NATO in a competitive World

A conversation with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg hosted by Brookings Institution and Georgetown University

  • 05 Oct. 2021 -
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  • Last updated 07-Oct-2021 08:17

(As delivered)

NATO in a competitive World - A conversation with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg hosted by Brookings Institution and Georgetown University

Thank you Bianca for that very kind introduction, and thank you to Dean Hellman and Dr. O’Hanlon for inviting me. 

It’s great to be here and it’s a great honour for me to engage both with Georgetown University and with Brookings. 

I have to tell you it’s great to be back because when I came to this campus, I actually remembered that I attended back in 1988 a program for young leaders from Europe.  I spent three weeks here and that was really a great experience for me as a relatively young Norwegian politician. 

Then I have to also tell you that for me to be at universities is always a great experience because I like the atmosphere. I like the academic atmosphere at a place like this, especially at such an old and distinguished university, it is great for me to be here. 

Especially that my plan was not to become a politician. I had one clear ambition in my life and that was to become an academic. 
I actually started to do some research at the Norwegian Central Bureau of Statistics, and my aim was to become one day a professor in econometrics, statistics and mathematics and developing macroeconomic planning models for Norway.  I had to admit that I was there only for two years and then I was asked to become a Deputy Minister for Environment.  I promised my wife only to be in politics for a couple of years.  I’ve been there for like 40 years.  

Therefore, when I come to a place like this, I understand that I should have had an alternative live which I missed so it’s great to look into that, the beauty of the research and academic life, that you actually have here at Georgetown. 

I will only give a very brief introduction. 
Then I’m ready to take your questions. 

The last time I spoke to Brookings, NATO was preparing for our Summit, which we conducted in June this year.

This was a successful Summit, opening a new chapter in transatlantic relations between North America and Europe.

Nevertheless, questions are being asked about the strength of the bond between Europe and North America.
Over the AUKUS deal between Australia, the UK and the US and over our withdrawal from Afghanistan.

We must always take our differences seriously and address them. 
But they do not change the big picture.
The importance of Europe and North America standing together in NATO.

In fact, the need for transatlantic unity is greater today than at any time since the end of the Cold War.

Because we are at a pivotal moment for our shared security.
Where we face a more dangerous and more competitive world.

Russia is more aggressive abroad and more oppressive at home.
China is using its economic and military might 
To control its own people, 
coerce other countries, 
and assert control over global supply chains, critical infrastructure, and other assets.

We also face more frequent and sophisticated cyber-attacks.
Persistent terrorist threats.
And the security impacts of climate change.

None of us can face these challenges alone.
No country, however big.
And no continent, however rich. 
Neither the US, nor Europe alone.

But in NATO we are not alone.
Together we represent 30 different nations.
One billion people.
Half of the world’s economic and military might.
And together we are adapting to a more uncertain world.

In fact, our Alliance is in the midst of a fundamental shift.
This started in 2014, in response to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.

We are shifting our efforts and resources from large combat operations outside NATO territory.
To further strengthen our deterrence and defence at home.
And prepare for a world of a greater state to state rivalry. 

All Allies have increased defence spending.
Invested in high-end capabilities. 
And boosted the readiness of our forces.

We have increased our exercises, and activities, on land, at sea, and in the air.
Deployed multinational combat-ready troops to the Baltic region.
And strengthened our defences against cyber and hybrid attacks.

At our Summit in June, we agreed to do even more together to modernize and adapt our Alliance.
To chart our course for the next decade and beyond. 

So as we continue to boost our military readiness to respond to threats from any direction,
we are also sharpening our technological edge by launching a new defence innovation accelerator and innovation fund.
To support industry, start-ups and academics working on cutting-edge technologies.

We are strengthening our cyber defences and increasing the resilience of our critical infrastructure and supply chains 
To reduce our vulnerabilities.

We are stepping up to defend the rules-based international order. 
By deepening our cooperation with like-minded countries and organisations.  Including in the Asia-Pacific region.

And for the first time, we are putting climate change and security at the core of NATO’s agenda.
Climate change fuels and multiplies the risk of conflict and threatens our security.
And impacts the environment in which we operate.

So NATO must play its part.

We are adapting our planning, installations, and equipment to more extreme weather.
And establishing the first-ever methodology to map military emissions across the Alliance.
So also that we can contribute to the goal of Net Zero emissions.

Taken together, this shift towards deterrence and defence at home and modernizing NATO will contribute directly to our shared security.

We do not know what the next crisis will be.
But we do know that whatever happens, 
we are safer when we stand together.

Europe and North America have stood strong in NATO for more than 70 years.
And we must continue to stand strong together to face a more competitive world.

That is good for Europe.
And it is good for North America.

Thank you. 
I am ready for your questions. 

Moderator: Mr. Secretary General, that was wonderful and it's just so great to see everybody here. Thank you for the energy we're all feeling from the audience and from the Georgetown community. 

And I also wanted to, building on Bianca's excellent introduction, say a word of gratitude for your service. I think, you know, some people say that Angela Merkel became sort of the leader of the free world. But now that she's on the way out, your tenure as a major statesman in the West is really up there as the most long standing, and I think the most productive. 

And I really wanted to begin, if I could, with just a few questions before we go to the general audience but, I want to start with Russia. Because of course, you began your service, Secretary General, after having been Prime Minister of the NATO member country during a period when Russia was getting a little bit more problematic. And then, in the early months of 2014, things got very tough. 

And, and there have been a lot of responses that you've helped orchestrate or coordinate since then by NATO, including more burden sharing, including putting battalions and brigades in Poland and the Baltic states, including the European Union and American and Norwegian sanctions on Russia.

How do you feel about the state of European security vis-à-vis Russian in 2021? Do you think that after these seven years of pushback that we have at least partially stabilize the situation?
I realized nobody in your position is going to want to say things are fine as long as Vladimir Putin still sitting in the Kremlin, still trying to cause mayhem in some of the Western democracies. But do you feel that we've at least made some progress and that we're a little safer today vis-à-vis Russia than we were seven years ago? 

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: So yes, we have made significant progress and we have adapted NATO not least to respond to a more aggressive Russia. And as I said we, the really big adaptation of NATO started after the illegal annexation of Crimea. But at the same time I think we have to realize that the relationship between NATO the transatlantic family, and Russia is at the lowest point since the end of the Cold War.

After the Cold War, we actually thought that we were able to build a relationship with Russia to strengthen our, to build a partnership with Russia. And I remember, I attended the NATO Summits were actually President Putin was attending the same meetings. We established something called the 
NATO-Russia Council. We had, step by step strengthen our cooperation and political dialogue with Russia, and many of us were quite optimistic.
Then, this gradually started to change, partly in 2008 when Russia went into Georgia and actually took control over parts of Georgian territory. And then the big change came in 2014 with the illegal annexation of Crimea. And then, and then after that, they have continued to destabilize eastern Ukraine. 

On top of that, we have seen a significant military build up by Russia. They have deployed the new advanced weapon systems, they have violated one of the cornerstone of arms control - the INF agreement that banned all intermediate range weapon systems, and, and we have seen a more aggressive Russia abroad in many places, and then a more repressive Russia at home, cracking down on the opposition, as we have seen for instance against Alexei Navalny. So this picture is serious. 

The good news is that NATO has responded in a very decisive and united way as you just referred to.
And we do so also knowing that we have what we call a dual-track approach to Russia. Deterrence, defence and dialogue. It is not deterrence and defence or dialogue. When we are strong, when we are united we can talk to Russia. 

And we have to talk to Russia because we don't want a new Cold War. We don't want a new arms race. And Russia is our neighbour, we need to engage with them. And I can tell you, as you have refer to that, I know that even during the coldest periods of the Cold War, Norway as a neighbour of Russia was able to talk to Russia on issues like energy, a new delimitation line, environmental issues, and many other issues. And that was not despite NATO, it was because of NATO. Because NATO provided the strength for a small country like Norway to engage with big neighbour as Russia. 

So we will continue to pursue this dual-track approach. We need to talk to them on many issues, including for instance on arms control, and there are many things that have gone in the wrong direction. that is one thing that is good, is a positive sign, and that is that Russia and the United States were able, just a few months ago, to extend the New START Treaty, banning or not banning but limiting the number of strategic weapons warheads and also engage in what they called Strategic Dialogue on arms control.

So I don't know whether I answered your question, but at least I spoke about Russia. And the other thing is that we need to just continue the dual-track approach to our neighbour Russia.

Moderator: Can I follow up on that too by asking about the future of expansion or enlargement of the Alliance, which for some of us, who have been concerned about that, especially when Ukraine and Georgia are mentioned as potential candidates, it makes us worry that this is almost a guarantee to exacerbate relations with Russia. 

You can certainly understand why Ukraine and Georgia would want the opportunity, but is the time that NATO changes the whole dialogue, and the whole thinking about what options. Maybe we need a new kind of security architecture for Eastern Europe that would not be formal membership in NATO but also not leave these countries out in the cold with the Russian bear standing next door.

Is there any kind of need, as you now think about your Strategic Concept, which will be in many ways the combination of your tenure, and you think about some of the big ideas that should guide the Alliance in the future? Do we need some new big ideas on how to think about East European security architecture?

NATO Secretary General: I think, first of all, it is important to establish some basic principles and values. And that is that it is the right for any sovereign nation to decide its own path.

The whole idea that it's a provocation to Russia that small neighbours join NATO is absolutely wrong. That's the provocation, that anyone is saying that. Because it is enshrined in different documents, agreements, treaties, and not least the Helsinki Final Act, that, every nation, of course, has the right to choose its own path. So it's up to the individual sovereign nation to decide whether they want to join NATO or they don't want to join NATO is for them to decide. So whether the country is going to become a member of NATO is for that aspirant country and for NATO Allies to decide, no one else.

And just this message that is so provocative for Russia that Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia or Slovakia or Czechia, had join NATO, and that just exemplifies that Russia wants a world order where they have a sphere of influence, where they have Russia and then they control the neighbours. And that's not the world I would like to live in. And actually I fight for decades to move away from that world. 

And to be honest, also some voices in the West would say: no, no, we should be careful because we're provoking Russia. But then you're saying that small countries don't have the right to choose their own path which is again a violation of their sovereignty. And then, sometimes, I use my own country because we joined NATO, Norway joined NATO in 1949 as a founding member. We are a small neighbour of Russia. And Russia didn't like that Norway joined, actually Joseph Stalin expressed very clearly that he thought that we should stay out. But I'm happy that Clement Attlee, the Prime Minister of  UK and Truman, I guess, was the President in the United States, and all the other leaders, they said that Norway, they can join if they want. Joseph Stalin is not going to decide whether Norway can be a NATO member. So we joined. We provoked Russia, maybe, but we are part of a very happy family. 
So that's my main message. And that there are too many people who are a bit unclear on these fundamental principles, meaning, indirectly, accepting some kind of sphere of influence for big powers.

The other thing that is Georgia and Ukraine. Of course it's only for NATO members and Georgia and Ukraine to decide when they're ready to join. Not Russia. No one else has a (…) of saying that. So we support their efforts to modernize, to reform, to meet the NATO standards. And when 30 Allies agree that they are ready to join, they will join. I cannot tell you when that will happen, but that's the only way that this can be dealt with.

Having said that, I think it's obvious that it won't happen tomorrow, that they will join. So therefore, my message to NATO Allies, and also something I discussed actually yesterday with President Biden, is that we need to step up and do more for those aspirant countries. Because as long as they're not members we should provide more support, more training, more capacity building, help to implement reforms, fight corruption and build the security and defence institutions.

So we need to establish that there is a lot in between nothing and full membership. And that's what I'm pushing hard in within NATO and I hope that we can make some ambitious decisions at the next NATO Summit. But again, that doesn't change the sovereign right of every nation to choose its own path. 

Moderator: Extremely cogent and powerful message. I just got really two more questions and I want to share the privilege here with the audience, pretty soon, but let me ask you about Afghanistan, and also about China, if I could. 

You already referred to Afghanistan in your opening presentation, and a lot of us in the United States, a lot of Americans, were happy with President Biden's decision in April, which really seemed like it was President Biden's decision, not NATO's decision to leave. A lot of us were concerned, however, how this has played out. Some of us were against it from the start, but leave that as it be, I realize you don't want to rehash that decision, but I wanted to invite you to speak about how NATO is going to recover from the withdrawal, and the chaos of the summertime. 

And specifically, if I could ask this: you've been clear in saying that the men and women who served from all these NATO countries and other countries in Afghanistan should be proud of their service, because they've kept us safe for 20 years, among other things, and they've given Afghans at least a vision of a better future, even though that's going to be challenged now perhaps by Taliban rule. It strikes me there's one more argument and I wanted to ask for your comment on this, which is, I think the Taliban may feel like they got a certain kind of victory against us, but they also are impressed by our combat capability. They've been fighting us for 20 years, and it's pretty clear to me watching them the last couple of months they don't want to fight us again. They helped us do the evacuation. That gave us permission to control Kabul, even if it had already fallen to them. They didn't do a great job of security near the airport but they actually tried to help, and they're going out of their way not to pick a fight, at least not a military fight with NATO, it strikes me. I think we have created a certain form of deterrence, even in a losing effort or a strategic failure as General Miller said last week. Do you agree with that? But more generally, how do you look back on the Afghanistan mission and the departure of this past summer.

NATO Secretary General: I think I just start with the beginning, and that is that after the 9/11 attacks on the United States, where close to 3000 people were killed, it was obvious that we need to, there was a need to react. And we reacted strongly, of course, the US, but also all NATO Allies. And NATO Allies, together with partners, we have been in Afghanistan for 20 years with a main task of preventing that country from, once again, becoming a safe haven for international terrorists, where they can organise, plan, train… the attacks against our own countries. So we were in Afghanistan to protect ourselves. We invoked Article Five to protect ourselves.

And actually, we achieved that, because over these 20 years there have been no terrorist attack against our countries, organised, planned, executed from Afghanistan, meaning also that the mission was not in vain, and those who pay the ultimate price, those who have lost loved ones, family members, they should know that actually they made an important contribution, they made the difference in the fight against terrorism, and we have seen the devastating effects of that, 9/11. And you also have to remember that all the efforts, not only Afghanistan, but also sharing more intelligence, improving the way we counterterrorism has actually meant that since 9/11 we've not seen anything of that magnitude before, when it comes to terrorist attacks against our own countries. And that has not just happened by accident, it is a result of huge efforts by NATO Allies and some partner countries. 

Then, the plan was never to stay in Afghanistan forever. And therefore, we faced a very difficult dilemma when we started the discussions after the signing of the US-Taliban agreement in February 2020 for the US, and also to leave and end the military presence there. And the dilemma was the following: either to leave and then risk Taliban returning, and we were clear-eyed about that risk.

The surprise is actually not that Taliban came back. The surprise was that this happened so quickly. Either to leave and risk Taliban returning, or stay, but that also entailed risks or more fighting, more violence, more casualties, and most likely was the need to send in more NATO troops. 

So there were no easy options in Afghanistan. And then, it was actually, of course, US that made the decision on behalf of the United States, but then made that decision after extensive consultations with all NATO Allies. I've seen some reports that there have been no consultations, that is factually wrong. We had three ministerial meetings, we had a number of Committee meetings, and the North Atlantic Council meetings at the Ambassador level at NATO, discussing whether to stay or leave Afghanistan. Also, throughout the whole winter. And even before that.

So the idea that we, that the United States did not consult, is wrong.

We went in together, we adjusted our presence together and we left Afghanistan together. The main task now is to do whatever we can to preserve as much as possible of the achievements we made. 

On terrorism, that means to hold the Taliban government accountable for what they have promises on terrorism, for not allowing Afghanistan being a platform for launching terrorist attacks against our countries. But also to be ready to strike, over the horizon, long distance, and to stay vigilant as NATO Allies, to follow and monitor closely any attempts to reconstitute international terrorist groups in Afghanistan, aiming at us. 

Then, we have to hold them accountable for what they're promised on human rights. I mean, it's not very promising what we've seen so far. It's a tragedy for Afghan people, especially for women. But we need to put leverage on them, the leverage we have: economic, financial, political, to at least allow humanitarian organizations to come in with development aid, some support, and also to continue to push them on these, on values, and on human rights. 

And thirdly, we need to continue to get people out. Whatever you think about the evacuation and the withdrawal, it was a huge and impressive achievement to get 124,000 people out of Kabul without military evacuation, the US in the lead, but also other Allies participating, and NATO also coordinating many of those efforts at the airport. 

This we will do, as Allies, continue to be vigilant. The last thing I'll say is that the whole perception. Afghanistan is a tragedy for Afghans, but it doesn't reduce or weaken the need for Europe and North America to stand together. So sometimes this is mixed. It's a bad situation in Afghanistan, but it hasn't weaken the message, and the need, and the relevance of a strong NATO… just highlighted the importance of what we can achieve together, when we stand together in the military mission like Afghanistan. 

Moderator: Are you hopeful like I am that the Taliban will be impressed by Western military power and not that they won't want to collaborate with al-Qaeda or any other extremist group in an attack on the West? In other words that there may still be some deterrence, even in the aftermath of this mission failure. 

NATO Secretary General: I don't like to use the word “hopeful” about Taliban.

But I think, I think they understand what we have told them. That we have capabilities, we have the capacity to also strike from over the horizon, long distance, and NATO Allies will do so, especially the United States. 

And we also use the political, and economic, and financial leverage we have. Of course, is less leverage than when we had thousands of troops on the ground, but that doesn't mean that we have zero and we will use that. 

Moderator: So last question, small, little question: China. And, and I realized that China is an issue that grew in importance over your tenure. Russia started out with a bang and has stayed there, but China has grown, and it's largely a problem for the European Union and it’s often about investment and economic relationships not just NATO. But I know that of course you've thought about and NATO thought about China quite a bit in certain realms, and I just wanted to ask for any update from you on how NATO is looking at China and maybe even more importantly, what's the next step in that process, what's the next thing NATO has to do with the Strategic Concept and beyond, to think about its relationship with China.

NATO Secretary General: Let me start by saying that the rise of China provides great opportunities for all of us, for our economies, for trade, for interacting with them. And the economic rise of China also has helped to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. I think that there is no, it has never happened before in history, that so many people have been lifted out of poverty over so short periods of time that I've seen in China over the last decades.

In my previous life, I worked a lot on child mortality and maternal health, on how to reduce child mortality. And we were able to, as the world was able to, to achieve a lot, not least because of the enormous gains made in China over the last decades.

Then at the same time, the rise of China also poses some serious challenges to NATO Allies. And until 2019 NATO did not address that as an Alliance at all, we didn't mention China, it was not an issue. And we have seen that we have now come a long way in actually agreeing, as NATO, as 30 Allies that the rise of China matters for our security, it has an impact on security.

And that applies for all Allies. I thought, I think that this distinction, to distinguish between, in a way, China is in the Pacific and then Russia is in Europe, that's wrong. We live in a global security environment, everything is interconnected. China is close also in cyberspace, we see it in Africa, we see it in Arctic, we see it investing heavily in our own infrastructure. And actually, one of the first test cases of understanding, of NATO Allies understanding, the security, potential security impacts on China was 5G. A couple of years ago, most European Allies thought that that was only a commercial issue. Who was going to control the 5G network, which is, was a basic for almost everything we do. Then, after extensive discussions, bilaterally, but also in the NATO framework, NATO Allies realised that 5G network matters for our security, for the resilience of societies, and therefore, we have seen that that has had some serious consequences for who actually provides the 5G networks across Europe and North America. So that's an example. 

China has the second largest defence budget in the world. They are investing heavily in new military capabilities, including nuclear long-range weapon systems, they are building a lot of silos for long-range missiles, and that is to expand the nuclear capabilities, and they have the second, no they have the largest Navy in the world. Just over the last five years, they have deployed more ships than the entire British navy. So this is huge and strong military capability which is expanding, year by year. That matters for our security. 

We don't regard China as an adversary, we don't regard them as an enemy. But we need to relate to all the aspects of the rise of China for our security. We have done that by, for the first time, mentioning China. We did that in the communiqué or the declaration from the NATO Summit in December 2019. That was only one sentence. At the Summit in June this year, we had actually some language, and some agreed positions. And then I expect that the upcoming new Strategic Concept for NATO would actually reflect a much more comprehensive and a unified position on how to relate to China. 

Then what we do on technology, on resilience, on investing in new high-end capabilities. We don't put label “China” on that, but it matters also when it comes to China. The last thing, and then I promise to end, is that we will continue to engage with China on climate, on arms control. And I spoke just last week with the Chinese Foreign Minister and I, in a way, conveyed the same message as I conveyed to you today that, that we don't want to isolate China, we also see the big advantages for all of us, the economic strength of China. But there are also some challenges, we need to address them, and we will address them together as NATO. 

Moderator: Fantastic. Well, let's bring in some questions from the audience. And we may get enough right from the room that we don't have time for online questions but if you want to send in online to the, we might be able to get one or two of those in as well. Until I see the hook from Dean Hellman, we will take questions. So maybe I'll take two at a time, if that's okay, starting maybe here in the second and third rows.

Question from the audience: […]  I'm also an Albanian-American from Kosovo and deeply disturbed about the situation right now in northern part of Kosovo. And my question was, what is the role of NATO, specifically KFOR, in ensuring that the destabilisation and the disturbing of peace, doesn't occur again, especially since you mentioned that it should be the decision of a small country to decide whether they want to join NATO. So Kosovo has made attempts to join and it is working towards that, but until then, do you think that allowing the Kosovo army in the north of Kosovo or establishing no-fly zone would be a solution to this, the similar incidents occurring in the future? Thank you so much. 

Moderator: Do you want to just answer that or take one more first?

NATO Secretary General: I will take one more.  

Question from the audience: Sir, thank you for taking the time to be with us today. My questions is regarding Russia and cyberspace operations. I think most can agree that Russia has been most successful in spreading its malign influence through cyberspace and information operations. 
NATO has been very successful in countering Russia through conventional means. But how do you see NATO's strategy moving forward to deter and defend against Russian cyberspace and information operations.

NATO Secretary General: So first of all, I would try to be brief because there are many questions, but, but then, forgive me if I don't cover all the issues you raised. 

But first, on Kosovo. NATO has been in Kosovo for many years, we helped to end the bloodshed there in 1999. And we have an international force, NATO force there called KFOR. And we helped to stabilize the situation, to ensure, to secure peace, and also protect all communities, to provide them with a safe and secure environment, including the Serbs living in Kosovo. 
Then, over the last weeks, we had some tensions at the border crossing points or the crossing points on the administrative borderline, between Kosovo and Serbia. I will not go into all the details, but that was about license plates for cars. And then we had some roadblocks and a quite tense and difficult situation. With also quite aggressive rhetoric. NATO has helped and supported efforts which has now led to an agreement to remove the roadblocks and also to remove or withdraw the Kosovo special police which has controlled that area and also the border crossings.

Now KFOR will control the border crossings, and we have found the way with some stickers to deal with the license plates, and that has at least solve the issue we faced now, reduce the tensions now. 

More fundamentally, what we need is a political agreement. That's the only way forward. It's not easy but the alternative is so much worse. So NATO strongly supported the EU-led facilitated dialogue Belgrade-Pristina. I spoke with Aleksandar Vučić, the President of Serbia, a couple of weeks ago, recently and also with Mr Kurti of Kosovo, and we will continue to strongly support these efforts to find a political solution, and KFOR will remain in Kosovo to ensure peace and stability.

Then, on Russia and cyber. Well, a big element, a big part of the fundamental adaptation of NATO that has taken place since 2014 is cyber. Because there is no way it'd be any type of conflict without significant cyber dimension, so it is not like, we will have a conflict, and then maybe cyber. Cyber will be part of it, most likely from the beginning, even before we realized that it started. 

So cyber really matters. And that's one reason why we have undertaken that huge strengthening of NATO's cyber capabilities, both protecting our own networks but also helping Allies to protect and support their networks. We have established cyber as a military domain, before we had land, air, sea, now we have land, air, sea, and cyber […] and space. We have cyber centre. And then we have also decided that cyber can trigger Article Five. And that's a very important message, meaning that we regard potentially cyber attacks as dangerous, as damaging, as kinetic attacks. You can take as many lives, you can really inflict a lot of harm through cyber attacks.

Just imagine 9/11 in cyber and that would be seriously and harmful for many. So, we can trigger Article Five, we need the collective defence clause of this Alliance, also to a cyber attack. And whether we will respond in cyber or in other domains, that's up to us to decide. 

And the last thing I will say about cyber is that we have also developed what is referred to as national cyber effects, which is actually offensive cyber, that we can use against, we have used them, NATO Allies use them against ISIS or Daesh to take down their cyber networks as part of the fight against ISIS. So we exercise, we train, we share best practices. So we need to maintain our edge also in the cyber domain to remain the most successful and strongest Alliance in history.

Moderator: Fantastic. Let's take these two in the third row if I could, please, next to each other, or three of you, maybe we should take all three.

Question from the audience: (…) How do you envision the future role of NATO. In a world with more of these truly global issues that we see with things like pandemics, climate that you touched on, for example, do you envision changes in how we interpret Article Five, as it relates to how pandemics, climate, arms control, these different issues affect specific NATO member countries, like what do you kind of see as the role of that moving forward.

Question from the audience: (…) In a similar vein, I would say that COVID-19 is the greatest security threat that we face today, because it threatens the citizens, not only of all the NATO Allies but of every country in the world. And I was wondering do you think that members of NATO have sufficiently collaborated to respond to the pandemic? And what more do you think NATO can do to help end the pandemic?

Question from the audience: (…) This summer I listened to your summer speech for the Swedish Radio, and I was very moved by your discussion or talk on Utoya. How would you say that attack and tragic event shaped your leadership, for not only Norway, but as a leader of global security as a whole. Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: So first on the pandemic, of course we faced many global threats and challenges. And of course that also matters for NATO. That doesn't mean that NATO always will be the first responder. For instance, to end pandemic, I don't think NATO is the first responder. We had the health, health services, and someone who in that case has to be… the first responders. 

But NATO can play a role. Not by invoking Article Five, I don't think the virus would be scared by Article Five. So the thing is that sometimes, NATO, the Article Five is not a response, not the answer to the pandemic. But our armed forces and NATO can play a critical and important role, as we did. 

And as we will do in any future pandemic. And of course we can improve, and we can strengthen the way we work together. If you look across the NATO Alliance, first of all, we coordinated a lot of efforts by helping to transport critical equipment, medical supplies, personnel. We helped to set up field hospitals, and so on. So this was partly organised and facilitated by NATO, but also partly by our national armed forces. They help to support the civilian health services. 

So on all these issues, I think what we see now is that the armed forces they of course can play a role in military conflict, but they also have an important role to play, for instance, in helping to address challenges like the pandemic, or more extreme weather and weather events or, or that poses a risk to all of us. So that's part of what we do, and what to exercise, what we plan for on.

Then on Utoya, first of all, thank you for listening to Sommar i P1. That's a Swedish thing, which is, where they sometimes invite Norwegians to be part. So I was very honoured to be speaking to Swedes.  

But you also have a very serious question about Utoya. Because Utoya, 22nd of July, that was a terrorist attack on Norway. 77 people were killed, most of them young people participating in the youth camp, just outside Oslo.

And that's the place where I have been since I was 14 years old, every summer, because this is the Social Democratic Party of Norway. And I knew many other people that were killed there. And I was Prime Minister and actually the perpetrator attacked the camp but also the government building, and my office was totally destroyed by the bomb.

There are many things to say about Utoya. But I think the most important message is that terrorism comes in many forms. And terrorists they use different guises, or they're trying to hide behind different religions, different ideologies. But at the end of the day, it's always about the same, it's about intolerance, intolerance, it is about violence, it is about hatred. And it doesn’t matter in a way, whether they call themselves, radical Islamists, or this guy in Norway, he was, he was a Christian, right-wing guy and he killed young Labour people because they were too tolerant and open to letting Muslims into Norway.

They have nothing other than… all these terrorists, they have more in common with each other than they have with any one of us. Because we respect the democratic rules, we respect that differences to be solved in a peaceful manner, and then we can be left or right or, or green or blue whatever we are, but we agree on that basic idea that we need strong democratic institutions and that is the way to make political decisions, not by violence. So I think the main message for me is that in Norway, it was a right-wing guy that misused the Christian religion, in other places we have seen people misusing other religions. It doesn't matter, it is the same, we have to fight it with everything we have, because we don't want to live in a society where these people are having any impact at all.

Moderator: We have a couple of online questions, please. 

Online questions: Thank you. Two questions on what you might term disagreements within the NATO family came in from our virtual viewers. The first is if you would comment please on the AUKUS deal, on the deal between Australia, UK and the United States, are you concerned about the fallout, the disagreement between France and the United States. And relatedly, on France’s suggestion that Europe develops its more indigenous capabilities, alongside NATO, are you optimistic or worried about this suggestion from France, how do you assess it? And related, a second question on Turkey, and its relationship with Russia, its pursuit of the S-400 missile system, do you think that this is a concern and how would you manage it? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: First, on the AUKUS deal. I understand that France is disappointed. 

At the same time, NATO Allies agree on the bigger picture that we need to stand together, also working with our Asia-Pacific partners which includes Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea. And the AUKUS deal is not directed against Europe or NATO. And there are two NATO Allies, US and UK that has gone into deal with Australia. And at our NATO Summit in June, we actually agreed, all 30 Allies that we should step up and work more closely with the partners in that region of the world.

I welcome EU efforts on defence. Because NATO has been actually calling on the European Union and EU and NATO Allies to do more for many, many years. No least on defence spending. It was a NATO decision in 2014 that triggered the increase in defence spending across Europe and the US and Canada.

After years of cutting defence spending, Allies have started to increase defence spending, added to another 60 billion extra.

I also think that EU, and European NATO Allies can do more on providing high-end capabilities, and we welcome and support those efforts. What I don't believe in is any efforts to try to do something outside the NATO framework or compete, or duplicate NATO. Because NATO remains the cornerstone, the bedrock for European security. And also for North American security.

And this is partly about money. 80% of NATO's defence expenditure comes from non-EU NATO Allies.

So of course, most of what we invest in defence is not within the EU, it's outside of the EU. That's mainly of course, very much because of the United States, but also other Allies. 

Then it's about geography. Turkey in the south, Norway, Iceland and the north and in the west US, Canada and the United Kingdom, if you look at the map, they are important for the protection and defence of the whole of Europe.

And then most importantly, and lastly, is politics. Because any attempt to try to weaken the transatlantic bond by creating alternative structures, conveying the idea that we can go alone, will not only weaken NATO, but it will divide Europe. So it just had to stand together and, if anything, it's even more important and we stand together now, because we are faced with such huge challenges. So we cannot afford to start to divide, Europe and North America, or the wide Europe, we had to stand together, North America and Europe, together in NATO. 

So, and for me, the AUKUS deal doesn't change that in any way. And also, I've seen someone saying that Afghanistan change that. Not at all. If anything, Afghanistan just underlines the importance of NATO and Europe, working together.

So that's my answer on that, then the other one was S-400. Now I have to admit that as difficult issue. It has been discussed again and again, between NATO Allies, the US and Turkey. I have raised the issue, we have discussed it, I have discussed it in Ankara with President Erdoğan and other Turkish leaders. Of course it is a national prerogative to make decisions on defence procurements. At the same time, what I have stated, and what matters for NATO, is that those capabilities, this is air-defence system, S-400, has to be interoperable with the NATO systems, has to be possible to integrate in the NATO integrated air and missile defence. That's not the case for S-400. 

And therefore, I also tried, we have tried to also find alternative solutions as Patriot, which is the US system or something called SAMP/T which is a French-Italian system. So far, we're not succeeded in that but we will continue, and also work on these issues, as Alliance, because I know that there are some issues and some Allies are critical. And that also is expressed openly and in NATO meetings, but Turkey is an important Ally. Turkey played a key role in defeating Daesh, bordering Iraq and Syria, and no other Ally has received more refugees than Turkey. So Turkey is important. There are some differences, some disagreements, but we need to address them within the NATO framework. 

Moderator: Yeah, so I see two hands again next to each other. A gentleman in a pink shirt, and a woman with gold glasses, maybe we can take those two.

Question from the audience: (…) My question to you is, given the current trend that you described, you know it's 5G, the commercial world and also becoming a security issue. What sorts of conditions do you think need to exist in order for de-securitization to actually happen, if at all. Thank you.

Question from the audience: (…) I just wanted to ask, what role do you think Pacific democracies like New Zealand, Australia, South Korea and Japan might play in NATO's relationship with China.

NATO Secretary General: First of all, I strongly believe in NATO working with New Zealand, Australia, they are close partners. They shared our democratic values, they share and support the rules-based international order. And this has value in itself to work with such close partners. At the same time there is no way to deny that, of course, this is something which has become even more important when we see a more assertive China, especially in that part of the world, we have seen how they have tried to coerce Australia, and actually impose very heavy economic sanctions against them because they didn't behave in the way China wanted them to behave.

And that just makes it even more important for us to work together with them. I was, in my own country, the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize Committee awarded the Peace Prize to a Chinese dissident. And then, suddenly, China imposed heavy sanctions on Norway because they didn't like that decision. So I don't think we can accept that kind of behaviour that they try to coerce other countries because they do things China doesn't like. And that just makes it more important that we work together, stand together with like-minded democracies, as New Zealand and Australia also in the light of a more coercive, or assertive China. 

Then, on the first question, I'm a bit confused. What is de-securitize? 

Response from the student: Sure, the way I interpreted it was as the reversal of the trend that you had described earlier, where you talked about how 5G used to be seen as a commercial issue and now it's become a security issue. I will see that as a reversal of their process. I was just wondering whether you think this is possible at all and what conditions would need to be established for this to be kicked into place. Thank you. 

NATO Secretary General: Of course, in theory it's possible but the trend is going in the opposite direction. I think that many years ago, it was a kind of a civilian life and then it was a military life and it was very easy to distinguish between peace and war. You had either wars they took place at battlefields and the wars were declared, and ambassador went to, to the other country and declared war and then we almost agreed where to fight and it was a clear start date and the end date. And there was the clear distinction between peace and war, and civilian and military sector. Now, that line is much more broad.

First of all, you know, in hybrid, in cyber and so on is a much more blurred line between peace and war, aggressive actions or peaceful interaction. So, the trend is going in the opposite direction. And I regret that. But that's the reality, with more hybrid and cyber threats and events, bigger parts of the whole society is involved also in different kinds of conflicts, and competition, state to state rivalry.

I think in the long run, the only way to prevent this from happening is part of course by having some rules of the road, some regulations and agreements, for instance how to behave in cyberspace.

But at the end of the day this is about trust, and creating a more peaceful society, global society, and then perhaps we can also de-securitize some of these civilian capabilities, and areas where we see, state to state competition today.