Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the meetings of NATO Defence Ministers on 21 and 22 October at NATO Headquarters

  • 20 Oct. 2021 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 21 Oct. 2021 08:29

(As delivered)

Pre-ministerial Press Conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

Good afternoon.

NATO Defence Ministers will meet this week and take decisions to strengthen our security.
And lay the ground for our Summit in Madrid next June.

NATO continues to adapt to a more complex and more competitive world.

We must keep our technological edge.
Future conflicts will be fought not just with bullets and bombs, but also with bytes and big data.
We see authoritarian regimes racing to develop new technologies, from artificial intelligence to autonomous systems.

So we are taking further steps to future-proof our Alliance.

This week, allies will launch the NATO Innovation Fund.

I expect this multinational fund to invest one billion euros. 
The fund will support the development of  dual-use emerging and disruptive technologies, in key areas for Allied security.

At our summit in Brussels last June, we took the decision to establish a Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic – or DIANA. 

We are making good progress. 
It will have headquarters in both Europe and North America, with a network of test centres and accelerator sites to harness civilian innovation for our security. 

Many Allies have made offers to host these facilities and some of them will be in place next year.

We will also agree our first-ever strategy on artificial intelligence.
In order to integrate it in areas such as data analysis, imagery, and cyber defence.

And to set out the principles of safe and responsible use, in accordance with international law.

Earlier this week, Russia announced the closure of its mission to NATO, and of our offices in Moscow.
We regret this decision, which does not promote dialogue and mutual understanding.
But NATO’s policy remains consistent, and we remain open to dialogue, including through the NATO Russia Council.

At the same time, we will continue to assess how we can further strengthen our deterrence and defence.

We will ensure we have the right plans, capabilities and forces in place to protect our nations.

We will also review progress in our response to the challenge from Russia’s nuclear capable missile systems.
In 2018, NATO Allies determined that Russia had developed and deployed missiles in breach of the INF Treaty,
which led to the demise of the treaty.

And since then, Russia has further increased its arsenal of missiles,
and is developing hypersonic systems.

These missiles pose a real threat to security in the Euro Atlantic area.
We will not mirror Russia’s actions. 
But we will maintain strong deterrence and defence.

Ministers will also meet in the Nuclear Planning Group format.
They will consult on how to keep our nuclear deterrent safe, secure and effective, while remaining committed to arms control.

NATO’s goal is a world without nuclear weapons. 
But we do not believe in unilateral disarmament.
A world where Russia, China, and other countries like North Korea, have nuclear weapons, but NATO does not, is simply not a safer world.

Tomorrow, we will discuss Afghanistan, and how we can ensure terrorists cannot use Afghanistan as a safe haven. 

Allies have the capabilities to strike from far away against terrorist threats.

We will also hold the Taliban accountable for their commitments on terrorism, human rights and safe passage.

And the international community has economic and diplomatic leverage over the Taliban.

It is important that we reflect on our efforts in Afghanistan over the years.
We have launched a thorough and clear-eyed assessment.
And tomorrow, ministers will also have a first opportunity to engage on the lessons learned process.
Looking ahead, we must continue to stand together in the fight against international terrorism.
And in the margins of this ministerial, we will hold a meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh.

On Friday, our partners Finland and Sweden, and the European Union, will join us.
We have already taken cooperation between NATO and the European Union to unprecedented levels.   
And we will take stock of our progress.

We share the same values and face the same challenges.
So we will discuss what more we can do together in an age of global competition.

With that, I am ready to take your questions.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: And we'll try to take questions both from here in the room, good to see so many of you here, but also by Zoom. We will start with Reuters, first row.

Robin Emmott (Reuters): Thank you very much, Oana. Secretary General, coming to the Russia question, I wondered if you thought that the suspension of the Russian mission, as a response, was a proportionate one. And I wondered, secondly, where this leaves that kind of dialogue-deterrent approach that you've had since Crimea. Is the dialogue track now without any wheels? And thirdly, if I could just ask you your reaction to Alexei Navalny being awarded the EU top human rights prize, I mean, I think, Russia would see this as interference in domestic affairs. I wonder how you see it, thank you. 

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: I welcome that Alexei Navalny has been rewarded with a Sakharov Prize. I think that's an important recognition of the important role he has played for many years, in supporting democratic values, in being a strong voice in Russia, and also a recognition of the importance of calling on his unconditional release from prison. And to have an international investigation in actually what happened. 

NATO Allies condemned the failed assassination attack against him. And NATO Allies have also called for the international investigation. I think this is part of a pattern where we see that Russia has become more oppressive abroad, and more oppressive at home, and more aggressive abroad. Therefore, I welcome the fact that strong voice, an important politician in Russia has been awarded this prize. 

Then, on the dialogue with Russia. We regret the position we are in now. We strongly believe that especially when tensions are high, and things are difficult, is important to have dialogue. And therefore we will continue to work for dialogue with Russia, including in the NATO-Russia Council. And the offer to meet in the NATO-Russia Council is still on the table. It is for Russia to respond in a positive way, so far they have not done that. And we also, of course, then regret the Russian decision to close down the two NATO offices in Moscow, and also to withdraw their personnel from the NATO mission in Brussels. 

We have to understand what NATO did was actually based on intelligence. It was based on what these people, members of the Russian delegation to NATO, actually did .And they were Russian intelligence operatives. And Allies have expressed grave concern about these kind of malign activities that we have seen over the last few years, including the failed coup attempt in Montenegro, the deadly act of sabotage in the Czech Republic, the poisoning attack in Salisbury, and the hacking of the OPCW in The Hague. 

So, this is a pattern of Russian behaviour that Allies have expressed concern about. We had intelligence and we made the decision on withdrawing the accreditation for the eight Russian members of the Russian delegation to NATO, based on intelligence. 

But we also, at the same time, made it clear that we will continue to approach Russia based on the dual-track approach: deterrence, defence and dialogue. And, also that we do get the fact that the relationship between NATO and Russia is now at the lowest point since the end of the Cold War. For us, that's actually not an argument against dialogue, that's an argument in favour of dialogue, because it is exactly when times are difficult, we have challenges and problems as we have now, that we need to sit down and talk. 

NATO Spokesperson: POLITICO

David Herszenhorn (POLITICO): Just to follow-up on the Russia question. How concerned are you, Secretary General, of active Russian espionage efforts here at NATO Headquarters? Are there investigations underway, either by the Allies or by NATO itself, to assess how much damage was… some of these diplomats who have been here obviously for some time.

NATO Secretary General: I cannot go into the details about our intelligence, but I can say that the decision to withdraw the accreditation for these eight people, members of the Russian delegation, is based on the fact that they were not diplomats, they were actually Russian intelligence operatives. And we have seen a pattern of behaviour in this country, but also in many other European countries, over several years. And Allies have, again, and again expressed grave concerns about very specific actions, as we have seen, a coup attempt in Montenegro, hacking of the OPCW in the Netherlands, the poisoning in Salisbury, and many other actions. And of course we have to act. There is no way you can just accept Russia to conduct malign activities without reacting, and that's what we did. We made it absolutely clear that's why we made that decision. We will continue to work for dialogue because we believe that Russia, our biggest neighbour, Russia being there, close to NATO, there's no way we cannot talk to them and therefore we continue to strive for a better relationship with Russia, knowing that this is difficult as the situation is now.

NATO Spokesperson: Okay, we'll go to Wall Street Journal, just above, and then we'll take a couple of questions from Zoom, and then we'll come back to the room.

James Marson (Wall Street Journal): Secretary General, they've been lots of statements from Allies of frustration and exasperation with the US after Afghanistan. The situation with Australian submarines. There's an impression among some that the Americans are just doing what they want and everyone else is putting up with it because no one really wants to increase spending. Is the Trump era really over? Or do you expect the US Secretary of Defense to be welcomed with open arms? 

NATO Secretary General: What we see now is the US administration which is strongly committed to rebuilding, strengthening alliances. And in particular strengthening the transatlantic bond between Europe and North America, and that was the clear message from President Biden at the NATO Summit in June, that was the clear message from President Biden when I met him in the White House few weeks ago, and I expect that to be the clear message also from Secretary Austin when he meets with defence ministers tomorrow at the NATO Defence Ministerial Meeting. 

And I think, actually, we have now unique historic opportunity that we all should seize and that is to strengthen the cooperation, there's the bond between North America and Europe, within NATO. And the good news is that we are doing more together. Allies are working more closely together on a wide range of issues: technology, cyber, deterrence, defence, and in many other areas where we are strengthening NATO, as 30 Allies. And European Allies are also stepping up. European Allies have, over the last years, significantly increased defence spending. All Allies have increased defence spending since we made the pledge in 2014 at the NATO Summit, and more and more Allies also meet the 2% guideline, spending 2% of GDP on defence.

Then, of course, over the last weeks we have also seen some difficult issues, where we have seen some differences between Allies. On Afghanistan, I think it's important to remember that actually we consulted closely with Secretary Austin, with other defence ministers on several occasions. We had, actually, three ministerial meetings and many ambassadorial meetings, many committee meetings at NATO, where we consulted on the way forward on Afghanistan, before we made a very difficult decision, namely to end our military mission there.

But when we made that decision, we were clear-eyed about the risks, the risk of Taliban returning. But we also knew that the alternative to stay entailed risks of more violence, more fighting and also, most likely the need for us to increase the numbers of NATO troops in Afghanistan, and therefore together we made the decision to end our mission in Afghanistan. 

On the AUKUS deal, well, I understand that France is disappointed. At the same time, I think it's important to underline that this is not a deal directed against NATO or Europe. And I'm confident that the Allies involved, they will find a way forward. And our responsibilities to prevent this issue, becoming a rift between NATO Allies, between North America and Europe. And NATO Allies also agreed in June, that we need to work more closely with our Asia Pacific partners – New Zealand, Australia, Japan and South Korea. We have started to work with them on cyber, there are other issues of maritime security and many other areas we should work more closely with these partners. AUKUS, the disagreements or differences, opinions about AUKUS within the Alliance, and Afghanistan, does not change the fundamental need, a message that Europe and North America has to stand together because we face a more competitive world, we face more state-to-state rivalry, and then it's even more important to stand together, as the 30 Allies, in NATO.

NATO Spokesperson: […] Let’s go to Thomas Gutschker from Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and then we will come back to Dominika. Thomas, go ahead, please. 

Thomas Gutschker (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung): Yes, thanks a lot Oana and good afternoon. Secretary General, the Alliance will now operationalize its new concept for deterrence and defence in the Euro-Atlantic area, starting with a new designation or a new assignment of the area of responsibilities. Can you please outline what the real challenges will be for NATO to cope with the new security environment and adapting to it in the next years? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: NATO has always had plans in place to defend and protect the whole Euro-Atlantic area. But of course, as the security environment changes, and as our challenges and potential threats are changing, we need to adapt and modernize those plans, and that's exactly what we are doing, and that will also be addressed when Defence Ministers meet tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. 

And that's part of this fundamental change of NATO, the fundamental shift within NATO, that we have seen over the last years, where we step up when it comes to collective defence, protecting our territory. Allies are investing more, Allies are providing more high-end capabilities, and not least we are also stepping up in new domains as cyber, hybrid and also space. All of this matters for our security. It's different from the threats and the challenges we faced during the Cold War, it's different from the challenges we faced when most of our efforts were actually outside NATO territory, not so many years ago, actually. When I came in 2014, the biggest operations we had they were outside NATO territory. We had tens of thousands of troops in these combat operations outside NATO territory. Now we have scaled that down. And also before we ended the mission in Afghanistan, we gradually scaled down… the deployment of NATO troops in missions beyond our territory, significantly over the last years, but at the same time, in parallel, we have stepped up the readiness of forces, deployed combat troops in the eastern part of the Alliance, invested in new capabilities, and also modernised the whole NATO command structure, including the new command, for instance, in Germany. 

So this, of course, is then reflected in the plans, and the concepts, and the doctrines we have developed in parallel with this fundamental shift. And I think sometimes we underestimate the fundamental change that has taken place in NATO over the last seven years, reducing resources, efforts in operations outside NATO territory. And then, strongly increasing the efforts within NATO territory to strengthen our collective defence. 

NATO Spokesperson: Okay, we'll try to go back to Dominika Cosic from TVP Poland.

Dominika Cosic (TVP Poland): Yes, hello. I hope that now everything is okay. Secretary General, I would like to ask you on the [Belarus] situation, on the border with Poland. Yesterday, Deputy Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs has briefed NATO ambassadors. This is a situation on the border between Poland and [Belarus]. And as you know, of course, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia are under attack of, a hybrid attack of a Belarusian regime who is using forced migration and also strong disinformation campaign against Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, so my questions is: if, and what, and when NATO is doing to solve this problem before it will become a major problem on the eastern border of NATO? Thank you very much.

NATO Secretary General: NATO stands in solidarity with our Allies, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, that have seen a surge in migrants coming in from Belarus. And this flow of migrants is something which is orchestrated and used by Belarus, as a form of hybrid warfare. And therefore, I think it's important that we also have discussed and addressed this actually several times in NATO at the North Atlantic Council, and most recently, we did that this week, again, expressing our solidarity, and also recognizing that this is something which is orchestrated by the regime in Minsk.

NATO Allies have also deployed experts to Lithuania to help them cope with the challenges related to the surge in migrants entering the European Union, and their countries, via Belarus. And we are of course continuing to stand in a very close contact, I've also spoken with many of the political leaderships, people in leadership in these countries, addressing exactly these same challenges. At the same time, it is important that all those fleeing violence and persecution, should be treated with care and compassion. So that's also an important message to convey, as we continue to stand in solidarity with our NATO Allies: Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. 

NATO Spokesperson: We'll take another question from Zoom from Florian Neuhann, from ZDF. And then we will come back to the press room.  

Florian Neuhann (ZDF): Yes, thank you very much for taking my question. Secretary General, I'd like to speak about the lessons learned from Afghanistan. And would you agree that one, maybe the most important lesson, would be to always have an exit strategy for your missions. And what would that mean for the current NATO missions such as Iraq, for example. 

NATO Secretary General: So first of all we are in the midst of the lessons learned process. NATO ministers will engage in that process later on this week. I think it is important to have a thorough and clear-eyed lessons learned process because this was a big operation that lasted over many, many years. And, of course, exit strategy, how to end this kind of military missions, is an important part of what we have to look into as we now do the lessons learning process. I think, also, we have to realise that NATO went in to Afghanistan to fight terrorism. And, in the beginning, we had a limited task of degrading al Qaeda.

Then, gradually, the mission expanded, and that was not only NATO but the whole international community, that added on more and more tasks. And then, it developed into more nation building effort by the whole international community. NATO was part of that, but of course also the UN, the European Union, and many individual Allies who went in with a heavy development aid and also ambitions to build democratic and stable Afghanistan. So from a more limited mission fighting terrorism, the whole international community, with a lot of different Allies and organizations and partners engaged, ended up being something that became a quite big and ambitious nation building effort. 

So I think we all have to realise how ambition can gradually expand, and also the risks and the challenges related to such a change of the goals and the purpose of our presence. So there are lessons to be learned for NATO, but also for the broader international community.

It's too early to conclude, but I think at least one thing is that we need to also recognize the things that didn't work, but also the things that actually worked. For 20 years, we prevented Afghanistan being a safe haven for international terrorists, and that was the main reason we went in, and now it's important to try to preserve those gains. And we will continue to stay vigilant. We will continue to work together as Allies, we will continue to be part of The Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh, and we continue to use our leverage, political, diplomatic leverage on the Taliban regime, to ensure the gains we made in many areas, but in particular when it comes to fighting terrorism. 

And the other message I have is that we should not draw the wrong conclusions. And if anything, Afghanistan just demonstrates the need for Allies to stand together, to strengthen the link between North America and Europe, and many things were difficult, and of course the fact that the Taliban is back is a tragedy for the Afghan people, and it's heartbreaking for all of us who supported Afghanistan for so many years. 

But, the fact that Allies, European Allies and North America, US, Canada that were able to evacuate more than 120,000 people in a matter of few days. That was a huge undertaking, demonstrating the capabilities NATO Allies can bring… when needed, and that's also important to remember as we do the lessons learned process. 

NATO Spokesperson: We will go to Brussels Morning. 

Lailuma Sadid (Brussels Morning): Thank you very much. Secretary General, you said that the decision to take it, it was so difficult and risky. I think it was more difficult to think if withdrawal is happening, with this, all achievements in 20 years is gone, there is nothing left behind in Afghanistan. Is still terrorist groups like al Qaeda, Daesh and also the Haqqani Network, they are very active in Afghanistan. Don't you think that it will be dangerous, not only for Afghanistan, and also for the word? What is NATO plan for the future and how do you defend […] this terrorist group, which is active in Afghanistan, and could be more difficult and challenging for the world in the future? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: It was a difficult decision because we faced a dilemma: either to stay and then, of course, risk more casualties, not only casualties and loss of lives of NATO soldiers, but also more civilian Afghan casualties because more fighting means also more both military and civilian casualties. And we risked to be forced to increase the number of NATO troops in Afghanistan. But the alternative was then, to leave and then risk the return of Taliban. That was clearly conveyed and all Allies where aware that if we left there was a clear risk for Taliban returning to power in Kabul. What was not anticipated was the speed of the return of Taliban, but not the fact that they were able to come back. 

Of course, much of the gains we have made are now… for instance when comes to democratic rights, the freedom of press, and all those gains, we have seen serious setbacks. And the reports… what we have learned about the new Taliban regime is of deep, deep concern. And Allies are deeply concerned about the developments within Afghanistan, especially when it comes to the rights of women. 

At the same time, I think it's important to also recognize that we have seen some fundamental changes in the Afghan society over these 20 years, partly just because the fact that so many more people have been educated. This is social and economic progress which cannot be easily reversed, that people have been empowered, not at least women, have had access to education where they didn't have when the Taliban ruled.  And, and also the fact… and of course this is not only something that can credit NATO, that social economic progress was part of the broader nation building efforts by the whole international community: UN, many Allies...I remember when I was Prime Minister of Norway, we invested a lot, not through NATO, but through the UN, in bilateral development aid, to support the civilian society, democratic values, freedom of press, and so on, in Afghanistan. That’s a loss for all of us, the whole international community. 

And then, I also strongly believe that the gains we have made in the fight against terrorism, well, we will stay vigilant, we will continue to preserve those gains by coordinating efforts by NATO Allies, by using the leverage we have, the diplomatic, economic leverage and that's exactly what NATO Allies are doing, and also by the fact that NATO Allies, especially United States, they have the capabilities to strike terrorists groups also from long distance, over the horizon, and as they have done in many other countries when they don't have thousands of troops on the ground. So, yes, what has happened in Afghanistan in the past weeks is heartbreaking, it is painful to see. And we see that, especially those who believed in democratic values, freedom of press, the rights of women, they have all reasons to be gravely disappointed and shocked by what they have seen, or what we have all seen in Afghanistan. But we should continue to put pressure, to use our leverage, and for instance, I know that many NATO Allies and partners are also now engaging strongly with different kinds of humanitarian organizations, relief organizations, to continue to provide direct support to the people of Afghanistan, and also to different groups and individuals who are at risk, and NATO Allied are also doing that through different challenges than NATO, and I welcome those efforts.

NATO Spokesperson: We will now go to Radio France International. 

Radio France International: To come back quickly on my colleagues’ questions on Russia. If you want to keep the dual-track approach alive, what are the next tangible or practical steps that you are willing to plan or to take in order to rebuild the dialogue with Russia? 

NATO Secretary General: Our offer to convene a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council still stands, and we are ready to meet with Russia, as soon as they are willing to sit down with us, because we strongly believe that, especially when things are difficult, when tensions are high, and then it is extra important that we are able to meet and discuss. Then, of course, there are also other avenues for engaging with Russia. We have… NATO lines of communications, and there are ways to engage with Russia and we will use those to continue to engage with Russia. 

I also welcome the strategic talks between the United States and Russia, and the efforts of the United States to really engage in a meaningful, strategic talks with Russia. And the extension of the New START agreement also reflects that there are some important steps that have been taken recently. 

But again, the relationship between NATO and Russia is at its lowest, lowest point since the end of the Cold War, and the reason for that is the Russian behaviour. They have invaded the neighbours, they have annexed part of another country, they are investing heavily in new nuclear capabilities and violating one of the cornerstone our arms control regime, the INF Treaty, that led to the demise of that treaty, they're meddling in our democratic processes, and we have seen Russia being responsible for aggressive actions against NATO Allies. So, this totality, has led to the setbacks we have seen in efforts to try to have a meaningful dialogue with Russia. But we will continue defence on dialogue, and, and sooner or later, at some stage, it is important to realize, also for Russia, that we will all live in a safer world if we engage in a meaningful dialogue. 

NATO Spokesperson: We will go to Deutsche Welle/NPR Teri Schultz and then we'll get to Jane's.

Teri Schultz (NPR): Thanks, people have already asked on Afghanistan quite a bit but I wanted to just have a little bit more precision on a couple of things that I think you didn't answer, completely. Do you still see that NATO has a role in Afghanistan? Because you used to mention that Afghanistan was an example of how NATO fights counterterrorism, we know that there is still the threat of terrorism as you have mentioned but, is that still a NATO role or do you see that falling now, only to national governments, especially those who will have assets based in the region? Will NATO play a coordinating role at anything like that? And do you feel that this is important for this to be kept inside the Alliance? And I'm wondering that ahead of, of course, the lessons learned process which will take until, will take some time. I'm wondering if you could share with us reflections that you've had already. I know you haven't had a lot of free time but, you know, we've been through this process the whole time that you've been here and I'm wondering if you could share with us some of your own thoughts on lessons learned before writing a report, and making it much more bureaucratic. Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: The most urgent role NATO has, and the most immediate task we are faced with, is to resettle Afghans who worked with us. And NATO Allies and the NATO partners were able to get more than 120,000 people, many of them Afghans, out of Afghanistan. And we still, Allies and partners, are still working on how to get more people out. And we have been also able to get out many people who worked directly with NATO, not only NATO Allies, but also NATO as an institution or as an Alliance, and we have used actually part of the NATO Response Force to set up transition centres in Kosovo, in Poland, and also help their efforts at the Ramstein Air Base. And NATO Allies, and NATO, has been involved in those efforts. And now, what is important is to be able to resettle these individuals. We are making huge progress, making sure that they are not staying in this transit centres but are actually able to be resettled in different NATO allied countries. 

So this is an issue that I expect will be addressed when we discuss Afghanistan tomorrow, and also an issue that I have been addressing when I engage with NATO Allies. And NATO as an institution has been working hard on getting people out. The transit centres and then the importance of resettling, resettle people that supported us and worked for us over all these years. 

Then, actually, I think I reflected a bit on the lessons learned, not, not any conclusions, but I said something about what we saw in Afghanistan, that we started with a very limited, narrow, military mission, fighting terrorism, degrading al Qaeda, and then NATO was part of what after some years become a much more broader mission. But then NATO was only one of many players or actors, meaning the EU… and NATO Allies in a much broader, a nation building effort. And I think it's too easy to say that that was absolutely wrong, because that actually achieved a lot, and not least on the constant social and economic progress, but it's a much more ambitious task, and therefore also, of course, much harder to preserve those gains than the gains we made related to the original task to degrade al Qaeda and preserve, or prevent, Afghanistan being a safe haven for international terrorism. 

So, any reflections on that dilemma, whether we should have stayed on this more narrow task of fighting terrorism, or whether it was right for the international community, and NATO to being part of that, to engage in a more, a bigger ambitious nation building task, I think that will be one of the big dilemmas we will face. 

Another reflection I have, and it's to see whether all Allies will agree, is that, of course, it highlights the challenges and the risks to engage in big missions and operations outside NATO territory. But the lesson cannot be that we will never engage. Because, for instance, I think is absolutely clear that the use of military force by NATO Allies, and NATO also being part of The Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh in Iraq and Syria,  that was right. Not saying that everything is fixed, that all the problems are solved. And that we can we can just step back and relax. But I say that we should not draw the wrong conclusion on Afghanistan and think that NATO Allies and NATO should never again engage in military operations to fight extremism, or terrorism, because we did that recently in Iraq and Syria, and that was the main reason we were able to liberate the territory as big as United Kingdom, 8 million people, and actually seriously degrade ISIS. And NATO continues to be part of that effort by our training mission in Iraq. That's some of my more personal reflection… as well as for the time being on the lessons learned process on Afghanistan. 

NATO Spokesperson: We've got lots of questions and we're running out of time so we'll try to do is quickly as we can, Jane’s. 

Brooks Tigner (Jane’s Defence Weekly): Mr Stoltenberg, you mentioned hypersonic missiles as an evolving threat. It's really not feasible to use nuclear arms against these, which means kinetic. And kinetically these can only be countered by weapons traveling as fast or faster as the missiles themselves, which means every second counts. So my question to you, do you think that allied military kinetic systems against hypersonic weapons should be placed in space or on the ground? I'm not referring to the international treaties that NATO supports or would like to see, I'm asking about whether these weapons should be placed in space or on the ground, and what is NATO's current position on that? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: So, in general, I would say that NATO is investing, adapting, modernizing its military capabilities to be ready to respond, and protect, and defend against any threat, including modern missile systems. And we are doing that in many different ways. We are also stepping up, what we do in space because space is so important for our communications, for our ability to detect missile launches, to surveillance reconnaissance and to communicate. NATO, we don't have any plans of deploying weapons in space, that's not part of our space efforts. I cannot speak on behalf of all NATO Allies but NATO has no such plans. 

NATO Spokesperson: We'll try to take three more questions, very, very quickly. dpa.

Ansgar Haase (dpa): Secretary General, on the same issue, China has denied reports that it tested nuclear capable hypersonic missile in August, I would like to know what NATO's assessment is. Do you think that this test had nothing to do with military capabilities? And do you think that this issue will pop up at the discussions at the ministerial meeting in the coming two days. Thank you. 

NATO Secretary General: What we have seen over the last years is significant modernization of China's military capabilities. I cannot comment on precise intelligence, but what I can say is that we have seen this strong efforts by China to strengthen their military capabilities, including nuclear capabilities and missile systems. This is about new missiles, it's about long range missiles, it's about dual-capable missiles, and it's also about building a new silos for intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarines, air launch missiles, sea based and air launch missile including ground launched missiles. So in totality, this is a significant modernization of the Chinese armed forces, including a lot of very advanced weapon systems that can carry nuclear weapons.

NATO Spokesperson: Süddeutsche Zeitung

Paul-Anton Krüger (Süddeutsche Zeitung): Secretary General, you have mentioned the DDA concept. I understand that there will be capability targets that the ministers will be discussing and I've been told that they will be ambitious. Can you go in a little detail of what that means and what types of systems we're talking about, or capabilities, not necessarily systems. 

NATO Secretary General: …. Agree capabilities targets. And that's one thing that is really is important for NATO is that we have a regular process that addresses the need for new capabilities by NATO Allies, NATO allied countries. And then we agree them because then we ensure that, as a totality, 30 Allies provide the capabilities we need. Land, air, sea, cyber, and, of course, only few Allies can have a full spectrum defence. Most Allies are dependent on other Allies for some capabilities, and by joining forces, by working together and agreeing the capability targets, we ensure that we have the capabilities together, as Allies. 

Maybe I can be able to say a bit more about that after we have had the meeting of the NATO Defence Ministers tomorrow. But in general, these capability targets reflect the need to modernize NATO, not only in the land, air and sea domain, but also, not least within…to modernize NATO also when it comes to responding to new and disruptive technologies. So, of course, NATO, we have plans in place to protect NATO and NATO territory, but what we need more than plans, we also need the forces to underpin those plans and that's exactly what we want to agree during our Defence Ministerial Meeting. 

NATO Spokesperson: Okay, I know there's still a couple of questions but we'll end with Rustavi 2 Georgia.

Tamara Nutsubidze (RUSTAVI 2): Secretary General, Mr Colomina is in Tbilisi now, earlier Secretary of Defense visited Georgia and one of his main messages was that NATO open door policy remains so. Does it mean that there will be a deeper cooperation and can we expect some positive signals on upcoming Summit in Spain? Thanks.

NATO Secretary General: First of all, I would like to state very clearly that Georgia remains a very close and highly valued partner of NATO. My Special Representative, Javier Colomina is a very experienced diplomat that really knows how NATO works and also how we can strengthen the partnership with Georgia, and working more closely with the countries in the region. And, I know him as a very knowledgeable diplomat that really can help and support those efforts that NATO does in that region in many different ways. So we will continue to work on how we can further strengthen the partnership with Georgia, how we can make sure that we both provide political and practical support, and I look forward to working with the new Special Representative on how to do exactly that.

NATO Spokesperson: Thank you very much. This concludes this press conference, see you tomorrow.