by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the meeting of the North Atlantic Council Meeting with the National Security Advisers
We have just finished a meeting with Allied National Security Advisers.
Today’s meeting was a significant step towards the NATO Summit in Madrid next year, where we will continue our military and political adaptation.
First of all, we heard yet again an affirmation from the US on its rock-solid commitment to NATO, and the determination to strengthen alliances.
National security advisers reviewed progress in key areas on the NATO agenda.
This includes enhancing our deterrence and defence, by strengthening NATO as the framework for the collective defence of the Euro-Atlantic area.
We are also reinforcing our resilience,
and we are accelerating our work on cyber adaptation, technological innovation and climate change and security.
We are stepping up our efforts to uphold the rules-based international order.
Working more closely with likeminded partners around the world, including in the Asia-Pacific.
We also discussed NATO’s next Strategic Concept, which will be agreed at the Madrid Summit.
It will be the blueprint for our future adaptation.
Reaffirming NATO’s values, purpose and tasks.
And we addressed the importance of spending more on defence and investing in the capabilities the Alliance needs for our shared security.
This includes additional funding to cover all three NATO budgets – military, civil and infrastructure.
During the discussion, Allies also underlined the importance of NATO-EU cooperation. We have made substantial progress over the last few years, not least through the two Joint Declarations. I am currently working with President von der Leyen, and President Charles Michel towards a new NATO-EU Declaration to be signed in December.
We also discussed the lessons that can be drawn from the Alliance’s twenty-year engagement in Afghanistan.
After many rounds of consultations, Allies agreed together to withdraw their remaining troops from the country.
This was not an easy decision, and we knew there were risks.
Today we addressed the need for NATO to do its part to help preserve the gains made in the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan.
We also discussed the recent AUKUS deal, which led to disagreements among some Allies.
This agreement is not directed against Europe or NATO.
And there is broad agreement that we should not allow this issue to cause a rift in the transatlantic alliance.
As Allies, we do not always see eye-to-eye on everything, all of the time.
But we never lose sight of the big picture.
At a time of increased global competition, Europe and North America must continue to stand strong together in NATO.
The security challenges we face are too great for any country or continent to face alone.
And together in NATO, we will continue to protect our nations, our people and our values.
With that, I am ready to take your questions.
Oana Lungescu, spokesperson: We will take questions both here in the room and virtually and we will start in the room with Matthias Kolb from Suddeutsche Zeitung.
Matthias Kolb (SDZ): Secretary General, two questions, if I may. Can you elaborate a little bit more what Jake Sullivan said today about the American view of AUKUS and how this new security effect will affect NATO in the future? And you said recently in a podcast interview that you understand the French disappointment with AUKUS. Are you afraid that NATO's planned cooperation with the Asia-Pacific partners and especially with Australia could be affected, or slowed down by the recent developments? Thanks.
Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General: Well, NATO leaders made the decision to strengthen and step up our cooperation with our Asia Pacific partners, when they met at the summit in June. And of course, NATO will follow up and implement those decisions made by our leaders. That includes also stepping up cooperation with Australia as one of the four Asia Pacific partners of NATO.
The AUKUS deal is not directed against Europe or NATO, and there is there is broad agreement that we should prevent bilateral disputes between the Allies to cause a rift within the alliance, and to undermine the Transatlantic Alliance and the cooperation we have within NATO.
Then I will also, of course, once again, reiterate what I said before that I understand the disappointment by France, at the same time I'm absolutely confident that the Allies involved will find a way forward, and also welcome the joint statement from President Biden and President Macron. The issue was, of course, discussed in the meeting today, but again, these kind of disagreements should not create rifts within the Alliance and reduce the Transatlantic, the strength of transatlantic relationship.
Oana Lungescu, spokesperson: For the next question, we'll go to Rikard Jozwiak from Radio Free Europe, who should be coming through from Prague.
Rikard Jozwiak (Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty): That's correct. I hope you hear me. Okay. A question about yesterday's news about the expulsion of Russian military officers from NATO HQ. I wonder if you can expand a bit more, why this happened now. If you can say a bit whether they were carrying out military intelligence activities at the NATO HQ, and if these expulsions have anything to do with alleged GRU activities in NATO Member States such as Czech Republic and Bulgaria, earlier this year.
Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General: We have withdrawn the accreditation of eight members of the Russian Mission to NATO, who were undeclared Russian intelligence officers.
This decision is not linked to any particular event, but we have seen over some time now an increase in Russian malign activity, and therefore we need to be vigilant, and of course, we need to act when we see that members of the Russian delegation to NATO conduct activities, which are not in line with their accreditation. Therefore, their accreditation is withdrawn.
Oana Lungescu, spokesperson: We'll go to Jane's Brooks Tigner, also online.
Brooks Tigner (Jane’s Defence Weekly): Yes. Can you hear me? Fine. You mentioned that the NATO Security Advisors reviewed the lessons learned on how to preserve the counter terrorist gains Alliance made in Afghanistan, that's fine. But the risk is of course that terrorism will spill over to other parts of the world, which leads me to my question.
Is there any sense or evolving consensus among the national security advisors that the Allies should turn their Counter Terrorists attention to the security problems of North Africa, and especially to Sahel, and do that in a more concrete, and operational manner? Or does NATO still consider that off limits, regarding direct operational involvement in that region? Thank you.
Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General: The NATO remains at the forefront in the fight against international terrorism, and we went into Afghanistan to prevent that country from being a safe haven for terrorist organizations, to organize and prepare, plan attacks against our own countries as they did in 2001/09/11. And for 20 years, we have been able to prevent Afghanistan being a safe haven and also demonstrating that our mission there was not in vain. Now we will continue to be vigilant, continue to work together to ensure that Afghanistan, not once again becomes a platform where organized, where terrorist organizations can organize, plan, can conduct terrorist attacks against our own countries.
But of course, we are also addressing terrorist threats in other countries than Afghanistan.
Therefore, NATO has, as one of its core tasks, crisis management and that also includes the fight against terrorism.
We are part of the global coalition to defeat Daesh. NATO Allies and the global coalition and NATO has made enormous progress in that fight by liberating the territory that ISIS or Daesh controlled in Iraq and in Syria, helping to do so. We continue to be vigilant, not least by providing support to Iraq, we are stepping up our training, train, assist, advise mission in Iraq to ensure that Daesh, ISIS is not able to return.
We are also working with other partners like Tunisia and Jordan to help build capacity, strengthen their counterterrorism capabilities. Because we strongly believe that train and build local capacity is one of the best weapons we have in the fight against international terrorism, therefore we also worked together with partners at other places in the world, including in North Africa, to do so. Some NATO allies are also involved in different operations and military presence in Northern Africa, Sahel. The NATO Procurement and Support Agency (NSPA) is actually providing some support to these Allies with logistics, with support, with supplies. So NATO and NATO Allies are involved, and we will constantly assess how we can organize our efforts in the best possible way to make sure that we all work together to fight the national terrorism.
Oana Lungescu, spokesperson: Thank you, and we'll come back to the room to Iryna Somer from Interfax - Ukraine.
Iryna Somer (Interfax-Ukraine): Thank you Oana. Secretary General, coming back to your speech in Georgetown University with the students. It was a really good one, thank you so much. And you were talking about aspirant countries Ukraine and Georgia. And you said that we need to help more, and then you also said that you hope that during upcoming summit ambitious decision will be taken. So what actually do you have in mind, what kind of ambitious decision do you expect? Will it be in format of Summit declaration, or it will be in your Strategic Concept? And do you consult with these aspirant countries? And by the way, do you have a date for the Summit yet. Thank you.
Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General: Yes, we have a date in mind...that is twenty… but we have not yet announced it, sorry, so that we will do, you will get the date soon. Then on the decisions... Well, I think it's a bit early now to prejudge exactly what kind of decisions leaders will make at the Summit later on next year. But I'm absolutely confident that Allies will continue to stand by what they have stated before, and that is that we fully support the territorial integrity and sovereignty of our close partners, Georgia and Ukraine. We also stand by our decisions when it comes to their aspirations to join NATO. We will continue to provide practical and political support, so they can move towards further Euro-Atlantic integration. I welcome the fact that NATO Allies, both within the NATO framework, but also bilaterally provide support and thereby help both Ukraine and Georgia.
I met with the President of Ukraine just a couple of weeks ago in New York. We are continuing to strengthen our cooperation and partnership both with Ukraine and Georgia, and then this will be an issue, we will address as we prepare for the upcoming Summit in Madrid, next year.
Oana Lungescu, spokesperson: For our last question, we'll go back online to Alf Bjarne Johnsen from VG.
Alf Bjarne Johnsen (Verdens Gang): I thank you. I would like you to elaborate a little bit more about Russia, because the NATO-Russia Council have not met, I think since July 2019, and in addition to the revoke of the accreditations, the Russian delegation, the number of Russian diplomats accredited to NATO is reduced from I think there were 30 when you arrived in NATO Mr. Stoltenberg. Now they have maximum 10. So how do NATO motivate that decision on reducing the number, and if you would elaborate on the current NATO-Russian relations in general. And is this the time to for any NATO voices inside to consider easing of the 2014 restrictions and sanctions on Russia. Thank you.
Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General: The relationship between NATO and Russia is at its lowest point since the end of the Cold War. And that's because of the Russian behaviour. We have seen their aggressive actions not least against Ukraine, but also the significant military build-up, and violations of important arms control agreements, like for instance the INF Treaty that led to the demise of these treaty that actually banned all the intermediate-range weapon systems.
The decision to withdraw the accreditation of 8 members of the Russian delegation to NATO was done based on intelligence, was done because these are undeclared Russian intelligence officers. And we have seen an increase in Russian malign activities, at least in Europe and therefore we need to act.
NATO’s position, and approach to Russia is consistent and clear, we base it on our dual-track approach deterrence-defense and dialogue. We are ready to engage in meaningful dialogue with Russia. We are ready also to convene a NATO-Russia Council meeting; we have actually invited Russia for a long time. So far, Russia has not responded positively. Therefore, there has not been any meeting in the NATO-Russia Council but we are ready to meet, because we believe that to sit down to talk is always important, but especially important when times are difficult, tensions are high as they are now and therefore, we will continue to strive for a meaningful dialogue with Russia.
I met with Minister Lavrov, at the UN during the UN General Assembly not too many days ago. We were not able to agree on convening a new meeting on the NATO-Russia Council, but I and NATO we remain ready to do so as soon as Russia is ready to meet us.
Oana Lungescu, spokesperson: Thank you very much. This concludes this press conference. Thank you.