by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the meetings of NATO Defence Ministers on 21 and 22 October at NATO Headquarters
Today and tomorrow, NATO’s Defence Ministers will meet to address a wide range of security issues of importance for our security.
We are in the midst of a transformation of NATO. Over the last years we have stepped up and refocused on our collective defense to protect our own territory.
And therefore, NATO ministers, NATO Defence Ministers, will today agree a new set of capability targets for all Allies.
They will also agree an overarching plan for the defence of the Euro-Atlantic area, ensuring we have the right forces in the right place at the right time.
And the NATO ministers will also take decisions to ensure we sharpen our technological edge.
Allies will sign up to Innovation Fund with 1 billion euros in support of innovation to support our security. And we will also agree our first ever strategy on artificial intelligence.
Then, Allies will address Afghanistan, and this will be the first opportunity for the ministers to engage in the lessons learnt process I have launched here at NATO.
And tomorrow, the ministers will meet with our closest partners, Sweden, Finland, and the European Union.
And we all look forward to discuss how we can further strengthen the partnership, both with Sweden and Finland and with the European Union.
And with that I am ready to take your questions.
Florian Neuhann (ZDF):
Mr. Stoltenberg, when talking about the lessons learned in Afghanistan. What is your most important lesson that you will tell the ministers that the NATO should draw from the disaster in Afghanistan.
So we are in the midst of the lessons learned process, I think it's a bit early to draw final conclusions.
And we have to remember that we were faced with a very difficult dilemma in Afghanistan; either to leave and then risk Taliban returning, and we were clear about that risk,
or to stay, but then risk more casualties, more fighting, more violence,
and also, most likely the need to increase number of NATO troops in Afghanistan.
So after extensive rounds of consultations among all allies, we agreed together to end our military presence in Afghanistan.
The lesson learned process has to focus on both what did not work, but also what worked, because it is of course a tragedy for the Afghan people, that Taliban is back, it's heart-breaking for all of us who supported Afghanistan for so many years, but at the same time we should recognize that we actually made significant achievements.
Our mission was not in vain. We prevented Afghanistan from being a safe haven for international terrorists, and prevented any attack against any NATO ally over 20 years.
Now we will stay vigilant and preserve those gains. Not least by holding, using the leverage we have on the new Taliban regime to make sure that they live up to their commitments on terrorism, on human rights, and safe passage.
Alf Bjarne Johnsen (VG):
My question is on nuclear deterrence, and the fact that the you know, the new Norwegian, the Labour government in Oslo intends to go to the state party conference on the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty. I would love to hear your reaction to that and possibly an advice to other NATO members, considering the same, since Norway is the first ally with intentions to go there.
So NATO's aim is a world without nuclear weapons.
But as long as there are nuclear weapons, NATO will retain a nuclear deterrent, because we don't believe in unilateral nuclear disarmament. We don't believe that a world where Russia, China and countries like North Korea have nuclear weapons and we do not, is a safer world.
We believe in balanced verifiable nuclear disarmament, not in unilateral nuclear disarmament. And therefore, NATO's position on the ban treaty is very clear, we don't believe in that treaty as a way towards nuclear disarmament. And I also expect that all allies will take this into account, when they address nuclear issues and consult closely with
other NATO allies, and I expect that these issues will be raised and discussed at the Defence Ministerial meeting today.
Florian Neuhann (ZDF):
[…inaudible…] I have a question about Russia. When they have now closed their mission, they don't have methods to communicate. What is your effort to improve the relationship?
We still have avenues and channels for communications with Russia, but we regret the Russian decision to close the two NATO offices in Moscow, and to also stop their activity at that NATO mission here at NATO.
NATO’s approach to Russia remains the same as before, meaning credible deterrence and defence, combined with efforts to have a meaningful dialogue with Russia.
But of course, this has just become more difficult, because of the Russian decision to close the NATO offices in Moscow. And I think we also have to understand that the relationship between NATO and Russia is now at a low point. It has not been more difficult since the end of the Cold War.
But we strongly believe that when things are difficult, when we are faced with challenges in our relationship as we are now, it is even more important that we talk, so therefore, and NATO will continue to strive for a constructive or a meaningful dialogue with Russia.
Mikal Hem (Forsvarets Forum):
[…inaudible…] we rely on certain products made in China, whether it is communication equipment or healthcare equipment, and should NATO countries do anything to address that, if it's a security problem?
The NATO Allies are increasingly aware of the importance of resilience, vulnerabilities related to supply lines, other chains of supplies, and also the importance of strengthening our resilience more in general.
And that's actually a part of what we are addressing as allies together. Partly because we have strengthened the guidance we have for resilience, but also part of the increased focus on China, and how the rise of China has consequences for our security, is also of course related to everything, related to the importance of critical infrastructure, supply lines and the importance of making sure that we have the possibility to ensure that we have the equipment, the material, the supplies we need to uphold our defence also in times of crisis.