Questions and Answers

at the joint press conference with Chairman of the NATO Military Committee General Petr Pavel, Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Curtis Scaparrotti and Supreme Allied Commander Transformation General Denis Mercier

  • 17 Jan. 2018 -
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  • Last updated: 17 Jan. 2018 18:08

Moderator: Thank you Sirs. And we have about twenty minutes of Q&A. If you could please state your name and outlet that you’re representing.

Michael Peel - Financial Times: Re the two new command structures that are proposed. Can you give us a bit more detail? About where these will be, how these will operate, you know, what kind of focuses they will have specifically. I mean beyond the general points about one being transatlantic and one being to do military mobility. Can you gives us idea what that means in practice? What kind of equipment will they have to deploy and so forth and so forth. And then secondly, did you discuss propaganda, counter-propaganda efforts at all today? And if so, what kind of conclusions did you come to?

General Petr Pavel (Chairman, NATO Military Committee): Let me start with the first question. You have answered the question yourself in fact. We cannot give you any more details beyond that one will be responsible for the security in Atlantic and that the other will may be supporting rear operations and logistic support. But of course, any other detail is subject to political discussion and decision that will take place in February. So I cannot go into more details now even though we made recommendations as the military, but these recommendations will have to be first considered by political level. And when it comes to counter-propaganda do you mean anything specific or in general?

Michael Peel – Financial Times: Well, just the general question. This is obviously something that comes up [inaudible]. For example the Enhanced forward Presence in the Baltics States the false stories [inaudible].

General Curtis M Scaparrotti (Supreme Allied Commander Europe): To your first question at to the later one, I would just say I would describe the change in the environment. Increase of levels of activity of both Russia as a security concern, terrorist and transnational actors, responsiveness to those. Activity below the level of conflict, destabilisation, that kind of thing. Those are parts of our environment today that in the NCS we are addressing. And we will be able to discuss that more in detail once the decisions are made.

The other is the speed in today’s environment. Speed of information. Speed with which decisions can be made etc. That’s another one. We have to deal with it. So we are constructing NCS that is really robust and flexible and it is able to adapt to these environmental changes. We are more troops today to be in an active information environment. One also where social media can be impacted. We do train, individually before they come to prepare for that, for their own social media and visual social media threats on that as a unit, because our communications have to be secure. So that’s active today as we go to EfP and other places, maritime force, whatever. But it’s also a part of what we are looking toward in the future.

Teri Schutz - National Public Radio/Deutsche Welle: When General Dunford was here he said quite starkly that Russia is now the greatest threat to Europe and to the continent and he says that nobody is comfortable with where we are right now. So, do you think that adding these two commands is enough to make you comfortable? He also said that Russia has modernized every aspect of its military. Is NATO still behind, even after making all of the upgrades that we’ve seen, transformations we’ve seen in the last couple of years? Will you be comfortable now? Thanks.

General Petr Pavel (Chairman, NATO Military Committee): Well, the main argument, Russia is an obvious security challenge. And there is a new security reality after annexation of Crimea, after support to separatists in Donbas. After Russian activities in Syria and their efforts in broader Mediterranean. So we have to react to this new security reality. That was the main reason why we have taken this adapting NATO command structure to better fit the reality. We characterise Russia as a peer competitor. And we obviously follow closely all the developments and modernisation and taking all the measures that are necessary to be ready for any contingency. 

General Curtis M Scaparrotti (Supreme Allied Commander Europe): You know, I certainly have concerns with respect to Russia that’s part of this NATO Command Structure adaptation. I think as an Alliance we are dominant. There are domains within this that we are challenged. I think cyber is one of those that they are very competent in that. There are others where, because of modernisation, you now that while we are dominant, we will not be in five years per say, if we aren’t adapting like this to include our structures,  but also within the nations, our capabilities across the military functional area as well as our domains.

So, you mentioned, you know, two of the potential changes. But I would say to you that you’ve got to look at the adaptation holistically. Because there is a number of areas within this adaptation that together allow us to maintain the dominance that we need.

General Denis Mercier (Supreme Allied Command Transformation): If I just add something. You may have seen that we have issued very recently update 2017 of the Strategic Foresight Analysis, which is a document in which we describe the trends that could lead to a crisis in the future considering all the crisis we can face. We updated another document that describes the military implications. And based on that we try to see what could threaten NATO superiority in the future. And this is the aim of my headquarter. And what NATO must do in order to face future challenges.

Julian Barnes - Wall Street Journal: General Scaparrotti, there has been news reports that you will meet General Gerasimov. Is that meeting on? And what is on your agenda to try to talk to him about? And General Mercier, in terms of the specific capabilities that Russia is developing. What is sort of on the top of your agenda? Is it cyber? Or are there other sort of more traditional military capabilities that you’ve urged Allies to sort of work on countering?

General Curtis M Scaparrotti (Supreme Allied Commander Europe): Thanks Julian. As you know I’ve spoken with General Gerasimov in September. We agreed to meet and that’s being organized now. I expect we will meet. And we will give you further information when that will be. In terms of what the purpose of it is to continue and ensure we’ve got an established line of communication between the two of us. It’s about transparency and it will be contained to military exercises and current ops where we have forces in proximity to ensure that we understand what we are each doing in the military domain. And to ensure that we don’t have a, you know, misstep or miscalculation or misunderstanding. The last thing I would say is that we’ve got into the established line of communication that we can rely upon on and this is another step to ensure that’s very solid.

General Denis Mercier (Supreme Allied Command Transformation): And to answer the second part of the question. In our adaptation we will better clarify. Looking at the future technologies. It’s not committed to Russia. What are the technologies that can be used as threat against us. Whether they can be used by state and non-state actors. And the point of many technologies today is there are many actors even sometimes single people can have access to them. And our aim is to look at these technologies and see how we can use them as opportunities. And how they can threaten NATO superiority and what we need to do in order to keep our superiority. And this is really a main effort, which goes with let’s say with innovation. And another thing is, because this is absolutely essential for our Alliance, when we are talking about digital architectures and artificial intelligence, is interoperability, which is not only a technical part of it, technical issue. This is also the political interoperability of our future systems.

Khalid Hameed Farooqi  - Geo TV: General, the tension between United States and Pakistan is rising every day and Pakistan has suspended all intelligence security cooperation with NATO in Afghanistan. How will it affect NATO operations in Afghanistan and in addition to that the Northern Province governor rebelled against the Centre Authority of Afghanistan, refused to step down and denied the order of President Ghani. This whole upheaval in Afghanistan, how will it affect NATO operations? Thank you. 

General Petr Pavel (Chairman, NATO Military Committee): I cannot comment, obviously, on bilateral issues between United States and Pakistan but we are trying to influence all regional actors to coordinate activities towards better security and stability of Afghanistan. We had a representative of Pakistan at our meeting focused on stability. They were contributing in a constructive way and I truly believe that Pakistani Authorities are taking steps to address terrorism. However, there is still room for improvement and we are working on it. It is one of the major tasks for Commander Resolute Support Mission as well and he is working with all the actors that have influence on security in Afghanistan, including… including Pakistani Authorities.

Robin Emmott - Reuters: General Pavel, you tweeted yesterday about Iraq. I wondered if there was any push to include more NATO training in Iraq and one for General Scaparrotti, could you give us an update on the timeline for Aegis Ashore and when the Polish site might be running… up and running? Thank you.

General Petr Pavel (Chairman, NATO Military Committee): To your fist question, the situation in Iraq is changing. We can say that physically ISIL has been defeated but that doesn’t mean that the ideology was defeated and that Iraq is now a safe and secure country. We have to continue. There is a general understanding that Iraq will need assistance and there is also interest from Iraqi side for that assistance, both from the Coalition and from NATO. NATO is now considering options for… for increasing that assistance and it will come on the table of Defence Ministers next month. So we were considering the situation, the options and we are generally ready to provide more assistance based on specific requirement from the Coalition and from Iraqi government and it will be focused on training, assistance and capability development.  

General Curtis M Scaparrotti (Supreme Allied Commander Europe): On the Aegis Ashore that is under construction as you know, I can’t give you a precise date at this time in fact, just recently I checked with our command and those responsible for the build and they will come to me here soon and lay out the progress of it and then I will probably have a better idea, I expect this year.

(Inaudible) ARD German Radio: Quick follow up on Afghanistan and the Resolute Support Mission. It has been extended from 14 to 16,000 troops. Are all of these already on their way to Afghanistan or already there, and is that from a Military perspective enough? And if I also may ask another question on the Command Structure? Is it safe to say that the logistics hub that will have to enable quick travel of forces within Europe, is that from a military perspective, very good to locate this in central Europe or the centre of Europe?

General Curtis M Scaparrotti (Supreme Allied Commander Europe): Yeah I won’t address the exact numbers for Afghanistan, I refer you to the Resolute Support Mission on that one. I am pleased with the response from the Allies, the NATO Mission here. We didn’t reach 100 % of requirements as you probably know but we had a very good, over 90 %. We will progress with the mission we have what we need to progress. Obviously to fill it 100 % of the Commander’s request means we would  work more effectively, better speed and less risk, but you know I am confident in our ability to carry on the mission and I am pleased with the progress we’ve made this last year.

In terms of logistics, as you know we have had a focus on logistics with regard the support of our troops here in the Euro-Atlantic and also how that is attached to mobility, the infrastructure that is required to do that. It is not just the military aspects of it and we will address all of that within the NCS to include where we think they need to be located.

Nawab Khan - Kuwait News Agency: General you said that the so called ISIS or Daesh has been defeated but not yet its ideology, so do you think it could still continue to be a threat to the security of the region and secondly how many partners countries attended the meeting on the IS Coalition. Thank you

General Petr Pavel (Chairman, NATO Military Committee): First on the threat. Obviously up to the moment that this ideology attracts attention, it is dangerous. It is dangerous because it goes against the civilisation I would say regardless of the religion so we are all together in fighting this ideology. And it is a long way before we can say that we got rid of this threat. We are working with a number of Nations, on this meeting I will not give you exact numbers but I would guess that we had more than forty partners around the table and we cooperate closely with the Global Coalition or even with anyone who is willing to assist and contribute. And I truly believe that the recipe for success is in the broadest possible cooperation which will be very flexible and will address all elements of this threat. Not only physical destruction of ISIL but also the elements from which this ideology grows so it’s a social issue, economic, religious and others and this goes well beyond the capabilities of one organisation such as NATO that is why we need to cooperate with all the other institutions and Nations that will have the tools and will to address the threat.

Nicolas (inaudible) - B2 et Sud D’Ouest: Is it possible in French? May I ask in French or not. Or in English

General Petr Pavel (Chairman, NATO Military Committee): I can speak French.

Nicolas (inaudible) - B2 et Sud D’Ouest: Or in English? It is better in English. Just on Iraq, I want to know if the assistance, the increase of the mission in Iraq concern also the Kurdistan, the Erbil region, do you have some asks on that or are you ready to increase the assistance for this region? On the second question, on the modification of the structure of NATO, how much is it? What is the budget, who pay? Is this ordinary budget or is the budget of some (inaudible)?

General Curtis M Scaparrotti (Supreme Allied Commander Europe): Well in terms of our mission in Iraq today is limited, very very specific and that is what we will continue to focus on, that is capacity building in areas that the Iraqis have asked for help. In terms of the future, that is actually you know a policy decision yet to be made based on again Iraq’s needs and again the Nations decision, at the point they will give me guidance as the ACO to execute the mission.

General Petr Pavel (Chairman, NATO Military Committee): I would like to add that we do our best not to distinguish where to channel our support, support by NATO to Iraq as an integrated entity so we will do our best to support all the citizens of Iraq and building the Armed Forces of Iraq not individual ethnic groups.