by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to the North Atlantic Council and Military Committee at Faslane Naval base, with UK Minister of Defence Sir Michael Fallon
Thank you so much, Sir Michael.
On behalf of the North Atlantic Council and NATO’s Military Committee, let me express our gratitude to you for hosting us here today. This is an opportunity for us all to learn more about the United Kingdom’s capabilities and commitments. I also want to thank the United Kingdom for everything it does to defend the almost one billion citizens in NATO countries.
When it comes to investing in defence, the UK leads by example, providing a clear role model to other Allies by consistently meeting our 2% guideline for defence spending, and by spending that money to maintain a broad range of high quality forces and capabilities.
The UK is leading NATO’s high-readiness force this year and contributes to our expanded presence in the east of the Alliance, where the UK leads a multinational battlegroup, hosted by Estonia. I was there myself just a couple of weeks ago, and met highly skilled troops from 5th Battalion, The Rifles.
The UK also plays a central role in the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan and in Iraq as a leading member of the Coalition to Defeat ISIS. And, at a time when the cyber threat is growing fast, the UK is using its capabilities and expertise to strengthen the Alliance’s cyber defences.
The UK also supports NATO’s modernisation agenda, and as we take forward NATO´s ambitious adaptation, I am looking forward to working with the next Chairman of the Military Committee, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach. He is with us today. Congratulations on taking on this key role next year. We will be counting on you!
We all know that the Alliance faces a range of demanding and evolving challenges, but NATO’s security is indivisible and the Alliance is protected by the full spectrum of defence and deterrence capabilities, including, of course, nuclear. The Alliance’s nuclear deterrent is essential to our overall defence posture. As Sir Michael just said, the strategic forces of the Alliance are the supreme guarantee of the security of the Alliance. These strategic forces include those based here at the Clyde Naval Base, and I want to acknowledge the UK Government’s important decisions to maintain this commitment with a new generation of ballistic missile submarines.
As we stated at the Warsaw Summit, the fundamental purpose of the nuclear capabilities of NATO is to preserve peace, prevent coercion, and deter aggression. We will always ensure NATO's nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure and effective. At the same time, NATO is committed to creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons in line with our commitments to the Non-Proliferation treaty.
Since the end of the Cold War, the number of Europe-based nuclear weapons available to NATO has been reduced dramatically. Efforts for nuclear disarmament need to take into account the realities of the threats and challenges we face with a newly assertive Russia and with North Korea’s unprecedented ballistic missile and nuclear tests. The conditions for nuclear disarmament have not yet been achieved. As long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO must and will remain a nuclear Alliance.
Let me conclude by praising the men and women who staff and maintain NATO’s nuclear deterrent. Every year, I meet with the base commanders of NATO’s nuclear capable airbases around the world.
It’s been my privilege to meet members of our nuclear submarine forces at King’s Bay naval base in the United States, at l’Île Longue in France, and at Alliance airbases across Europe. I am endlessly impressed by their skill and professionalism. Our citizens owe them – and those here at Faslane – a deep debt of gratitude.
So, thank you again, Sir Michael, for hosting this visit today. It is a real pleasure for us all to be here.