with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and U.S. Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith, hosted by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS)
Richard Fontaine, CEO of the Center for a New American Security:
Good morning, Richard Fontaine, CEO of the Center for a New American Security and thank you all for joining us for the second day of our annual conference. Today we have a very special event we'll be recording a live episode of the Brussels Sprouts podcast. This episode marks the podcast’s five year anniversary and for it we're happy to have with us NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and U.S. Ambassador to NATO, Julianne Smith. Ambassador Smith was present at the creation of Brussels Sprouts some five years ago, during her time at CNAS, and it's great to have her back in her diplomatic capacity, and wonderful to have the Secretary General with us, as well.
The two of them will join our own Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Jim Townsend in conversation. They'll be discussing Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the ongoing response to the war from NATO Allies and lessons learned from the conflict thus far and the future of the Alliance. So we're very much looking forward to their conversation. So welcome to all and I will turn it over to Andrea to get started. So, Andrea, over to you.
Wonderful. Hello, everyone, and welcome to today's recording of Brussel Sprouts live. I'm Andrea Kendall Taylor.
And I'm Jim Townsend.
And we're so glad you can join us. Today as Richard said, we have a very special edition of Brussel Sprouts. Not only are we here as part of CNAS’ annual conference but even more importantly – sorry, Richard, - we are celebrating the podcast’s five year anniversary, and Jim and I thought there was no better way to celebrate Brussels Sprouts’ anniversary then by bringing back the co-founder, the co-creator of Brussels Sprouts, Ambassador Julie Smith, who as our listeners know has gone on to much bigger things in her current role as the U.S. ambassador to NATO.
So Julie, Ambassador Smith, welcome back to Brussels Sprouts. So then, Jim and I were thinking if we're bringing in Ambassador Smith back to the podcast, how are we going to really outdo ourselves and take things over the top to make this a special celebration to really remember? And the answer to that question was crystal clear. We knew we had to bring back to Brussels Sprouts NATO Secretary [General] Jens Stoltenberg, I think someone who encapsulates the spirit and strength of the Transatlantic Alliance. So without further ado, I am really excited to welcome back to Brussels Sprouts Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
It's such an honour to have you join us today and I think just looking at this screen, I'm overwhelmed and I have to say I can't think of a better way to mark the anniversary of the podcast, and I want to point out Secretary General, that you were on the podcast back in 2017. So I think in a sense, we really brought things full circle for the five year anniversary. So this is really fantastic and I am really looking forward to our conversation. So I want to jump right in. One quick note before I do, I want to let all of the listeners know that you can also submit questions for the Secretary General and Ambassador Smith. So, if you have a question and you want to hear it included as part of our podcast recording, please use the chat firstname.lastname@example.org/live or tweet at us using the #CNAS2023.
Okay, Secretary General, I'd love to start with you and I want to start our discussion where I think our listeners are entirely focused and that is on Ukraine's offensive. Many indicators just indicate that it has started and we know that there is really a lot at stake. In many ways it will be Ukraine's ability to retake territory, and to demonstrate that it can use Western equipment to go to fact that will shape future levels of support for Kyiv but I also think we understand and there that there is a good chance that the offensive will not be decisive, meaning that we can't necessarily expect that it will push Putin to the negotiating table and bring an end to the war.
And so my question is, can you tell us about the West long term plan to support Ukraine and how you see NATO's role in that?
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:
Let me, I will say some words about that in a moment. Let me first thank you for having me on this podcast and it is great to be back and a great honour to be here together with Ambassador Julianne Smith, because I was actually not aware that she was a co-founder of this podcast, so that makes it even a greater pleasure to be here to celebrate the 5th anniversary and I think it is important that we have podcasts like this one to ensure that there is focus, a platform to discuss and to address the importance of the transatlantic bond and how we ensure that it prevails and that it is actually strengthened in a more dangerous world.
And Ambassador Smith, she really demonstrates her leadership and her commitment to this Alliance everyday here at NATO. So we are glad that she's not working with you but actually working with us here at NATO. Then, on the offensive. Well, what we have seen is that there is now more fighting going on along the front lines. I'm always very careful not going into the operational details because I think that's really for the Ukrainians to tell and you have also seen this video they have put out on the social media, actually calling everyone to not say so much about the counter offensive, the operational details.
And then of course, wars are unpredictable so no one can tell exactly how this will evolve. What we do know is that the Ukrainians have now capabilities, weapons, ammunition, and also training provided by NATO Allies and partners, not least through the US-led a Contact Group for Ukraine that has put them in a place. So they have, their capabilities are needed to liberate more land.
And what we also know is that the Ukrainians have proven that they are able to push back the Russian forces, as they did in the north around Kyiv, just after a few weeks, in the east around Kharkiv and then in the south around Kherson. Now there are more equipment, more training, and more preparations for liberating even more land. No one can tell exactly how this war ends but what we do know is that what happens around a negotiating table at some stage, hopefully will bring an end to this war. It totally depends on what goes on, on the battlefield. So we need to strengthen Ukraine's position in the battlefield to enable them to get an outcome of this war which ensures that Ukraine prevails as a sovereign independent nation, and that President Putin does not win this war.
Thank you so much for that and I realise that you’ve probably been asked that question multiple times. So well-honed answer, that’s excellent! But I have a question for both of you. For Julie, it’s from the U.S. perspective, and then Mr. Secretary General from the Alliance perspective, but you probably know here on the streets in Washington, as we think about Vilnius, the big question is what will NATO do in terms of security guarantees for Ukraine? We know that Zelenskyy has particularly been going around, talking about NATO membership. Having been in NATO myself, I know that's not exactly how it works. This is for Ukraine, this is something, and for NATO it is very sensitive on next steps but everyone seems to agree that we need to do something in terms of security guarantees between now and the time when they can be brought into the Alliance if that is the Alliance’s decision, that they can be brought in. There is got to be some type of security guarantees backed up by the West. So at Vilnius, how are you all going to handle that, Mr. Secretary General? What is the approach going to be in talking about security guarantees and Julie, Ambassador Smith, in terms of the United States, where is the US on security guarantees?
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:
First, for NATO security guarantees our Article 5 is full membership, then I know that there are also discussions and consultations between Ukraine and some Allies on bilateral arrangements, but I will not go into those. What I can say, what I can address is the ongoing process in NATO. Yes, there are consultations on these issues now to address Ukraine's membership aspirations. We had a very good Foreign Ministers meeting in Oslo, just a few days ago, where this was one of the main topics and, of course, it is too early to pre-empt the outcome of the Vilnius Summit on this issue, but what I can say is that Allies actually agree on many important things related to Ukraine and the path towards NATO membership because all Allies agree that NATO's door is open, and we've demonstrated that over the last years with North Macedonia, Montenegro and now by inviting Finland and Sweden. Finland has become a full-fledged member of the Alliance, so NATO’s door remains open, and all Allies agree.
Second, all Allies agreed that Ukraine will become a member of the Alliance that has been stated again and again. Last time, all leaders stated that at the Madrid Summit, in June last year. And then, all Allies also agree that it is for Ukraine and for the Allies to decide when the time is right to invite Ukraine to become a member. It is not for Moscow. It is not for Putin. Putin doesn't have a veto over NATO enlargement.
Then we agree on one more thing, and that is also vitally important, and that is that the most urgent task now is to ensure that President Putin does not win this war and that Ukraine prevails because unless Ukraine is able to continue to exist as a sovereign, independent democratic state in Europe, there is no issue to discuss about membership at all. So, we should not do anything now that undermines the unity in providing support to Ukraine. And again, I'd like to commend the United States for really showing leadership in mobilising support both from the United States but also from European Allies and from partners across the world.
The reason why we need to address the issue of security arrangements, assurances and, also at some stage, membership is that when this war ends, we have to have arrangements in place that ensure that this is just not a kind of a pause, where President Putin is able to rest and reconstitute and relocate its forces for yet another attack. As we have seen, for many years, the war didn't start last year. It started in 2014. Therefore, when this war ends, we need to have the framework in place to ensure that history doesn't repeat itself, that President Putin does not continue to chip away at European security by attacking Ukraine. In that broader framework, of course, all kinds of arrangements, frameworks that ensures and helps to prevent further attacks on Ukraine is of great importance.
Julie, maybe just to reframe the question over to you, as Jim said, to hear the US perspective: I think one concern is, if we all agree that Ukraine should eventually be in NATO, we're talking about after the war. So the concern is that Putin understands that, that's not happening until quote unquote “after the war” the he has as every incentive to continue the war as long as possible. So I wonder if you can talk a little bit about whether there is thinking and what the thinking is about whether or not there are interim steps that Washington might consider taking in terms of these security assurances, or other things that could be put in place even while fighting is ongoing.
U.S. Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith:
Well, first of all, let me just say congratulations to the Brussel Sprouts team. Andrea and Jim, it has been an incredible run. I can't believe five years have gone by and I've really genuinely enjoyed listening from here in Brussels, to Brussels Sprouts. So congrats on all of that, and thanks for the invitation today. It's such a treat to do this, in tandem with the Secretary General. On the question of Ukraine and its future relationship with the Alliance, the question of security assurances/guarantees, I mean, all I can do is, in essence, echo what the Secretary General just said.
We are as you might imagine, you both have worked many years in government. This is the time when we are sitting around the table, working on a package for the Summit. You've heard the President's Zelenskyy intends to come in person, and we are working on several things simultaneously. We are looking at how to enhance our practical support, not just in terms of what Allies provide right now so that the Ukrainians can continue to retake territory, but we're really trying to send a signal to Russia and our friends in Ukraine, that irrespective of when this war comes to an end, NATO Allies will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine to help with its long term modernization, with interoperability, with questions of standardization, and a whole array of things that will signal to Ukraine that it is both about support to you now, and it's about support to you in the future. I think that message is going to come across loud and clear in Vilnius.
The other part of the package is on the political front. You've heard and read in the press, that we're looking at an array of options to also signal that the Ukrainians are advancing and their relationship with the NATO Alliance, and the Alliance is interested in strengthening their political relationship with the Allies represented around the NAC table. So we're looking at some possibilities there. The bigger question about how we capture membership in the communiqué will be something we will debate in the weeks ahead – we are about five weeks out.
As you well know there are a variety of views across the Alliance, we have the Ukrainians themselves, asking for a proper invitation, we have some Allies that are looking at Bucharest from 2008 and feel comfortable with that. And in between is a lot of gray space, and I think over the next five weeks, we're going to find the place where we can address Ukraine's concerns, we can signal to the Ukrainian people that NATO is interested in this relationship for the long haul, and that Russia will not succeed in getting all of us to look away. Obviously Putin thought we would eventually get distracted and lose interest in Ukraine but we can say sitting here in the halls of NATO, that's not happening. Unity remains firm. Of course, we have our challenges at times. With all of the assistance that is being provided, that obviously gets harder each and every week that takes by, but the commitment to keep supporting Ukraine so that they can ultimately prevail is rock solid and we’ll be able to send that message loud and clear in Vilnius.
Wonderful. Thanks. Thanks to both. Secretary General I want to ask you a little bit of a spicy question. Some critics out there have said or some voices out there have said that NATO was braindead, and that it was Vladimir Putin that revitalised the drifting Alliance. The argument would be that it wasn't really until the reinvasion that the Alliance became truly attuned to the threats that Russia poses. I have my own views, but I want to put it to you to hear: was it NATO, or was it NATO members, some NATO members that were braindead that ahead of the invasion?
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:
NATO was very much aware of this invasion that Russia was planning and building up for an invasion of Ukraine, because the United States, all the NATO Allies and also NATO took part in the efforts of sharing information, to share with the broader public that actually now President Putin, Russia was planning for full scale invasion of the Ukraine. This was made public in the fall of 2021, but more important than actually sharing that information, which was, I think, very important: NATO has seen the pattern for many years, and we have responded to that because again, it didn't start in February 2022. It started in Ukraine in the spring of 2014, and since 2014, with the first illegal annexation of Crimea, and then a few weeks later, Russia taking control over eastern Donbass, NATO has implemented over 9 years now, the biggest adaptation of the Alliance’s modern history, with more combat troops, for the first time in our history, combat or battle groups in the eastern part of the Alliance. That is something we agreed in 2016, after some discussions, but we actually made that decision. Then, before 2014, all Allies were reducing defence spending, after 2014 all Allies across Europe and Canada and of course, United States leading, defence spending has increased or they have increased defence spending. Significantly added 250 billion extra dollars across Europe and Canada. Then we have established new defence domains like cyber and so on.
So NATO is the most successful Alliance in history for two reasons. First, our unity. The second reason is that we have been able to change, the world is changing. For 40 years we deterred Russia, or the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, then the Cold War ended and we hoped to end the ethnic wars in the Balkans, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo. After 9/11, we were on the front line in the fight against terrorism. Over the last years, especially since 2014, we have turned away from, how shall I say, big out-of-area operations, to really build up collective defence, here in in Europe. So when the invasion happened last year, when the full-scale invasion happened last year, NATO was prepared, partly because we had shared intelligence, but also partly because we had already implemented this biggest adaptation of the Alliance in decades, so NATO continues to adapt. That is the reason why we are successful and that adaptation didn't start last year. It started actually in 2014, after the illegal annexation of Crimea.
Well, thank you very much. The history you recited is so familiar, and it's a great story, particularly moving from the Wales Summit to what we’ll see in Vilnius, I’m sure, and then the Washington Summit coming up, too. It’s going to be a trajectory that, I think, none of us saw, you know, 20 years ago, two years ago, and yet there we are. But I tell you, what you've laid out is a story of NATO adaptation that has really been strong and I just hope that that will continue after Vilnius and into the future, that we can keep that momentum going.
But let me take us to another part of your AOR, your area of responsibility, that's cropped up, and that's the Balkans. And that's really actually a reminder to our listeners that it's not all about Russia and Ukraine. We've got problems in Europe in the south as well. We have violence, breakouts and worse, in an even worse way: A couple of days ago, NATO peacekeepers were hurt. It looks like Kosovo and the Serbian governments are spoiling for a fight and NATO's in the middle of that, too. And I'm sure that you and Ambassador Smith got phone calls in the middle of the night saying, “We've got to do something”. So let me ask both of you, both from the United States perspective, Ambassador Smith, what Washington is trying to do about the situation, but particularly at NATO, dealing with KFOR, how are things looking in terms of the way ahead for dealing with the Balkans?
U.S. Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith:
Well, first of all, thanks for the reminder because, of course, you're right. We often talk about a 360-degree approach around here, inside the NATO Alliance, which means we have to be prepared to deal with any potential threats, challenges, crises that come at us from all angles, not just in regards to what's going on in Ukraine, which is our top priority, but in places like the Balkans. And you're right; in recent days, we've seen some violence, we had a couple of dozen of KFOR soldiers serving there as part of the NATO presence injured, some seriously injured.
Immediately, we set to work, inside here at the NATO alliance and working individually, messaging our friends, both in Kosovo and Serbia, that we wanted the violence to end, we wanted an immediate de-escalation, and that the only path forward is the EU-led dialogue, the EU-facilitated dialogue. And here it's quite interesting, because you have this NATO presence on the ground in the Balkans, and yet it is the EU that is laying out the path forward towards normalisation, which we believe is the only path that you can take. So this is an interesting dynamic, where both the EU and NATO are heavily engaged and involved. We've had several folks travel down into the region just over the last couple of days, both from Europe and the United States. We're working hand in glove, but it's a good reminder that we’re on our toes, that NATO has a presence in other parts of the continent – also has a mission in Iraq, by the way, that sometimes folks, I think, forget or don't adequately appreciate. So we are focused on this. We obviously don't want to see any sort of conflict emerge here, any more violence, and we are focused on it like a laser. It is a reminder that NATO is on the ground and playing an active role there in providing security in the Western Balkans.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:
Let me just briefly say that, first of all, I agree with everything Ambassador Smith just said about the Balkans and NATO's role. But two more things: One is that I think what happens in Kosovo in particular, but also in the Western Balkans in general, demonstrates the value and importance of NATO and EU working together. And we really do that. For instance, in Kosovo we have KFOR troops supporting and facilitating the diplomatic efforts of the European Union. And that's really an example of how we can work together in addressing a common challenge in our common neighbourhood.
Then, of course, the attacks on the KFOR forces is absolutely unacceptable. And we have also reinforced our presence with 700 extra forces from our operational reserve, mainly Turkish forces, to further strengthen our presence in the more tense and difficult situation in Kosovo.
There are challenges, there are problems and we have seen some setbacks, but let me also remind you of that fact that [in] the Western Balkans, in total, actually, there are also many success stories. I mean, not so long, in the 1990s, we had brutal ethnic wars with thousands killed. Then, NATO played a key role in ending both of those wars. And then since then, we have had the presence in Kosovo, a military presence. We have headquarters in Sarajevo, we have the political engagement in the region. And several other former Yugoslav republics which are now independent nations are members of NATO, of course both Slovenia and Croatia for many years, but more recently Montenegro and North Macedonia. So yes, there are problems and yes, there are unsolved issues. But I've spent a lot of time in Montenegro and North Macedonia because they became members during my tenure as Director General, and what this has made for those countries – by the way, it has helped to to move them towards integration in the Euro-Atlantic family and also help to facilitate investments, prosperity, a more stable framework for also economic growth – has been enormous. So we should also appreciate all the progress that has been made, while of course we continue to address the unsolved tensions and issues.
Andrea Kendall Taylor:
Yeah, it's a great question, Jim, because it does remind us that there's multiple challenges that NATO has to deal with simultaneously. Maybe we can touch on some of those in a second – the China question, resilience, critical infrastructure, all of those things. But those challenges are balanced against, like, the acute challenge that Russia poses. And I want to ask, then, Secretary General, about how NATO is thinking about right-sizing the Russia challenge. You know, Secretary Blinken was out just recently saying that Russia has the second strongest military in just Ukraine. And so I wonder, do you hear anything from Allies about, well, if the Russian military can't even be successful in defeat Ukraine, then why is it that you're asking us to increase defence spending?
I just want to ask, you know, when you're thinking about right-sizing the challenge, we don't want to overestimate it because it takes away resources and attention from the other critical challenges that NATO has to address. So how do you think about the appropriate level of military resources to devote to defending against Russia moving forward?
NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg:
We live in a more dangerous world, we have Russia as a neighbour which has been willing to use military force against neighbours, not once but several times over the last years, starting actually with Georgia in 2008. We have terrorism, we have nuclear proliferation. And then, we don't regard China as a threat, but China is investing heavily in new modern capabilities, including more and more advanced and long-range nuclear missiles. So all this instability and all these challenges just make it necessary for us to invest more in defence.
And we had to remember that until the end of the Cold War, the average in Europe was roughly 3% of GDP for defence. And now we are still not at two as an average. So it's not that much we are asking for. After the end of the Cold War, we reduced defence spending. And in one way, I understand that Allies reduced defence spending; I did that myself as the Minister of Finance in Norway in the 1990s. But if you reduce defence spending when tensions are going down, you have to be able to increase the defence spending when tensions are going up, and 2% is not actually that much. In reality, that is the minimum to pay for all the capabilities and the forces we need.
And second, I think, yes, Russia has suffered, or has paid the high price for the brutal invasion of Ukraine, and President Putin made several big strategic mistakes when he invaded Ukraine. One was to totally underestimate the Ukrainians, the bravery, the courage, the ability to fight back. The other big mistake was to underestimate NATO and NATO Allies and partners in our resolve to support Ukraine, to stand united and to stand by Ukraine for as long as it takes. And again, the US has really demonstrated leadership in a way that has inspired all of us to step up.
And then I think also that President Putin totally underestimated the political impact on countries like Finland and Sweden. He wanted less NATO, he’s getting more NATO on his borders with Finland and Sweden in. But we should not make the mistake to underestimate Russia, because what they lack in quality – they have bad morale, bad equipment, bad training, bad leadership, bad logistics – but what they lack in quality, they compensate in quantity. And quantity has a quality in itself, as the generals keep on telling us. And we see that they're mobilising more forces. We also know that they had big losses for land forces, but they have air and naval forces which have hardly suffered any losses, or a few losses with some exemptions. And then they have cyber and then, of course, Russia remains a nuclear power. So we should not make the mistake to underestimate Russia. And even when the fighting stops in Ukraine, this will have long-lasting consequences for the security in Europe, and we need to invest more in defence in a more dangerous world.
At Vilnius, in just a few a few weeks, my understanding is, from what I've heard on the street, is that NATO plans to roll out, or at least talk about, this big military operational plan which is going to require nations to put more forces forward and do a lot of things that we should be doing in a situation like this, militarily, but that will be expensive. And so, at Vilnius, will there be changes at all to the various commitments that we want nations to make, i.e. 2% should be a floor, not a ceiling. We want nations to go up to three and a half percent; sanctions if nations don't? I'm sure that's not going to happen. But I mean, how are we going to get nations to pay not just for replenishing what they've provided Ukraine or to make up deficits that they already have, but to pay for a new plan that the military authorities have been working on? Any insight into what can happen in Vilnius to try to get us that way? Will the US pound the table, Ambassador Smith?
U.S. Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith:
We will, without a doubt, Jim, continue to press Allies to meet the Defence Investment Pledge, and there's going to be a couple of different moving parts to the Summit in Vilnius, first and foremost, above and beyond, the question of Ukraine and NATO's relationship with Ukraine.
So on deterrence and defence, specifically, we're going to be rolling out new regional plans. This is a big deal because we're going to have plans in place to protect every inch of NATO's territory. These are also going to be multi-domain plans, which is important, that includes other aspects, like cyber. We're going to have a new C2 structure that will be paired with the regional plans. And lastly, we're going to say something about resourcing, which gets to your point about what comes after the Defence Investment Pledge. The DIP as it was designed in 2014 is – you know better than anybody else, you were present at the creation – has a 10-year cap on it. Next year, it expires, and so in Vilnius this summer, we'll be laying out kind of DIP 2.0 of where do we go from here.
I think where Allies are united at the moment is focusing very much on ensuring that 2% is an enduring commitment. It is a floor, not a ceiling. And there will be language on this. Again, we're in the process of negotiating that, literally in real time here at NATO Headquarters, with all of the Allies. But when you put all of this together, when you put the regional plans with the force posture changes we made last year, by the way, and adding foreign multinational battalions, when you add that to the new C2 structure and the DIP 2.0, we’re going to be in a whole new world in terms of the requirements that Allies will have to meet, clarity on what their responsibilities are for each individual Ally. We're going to increase the level of readiness, we're going to have a bigger pool of forces from which to draw, but you're absolutely right: It will require countries to deliver on the 2%.
Now, right now, by any count, we have about seven or eight Allies, we expect that number to be significantly bigger next year, in 2024, with more coming in about 2025, 2026. So there's good news here on the resourcing front, but the United States will continue to push, and with the Secretary General's help in his leadership in ensuring that all Allies meet those resourcing requirements so we can deliver on the plans that we're rolling out in Vilnius.
Andrea Kendall Taylor:
Julie, quick follow up and, Secretary General, we'll come to you. But can you talk to us a little bit about… I mean, so obviously, in the United States, China remains a key priority and a central focus. So you've talked about how, you know, the 2% is a floor, not a ceiling. But then there's the question of how Allies are spending that money, and I get that the regional plans get some of that, but can you talk a little bit about and whether there are conversations about NATO member states spending on things that the United States might need to draw down in the event that tensions rise in the Indo-Pacific? Is that something that you think Allies are attuned to, and that is driving conversations about how Allies should spend?
U.S. Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith:
Well, here's what's driving the conversation on that front: It's largely tied to the Strategic Concept that was rolled out last year. And there, we cite two main threats, as the Secretary General previously noted, it's Russia and terrorism. But what was really important about that Strategic Concept was that it included mention of the PRC for the first time. And that's important because now, all Allies agree, there is consensus, that these challenges merit our attention. And not just because of what China is doing in its own neighbourhood, but because of what China is doing in and around the Euro-Atlantic neighbourhood. We are talking increasingly here at NATO about malicious cyber-attacks, about disinformation, about malign influence, about economic coercion and attempts to, in essence, erode the rules-based order or erode our technological edge. And because of that, the Alliance now is in the process of fleshing out a variety of policies and tools to cope with those challenges: How do we build resilience here? How do we protect critical infrastructure? How do we work with the European Union on cyber-attacks? So this will be part of our future agenda, I know Jim referenced this earlier. For all the obvious reasons, Ukraine is the top-order priority, no question about that. But speaking to NATO's adaptability, the Alliance is simultaneously taking on new challenges – emerging and disruptive technologies, there's a whole list here. And that does get us to the resourcing question, to acknowledge those challenges in the Strategic Concept, pair them with the threats of Russia and terrorism, really gets you to the point where you can easily justify why this type of spending is necessary.
Andrea Kendall Taylor:
We know we could continue down this path for a while. We don't have that many minutes left, and I know we want to end with a couple of reflective questions. And Secretary General, I just wanted to ask you to look back at NATO's relations with Russia under your tenure. So I know you came into your role in 2014 and relations had already taken a very significant downward turn. But the US and Europe were never really able to get things back on track. And maybe, perhaps, it was a little bit of the lacklustre response in 2014 that made this current moment more likely. But can I just ask you to reflect a little bit on how things got so bad, and whether or not you think we had any missed opportunities with Russia?
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:
NATO and Western NATO allies we really tried to create and to establish a better relationship with Russia after the end of the Cold War. We established the NATO-Russia Council, we had the Founding Act between NATO and Russia and, both as NATO but also as individual Allies and the United States, of course, really made a lot of efforts in those decades to really change our relationship with Russia. And I was part of that in my previous capacity as a Norwegian politician for 10 years, also as Prime Minister. And in Norway, in the High North, we were actually able to develop a good working relationship, good cooperation, with Russia. I met President Putin many times we discussed everything from energy projects up in the Barents Sea to the limitation and we negotiated and agreed in the Barents Sea environment, fisheries, we had a lot of cooperation up in the north. And I strongly believed in the NATO idea of deterrence, defence and dialogue.
But then Russia has deliberately chosen another path. They didn't really have the courage to really engage and to try to build down historical differences. That has been possible before: The Nordic countries, the Swedes and the Danes, and the Finns and the Norwegians, we used to fight for centuries and we are now best friends in the world. And if we look at the rest of Europe, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, they also used to be different sides of wars that have ravaged Europe for centuries, and now they're best friends and allies in NATO and the European Union.
So of course, it was right to hope for something similar to happen in our relationship with Russia. But then, gradually, we saw that Russia was walking away, with actions against Georgia, Ukraine and other countries, where it tried to re-establish spheres of influence where big nations control what small nations can do. And then NATO gradually, of course, needed to emphasise more not dialogue, but deterrence and defence, and in particular since 2014. So you can always have a kind of academic discussion – that’s important – about what could have been different. But the overall picture is that we really tried, from the NATO side, to engage with Russia. Fundamentally, what President Putin really is afraid of is not NATO, but he is afraid of free democratic societies which are undermining his power base in Moscow. And that's one reason why he doesn't want to see a successful, free independent, democratic Ukraine: Because that really challenged his idea of how to govern and rule and to remain in power in Russia.
Andrea Kendall Taylor:
If it’s possible in Ukraine, it must be possible in Russia also, yeah, that's the fear. But Jim, over to you for our last question.
Last question. When Julie and I used to do this, she used to love the Jim Townsend question at the end, so I think she probably knows what's heading your way. But, you know, and this is really for both of you. And Mr. Secretary General, starting with you: You've just had a tremendous tenure there at NATO for so many years, so many crises. The book you write will be multi-volume and it'll be a great movie: Tom Cruise will play you and it'll be the Academy Award winner. But let me ask you, as you are looking towards the end now of your tenure, what advice do you wish you had been given before you took your job as you were going around and talking to former SecGens and others? Now that you've had all this time in office, what advice do you wish someone had given you? And Julie, that's a question is coming to you too, but I'm going to give you a little bit of time to think about it. But first Secretary General.
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:
So, first of all, I received a lot of good advice. I'm very good at receiving and listening to advice. So I've done that to my whole life, and I spent a lot of time actually traveling around and preparing myself to become Secretary General of NATO after I was appointed, I think, in March 2014. And I took up the office on the first of October, so I had quite a long time to prepare. And that was good because I was actually able to listen to advice, and I got a lot of good advice from experts and people like think-tanks in the United States and others.
But I think the most important advice is that we need to keep Europe and North America together. Because whatever happens, it's very hard to predict what will be the next crisis, what will be the next challenge we face. But whatever that challenge or crisis is, as long as we stand together, Europe and North America, we will manage. NATO is of course important for Europe. That's, for me, obvious, but it's also important for the United States. It’s is a huge advantage for the United States to have 30 friends and Allies in NATO. No other major power – China, Russia – [has] anything like that. And that makes also the United States safer and stronger. And in particular, if you're afraid of the size of China, their budget, their economy, and also what they do now when it comes to technology, then it's a great thing to have friends and Allies. And as long as we stay together, Europe and North America, we will manage everything.
That's a wonderful answer, and I would have thought it would have been, “Don't eat the cheval plates that they serve in the cafeteria”. But that's the advice I wish I had gotten. I had that, and then someone told me I shouldn't have. But Julie, over to you. What advice do you wish you would have received?
U.S. Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith:
It's hard. First of all, I've only been in the seat for about a year and a half. So I don't feel like I have tremendous wisdom, certainly not the same level of experience that the Secretary General brings to bear here each and every day. I, too, was given plenty of terrific advice by folks who know NATO inside and out, like the two of you, but also from former [Permanent Representatives], a lot of stress on the importance of listening and learning before you jump in. And I tried to heed that advice when I came in and spend a lot of time listening to the Allies.
Someone said every single voice here counts and matters, and don't just assume that it will be a certain club that you'll dictate, the Allies that you'll be interacting with the most. And I do, I interact with all of the Allies each and every day and multiple different configurations depending on the issue. We all bring different strengths and insights and perspectives, and it's been amazing to watch each and every Ally bring fresh ideas and fresh thinking to the table each time that we sit down at the NAC.
I have found sometimes that multilateral diplomacy takes a lot of work. This is a new setting for me, not to be working in a bilateral capacity, but with 30 other Allies. But, equally, what I found to be true, which I kind of knew in my heart when I took the job, was that when 31 countries come together and make a decision, it carries enormous weight. And so the work that goes into consensus, while it sometimes takes longer than you ever would imagine, at the end of the day, the influence that comes with that decision, the power, the heft of a decision taken at 31, as we would say, really matters. And it is observed and taken seriously. Whether it's a statement or a new policy, or a press conference or whatever it is, we're doing a communiqué… The world is watching, and so we put the time in here. We fight through some of those tough debates. We do have debates here each and every week. But I think it has played out in many ways as I expected, that the time is worth reaching consensus. I don't think we should ever question consensus here in the Alliance, because of what it fundamentally means to the world and to us, to have all 31 of us agree on something.
Andrea Kendall Taylor:
Well, it's a wonderful place to end. I know that the transatlantic community – and really everyone – is extraordinarily fortunate to have you both in your current roles. So thank you for all of your leadership through this really critical time. So thank you. And I guess we could end with a “happy anniversary, Brussels Sprouts”. Thanks to both of you for doing it. We really appreciate it, and have a great afternoon.