by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the meeting of NATO Defence Ministers
Last month, NATO’s Heads of State and Government decided to step up efforts to fight terrorism and more fairly share the burden of our security. Tomorrow, Defence Ministers will meet to take those decisions forward and further strengthen NATO’s deterrence and defence.
A few days ago, we marked a historic achievement. NATO’s four multinational battlegroups in the Baltic countries and Poland are now fully operational. A clear demonstration that our Alliance stands united in the face of any possible aggression.
Last week I visited Latvia and Lithuania. I saw Canadian troops leading forces in Europe for the first time in decades and I watched two of these battlegroups exercise together for the first time. This is real transatlantic solidarity in action: Europeans and North Americans working as one for our shared security. We are also making progress in strengthening our presence in the Black Sea region with a land element based on our multinational framework brigade in Romania. But to keep our nations safe, we need to keep working for increased defence spending and fairer burden-sharing across our Alliance. We have started to move in the right direction and today, I can announce even greater progress. I am able to share with you our final defence spending figures for 2016, and estimates for 2017.
After years of decline, in 2015 we saw a real increase in defence spending across European Allies and Canada. In 2016, this continued and this year, in 2017, we foresee an even greater annual real increase of 4.3%. That is three consecutive years of accelerating defence spending. This means, over the last three years, European Allies and Canada spent almost 46 billion US dollars more on defence. So we have really shifted gears. The trend is up and we intend to keep it up. Twenty-five Allies plan to increase defence spending in real terms this year. Last year, five Allies met NATO’s benchmark of spending 2% of GDP on defence. This year, we expect Romania to join them and in 2018, Latvia and Lithuania will spend 2% of GDP on defence as well. Allies’ national plans will ensure we maintain the momentum. The first set of reports on national plans will be completed by December, and reviewed by defence ministers in February. The reports will cover cash, contributions to missions and operations; and the capabilities we need. Tomorrow, I expect Allies will agree to new capability targets. These set out areas where we plan to improve further. Including heavy equipment, air-to-air refuelling, and more forces able to move at even shorter notice. As NATO develops capabilities, it is important to make the most of limited resources, and avoid duplication. That’s one reason why NATO and the European Union are working more closely together than ever before.
Tomorrow, I will present a progress report on NATO-EU cooperation to ministers, jointly authored by myself and EU High Representative Federica Mogherini. The report sets out how our organisations are working together on issues ranging from resilience to hybrid threats and support for partners. We will look into further ways to expand our cooperation by the end of this year.
Tomorrow we will also take stock of NATO’s work to fight terrorism. Last month, the Alliance joined the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. This not only sends a strong message of unity in the fight against terrorism; it also serves as a platform for practical cooperation. NATO is now fully integrated into the information-sharing and decision-making structures of the Coalition and we have already stepped up our support with more flight-time and information sharing by our AWACS surveillance aircraft. In Iraq, NATO’s Senior Civilian Representative, Paul Smith, took up office earlier this month. He will lead our efforts to strengthen the Iraqi security institutions, and oversee our training for Iraqi forces. At NATO Headquarters, our new Intelligence Division is now up and running. And within the division, a new Hybrid Branch and a Terrorism Intelligence Cell have become operational this week. Their work will help us better understand and counter the threat of terrorism and foreign fighters. NATO’s work to fight terrorism involves many different initiatives. Ranging from intelligence to capacity building and training, from Europe to the Middle East. And I am pleased to announce that I have just appointed Rose Gottemoeller, my Deputy Secretary General, to coordinate the Alliance’s efforts. Her appointment demonstrates that fighting terrorism is a top priority at the highest levels of NATO.
We will close the ministerial with a meeting on Afghanistan. Where our Resolute Support Mission helps ensure the country never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorism.
We have a lot of ground to cover tomorrow. So with that, I’m ready to take your questions.