Joint press conference

with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau

  • 26 Aug. 2022 -
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  • Last updated: 26 Aug. 2022 23:44

(As delivered)

NATO Secretary General: Thank you so much. Prime Minister Trudeau, my dear friend Justin, it is great to be back in Canada, and thank you for your warm welcome, and for your longstanding leadership and strong personal commitment to our Alliance.

It is always good to meet with you, because Canada will always be a strong and steadfast friend of our Alliance.
It is great to be back in Canada. Also because Canada plays a vital role in NATO, where North America and Europe stand together to protect our one billion citizens.  

Many of the pilots and personnel here at Cold Lake have served, and will serve, in NATO’s missions, helping to keep our citizens safe, and we are extremely grateful for their service.This air base is also a home for your world-class tactical fighter force. Playing a key role in NORAD for the defence of North America.  

Prime Minister, you and I had the opportunity to visit Canada’s High North yesterday. Together with Ministers Joly, Anand, and Vandal, as well as Chief of Defence General Eyre. I also welcomed the opportunity to meet with the local indigenous community leaders yesterday, that was a great experience for me. My first visit ever to the Canadian High North. The High North is strategically important for Euro-Atlantic security. When Finland and Sweden join NATO, seven out of eight Arctic nations will be NATO members.
The shortest path to North America for Russian missiles and bombers would be over the North Pole. This makes NORAD's role vital for North America, and therefore also for NATO. As I saw for myself at the North Warning System radar site in Cambridge Bay yesterday. NATO’s new Strategic Concept identifies Russia’s capabilities in the High North as a strategic challenge for the whole Alliance.

Russia has set up a new Arctic Command. It has opened hundreds of new and former Soviet-era Arctic military sites, Including airfields and deep-water ports. Russia is also using the region as a test-bed for many of its novel weapon systems.

China is also expanding its reach. It has declared itself a “near Arctic” state, plans to build the world’s largest icebreaker, and is investing tens of billions of dollars in energy, infrastructure, and research projects in the High North. Beijing and Moscow have also pledged to intensify practical cooperation in the Arctic. This forms part of a deepening strategic partnership that challenges our values and interests.

Our response is a strong and predictable Allied presence in the region. We have already established a new NATO command for the Atlantic. Allies including Canada are also investing in new capabilities, and stepping up their presence in the High North. Allies regularly conduct Arctic exercises, including Canada’s Operation Nanook.  And we met some of the participants in Nunavut yesterday.

Security challenges in the High North are exacerbated by climate change. Climate change will require us to transform fundamentally our approach to security and defence.  And Canada has an unrivaled understanding of this.

So I welcomed yesterday’s briefings at the Canadian High Arctic Research Centre.
And I thank Canada for planning to host a NATO Centre of Excellence on Climate and Security, sharing expertise and best practice with Allies.

This, along with NORAD modernization, is one of Canada’s strongest contributions to our shared security.

You also lead NATO’s multinational forces in Latvia, helping to deter any aggression. 

Your forces contribute to NATO’s training mission in Iraq, helping the Iraqis suppress terrorism.  

Your Government plays a leading role in promoting our agenda for Women, Peace, and Security.

And Canada is a leader and a champion for NATO’s continued adaptation and innovation.

So I welcome your agreement to host a regional office of the NATO’s new defence innovation accelerator, DIANA.  

Let me also thank Canada for its strong support to Ukraine. 
Including with military equipment, financial and humanitarian aid, and training for Ukrainian soldiers. 
And you have supported Ukraine for many years, and that makes a huge difference today.

And I also want to commend Canada for being the first to ratify the Accession Protocols for Finland and Sweden.

As NATO continues our adaptation and innovation, I know Canada will continue to be at the forefront.

Dear Justin, thank you once again. 
And for being such a warm and generous host for our historic trip today and yesterday.

NATO will continue to increase our focus on the High North.
We will further strengthen our Alliance.
And we will continue to protect and defend our nations and our people. 
And I look forward to continuing our work together.

Moderator: Thank you. We will have 4 questions from reporters. Please identify your name and outlet.

Question: […] Canada has long been reluctant to have NATO involved in its…, in the Arctic. I am wondering why that’s changing and what you two both see as NATO’s eventual role in the Canadian Arctic. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: First of all, understanding that the geopolitical situation has shifted over the past months, which is why understanding that Russia is an increasing concern to all of us, makes it timely for us to share with the Secretary General and with NATO all the things that Canada is doing through NORAD, but also independently to make sure that we're protecting this region that is, as we've said, NATO's northern and western approaches.

NORAD, and the NORAD modernization we're putting forward, consists of the significant investments in NORAD that Canada's made over the past number of decades to make sure that we continue to lead in protecting our Arctic. NORAD is the one place in the world where countries actually share their territorial defence with another country.

Every country in the world protects its own territory and takes that as something that they do on their own. But Canada and the United States do it in an absolutely unique way through a bi-national command. And we will continue to lead on the defence of North America. But as NATO members, it is, of course, perfectly germane to invite the Secretary General and to highlight the work that we're doing, as NATO partners, in protecting this region.

But there is no deep shift in Canadian policy. We are proud members of NATO. We will continue to work with NATO in everything we do and ensure that NORAD is fully equipped to defend North America.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: NATO is an Arctic alliance. And of course, Canada's presence in the Canadian Arctic is important for the whole Alliance.

It's important for North America, but it's also important for Europe and all NATO Allies. Because this is partly about the vital link to North Atlantic between Europe and North America. And it's about the fact that the shortest path for Russian missiles, for Russian bombers is over the North Pole, the Polar Sea. So therefore, what happens here matters not only for Canada, it matters for the whole Alliance.

And therefore, we strongly welcome what Canada has done in this part of the Alliance for decades with NORAD, with the radar sites, with defence capabilities including what we see here at the Cold Lake Base. But we also realize that the importance of the High North is increasing for NATO and for Canada. Because we see a significant Russian military build-up, with new bases, new weapons system, and also using the High North as a testbed for their most advanced weapons including hypersonic missiles.

Climate change is making the High North more important because the ice is melting and it becomes more accessible, both for economic activity and for military activity. And when Finland and Sweden join the Alliance seven out of eight Arctic nations will be NATO Allies. So Canada is an important Ally. Canada plays an important role in the High North. The High North is important for NATO. And therefore, of course, this is a visit which I appreciate very much, because it highlights that link between NATO and the important role of Canada in NATO.

[Prime Minister answers in French]

Question: As the importance of the Arctic grows, I wonder if Canada might be looking for something, say like international recognition of the Northwest Passage as internal waters. Is that part of the discussions that are going on here?

Prime Minister: The Northwest Passage is Canadian waters. Period.

Follow-up: Not everybody agrees with you, sir.

Prime Minister: We have a long-standing disagreement with the United States on that one, but they have understood our position and our Allies respect Canada's position.

Question: NATO’s long push for countries, member countries, to spend at a base at least 2% of their GDP on defence. We're not there. Did that come up over the last two days? And what promises or assurances were you able to make?

Prime Minister: Over the past number of years Canada has significantly increased its defence investments to ensure both that we are giving the equipment and capabilities needed by members of the Canadian Armed Forces to continue to do their extraordinary jobs, but also so Allies can continue to rely on Canada.

We have continually stepped up in every NATO mission since its inception. We will continue to deepen and grow our investments, whether it's the significant investments in modernizing our NORAD capabilities, whether it's a Defense Review ongoing this fall, we will continue to make greater and greater investments.

These are things that matter for Canadians and matter for the world. And we certainly recognize that after decades of unprecedented peace, Russia's decision to invade Ukraine is requiring us all to step up even more on defence spending.

And that's exactly what we have done over the past seven years and I will highlight for those keeping close watch on a partisan basis, the only time recently, Canada’s defence spending decreased below 1% even, was under the previous Conservative government of Stephen Harper.
[Prime Minister continues in French]

Question:  […] And a follow up for Mr. Stoltenberg. You've talked several times today about Russia's military build-up in the North, and in the Arctic. You've seen what Canada is doing over the last two days. What more specifically would you like to see from Canada in terms of military resources, ships, you know, boots on the ground, aircraft? What more specifically would you see Canada do to meet that potential threat.

NATO Secretary General: Canada is already playing a key role in the High North and in particular in the Canadian Arctic. And we welcome and appreciate those efforts. And I've seen them myself today and yesterday in Cambridge Bay and here in Cold Lake.

Second, there are many areas where actually Canada now is stepping up which is important for the whole Alliance. Modernizing NORAD is of great importance. It is a huge effort, it costs a lot. But it is really important because it also reflects the new threats, with new weapon systems, more advanced weapons on the Russian side. Then we need a more advanced and modernized NORAD. And I welcome the announcement by Canada to invest to modernize NORAD.

Second, exercises. That's always important, but it's also a way to bring actually other Allies closer together to be able to operate together. And yesterday, I was briefed on the different exercises up in the High North including exercises where other Allies participated. This year, it was the United States, it was France, and Denmark. Previously there's been also countries like Norway. And other countries have participated in those exercises. So exercises, it is also something I welcome. And I know that Canada is stepping up efforts when it comes to exercising, both Canadian troops but also together with NATO Allies and partners, including, for instance, Sweden that has been part of these exercises.

And thirdly, to understand the Arctic. And the Canadian knowledge of the Arctic is unrivalled. It's unique. And that matters, of course, when it comes to responding to climate change for the civilian sector. But it also matters for military operations, presence in the High North, to understand the consequences of climate change and the research station. Impressive research which is being conducted there, in Cambridge Bay, which we visited yesterday is another example of how Canada can share with other Allies world class, top knowledge about the High North, the Arctic, and the consequences of climate change.

So the last thing I would say is that, of course, many of the capabilities, for instance, fifth-generation aircraft which Canada has announced that they will invest in, they can be used many places but they have unique capabilities to help us to also to be present in the High North with more modern and advanced fighter aircraft like, for instance, Canada has now decided to invest in.

[Question and answer in French]

Prime Minister: As I said, it is important that we all recognize the shifting geopolitical realities that the world is now facing. And across the NATO Alliance countries are investing more in ability to secure NATO territory including across the Arctic. Canada is stepping up and will continue to step up with our defence investments, including in the modernization of NORAD, which will include increases in our abilities to detect and indeed deter threats coming across the Pole. New technologies at play that we're investing in. These are things that are going to be important as we move forward.

Moderator: Next question.

Question:  Today, Sweden, and Finland, and Türkiye hold the first meeting after signing documents to finalize, to be NATO members. How will you and NATO work to finalize the [membership] process?

NATO Secretary General: The NATO Leaders, also with the support of Prime Minister Trudeau, made an historic decision at the Summit in Madrid to invite Finland and Sweden to become members of our Alliance.

I convened the Finnish and the Swedish President and Prime Minister together with President Erdoğan to help facilitate that process and that decision. And they agreed a joint memorandum where they agreed on the way forward to ensure that Finland and Sweden become members of the Alliance.

One of those elements was to establish a mechanism where Finland and Sweden and Türkiye meet to ensure that they work more closely in the fight against terrorism because we have to recognize the security concerns of all Allies and of course also the security concerns of Türkiye when it comes to terrorism. So I welcome that the meeting has taken place. I welcome that Finland and Sweden are following up with what we agreed in Madrid.

And so far, the ratification process, the accession process of Finland and Sweden has been the fastest in NATO's modern history. There are not so many months ago since they applied. Then we made the decision in Madrid to invite them. And up to date 23 out of 30 NATO Allies have actually ratified the Accession Protocol in their parliament. And the first to do so was actually Canada. So this shows that there is a strong support for Finland and Sweden joining. And we will continue to work hard with all Allies to ensure that we can finalize the accession process with the final ratification in other parliaments as soon as possible.

Moderator: And a follow up question.

Question: Mr Prime Minister, NATO is stepping up in the High North. Why it is security in this region more important than ever? And which role could the Nordic Allies play?

Prime Minister: I think we understand that a number of factors are going into putting the Arctic in play as a security concern. It has been to all of our credit that over the past many decades, we have been able to work with partners and adversaries including Russia to keep militarization of the Arctic to a minimum.

But the context is changing now for two reasons. Obviously, climate change is creating greater accessibility to the Arctic and bringing with it real concerns and challenges around that. But as well, the ill-fated, unjustifiable decision of Russia to upend nearly 70 years of peace and stability of rules based order by invading a peaceful neighbour has changed the way we need to look at the Arctic. As Jens and many others have pointed out, seven of the eight Arctic nations, with the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO, are or will be NATO members. And I think it's extremely important that we continue to step up.

As far as the Canadian Arctic is concerned, we have established long standing abilities through NORAD, Canada and the United States together to protect these approaches to our continent and by extension to NATO. We will continue to step up including with the modernization that we've recently announced.

But for many years now we've also been ensuring that our NATO Allies and partners, from France to Denmark, to Germany, to the UK and others, are present for training operations and interoperability exercises in Canadian’s Arctic and that, of course, will continue. We all have a role in making sure that the world is safe and peaceful. And NATO, as a defensive Alliance, will ensure that we always have the ability and the capacities to defend our Alliance and the values that underpin it.

Moderator: Thank you everyone. That concludes this press conference.