Media briefing

with Chair of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Rob Bauer and SHAPE Deputy Chief of Staff Operations, Major General Matthew Van Wagenen

  • 03 Jul. 2023 -
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  • Last updated: 03 Jul. 2023 17:41

(As delivered)

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Good morning, everybody. Welcome to this briefing with senior NATO officials. This will be off camera but on the record and I'm very glad to have with us the Chair of the Military Committee, Admiral Rob Bauer, and the from SHAPE the Deputy Chief of Staff Operations Major General Matthew Van Wagenen. Since we have one week to go before the Summit, we thought it's a good opportunity to give you a bit of background to our new defense plans, which of course will be an important part of the Summit agenda.

NATO as you know is a defensive Alliance. But we live in a more dangerous and competitive world. So, our defense is always at the core of what we do. Russia's illegal war of aggression against Ukraine is in its 17th month and while NATO is not a party to the war, we of course support Ukraine's right to self defence, which is enshrined in the United Nations Charter. And we are responding by providing unprecedented support to Ukraine and also by strengthening our deterrence and defense.

And in Vilnius we'll be taking the next steps. Building on what's been done within NATO since 2014. Since the illegal annexation of Crimea, where NATO as you know, responded by raising the readiness of our troops, also by setting up for the first time for new battle groups in the East of the Alliance. Now last year on the 24th of February, NATO was prepared to respond to Russia's launch of its full-fledged invasion of Ukraine. And as a result, we took further measures by instantly activating our defense plans from the Baltic to the Black Sea.

And those defense plans remain activated. And that means that there are 40,000 troops under SACEUR’s command with significant capabilities. And also we have put in place for more battle groups in the Eastern part of the Alliance. So now for the next steps: What we doing in the run up to the Vilnius summit and beyond. And that's what the Chair of the Military Committee and General Van Wagener are going to tell us about. Chair.

Chair of the Military Committee Admiral Rob Bauer: Yeah, good morning all. Let me start by saying that we didn't start planning when the war started on 24 February 2022. So after the annexation of Crimea, the work in the military started in 2018, when we understood that NATO needed to refocus basically on collective defense, and we did that on the assumption that Russia and the terror groups were the two threats. So in 2019, a new NATO military strategy saw the light of day, and then in 2020, the deterrence and defence of the Euro Atlantic area, with an easier abbreviation of the DDA saw the day of light. And that is basically the strategy on what do we need to do to deter and defend against those two threats.

And then in 2021, there was the NATO Warfighting Capstone Concept, the abbreviation is NWCC. And that is basically also looking at deterrence and defence against those two threats. But then 20 years ahead, looking at technological changes, demographic changes, and how do you have to be able to fight in the future as well. Then, work progressed and we started to work on the regional plans, and that is more and more detailed planning on what you have to do to be ready to deter and defend against those threats.

The three regional plans that will now be approved in Vilnius are: One in the High North and the Atlantic. That is led by Joint Force Command Norfolk, in the United States.

Then there is the regional plan Central, which is commanded from Brunssum in the Netherlands, which is basically the Baltic to the Alps.

And then regional plan South-East commanded from Naples, and that looks at the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Those plans in more and more detail, explain what you have to do given the geography of those regions to deter and defend against the threats. Out of those plans the next step is which forces, which capabilities in all domains - space, cyber, land, maritime, and air - do you need to execute those tasks. So the plans talk about what do you need to do. Force structure requirement is, if you have to, if you want to visualize it, a big football that is our collective set of capabilities in the Alliance to execute all those tasks. And then the next step is command and control.

What do you need to do to command those forces once we have them. Down the line after Vilnius the real work starts, because in Vilnius we will agree, the leaders will agree to those plans to the force structure to the command and control arrangements. Then, it is about executability. Then we have to go and do our work to reach the higher number of forces with a higher readiness. We need to exercise against the plans. We need to buy the capabilities that we require. And that will take time. It is not a switch. That will take a considerable number of years to get there. And so, that is the tasks of all the nations. And the next step for investments then is the NATO defence planning process, where we will talk about this football and then we divvy up the football amongst the nations in the five domains.

So the Netherlands gets this part of the football in all five domains. United States get that, France gets that, Estonia gets that. So that the football in the end is round, so that we can do the work with it. So what is important is that if all the investments are done by the nations, and they have the formations that we asked for, then that is at the end of that trajectory. Then we have a situation where you talk about full executability, but again, it's not a switch. It is not overnight. This is about more people recruiting, training, this is about exercising. This is about building stocks, again, this is about building formations, buying equipment, we're also talking about production capacity discussion again. So this is a road from where we are now to where we need to go. Let me stop here.

SHAPE Deputy Chief of Staff Operations Major General Matthew Van Wagenen: Sir, thanks. Again, my name is Matthew Van Wagenen. I live in the military part of Allied Command Operations in the NATO force structure that sits underneath this Headquarters down in Mons. Let me talk to you a little bit about current activities inside of Allied Command Operations. First of all, all these activities are defensive in nature, but our posture right now, is it a very high state of readiness. And that's everything from the four land forces, Admiral Bauer just described that extend from Estonia all the way down to the Black Sea, but it's also in the air domain, it’s air shielding, that it's also over the Eastern flank and in the Baltic Sea, and it is maritime operations.

So right now, as Admiral Bauer has laid out, we have just a little bit over 40,000 gound forces under SACEUR’s control. In addition, there's about a 100 aircraft that will fly today. And there's about 27 ships out there in the maritime that are both in the Baltic Sea and down in the Mediterranean. So I would offer up to you right now we're in a position of advantage in NATO right now in all domains and readiness. And we will continue that throughout the current security environment we're in. I'll just kind of close it here and we go into questions.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu:  Okay, perfect. So any questions? Politico.

Lili Bayer (Politico): Thank you very much. I'm Lili Bayer from a Politico. I had a question about the recent force sourcing conference. I was wondering if there was anything you could share about how that went? Whether you think there's still a lot of work to be done with actually, you know, convincing or finding the right forces to actually match the plans. Because one concern we occasionally hear, you know, from think tankers or experts outside this building is that they feel like not all the nations necessarily have the resources right now to match with your plans. Thank you.

Chair of the Military Committee Admiral Rob Bauer: Ok let me make a couple of general remarks on them. Matt will probably be able to fill in some of the more detailed things. First, as I said, this is a road. So the nations will have to think about what can they offer now that is available. And then of course, nations need to think about the larger number of forces that we are working towards. So the picture, the outcome of the picture will not be a 100% yet. That it is unlikely that it will happen now, but we are seeing that the numbers that the nations are presenting in SHAPE during this force sourcing conference, were much much higher than in the last couple of years and higher than the last force source conference, which was a year ago.

So the good news is we are on a rise so to say. The nations do understand their responsibility to participate and to make sure that our collective ability to defend ourselves is increasing. But there's also work to be done. That is the reality. So if people will say, yeah, but it is not exactly the 300,000. Yes, then I will say, yeah, that is true. Because we will be working towards those numbers. As I explained, it's not a switch. If we would not have to do that. Then we would say we have those forces there's nothing to do, while there is work to do because we are refocusing on collective defense again. Matt.

SHAPE Deputy Chief of Staff Operations Major General Matthew Van Wagenen: The force sourcing conference went very well. You have to keep this in mind. There were three things going on that has never went there on before. One is, we still have to source for the current defensive plans of NATO that includes the NATO Response Force that includes air shielding, that includes many different things. That still has to be sourced right now because that's part of last. The second part of that is the new NRF that will be stood up. That was the second thing that got put in there. And then on top of that it's a new force model. So large conference. I would classify it as highly successful, we're going to have to continue the progress on this. The demand signal is much, much higher in collective defence. But I can assure you we are in a position right now, that we know what's missing. And when and how do we need to grow this in the future.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu:  Okay, Frankfurter Allgemeine.

Thomas Gutschker (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung): The German government last week decided that it will station an entire brigade of around 4000 soldiers in Lithuania. Which of course deviates from the reinforcement [inaudible] in Madrid. What does that mean for your defence planning and is it compatible with the region plans? Thank you.

Chair of the Military Committee Admiral Rob Bauer: It is not not in line with what was decided in Madrid. In Madrid it was decided to have eight battle groups with a minimum size of an enabled battalion with pre-positioned stocks and some capabilities that would be beefed up to a brigade, if necessary, based on intelligence, on indications, and warnings. That is still the decision. There is nothing changed there. If Germany and Lithuania agree to have more than that, that is never a problem. That is fine. That doesn't mean, however, that all the battlegroups will have the same evolution. What will happen next is that SACEUR will then have to look at what it means for his posture. He will never say it's not possible. That is the decision of the nations as it works in NATO. So it is not a problem. But it is not necessarily meaning that all the battle groups will go that route.

Thomas Gutschker (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung): I just mean as a follow-up - we were told in Madrid and in numerous briefings here that the reinforcement model is the only model that makes militarily [inaudible] from a military point of view sense, because it won't expose all the troops to an immediate threat. But [inaudible gives the needed] flexibility to use them where [inaudible] and weaponry arises. So in fact, I've been told in numerous briefings, that this is the only model that makes sense. And that's why I’m asking.

SHAPE Deputy Chief of Staff Operations Major General Matthew Van Wagenen: I think Admiral Bauer laid it out very well. SACEUR is. We're executing what the nation, the demand they put on ACO last spring, and that is the ability to grow for land forces from battle group to brigade. We've demonstrated that three times since this Christmas. The UK has executed in Estonia. The United States has executed Suwalki gap and the Germans are doing it right now. There will be more growth in battlegroup to brigade in four land forces this summer and into the fall. SACEUR’s focus is the ability to deliver four land forces rapidly. That's what his focus is on. What happens, happens nation to nation in agreements. That doesn't change from what ACO has laid out.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu:  Wall Street Journal.

Daniel Michaels (Wall Street Journal): Thank you, Dan Michaels, Wall Street Journal. I'm about, could you talk a bit about how the force commitments tied to the spending pledges. And over time, is this likely to bring countries that are not at or close to 2% closer to that on a sustained basis? Thank you.

Chair of the Military Committee Admiral Rob Bauer: Yeah, there is a connection. And the connection is that the football I was talking about that we will find as a result of the force structure requirement is bigger than the football that we have. So we need more money collectively to pay for that. So that is the reason why the discussion for Vilnius will be on the new defense investment pledge. With most likely although there's, of course we will see in the Summit itself but that 2% is the floor and no longer the ceiling we were working towards those were the words in Wales.

So that is a change. That is a change and that is actually the recognition of the fact that there are a number of things that have changed. The Russian posture has changed dramatically. There's two new domains - space and cyber. We've seen the results of this war in Ukraine where things like air defence, we will see more investments in air defence as a result of this war as well. So, the bowl will be bigger and that costs money and therefore I think that is the reason why the discussion on the defensive investment pledge is 2% as a floor.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu:  Okay. Agence France-Presse.

Max Delany (AFP): Thanks a lot. Several questions, sorry. Just on the executability of it. I was surprised to hear you say it would take a considerable number of yours because the Baltics are pushing for these plans to be executable already next year. So can you talk about that? And just Turkey's blockage of these plans, which is a political issue as far as I understand. How does that hold it up or delay your implementation? And then finally, Wagner in Belarus, does that change the mathematics of anything on these plans? Thanks.

Chair of the Military Committee Admiral Rob Bauer: Okay, I'll take the first two. And then Matt can talk about Wagner. Executability needs several years. So the plans that SACEUR has come up with serve basically two purposes: One is the immediate now, because if a war would start now, we should be ready of course. So that is looking at basically what we have. But of course it also looks at what we should improve on. And therefore it is that bit I'm talking about when I'm talking about full executability. So the immediate now will be sooner. But of course you will need to work on all these investments for the future. Growing the number of forces, doing the training in a different way against the plans and not fictitious scenarios.

So I think that is the change and when it comes to the change that will take a considerable number of years, but at the same time, we have to be ready now to execute the plans, if it is necessary, of course. So that is one. Second on the plans and the approval. We are still working on getting the consensus in the Military Committee. It is ongoing work. I believe we can finish it before Vilnius and so I'm confident there and I'm not going into any details.

SHAPE Deputy Chief of Staff Operations Major General Matthew Van Wagenen: I think the third question on Belarus - I mean you read the rhetoric, we hear it. So Allied Command Operations certainly we're always looking at Belarus. Right now we have seen no changes either in posture or readiness there that would drive any changes in the in the current NATO defence plans we have right now. So there is nothing that we're seeing at this time.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu:  Just to add perhaps, we already have plans, NATO always has plans. It's not like we're waiting for years to have plans. So the plans which actually we had on the shelves and we had prepared for a situation like the 24th of February were activated on the 24th of February, they remain activated and that is why those plants have also given more authorities to SACEUR, more flexibility, more capabilities. That's why he now has over 40,000 troops under his command backed by the significant air and maritime capabilities that General Van Wagenen mentioned. So, what we're talking about is the next steps. But it's not like we don't have what we need now to defend all our lives.

Chair of the Military Committee Admiral Rob Bauer: And to add to Oana's add I think it's important to say, and I think we've talked about this in public already; executability is connected to a number of things. One is we need the forces, second we need the capabilities for those forces, we need the authorities for SACEUR, and we need command and control. So, so those are the things we will be working on collectively. And that will take some time. In some of the situations I think authorities is at the moment good,  but it's especially the forces, the higher number and the capabilities that will take some time.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu:  Okay, let me go to Bloomberg.

Natalia Drozdiak (Bloomberg): Thank you so much for doing this. You mentioned as a part of defence planning [inaudible] the importance of the troops and also equipment and [inaudible to boost] stockpiles. Are you satisfied with the state of defence industrial production, especially in Europe in light of those plans?

Chair of the Military Committee Admiral Rob Bauer: I'm not happy yet. Because I think it is a wicked problem. This because I think it doesn't only involve a client and a producer. This involves also financers, it is the private sector. So you need to talk to financers. And in some nations big pension funds say it's not ethical to invest in defence industry. That is changing now, but all these changes take time. And then you need to convince those people, the shareholders, to basically invest and wait for the dividend for a couple of years to get.

So, it is a combination of talking to a lot of groups. And that's why the Secretary General, why I and others are talking about this in public. Often because this is about convincing people that it is necessary. And I see changes. But for example if you want to build a production line, an extra production line, that will take time as well. So it will take some time before we see more production. I mean, there were some measures like working longer hours in factories that can help to increase the production. But this is a combination of a higher production for sustaining the fight in Ukraine and building more stocks and increasing our own capabilities as a result of the plans I was talking about.

So it is a double effort that is required and therefore we need the private sector here. We need to convince people with the money - we have the money available, I mean there will be enough money for the coming decade to invest in defence. That's not the problem. But we need to convince them to increase the production capacity now. So it's not something we order. We don't have a state driven economy. We have a liberal economy. So we need to convince people to make these investments and that will take a bit of time.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu:  Just to add again, Natalia, I mean, I think the point is also that there is perhaps a stronger link than ever before, between the new defence plans, the new defence investment pledge and the NATO defence planning process. So just bringing them together, making sure that we have the forces we need, that the readiness we need them at, with the capabilities that these forces need in order to be effective and the money, the defence investments to make it all possible because at the end of the day, all of this will take more money.

So that's why the Secretary General has been engaging with defence industry since the end of last summer, much more intensively than we had done before because obviously NATO has always been engaging with defence industry. That's why the NATO Defence Ministers not so long ago agreed on higher capability targets when it comes to battle decisive munitions. So that is already there as a requirement to nations and the clear demand signal and that's why we're now working on the Defence Production Action Plan to make sure that we generate the capabilities that we need to defend ourselves and also to continue supporting Ukraine. So it's all about bringing all these things together. Perhaps in a more consistent and coherent way.

Chair of the Military Committee Admiral Rob Bauer: If I may: It also shows the fact that a war is a - we're not at war as NATO - but a war like in Ukraine shows that it is a whole of society event, a war. So this is about not only having enough bullets and replacing things, but you also need more people, because people get killed and people get wounded. And that is also part of this discussion. The NATO Force Model is making sure that the nations have a mechanism in place to increase the numbers of people that are available for the armed forces. This is not only for the first, let's say 30 days, but this is also for a longer period of time, if you would be in a longer conflict. You need to think through all these things. And I think that is a growing realization in the nations that we need to do more. It's not just about to 2%, it's not just about the money or the capabilities. It is the fact that so many things are connected to security. We saw energy, food, migration, infrastructure, technology as silos.  And now we see that security is a cross cutting theme.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Associated Press please.

Lorne Cook (Associated Press): Just a couple of questions on the Wagner events in Russia, we've heard from leaders in the east, in the sense that they've got to do some focusing. And I would guess that [inaudible from the Western] point of view it would be good to have that predictability, having forces permanently based if all countries are willing. I know you said your normal group is going to kind of work out in the same way. But is that fair to say that would provide better flexibility? And then the other question I would ask is just a little more technical. When it comes to 30 days having training for deployment in 30 days. What does that mean for the for the troops, this means you can't go on vacation, this means your pay goes up, you've got special training? And how does it tie down forces that are needed for that?

Chair of the Military Committee Admiral Rob Bauer: Very generally, in military terms you want flexibility. If you have a lot of forces, if you go back to the 60s and 70s and 80s when we had these Army Corps in Germany as an Alliance, because that's where the Russians would come - the Soviet Union would come. So given the threat at the time, that was a good idea to have all these forces basically there along the front. The front has become much longer now as a result of our enlarged Alliance. It's not only on land, it is in five domains. So you need to be more flexible, the presence that we have now, the posture, the eight battle groups at a battalion size, minimum size of a battalion with some, some enablement there.

And then the ability to beef up to a brigade is militarily sound, is good. If nations want to do more, that is their choice. That is not a problem. But I would be cautious to have all the forces fixed along the eastern flank, because we do not know where the enemy will come. And if they come somewhere else, then you have those forces in the wrong place. That's the problem militarily. The 30 days: Yes, notice to move, there's always a, so it's five days, 10 days, 30 days, 180 days. So those are the sort of timings. The shorter the timing, the less freedom as a soldier you have to be away from the barracks. I mean, in five days time you basically need to be almost in the barracks to sit ready and get your gear in the truck and go, or in the plane. So it's notice to move it's not in theater, it's notice to move. So 30 days is more relaxed in that sense. 180 days, of course.

So the more days you will see the more forces you will use with a lower readiness. So that in those 180 days, you can actually train those troops to get to the higher readiness they need to be sent to the operation. So I think that is the mechanism. And the connection to the pre-deployment of stocks or ammunition is that if you have some stocks or ammunition in the forward, not necessarily at the eastern flank, we saw that if you have huge dumps of ammunition, it's vulnerable as well. I mean one hit and you've lost everything so you will want to spread that out. You don't want it all at the front, you need it maybe on the way from Rotterdam, Antwerp, Hamburg, so troops can pick it up and go to the place where they need to go.

So it is all part of the same flexibility thinking that you're able to pick things up. But it saves time. If you have especially things like ammunition or larger materiel in Europe already, for the Americans, for the Canadians, for the UK. That saves time because if it's only people, you can put them in an airplane and quickly go to their materiel and join up and then move forward. So that is the idea.

SHAPE Deputy Chief of Staff Operations Major General Matthew Van Wagenen: I'll just offer an add to you. We have high readiness forces in all domains as we speak. Some of it on alert within hours. Some within days. I won't go in detail for security reasons. There is a significant amount of forces right now on alert in the four land forces, in the maritime and in the air.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Okay, Danish Television.

Ole Ryborg (Danish National Radio & Television): On the question of the future of defence spending, where you said 2% will be the bottom. There is also a more specialized goal for how much should be invested, not, I mean, not salaries for soldiers, but how much should be invested in technology. So how would you see the future in terms of what you need of equipment in the future? I think that's what's in the NBCC. And if you could help out – my military service was more than 30 years ago. What are these things, the new things you're going to need in the future for defending and so how,  basically, how much for technology in the future and what kind of new things is that you need?

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: NDPP, Ole. NATO Defense Planning Process, not NBCC or whatever. NDPP.

Chair of the Military Committee Admiral Rob Bauer: NATO Defense Planning Process.

Ole Ryborg (Danish National Radio & Television): I will read the transcript thoroughly.

Chair of the Military Committee Admiral Rob Bauer: So the 2% is the defence budget as a percentage of the GDP. And then within that, we asked the nations to at least spend 20% on investments. 20%. And the fascinating thing about this war in Ukraine is that it is, I mean, I've been blamed very often as Chief of Defence in the Netherlands that I was preparing always for the last war. And so the future would be digital would be AI would be drones and nothing else.

So why do we have these tanks and these expensive airplanes. And what you see in Ukraine is that this is a very old war. It's First and Second War World War techniques like the artillery barrages, like the use of trenches, the use of people out of the trench to find where the where the enemy is. So that is World War One, World War Two. And it is drones, AI, it is cyber, so it is a combination of things. So in our investment portfolio, we will see that combination most likely as well. And as I said earlier, one of the things we will have to invest more in this air defence. That is that is one.

Another one is enablement, so what is necessary to make a larger army formation a real formation and effective. It's not just the brigades of infantry men or tanks. It is also the engineers, it is also the helicopters that support them, it is also the long-range fires, it is also the logistics. So that has been there have been some under investments in the last 25-30 years in that area, because we were doing planned operations far away from home like in Afghanistan and in Iraq. So that is the sort of thing you will see that most likely a lot of the new investment going into.

SHAPE Deputy Chief of Staff Operations Major General Matthew Van Wagenen: I think you summed it up well, maybe a lot of these are capabilities, you're going to see that they will come out of the plans and some of the stuff is mobile and mechanized infantry. Investment in that so it's about the investment back into long range fires and the investment back into river crossing and engineers, electronic warfare. All these capabilities, I think, demonstrated by the war going on the Ukraine right now, that’s not legacy capability. That's capability that the Alliance has, but we need the further investment now as well.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Ukraine News Agency.

Dmytro Shkurko (National News Agency of Ukraine): Oh, thank you, Dmytro Shkurko, National News Agency of Ukraine. I just want to ask you what the original plans will be reflecting situation in Ukraine. And the second question, if I may, what kind of contingency plan do you have in case if something wrong will be happening on Zaporizhzhia APP? Because if there will be something it will be impacting not only the forces posture, but Europe itself for decades. Thanks.

Chair of the Military Committee Admiral Rob Bauer: The regional plans are about the defence of our Alliance. So we are of course taking the lessons of what we see in Ukraine into our thinking, but the plans as such are looking at our present borders. So that and then inside the Alliance, so I think it is not Ukraine agnostic, but it is not, I mean, it's not taking any specific country outside the Alliance into consideration. So that is one but of course we look very closely on the lessons we can learn from Ukraine. But not necessarily all these lessons will automatically apply to us. So that is also something we have to look at, in the way we want to operate and basically influence the fight once it is there. Second, on Zaporizhzhia, I think Matt, that's, that's more for you.

SHAPE Deputy Chief of Staff Operations Major General Matthew Van Wagenen: So exactly. There's general prudent planning again, not [inaudible] in general for NATO done at ACO for a host of things that could happen, potentially [inside lands] of defensive in nature. So I'm not going to go into details of it, but I can tell you that there is consistent prudent planning done to set the Alliance in an advantage if anything was to happen. And that is everything from an attack on the Alliance to some other event out there.

Chair of the Military Committee Admiral Rob Bauer: And do remember, we have been very good in the intelligence when it came to the buildup of forces around Ukraine. And therefore, I'm confident that our Alliance is able to see things and to then respond to it at a speed of relevance.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Okay, we'll go to the Swedish news agency.

Swedish News Agency  (Inaudible):  Swedish news agency TT. Well, I'm just curious about since we're having a country up in the north, willing to join the Alliance, but not really in already. What does this has for an effect for the planning? And of course, you can’t plan for a country that is not in the Alliance. Considering that Sweden is an invitee, how fast will the planning be able to be updated, if ever Sweden will become a member?

Chair of the Military Committee Admiral Rob Bauer:
Well, first and foremost, I think Sweden is already in a better situation since we all signed the accession protocols. This is the result of a number of agreements. And secondly because of the fact that you are at the table. Sweden is at the table in the Military Committee, in The North Atlantic Council every week. So they know basically everything already. Second, I would say that the way we responded to the to the accession of Finland and then got Finland into the plans, from the fourth of April to the 15 April. So in two weeks’ time we were able to do that. So I have no doubt that we will be able to adapt the plans once Sweden is, it has joined.

I think there is already a lot of work ongoing with Allied Command Transformation and Sweden in terms of with the military preparations for Sweden joining The Alliance.

And so I'm pretty sure that we haven’t lost any time in that sense. Everything is now being worked upon, so once the final go is there, I think Sweden will be both in in actual terms, and the command and control of our Alliance, and in the plans, (inaudible).

SHAPE Deputy Chief of Staff Operations Major General Matthew Van Wagenen: So actually I run the Baltic Sea Roadmap and I'm on the Integration committee for Sweden.

Their military officials were just here in this headquarters a week ago with ACT in here.
Sweden under the authorities granted by the NAC.

Right now we're setting in motion everything we did for Finland. That’s shared intelligence, that’s prudent planning that we're able to do. (Inaudible)
When accession happens,  you can be integrated to those plans almost immediately.  And that’s because of the close cooperation, and that's because of the methods that have been put in in place, agreed upon by the NAC.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Okay we have a couple of … we’ll go over here.

Andrew Gray (Reuters): Andrew Gray from Reuters. A couple of questions on then looking at Europe’s potential adversaries. Obviously if you're looking at plans defensive, plans in this part we're also looking at the capability and intent, of course, that you might face. What we learn from the war in Ukraine by the state of Russian forces and in particular (inaudible) to revise or adapt that. (Inaudible)

Chair of the Military Committee Admiral Rob Bauer: I would I would say the Russian army, especially the army, is now for 90%, is engaged in the war in Ukraine. So what we do See in general is that the Russians are careful around NATO, they don't want to - they’re not seeking for a conflict with NATO. So I think that is, that is a sign that they are very, very busy. And in the land domain, I don't think they have a lot of forces available to do to…, to anyone else.  So, but we are convinced that the Russians are going to reconstitute. And therefore, the plans are, are built, not on that the actual status of the Russian army, but on the status of the Russian army before they attacked Ukraine. That is one. And they will learn lessons from that war as well. And therefore, we will continue to look at them as a serious threat in the maritime, and in the air, especially. And in space, they are still very, very capable.

So let alone, of course in nuclear.  So this is - They might not be 11 feet tall, but they're certainly not two feet tall. So we should never underestimate the Russians and their ability to bounce back, as they have shown in history a couple of times. So, yes, they will take some, they will need some time to reconstitute. And that is one of the reasons why I think it is acceptable for us to take a couple of, a number of years, to get where we need to go, with our changed posture and changed capabilities. As I talked about earlier.

SHAPE Deputy Chief of Staff Operations Major General Matthew Van Wagenen: That about laid out the Russian problem set and what we learned very well.
But just to make, I want to make very clear that as part of the regional plans that were submitted by ACO, there is another element to it. And that's terrorism. And that's terrorist groups. And that's an essential part of these plans.  It is in these plans that have been submitted up here to headquarters. And it's also,  it's a threat that that's looked at every day by ACO. It is, we want to have full understanding, so we could act if we needed to.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Yeah, so obviously, just to remind everybody, I'm sure you all know this. But this is based on the Strategic Concept, which sets out Russia as the most imminent threat, but also terrorist groups to the Alliance. Yeah, please.

Mindaugas Laukagalis (LRT): Thanks, Mindaugas Laukagalis from Lithuanian National Radio and Television. I have a follow-up on Belarus. You said that you do not see changes in Belarus after the recent events, but in general how much Belarus [inaudible was taken into account] when you were creating this new a regional plans? And if I may, another question, a more general one. We always hear that Europe's stocks are depleted, especially after the war in Ukraine started. Could you just give us an image how depleted they are, how exhausted they are, and how far away we are from that point when we can say that we’ve reached our goal and we have sufficient stocks and ammunitions.

Chair of the Military Committee Admiral Rob Bauer: Okay, I'll take the second one and I leave the first one to Matt. They are not depleted. But we are getting lower, on certain types of ammunition. And I'm not going to tell you how much, how much we have left. It is important to understand this is a responsibility first and foremost of the nations. So the nations. It’s not NATO giving away ammunition or weapons. It's the nations that give away weapons and ammunition and the nations will make this risk calculation. Every time they give away something, they will look at their stocks, look at what they have ordered at industry, when that comes in and how it is connected to what they give away.

Some nations have given away for example, Soviet style equipment to the Ukrainians and it is replaced with Western equipment.  Maybe with a gap. And the appetite, or the acceptance of the risk is a calculation, is it a decision by the governments of the nations that do these donations. So that is not a responsibility for NATO.  The Secretary General has said, we should take the risk, especially in the land domain, because if Ukraine loses that war and that is not the end of instability. That is the start of more instability. As we know, the Russians want to go back to the 1997 borders, which includes all the nations where we now have eight battle groups. The three Baltic States, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria. That is unacceptable for us.

And therefore, we have to realize this is not only about Ukraine this war. This is about much more. And we have to continue to support Ukraine for as long as necessary, because we cannot let the Russians win there. And I think that is the reason why nations might take some risk, but it is the response instability of those nations to look If the risks and where they go with their stocks, with their donations.

SHAPE Deputy Chief of Staff Operations Major General Matthew Van Wagenen: I think your question was, you know, is the focus of intelligence on Belarus. I would offer this up to you.  You know Allied Command Operations’ shared national intelligence is very focused on that area every day. And we're confident we know what's going on. And right now, we see no changes. But that is, that doesn't take our eye off what we need to do every day. And Allies continue to monitor and understand what's going on. So if we needed to change posture, we could do it rapidly.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Okay, Interfax Ukraine.

Iryna Somer (Interfax Ukraine): Thank you, Iryna Somer, Interfax Ukraine. Can you please give us your assessment of the current situation in Ukraine and what can we expect in the coming month? And a second question. You said if Ukraine loses the war, in which condition might that happen?

Chair of the Military Committee Admiral Rob Bauer: First and foremost, war is very difficult to predict. Because it involves two nations who respond to each others’ actions.

So war is never easy to predict. That's one. So I'm not going to talk about the outcome in that sense. What we see is heroic fighting by the Ukrainians. I think the mental component in warfare, we knew it from the past, and we see it in Ukraine, is extremely important. Ukrainians know what they're fighting for. The Russians don't have a clue what they're fighting for. And that difference you can actually see on the battlefield, when it comes to the courage, when it comes to the persistence, when it comes to the creativity and the will to fight.

So that is that is an extremely important part of what we see, together with a serious number of Western weapons systems.
The Western training is helping Ukraine. It's not a NATO operation as such, but it is 50 nations in total, that help Ukraine with weapons, with ammunition and training. The counter offensive is, it is difficult. People should never think that this is an easy walk over. It will never be. There's a considerable number of Russians in  Ukraine. There's considerable defensive obstacles.  I mean, sometimes it's a couple of kilometres, sometimes it’s 30 kilometres deep (inaudible) on minefields then then serious obstacles and then a third line.

So to get through all of that, to reach basically the terrain where there’s no more defences in terms of infrastructure and mines, is a difficult, difficult operation for the Ukrainians. And we saw in Normandy in the Second World War that it took seven, eight, nine weeks for the Allies to actually break through the defensive lines of the Germans. And so it is not a surprise eyes that it is not going fast.  People should not talk about it like that.

And this is a real war, this is where people die on a daily basis. And it is difficult if you're in there, to see your friends and your colleagues die. It is difficult to be shot at with that intensity. So it is never, never easy.

And I think we should continue to support Ukraine. Because this is a very, very difficult time for them. And we should not comment on Ukraine like “They should go faster” or “It's disappointing they're not going fast”. It is extremely difficult this type of operation and I think the way they do it is commendable. And I think they are for good reasons at some places cautious, because you can burn a lot of forces if you want to go through.

So you need to find out, watch what are the weak spots, what is the best positions to try to break through.  And at the same time, the Russians will respond to the Ukrainians. That is war. And so you have to look at it on a daily basis and both sides will take decisions and react on each other. So the most important thing for Ukraine is that we continue to support them for as long as it takes.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Okay thank you very much. We've come to the end of this briefing.  As I said it's off camera, on the record. And we'll see you later this week for the Secretary General’s Pre-Summit press conference. Thank you.