by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the joint press point with the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Phillip Breedlove
Good morning General Breedlove, dear Phil.
It’s great to be back at SHAPE and to meet with you and your commanders. And for me it has been really a great opportunity to once again to commend you and your commanders for the great work you’re doing.
Because what you are doing now is actually to adapt NATO to a new security environment. And the security environment is now more challenging than it has been for decades.
And we are very impressed by the way you are both conducting the running the operations of NATO in Afghanistan and in Kosovo, but also in the way you now are adapting our defence posture to new challenges.
And this is something which is very much needed because we see threats both from the East with the more aggressive actions of Russia in Ukraine but also from the South with violence and turmoil spreading to the Middle East and North Africa.
And we very much underline that the ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine is the best foundation for a peaceful solution.
And the ceasefire seems to be holding, but it remains fragile.
And the ceasefire must be respected.
We have seen the withdrawal of some heavy weapons, but it's unclear where it’s now, what’s the destination of the weapons that have been withdrawn. And it’s important that this withdrawal of heavy weapons is complete and that it is verifiable.
So I call on all the parties to ensure that OSCE monitors have the information, the freedom of movement and the security guarantees they require to do their important job of monitoring the ceasefire and the implementation of the Minsk agreeement. It is vital for all efforts to reach a peaceful solution to the conflict in Ukraine that the implementation of the ceasefire is possible to monitor and therefore that OSCE monitors need full access and full freedom of movement.
At the same time, as we see the challenges to the East, we also see the challenges to the South.
And our answer both to the challenges to the East and to the South is that we are increasing our collective defence and we are now boosting our collective defence more than we have done since the end of the Cold War.
We are doubling the size of the NATO Response Force from 13,000 to 30,000 troops.
We are setting up a new 5,000-strong quick reaction Spearhead Force. With some units ready to move within as little as 48 hours.
And we are also creating six command and control centers in the Baltic states and three other eastern allied states.
And the implementation of the Readiness Action Plan is actually something which is on track and I’m very much impressed by the work which has been done here at SHAPE to make sure we are delivering on the promises we made to increase our readiness, our preparedness of our forces.
And we keep up the momentum.
We currently have NATO ships exercising in the Black Sea. The United States are sending 3,000 troops and equipment to the Baltic region for training.
And in the south, we are preparing to hold this autumn our biggest exercise for many years, expected to include over 25,000 troops in this exercise.
These measures are defensive, proportionate, and in line with our international commitments.
So we ensure, we make sure that NATO continues to defend all Allies against any threats. And these Headquarters, SHAPE, is playing a key role, and you personally, Phil, you are also committed to the task. So I very much commend you for the excellent work you are doing and I’m looking forward to continuing our close and good cooperation.