by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the German Atlantic Association 'NATO Talk' Conference 2021
Thank you so much Jana.
And good morning to all of you.
It’s great to be back in Berlin. I have been in Berlin many, many times before but this is the first time I’m on a boat on this river. And not only on a boat on the river but on an electric boat. So it’s great to see what you achieve, in Germany and in Berlin.
Then of course it’s an honour to once again participate in a ‘NATO Talk’.
And I would like to thank all my hosts of German Atlantic Association, the Federal Academy for Security Policy for inviting me here today.
And then let me also say that it is always good to bein Berlin and Germany, because Germany is a very highly, highly valued Ally, contributing to our transatlantic security in many different ways.
From Baltic air policing, to maritime deployments in the Aegean sea.
And from leading the multinational NATO battlegroup in Lithuania, to our new logistics command in Ulm.
And Germany has also been a long-standing supporter of our peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.
And as you all know Germany was the second largest to contribute to our mission in Afghanistan.
So all of these contributions demonstrate the strong commitment of Germany to NATO, to our transatlantic bond and is highly valued by NATO and by all of us.
In an increasingly dangerous and competitive world, this commitment is as important as ever.
Today we face many different challenges.
Russia carries out aggressive actions. It interferes in other countries' affairs.
It has invested significantly in military capabilities, including new, advanced nuclear weapons.
And Russia continues its massive military build-up, as we see now around the borders of Ukraine. And it has shown a willingness to use military force against its neighbours.
Meanwhile, China is using its might to coerce other countries and control its own people. It is investing heavily in new technologies, like hypersonic glide vehicles. Expanding its global economic and military footprint in Africa, in the Arctic and in cyber-space.
And China is suppressing democracy and human rights at home. We don’t regard China as an adversary but we need to take into account the consequences for our security, the rise of China.
In addition, we face more frequent and sophisticated cyber-attacks. Hybrid tactics, as we see today from Belarus on the border with Poland. We also face persistent terrorist threats. The proliferation of nuclear weapons. And the security implications of climate change.
These challenges are all very different.
But they have one thing in common.
And that is that the best way to tackle them is to stay united. Europe and North America together in NATO.
That is why reinforcing the transatlantic unity and strengthening NATO is so important right now.
There is strong bi-partisan support for our Alliance, for NATO, in the United States.
The US wants more cooperation with Europe.
They have demonstrated this not just in words, but also in deeds.
In recent years, the US has increased its military presence in Europe.
With more troops, more exercises, and more pre-positioned equipment.
And for me that is actually a very strong demonstration of commitment to transatlantic security, that they actually increase their presence in Europe.
The US commitment to NATO was reiterated at our Brussels Summit in June this year.
When President Biden, together with Chancellor Merkel and all the other NATO leaders, adopted NATO 2030 –
an ambitious and forward-looking agenda for our security.
We took bold decisions to strengthen our Alliance even more, as the indispensable forum to consult, decide and, when necessary, act on all issues that affect our security. We decided to sharpen our technological edge.
So we are investing in the latest technologies. From artificial intelligence to biotech and quantum computers.
We are developing a Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic – what we call DIANA, to facilitate transatlantic cooperation and exchanges on critical technologies.
And we launched the new NATO Innovation Fund, with full involvement from Germany.
To invest in start-ups that will build and help us meet our security needs,
and strengthen the technological bond between Europe and North America.
At the Summit in Brussels, we also decided to address the impact of climate change on our security. So Allies are investing in sustainable solutions, and we welcome the fact that we have an electric boat demonstrating what sustainable solutions might be. We invest in bio-fuels for jet aircraft, and solar panels to power equipment.
And for the first time, NATO is developing a way to map military emissions across the Alliance, that’s the first step to be able to cut those emissions.
On technology, climate and in many other areas, we are committed to working even more closely with our partners.
Not least with the European Union.
NATO and the EU are different organisations, with different members, different roles and different tools.
But more than 90 percent of EU citizens live in a NATO country.
So we face the same security threats.
We share the same values.
And we have lifted our cooperation, the cooperation between NATO and the EU to unprecedented levels.
My ambition is to strengthen our partnership still further.
So I am now working with President Von der Leyen and President Michel on a new Joint Declaration between the two EU presidents and myself to chart the way forward for further strengthening NATO-EU cooperation.
As I have said many times, I welcome European efforts on defence.
NATO has been calling on European Allies for many years to invest more, and provide more capabilities.
It is good news that Allies, including Germany, are stepping up.
At the same time, we must avoid creating parallel structures in the EU, that would compete for the same, limited, pool of resources and forces that we rely on for our NATO Alliance.
What we need is new capabilities. Not new structures.
These are pivotal times. For Europe. For international security.
That is why I count on Germany to continue to invest in defence.
NATO’s 2 per cent guideline reflects clearly defined capability targets. And requirements that we have all agreed to meet.
I also count on Germany to strengthen European security within a transatlantic framework.
You are at the heart of Europe. With its largest economy. And you are a champion of multilateralism.
So Germany has a special responsibility to keep NATO strong. This means providing more and new capabilities. Soldiers that are well-trained and well-equipped. Planes that can fly. And ships that can sail.
And I count on Germany to remain committed to NATO’s nuclear sharing.
It is our ultimate security guarantee.
Our aim is a world free of nuclear weapons.
But as long as others have them, NATO must have them too.
The nuclear weapons we share in NATO
provide European Allies with an effective nuclear umbrella.
This, of course, also includes our eastern Allies.
And they are an important signal of Allied unity against any nuclear-armed adversary.
So NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements are of particular importance for Europe.
In today’s uncertain world, we are safer when Europe and North America stand together. In strategic solidarity. With a strong Germany at the heart of our Alliance.
Thank you, and then I’m ready to take your questions.
DR. JANA PUGLIERIN [Moderator]: Thank you very much. Another question that came to my mind while listening to you is NATO’s Strategic Concept, which is basically the project for the upcoming months.
And I was wondering if you were, kind of, the only person responsible for the content, if it was only up to you, what would be in there, what do you want to see? If you were kind of the penholder and it was all your responsibility?
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: Yeah, but you know, my main responsibility is to make sure that we have a good Strategic Concept, a forward-looking, ambitious Strategic Concept when we agree it finally at the NATO Summit in Madrid next year.
And if I start to outline the details now, I will reduce the likelihood of having the Concept I would like to have. So, therefore, you just have to accept that my role is not to be a kind of private individual saying exactly what I want now, but to facilitate the process of 30 Allies working together to achieve consensus, agreement on an ambitious and forward-looking Strategic Concept.
But I can just share with you some reflections.
And the first is that the current Strategic Concept that was agreed in Lisbon in 2010, that Strategic Concept has served NATO well. And it is an important document. It is the most important document next to our founding treaty, the Washington Treaty.
But what we have seen is that over those 10 years or so, the world has changed. Because if you look into the current Strategic Concept, we address Russia as a strategic partner. We don’t mention China with a single word. And for instance, climate change – the security consequences of climate change – is hardly mentioned.
So it is obvious that since the world has changed, we also need to update and agree a new Strategic Concept, and that’s exactly what we are doing.
And therefore, I expect the Strategic Concept to be very clear on our core values: democracy, rule of law.
I expect the Strategic Concept, of course, to send a very clear message of the need for North America and Europe to stand together. This is the success of NATO. We are 30 different Allies and, of course, there are differences and there have always been differences. But, the success of NATO is that despite these differences, we have been able to unite around our core task to protect and defend each other. That was important during the Cold War, but in many ways it’s even more important now, because we face an even more unpredictable and, in many ways, more uncertain world than we did 20 or 30 years ago. So to recommit to the transatlantic bond, Europe and North America stand together, I also expect, hope it will be part of the Strategic Concept.
And then also take into account the security consequences of the rise of China, knowing that that has consequences for our security.
Many other issues, but I think I’ll stop there.
DR. JANA PUGLIERIN [Moderator]: Thank you very much. But maybe you could also give us a hint what you think would be the most controversial topics when we discuss the Concept now? So what do you think will be the kind of stumbling blocks?
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: No, but, again, if I start to list that, I will make my task more difficult, because really there are many people and experts and journalists and media, they will use almost all their time to identify the difficulties. So if I add to that, I will actually just make the whole process more difficult.
My task is to find a positive approach, to find the solutions, to find how to deal with the differences.
And everyone that can see, can see that there are differences between 30 Allies. So that’s not . . ., you don’t require a high degree of intellectual capacity to, in a way, to identify differences.
So, the impressive thing is not to identify differences or disagreements.
The impressive and important task is to actually, - based on those differences, or taking that into account-, to find a common ground. That’s my task.
DR. JANA PUGLIERIN [Moderator]: Yeah, and based on this, I think NATO has a tremendous track record, as is also mapped out in the publication that the Deutsche Atlantische Gesellschaft will publish today.
So you were absolutely right, and we have a lot of journalists on board who can ask critical questions and identify stumbling blocks.
I open it up now to you, and also to comments that come in online.
And the first on my list is Reinhard Bütikofer, who is a Green politician and represents part of the traffic light coalition in the making, on board. Could you hand over…
REINHARD BÜTIKOFER [politician of the German Green Party/MEP Chair of the European Green Party]: Secretary General, thank you for your remarks.
My question is this: the tensions within and around Bosnia and Herzegovina are escalating. What role do you foresee for NATO in that context?
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: First of all, we are following the developments in the Western Balkans in general and Bosnia-Herzegovina in particular with concern, because we have seen some increased tensions, some challenges. We saw it in Kosovo and Serbia recently. And now we have seen also some developments in the wrong direction and some in inflammatory rhetoric in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
And NATO feels . . . NATO has a responsibility, partly because Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Western Balkans is in the middle of Europe. We have a history there. We helped to end two ethnic wars in Bosnia-Herzegovina and later on in Kosovo-Serbia.
What we do is, of course, that we are working closely with Bosnia-Herzegovina. We are making progress on how we help them with capacity building, how we work with their armed forces. And we have also made some progress on how we actually have stepped up our partnership with Bosnia-Herzegovina. I think this is particularly important as we see increased tensions now, because one of the few . . . or perhaps the only really multi-ethnic institution in Bosnia Herzegovina is the armed forces, are very much trained and supported by NATO.
So I think it also proves the value of the NATO presence, together with the EU, in trying to build some institutions and the armed forces is, actually, perhaps the only one that is truly multi-ethnic.
So we will continue to provide support, capacity building. We will continue to support the efforts of Christian Schmidt and many others to try to just find political solutions.
And then also continue to provide support to Bosnia-Herzegovina and their Euro-Atlantic aspirations.
And then, of course, it is also important to also call on all other countries to not add fuel to the fire or to stimulate or support this idea of breaking with the Dayton Peace Agreement and everything that has actually created some peace and stability in the region.
DR. JANA PUGLIERIN [Moderator]: I have two questions online. One by Jill Long and one anonymous, addressing the same issue. Both are asking about cyber-attacks and malign influence crossing military and economic domains. So cyber conflict as a very important theatre now, and even more so in the future.
How does NATO adapt?
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: Well, I think cyber is an example of how NATO has been able to change as the world changes. Of course, not so many years ago, cyber was not an important part of our military posture and what we did as an Alliance.
Then, over the last years, we have really made cyber an important task for NATO, because we see that cyber is becoming a domain where we see frequent and more and more sophisticated attacks and aggressive actions.
And I think it also demonstrates that the line between peace and war is more blurred now than before, because we see almost constant attacks in cyberspace.
What we have done in NATO are different things.
We have, first of all, we have declared, agreed, that a cyber-attack can trigger Article 5, meaning that we regard cyberattacks as potentially as damaging as a kinetic attack. So an attack in cyberspace can trigger our collective defence clause, Article 5. Then we are free to respond in cyberspace or in any other domain, that’s up to us to decide.
Second, we have established cyber as a military domain. So now we have air, land, sea and cyber – and, actually, also space.
And thirdly, we have developed and strengthened our cyber capabilities, partly to protect NATO networks, but also to help and support Allies in protecting their networks, sharing best practices. And we have regularly big cyber exercises to improve our capabilities and the way we are able to operate together.
So cyber is actually an area where NATO do a lot and where we really need 30 Allies to work together.
DR. JANA PUGLIERIN [Moderator]: Thank you very much. And just a hint to everybody on board who wants to ask a question? Just, I would appreciate a raised hand so that I can basically look how many questions there are. And there was one over there, and I would be . . . I would like to ask you to introduce yourself to the Secretary General.
HANS-PETER BARTELS [Former Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces]: Thank you. Hans-Peter Bartels, former Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces. A simple question. Germany is the biggest member of NATO in Europe, it’s the most economic, powerful nation in Europe and in military means and in terms of military power. What is the contribution NATO needs most of Germany? Is it air force? Is it navy? Is it the army? Is it special needs that Germany can bring in? A stronger NATO – where is the shortfall, Germany can help?
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: We need all of that, so meaning we need many different capabilities from Germany. And . . . but in general, I can say that what we need is more high-end capabilities. We need more heavy, high-end capabilities, because I think you have to realise that for many years, European Allies reduced defence spending after the Cold War. And of course, that had an impact, also a long term impact, on our defence capabilities. Then for some years, we were very focused on expeditionary operations like Afghanistan. That was important, but that required a special type of more light and not high-end heavy weapons systems, not capabilities responding to peer adversaries or state-to-state competition.
Now, especially since 2014, things have changed. And actually what has happened in NATO is a kind of fundamental shift from focussing on out-of-area Missions in Afghanistan and that type of challenges to coming home and doing collective defence in Europe. And that requires, yeah, as I said, heavier, high-end capabilities in all those domains – in air, sea land, but also cyber.
And of course, Germany being the biggest economy in Europe and Germany, having the largest defence budget in continental Europe, of course, you have to provide not only one type of capabilities, but a wide range of capabilities.
High-end, but the other thing is that we need higher readiness. So well trained, well-equipped, high readiness forces is also something we expect from Germany. But it’s a detailed list, because we agree something called capability targets in NATO. So this is not only, you know, a kind of abstract thing, it’s a concrete list where we allocate capability targets for all Allies and then, of course, also for Germany.
The only way to meet those targets, capability targets, is to invest more. So therefore, I’m calling on Germany and other Allies to do what we agreed, to increase defence investments.
DR. JANA PUGLIERIN [Moderator]: Thank you very much. Just to warn you, there are a lot of questions incoming. And I also want to give the floor to our colleagues from the press. And in order to identify you, could you maybe raise kind of two hands at once, so that . . . yeah, over there. Fabulous! So that I know that you are from the press. And could you just . . . I mean, COVID numbers in Germany are rising and maybe if you could all wear your mask, even while seated? We are in a . . . at a small ship, there is not a lot of air circulation. It would just be, I think, I know that it bothers, but it would be kind if you could wear a mask. So . . .
KLAUS REMME (German national radio, Deutschlandfunk): Klaus Remme from German national radio, Deutschlandfunk. I wonder, with respect to Belarus, Article 4 is mentioned more and more frequently, and I think it was part of a question to you up front. I wonder whether you could address that aspect in specific. I mean, is it a useful tool right now, given the situation on the ground, which you described? Or is there not a danger of militarising a conflict, which is dangerous as it is?
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: We are deeply concerned about the situation on the border between Poland and Belarus. I have spoken with the Polish President. We have been in . . . Poland has briefed and updated NATO Allies, we have discussed this several times at NATO. And a few days ago, we also agreed a strong statement. So there are ongoing consultations at NATO and we stand in solidarity, we are ready to also provide support.
But I think the most important thing regarding that situation is to actually solve the difficult situation on the border. And I welcome the fact that also NATO and other countries have engaged with our partners, including Iraq, to help to partly stop the flow of people coming to the border and also now to help to take people back. So we are constantly and in regular consultation with the close NATO Ally Poland and we will continue to do that as long as necessary.
DR. JANA PUGLIERIN [Moderator]: Thank you. And just an announcement. I worried you too much. Basically, the air circulation here is as if we were in an aeroplane, so it’s excellent. But still, I think, or I know, that some amongst you feel more comfortable if everybody wears a mask. So still wearing the masks, but feel safe because this ship is super-equipped.
And before I come back again to, basically, people on board, because we’ve tried to involve as many students as possible in this endeavour, and the Hochschule fur Sicherheitspolitik Kiel, so a group of students at the University of Kiel ask a question which links perfectly to the question you just answered, because they are asking what you think is then the difference between Belarus using refugees as a tool of negotiations and Turkey doing the same?
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: Turkey is the NATO Ally that has received the highest number of refugees – millions. And they are hosting close to four million refugees. And we have, of course, worked with Turkey to also address that situation.
And I welcome the fact that actually there is an agreement between Turkey and the European Union and that NATO is helping to implement that agreement, because we have the NATO presence in the Aegean Sea. It has been a German flagship ever since it started, I think it was back in 2015.
So I think that we see the advantage of having NATO as a platform that brings Turkey together with other NATO Allies and, actually, also the European Union, to enable our presence in the Aegean Sea to help to implement the agreement between Turkey and the European Union addressing the flow of migrants across the Aegean.
DR. JANA PUGLIERIN [Moderator]: Thank you very much and we go back to a guest on board. And you cannot get the mic for corona reasons, yeah.
CHRISTIAN GRIMM [Augsburger Allgemeine]: Yeah, good morning, Mr Stoltenberg. My name is Christian Grimm, I’m a reporter for the Augsburger Allgemeine paper from the south of Germany.
And I wanted to ask you if there are demands from the Eastern European NATO partners to even reinforce the existing battlegroups, given the current situation?
DR. JANA PUGLIERIN [Moderator]: And if there are demands, how they would be answered?
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: So, we are constantly assessing the need for presence of NATO troops in the whole of the Alliance, but especially in the East. We have really increased after . . . before 2014, we didn’t have any combat-ready troops in the eastern part of the Alliance at all. Now we have four battlegroups.
And the importance for these battlegroups is that they are multinational. So there’s a NATO presence. One is led by Canada and other by the United Kingdom, United States and then Germany in Lithuania.
And, actually, Heiner Brauss is here, he was the driving force to get that . . . those forces in place as part of what we decided at our Summit in Warsaw.
Then, we are constantly assessing the need to adjust our posture. But I would like to say that this is not only about the presence of troops in the Baltic region, it’s also about air policing and maritime presence. We have, for instance, now seen some more naval presence in the Black Sea Region.
And it is also about readiness. It’s about our ability to reinforce quickly, if needed. So just over the last few years, we have tripled the size of the NATO Response Force, and we have implemented something we call the Readiness Initiative, which is significantly increasing the availability of ready forces that can be deployed quickly if needed.
So we should, of course, not only focus on troops in that region, but our ability to reinforce when needed.
Cyber is part of this, and of course, you cannot count that as the same way as you count troops. But whatever we do – and we are doing a lot on cyber – also matters for these countries.
And then lastly, I will say that the fact that Allies are investing more provides us with more capabilities that are also relevant for the eastern part of the Alliance.
DR. JANA PUGLIERIN [Moderator]: Thank you very much. Another press question and then I have a very good question from our online audience. But first over here.
PAUL KRÜGER [Süddeutsche Zeitung]: Paul Krüger with Süddeutsche Zeitung. Secretary General, one of the documents that is governing the relationship between Russia and NATO is the Founding Act. Given the behaviour by Russia, do you think that it’s still a viable document to define that relationship? And, if I may, another question regarding nuclear sharing, as you mentioned it in your keynote speech, if Germany would reduce its role, what would that mean, especially for the NATO Founding Act and the situation of the Allies eastward?
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: So, first on the nuclear sharing, let me once again reiterate that NATO’s goal is a world without nuclear weapons. No one likes nuclear weapons.
But the reality is that, of course, when others have them we also will need to have nuclear weapons to make sure that we have significant nuclear deterrence.
And the way to work towards a world without nuclear weapons, at least with few nuclear weapons, is to balanced, verifiable arms control. And therefore, NATO has been on the forefront of arms control for years. And since the end of the Cold War, we have reduced the number of nuclear weapons in Europe by 90 percent. And we have been working hard, for instance, for the INF Treaty, that was the key for banning all intermediate range weapons. And also, we welcome the agreement between Russia and the United States on extending New START, limiting the long range nuclear weapons.
We, of course, very much regret that Russia violated the INF Treaty, which led to the demise of the treaty, and they did that by deploying intermediate range and nuclear-capable missiles, violating the INF Treaty.
The nuclear sharing is important, because it’s an arrangement where NATO Allies go together and provide nuclear deterrence. It’s a multilateral arrangement among NATO Allies. It gives also a country like Germany a seat at the table. We have agreed doctrines, exercises, command and control. So it actually makes the whole of NATO responsible and also that the whole of NATO has a say when you make decisions on nuclear issues. I think this is extremely important for European Allies, because then we are involved and we take responsibility and we have a say.
We just a few weeks ago had a meeting of the NATO Nuclear Planning Group, where Allies are sitting together and taking important decisions on nuclear issues. And therefore, of course, I expect that Germany will continue to be part of nuclear sharing, because it is so important for the whole of Europe and it’s a multilateral framework.
The alternative to NATO nuclear sharing is different kinds of bilateral arrangements and also the risk of having, you know, nuclear weapons also . . . so, of course, Germany can, of course, decide whether there will be nuclear weapons in your country, but the alternative is that we easily end up with nuclear weapons in other countries in Europe, also to the east of Germany.
So, I think that nuclear sharing is a balanced, well-organised, tested structure for nuclear deterrence, something we have as we, at the same time, continue to work strongly for disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control.
And Germany is playing a key role putting on the table at NATO important initiatives, and I really believe in this dual-track dialogue: arms control, combined with a strong deterrence and defence posture, including the nuclear sharing arrangements.
DR. JANA PUGLIERIN [Moderator]: The NATO-Russia Founding Act, I think was . . . ?
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: Yeah, well . . . well, you can all see that the NATO-Russia Founding Act is not working. And the main reason for that is, of course, Russia’s behaviour: illegally annexing Crimea, violating the territorial integrity of an independent state in Europe.
And then, we have been working for dialogue with Russia. We were . . . we saw some progress over some years, but now Russia has decided to close down the two NATO offices in Moscow and close down, or suspend, their diplomatic mission in . . . at NATO in Brussels.
And of course, that makes it hard to implement the intentions of the NATO-Russia Founding Act, but we will continue to work for dialogue, because we strongly believe in this dual-track approach.
We need a strong, predictable united NATO. But based on that, we also can talk to Russia, partly to strive for a better relationship, but even though . . . even if we don’t believe in a better relationship with Russia in the foreseeable future, or in the short run, we need to manage a difficult relationship, to have risk reduction, to have transparency, to engage in arms control.
So, I continue to believe in dialogue with Russia, but I regret that Russia has not proven very willing to engage in dialogue with us.
DR. JANA PUGLIERIN [Moderator]: Thank you very much. I have to sneak in one question from our online audience, because it fits so perfectly well to what you said about nuclear sharing and the whole issue. So it’s not immediately related, somebody is asking, how is NATO dealing with the fact that Norway is seeking observer status at the upcoming Nuclear Weapons Ban conference? Looking at the coalition negotiations and looking at the debate we have, this is also a question maybe for Germany in the future. So what is your take?
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: So my take is that we all are aiming for a world without nuclear weapons, but I believe that the best way to achieve that is to balanced, verifiable arms control.
A world where we get rid of our weapons but China, Russia and countries like North Korea retain their nuclear capabilities is not a safer world.
So, the only way to move towards nuclear disarmament is to balance verifiable reductions. And that’s exactly what NATO has been working for years. And of course, we have seen some serious setbacks with the, for instance, the demise of the INF Treaty.
But we also have to recognise that over decades we actually made a lot of progress with the INF Treaty and then also the START Treaties to actually reduce significantly the number of warheads. When we had the . . . at the beginning of the 1990s there were 12,000 warheads along . . . so, strategic warheads on each side. Now, with the New START, it’s 1.550, which is significantly lower than we had not so many years ago.
So we have proven that balanced, verifiable arms control works.
Unilateral disarmament, which will be the consequence of the Ban Treaty is not a way to make the world safer and it’s not the way towards a world free of nuclear weapons.
Then, what I think is important also regarding any move by any NATO Ally is that we need to consult. We need to be unified on these very important issues and consultations on all issues related to nuclear weapons.
Nuclear posture is something, which applies for all NATO Allies.
DR. JANA PUGLIERIN [Moderator]: Clear position here from the Secretary General. I have more questions. I just wanted to give you a heads up. We have 17 minutes. We haven’t talked about China, the Biden administration, so there are several things. So I ask you, basically, for sharp and precise and crispy questions. And we will have one over here?
FRANK JORDANS [Associated Press]: Frank Jordans, Associated Press. I’d just like to follow up on two points you’ve already made. One on the border, the eastern border. Has NATO stepped up surveillance in its member state Poland and partner Ukraine lately, that you can confidently say you know exactly what’s going on, on both sides? And on climate change: if climate change is a security challenge, should national expenditure to respond to this threat be counted in any way towards defence expenditure?
DR. JANA PUGLIERIN [Moderator]: Very grateful that you addressed climate change, that came up very often here also on Slido.
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: OK. Briefly on climate change. Climate change matters for our security. Climate change is a crisis multiplier. It fuels conflicts related to competition over scarce resources, as water, land, and it forces millions of people to flee. So of course, it actually exacerbates security challenges and it impacts security and therefore it matters for NATO.
NATO’s role that we have, we have three important roles to play, or tasks.
One is to fully understand the link between climate change and security and we should be the lead organisation in understanding that link.
Second, we need to reduce the impact of our militaries on climate, because there’s no way to reach the goal of net zero emissions without also reducing emissions from military operations and missions. And as I mentioned, we have very interesting developments and investments in, for instance, the use of biofuels for jet aircraft or solar panels for equipment and many other technologies. I strongly believe that we cannot either have green or strong armed forces. We need green and strong. So the challenge is, in a way, to find a way to combine the need for modern technologies, green technologies with, of course, having the strong and the high-end capabilities we need. I believe that’s absolutely possible. I think the best technologies in the future will actually be the green technologies.
Then, the third task of NATO is to reduce the impact on climate change on our forces, because we are operating out there in nature. Our military forces will be exposed to more extreme weather, heatwaves, storms, increasing sea levels, melting polar ice. And of course, this matters for the way we are going to operate as armed forces. We have in Iraq a NATO Training Mission, they were exposed to more than 50 degrees Celsius over several days. And of course, it matters for uniforms, for whatever they do. So we have started this work at NATO.
I think, then having said all that, of course, if you invest in the military capability that reduces emissions, then it counts against the two percent. Yeah. So, if that was the question, the answer is yes. Then . . .
DR. JANA PUGLIERIN [Moderator]: Surveillance, also.
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: Surveillance. Well, I cannot go into the details of what to do when it comes to intelligence, but I can say that we are now closely monitoring the developments along the borders. This matters for NATO and we have the capacity, we have the capabilities to collect information, to monitor it closely and to understand what is going on there. And therefore we also made it clear to Russia that we see their significant military build-up. We see an unusual concentration of forces. And we know that they have used these type of forces before to actually intervene and invade other countries: Georgia and Ukraine.
DR. JANA PUGLIERIN [Moderator]: I still think that we haven’t had a question on China, on the Biden administration and on the EU. And the next journalist who wants to ask a question on either of them wins the pot. So . . . oh, Mr Steinberg!
QUESTION: Let’s talk about China. It’s a good idea, I think, Mr Stoltenberg. If it comes to a takeover, maybe an unfriendly takeover of the little island from China, what would be your response?
DR. JANA PUGLIERIN [Moderator]: And also, maybe we can extend this a bit, because we have several questions also from the audience looking at the AUKUS . . . hiccup – I don’t know what to say – what is, basically, how do you envision the future role of the EU in the Indo-Pacific and could that be part of the increased cooperation between NATO and the EU? Could that be on the Indo-Pacific, on China?
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: Yes, of course, but let me just briefly say on China more in general and then I’ll address the specific questions.
We don’t regard China as an adversary. We need to work with China. And of course, the rise of China has also had an enormous positive consequences for the global economy, they’re important markets for all of us. And it has helped to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. So that is something which has been good for the world. And we need to engage with China on issues like climate change, but not least also on, for instance, arms control.
At the same time, we need to realise that when China now soon will have the biggest economy in the world, they already have the second largest defence budget. They have the biggest navy. They’re investing heavily in new, very capable, modern military systems, including long-range nuclear weapons, hypersonic glide vehicles, systems that can go around the whole globe and reach every NATO Ally. It matters for our security. There’s no way to deny that. And NATO should remain an alliance of North America and Europe. But in this region, we face global threats. In space, in cyberspace and also the fact that China has systems that can reach all of us.
So, I think we need to realise that perhaps we could have some kind of regional approach to security 50 years ago, but that’s not possible anymore.
So we are . . . our responsibility is to protect Europe and North America, but to do so we also need to address all these global challenges. And China is coming closer to us, in space, in cyberspace, we see them in Africa, we see them in the Arctic, we’ve seen them trying to control critical infrastructure, we had the very important debate about 5G very recently.
So, again, NATO has to address this together and the only way to address that is to do it together. That applies for Europe, but it also applies for the United States. And the good thing is that the United States, they really realise that it is a great advantage for the United States to have 29 friends and Allies. Because compared to China, the United States is not so big anymore. They used to be the biggest, but they will soon not have the biggest economy. And the aim of China is to have the most advanced and strongest military capabilities within a few decades. And they invest in . . . what they do now on nuclear is really big. They are building big . . . many new silos for missiles, and they’re investing in extremely advanced technologies.
So therefore, also, on Taiwan, I will also say that the most important task now is to prevent any conflict and I won’t start to speculate about what we will do or not do, I think that will only fuel or add to the tensions.
So we need to prevent any incidents, accidents, conflict there and find political solutions. Was there anything more? Oh, AUKUS. Well . . .
DR. JANA PUGLIERIN [Moderator]: Or the EU more broadly.
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: Yeah, so . . .
DR. JANA PUGLIERIN [Moderator]: And it’s constructive role.
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: Yeah, so, first of all, AUKUS. AUKUS was not directed against NATO.
I understand that France was disappointed. That’s absolutely understandable. But of course, we have to continue to, as NATO, to work with our close partners in the Asia-Pacific region – New Zealand, Australia, Japan and South Korea – and, of course, we can also work together with the European Union.
More in general, I welcome EU efforts on defence. And any meaningful effort by European Allies on defence requires more spending. And there is one thing NATO has been calling for, for years: it’s more European defence spending.
So, we not only welcome, we actually work hard to achieve more European efforts on defence. Because there’s no way you can get more European efforts on defence without investing more. And we have lists of capabilities we actually expect European Allies to deliver. And therefore, we ask them to invest more.
The good news is that European Allies are doing exactly that. For seven consecutive years, defence spending has increased across Europe and Canada. They have added 260 billion extra for defence, and Germany is part of that increase. Back when we made the decision in 2014, three Allies met the 2% guideline. Now, 10 Allies and all other Allies have increased.
So European . . . increased European efforts on defence, meaning defence spending, is not only welcomed but actually encouraged by NATO and pushed by NATO.
We do this also to have more capabilities. Planes, drones, battle tanks, cyber, all that – and not least high readiness. So when European efforts or EU efforts on defence means more spending and more capabilities, it is strongly encouraged by NATO.
What we need to avoid is duplication. And therefore we say that we welcome and encourage more European capabilities, but not new structures only competing for the same pool of forces.
And therefore, we also strongly believe that NATO remains the backbone for European security. We have readiness forces if needed, also for, of course, European Allies. And the fact is that EU Allies, they . . . or, put the other way, non-EU Allies account for 80 percent of NATO’s defence spending.
And this is not only about resources, but also about geography. Norway and Iceland in the North – the critical North Atlantic link; Turkey in the South – important to fight terrorism; and, of course, in the West, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, if you look at the map, you realise that this geography matters for European security. But most importantly, this is not only about resources – 80 percent of defence spending comes from non-EU Allies. Geography, you see the map.
But it’s most importantly about politics. Any attempt to weaken the transatlantic bond will not only weaken NATO, it will divide Europe.
So we just have to stand together. And in a more dangerous, unpredictable world, the need to stand together, Europe and North America, is as strong as ever. So this is not the time to weaken that.
DR. JANA PUGLIERIN [Moderator]: Thank you very much. Now your answered China and the United States, kind of two birds and one stone. That is very efficient and we need to be efficient because in motorsports, one would say, we are nearing the finishing line. I don’t know if that applies to ships, but we have not more than eight minutes left. So there are two questions, one over there, one over there . . . and a third one over there. So maybe we start now grouping questions and then you can get a better idea of what people are also, in addition, interested in. Werner Sonne.
WERNER SONNE (German Atlantic Association): Werner Sonne from the board of the German Atlantic Association. One very important tool of cooperation between East and West used to be the Open Skies Treaty, which unfortunately has also been cancelled.
Now I’m wondering, is there any readiness on the part of NATO to reinvent or to go back to this treaty? Are you ready to talk with Russia to go back to this very important tool?
DR. JANA PUGLIERIN [Moderator]: So, about the future, maybe also about the future of arms control more broadly looking that the United States is now talking to Russia and that we already have first results, maybe you can comment on this as well? Then the lady at the table over there, she has a question.
Question: OK. Good morning. I’m a student of War and Conflict Studies and vice chair in the university group about security policy in Potsdam. You have mentioned Europe and how the European Allies have been stepping up and how they spent more over the past seven years. My question is more about the strategic role of the European Allies. In 2011, we had for the first time, with Libya, European Allies taking the lead and the US taking a role from behind as they called it. So, I wanted to ask you, if you see that this stepping-up in the strategic . . . yeah, the strategic stepping-up of the European Allies stopped in 2011, or if they keep making progress in that aspect of [inaudible].
DR. JANA PUGLIERIN [Moderator]: Thank you very much. And maybe you could comment on the strategic compass, just maybe if you have a footnote on this, which was just presented in its first version a couple of days ago capturing the European strategic ambitions. And there is one last question you can win, er . . . yeah, over here?
HANS-JOACHIM GIESSMANN: Yes, I’m Hans-Joachim Giessmann, I’m a member of the board of the German Atlantic Association. My question relates to NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan. Since that was not very successful at the end, my question is what are the consequences for future engagement in doing trainings outside of Europe by NATO?
DR. JANA PUGLIERIN [Moderator]: So, three areas and five minutes.
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: OK, fine. Then I’ll just start with the last one, Afghanistan. We . . . I think we have to remember that we went into Afghanistan to fight international terrorism, to degrade Al-Qaida that was responsible for a terrorist attack against NATO Ally, the United States.
Over 20 years, we have prevented Afghanistan from being a safe haven for international terrorists, prevented any attack organised on any NATO Ally planned, organised from Afghanistan, and we have degraded Al-Qaeda. So our mission was not in vain.
Having said that, of course, I realise that what happened in Afghanistan during the summer... and in August with the return of the Taliban is a tragedy for the Afghan people, and it’s heart-breaking for all those who sacrificed, the families that lost family members in Afghanistan, including German families. But we need to have this kind of balanced approach. That was a tragedy.
At the same time, the mission was not in vain because the main tasks, the main purpose, to fight terrorism, we actually achieved a lot.
Now, the aim is, of course, to preserve the gains in the fight against terrorism and to hold the Taliban accountable for what they have promised and also to . . . we should be honest on our lessons learnt.
Because we have now, I have launched a lessons learnt process in NATO. It’s too early for me to pre-empt all those conclusions, but I can just share with you a few reflections. One is that, of course, what we saw in Afghanistan was that we started with a well-defined and kind of narrow aim: to fight terrorism. And then gradually that evolved into a big ambition of nation building, to create a more stable, democratic Afghanistan – which is an aim I supported. But it’s a much more ambitious aim than fighting terrorism. And of course, NATO was part of that, but that was a responsibility for the whole international community. I was Prime Minister of Norway. I was pushing that agenda hard. So this is a responsibility not only for NATO, but for individual Allies. Many . . . most Allies have spent more development aid money to try to build a democratic, peaceful Afghanistan in Afghanistan than military spending.
The UN, EU, all of us had this ambition of a peaceful, democratic Afghanistan – that we didn’t achieve. So we need to think carefully about increasing the level of ambition when we go into these kind of missions and operations, but that’s not only a NATO lesson, it’s a lesson for the whole international community.
The second thing is we can, we should not draw the wrong conclusions. Of course, NATO and NATO Allies have to be ready to deploy forces again to fight the international terrorism if needed, as we have done degrading ISIS in Iraq and Syria. There was no way we can achieve that without using military force. And now we continue to train the Afghan security forces to help them prevent ISIS from returning.
The last thing on Afghanistan is that it was a difficult decision, but we made it together. We had three ministerial meetings. Many committee meetings in NATO, consulting on the decision. We knew, when we made the decision, that this was a difficult decision. If we decided to stay, the risk was an open-ended military mission, more fighting, more violence, more casualties and, most likely, the need to increase the number of NATO troops. Or, if we left, the risk of Taliban returning. So there was a difficult dilemma, we made a difficult decision and we have seen the consequences, but there would have also been risks and consequences if we’d decided to stay.
Then, on Libya, that’s a very important question.
And I think it also demonstrates that when European Allies ask NATO for help, NATO is there. So, if European Allies need high readiness forces, we are here – 45,000 NATO Response Force.
We see how NATO Forces in Kosovo work hand in hand with EU diplomats and helping to solve some of the crisis there, recently with border issues between Kosovo and Serbia. We see how NATO, in Bosnia-Herzegovina support the EU efforts. So, we see, in many places . . . or, in the Aegean Sea, where we deployed NATO ships to support the EU implementing an agreement with Turkey.
So, when European Allies ask NATO for help, we are there.
DR. JANA PUGLIERIN [Moderator]: So, is there still a need for a Rapid Reaction Force then? And EU Rapid Reaction Force?
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: Listen, we have a rapid reaction force, we have the NATO Response Force – 45,000. So that’s exactly what we saw in Libya. So I was then, again, Prime Minister of Norway. I was in Paris when they made the decision, I supported the decision. But NATO’s not at the table. It was not . . . NATO’s not at the table when it is decided, the air campaign against Libya. It was a European initiative, supported by, of course, France, the United Kingdom, but also Norway. I take full responsibility. But it was not a NATO decision. It was without NATO. NATO was not part of the decision. Then after some days and some weeks European Allies, including Norway, realised that we didn’t have the resources. We didn’t have the ammunition, we didn’t have the capabilities, we didn’t have the air-to-air refuelling. So we went to NATO and NATO provided support.
So, in a way, there are Kosovo, Bosnia, Aegean Sea, Libya very different, but all are European needs that NATO helps to fill.
So, NATO is there also for Europe.
DR. JANA PUGLIERIN [Moderator]: Maybe one last minute on arms control because I promised my colleagues that you will be done here by 10:35.
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: That’s one minute.
DR. JANA PUGLIERIN [Moderator]: Yes. [laughs]
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: But the problem is not the questions, the problem is the long answers, yeah, so . . . No, but on arms control, so we are always ready to sit down and discuss arms control. NATO has been working for arms control, including the Open Skies Treaty, but we saw some compliance issues from the Russian side, we also regret the Russian decision, but we are ready to talk, we are ready for dialogue. And, for me, dialogue on arms control is not a sign of weakness, it’s actually that we are confident, we are strong, we are united, so we are never afraid of talking to Russia.
DR. JANA PUGLIERIN [Moderator]: Thank you very much and that was really professional. We are tremendously grateful that you took the time. I think it was a very difficult spot you were in. And now we cannot keep a very important woman waiting any longer. We are approaching the Chancellery and Chancellor Merkel, who is a bit more important than we are.
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: No. ah!
DR. JANA PUGLIERIN [Moderator]: So you are excused and thank you very much for your time and your energy and your spirit.
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: Thank you so much. Great honour to be here. Thank you.