorating the bond between Europe and North America in NATO.

And I'm absolutely certain that when we gather all the leaders here on Monday at the Summit, we will demonstrate that commitment to our Alliance, not only in words but also in deeds, through the very concrete and substantive decisions we will make.

And that's the best way to demonstrate our commitment to our Alliance, is that we stand together and also that we recognise that living in an age of global competition with many threats and challenges at the same time coming from different directions, including the aggressive actions of Russia, the rise of China, the shifting balance of global power, terrorism, cyberattacks. No Ally, and no continent, can face this alone. We need to stand together in NATO. And that will be the message, also, through concrete decisions at the Summit.

Then, on the last four years, on the previous years, I would say that, if anything, I think it has demonstrated that the transatlantic bond in NATO goes beyond individual political leaders, because it's robust and strong, because we have strong institutions. We have NATO, which can weather different political winds, and also the fact that we have very strong political support, both in Europe and in North America, for our Alliance.

Again, when I was in the United States and also when I spoke, for instance, to the US Congress in 2019, it was a very clear message, the bipartisan support in the United States, for NATO.

So, there will always be different political leaders in 30 different Allied countries, but this Alliance has proven extremely robust, and that is fundamentally based not only on the strong, popular, political support for this Alliance, as we see in the new opinion polls, but also on the fact that this Alliance is based on the security interests of each individual Ally.

It is in the interest of all Allies to stand together, we are safer by standing together. A strong NATO is good for Europe, but a strong NATO is also good for the United States. And the good thing is that, it is a bipartisan understanding in the United States, of the importance of having 29 friends and Allies in NATO as they have, not least, when they address the security consequences of the rise of China. 

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu:
For the next question, we'll go to Lailuma Sadid from Brussels Morning.

Lailuma Sadid (Brussels Morning):
Thank you very much, Oana. Mr Secretary General, in a few weeks, more than 20 districts fell [into] the hands of the Taliban, the security situation is [getting] worse. And you said we are continuing funding for the Afghan Security Forces and providing for the country training, out-of-country training, and maintain critical infrastructure, such as the airport.

Could you please give us more details about that? Which country and how long does it take for the training, and who pays for that? And also could you please say that Turkey takes responsibility for the airport? Because the Taliban said that the Turkish should leave because they are also part of the NATO. Thank you very much. 

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:
We are very clear-eyed about the challenges, the difficulties we all face in Afghanistan. And we are also clear-eyed about the risks the decision to end our military mission entails.

At the same time, to continue the mission would also entail risks, and we decided a few months ago to end the Resolute Support Mission, but to continue to support the Afghans, partly with a continued civilian presence that can provide advice and support to Afghan security institutions, partly by continued funding for Afghan Security Forces and all Allies are committed to continuing to do so. And partly by also looking into how we can provide out-of-country training for the Afghan Security Forces, especially the Special Operations Forces. We are working on that now. But of course, any out-of-country training will be funded by NATO Allies.

And thirdly, we will, we're also working on, with the NATO Allies, how to maintain important infrastructure, such as an international airport in Kabul. Partly this is something NATO will support, and also we're looking into how NATO Allies can be part of that effort. Turkey is today a key Ally when it comes to the running of the airport. There is a dialogue now going on between different Allies, including Turkey, on exactly how we can try to continue to provide support for the airport and make sure the airport continues to operate at international standards. Because this is important not only for NATO, but an airport and all the critical infrastructure is important for the whole international community, for the diplomatic presence of all countries, and of course also for development aid and different aid organizations. So NATO Allies are addressing these issues as we speak. And I expect this also to be an issue that will be addressed at the Summit on Monday.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu:
And the next question goes to Andrej Matisak from Pravda in Slovakia. 

Andrej Matisak (Pravda):
Thank you very much. Mr. Secretary General, you have mentioned this pre-Summit polling a couple of times. And yes overall 83% of citizens of the member states consider the relationship between North America and Europe important. But, for example, Slovakia and Montenegro, are clear outlyers. We support barely over 50%. And if you look at the polling, the enthusiasm among Slovaks for NATO is at the bottom in almost every category. Any advice for the Slovak Government, before the Summit, on what to do about it? And overall, how important is it for NATO to be perceived as important and needed by the citizens? Thank you. 

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:
First of all, the main message in all this different polling, both the polling we have released today but also, I also saw numbers from Pew researchers published, I think it was today, that also, they confirm the same picture. Strong, broad support for NATO, and for the transatlantic Alliance, both in Europe and in North America.

Then of course, it varies a bit. That's obvious. But even in those countries where we have the lowest support, it is strong support for NATO. You mentioned Slovakia, as I have at least one of those poles, where we have the question, ‘would you vote for my country to stay a member of NATO?’, then it's 61% that answers yes. And of course, that's a low number compared to, for instance, Albania, where it was 95% yes. But 61% against the 39% that wants to leave, that's a huge majority, it is like more than two, two thirds of majority.

So if you look at opinion polls or referendums in different countries on different issues, this is a big majority. So I am not saying that I would not like to see that even stronger. But 61% against 39[%]. That's a strong majority. So even the country with the lowest support has strong support. So, it is a very robust message to say that, regardless of which opinion poll  you look into, regardless of which country we address, there is overwhelming, and continued, enduring support for our Alliance, and I take that as a proof of the fact that people understand that we are safer together than alone. 

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu:
Thank you. We can now go to Thomas Gutschker from Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.  

Thomas Gutschker (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung):
Yes, thanks a lot. Good afternoon Secretary General, again on common funding, can you confirm that your initial call for common funding for operations is off the table at this stage of the negotiations? And how do you think you can convince France to come on board, which has been proven to be the most reluctant country to raise NATO spending? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:
When NATO leaders meet on Monday, I'm very certain that, I'm absolutely confident that they will agree an ambitious, forward-looking agenda – the NATO 2030 agenda, which will reflect the higher ambition we have for our Alliance, which we need to have because we face a more challenging and difficult security environment, we face a more unpredictable and more competitive world. And that's the reason why we are responding the way we are. And this will strengthen NATO in many different ways. As a political platform, a unique platform for consultations between Europe and North America. We will reinforce our collective defence. We will strengthen our resilience, which is the first line of defence. We will sharpen our technological edge by establishing the defence, the, the Technology Accelerator, Center for Technology. And we will, for instance, also, then, for the first time, address, as an important issue for NATO, the security consequences of climate change, and many other decisions. Of course this higher level of ambition has to be properly resourced, funded.

And first of all, I welcome therefore that Allies will re-commit to the defence investment pledge. Where Allies across Europe and Canada have already demonstrated, not only the will but also the ability to invest more in defence. But I also expect that they will realise, or recognize, the importance of spending together. Because by spending together, we are able to fund important activities such as exercises, high readiness, pre-positioned equipment, training our partners, support to partners, and many other things, which will help to reinforce our Alliance, which will demonstrate our unity. And common funding is a force multiplier, an efficient way of spending, and it will enable our collective defence. And I'm also…I'm confident that Allies on Monday will also agree on the importance of funding this high-level of ambition through also the use of common funding. 

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu:
Thank you. We'll now go to Iryna Somer from Interfax Ukraine.

Iryna Somer (Interfax-Ukraine):
Thank you, Oana. Secretary General, can you please tell us a little bit more than you already said, what can we expect from the upcoming Summit for partners country particularly for aspirant countries, Ukraine and Georgia. Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:
Ukraine and Georgia are two highly valued partners. We provide both political support, and practical support, to Ukraine and Georgia. I think it is important that we continue to strengthen the partnership with these two highly valued partners. And this is important, not least because these partners have been subject to Russian aggressive actions. Georgia, in 2008, and still they occupy part of Georgian territory, and we see the same in Ukraine with the illegal annexation of Crimea and, and continued destabilization of Eastern Ukraine.

I spoke yesterday with President Zelenskiy, and that was a very good conversation. I reiterated NATO's strong support to [Ukraine’s] territorial integrity and sovereignty. And also, that I expect NATO leaders to reaffirm the decision on the NATO policy on Open Door, which has been a major success, helping to spread democracy and freedom across Europe. And the Summit will demonstrate NATO's enduring support to Georgia and Ukraine, and their Euro-Atlantic aspirations. The focus is on reform, and we will continue to help and support them in implementing these reforms.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu:
For our next question we'll go to Denis Dubrovin from TASS.

Denis Dubrovin (TASS):
Thank you very much. Mr. Secretary General, I have actually two questions. First of them about the NATO Strategic Concept. So, the initiative, NATO 2030, is it simply a declaration of intentions, or will it be, will it have a status of the new Strategic Concept or a basis for a new Strategic Concept for NATO?

And second question about, you said, a lot of time that NATO is given channels of communication with Russia, open. So, Russia have, has, invited NATO representatives to a Moscow security conference, which is the main forum to discuss the [inaudible] security challenges. Can you confirm that NATO has decided to decline this invitation, and is there any reason for this? Thank you very much. 

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:
First on the Strategic Concept, we agree or expect, that the NATO leaders will agree, and decide on Monday that the time has come to update and to make the next Strategic Concept for NATO, simply because the last one was agreed in 2010 at the Lisbon Summit. And since then the world has changed, and our security threats and challenges have, in many ways, also changed.

For instance, in the current Strategic Concept, China is not mentioned with a single word, and climate change is hardly mentioned at all. And, of course, our relationship with Russia, was at a very different place at that time, compared to where we are today. Today, we are at the low point, since the Cold War, in our relationship with Russia. And more sophisticated cyberattacks and many other challenges have evolved over these years. So we need to develop our next Strategic Concept. And I expect the Allies to agree to task me to organise that process and then, that we can agree a new Strategic Concept, the next Strategic Concept, when we meet at our next Summit in 2022.

We are ready to continue a meaningful dialogue with Russia. But for us, it is important that we use the channels we have agreed, the platforms we have agreed, for dialogue, to conduct this dialogue, to ensure that we have a meaningful dialogue, and also to ensure that we have a format for the dialogue that we all know works, and therefore we have invited and taken the initiative to convene a new meeting of the NATO-Russia Council. So far, Russia has not responded positively, but there is an ongoing dialogue between NATO and Russia on this issue and I really, really hope that within, within the not too distant future, we can be able to convene the NATO-Russia Council again, because that is the platform for a NATO-Russia dialogue.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu:
For our last question, we're going to Alf Bjarne Johnsen from VG.

Alf Bjarne Johnsen (VG):
Thank you. Mr. Stoltenberg, I’d like to ask you about disarmament, because you have indicated the need for a broader view in future negotiations and treaties, and you have mentioned, cyber, artificial intelligence, autonomous systems as areas that could be addressed in connection with disarmament. Can you be more specific on what you had in mind? And will there be taken any action or initiatives from this Summit to open dialogue with China and, or, Russia, on these issues in a disarmament frame?  

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:
NATO has been at the forefront of efforts to strengthen arms control, nuclear disarmament, for many, many years. And we will continue to work hard for both protecting the agreements we have, but also to develop new ones. One of the issues I discussed with President Biden on Monday in the White House, was exactly how we can use, and continue to use, but also strengthen NATO as a platform to address and coordinate our efforts on arms control. And I told President Biden that Allies welcome the US decision, together with Russia, to extend the New START Treaty, limiting strategic weapons, long-range nuclear weapons, which is very important, and to extend that Treaty is an important first step. But it is only a first step. We need to do more, there's more work we have to do on arms control, and that includes covering more weapon systems, short-range, medium-range, other weapon systems, but also systems which includes new disruptive technologies. And that's one of the challenges we have, is exactly how to include new disruptive technologies in future arms control.

Because arms control has been mainly about limiting the number of warheads, counting warheads, which is still important, but when we see more threats in cyberspace, we see hypersonic weapons, we see artificial intelligence, autonomous weapons, we see facial recognitions, recognition, integrated into novel weapon systems, in one way or another, this has to be also addressed as we advance our arms control agenda.

We need to not only include new weapon systems, or more weapon systems, than those who are included in the New START Agreement today, but we should also include more countries, especially China. China is becoming more and more a global power. And by becoming a global power, also comes global responsibilities. So, knowing that China is investing heavily in advanced systems, long-range systems, and many of these new systems, it is important also to include China in future arms control. But again, the first important step was to extend the new arms, the New START Agreement, we welcome that. But that's only the first step.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu:
Thank you very much. This concludes this press conference. We'll see you all at the Summit on Monday.