by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the start of the meetings of NATO Defence Ministers
In just a few weeks, we will hold our NATO Summit in Warsaw.
And our countries face unprecedented security challenges.
From the east and from the south.
So at this landmark Summit, we will take decisions to strengthen our deterrence and defence across the Alliance against threats from any direction.
And we will also step up our efforts to project stability beyond our borders.
Over the next two days, we will pave the way for Summit decisions.
We will agree on the deployment by rotation of four robust multinational battalions to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland.
We will take decisions on a tailored presence for the south-east region, with a land element built around a multinational framework brigade in Romania.
We will also adopt a framework for NATO’s further adaptation to the challenges from the South.
We will look at ways to further improve the freedom of movement for NATO forces across Europe.
We will strengthen our cyber defences.
And we will review progress on ensuring the necessary resources for our defence.
For the first time in many years, in 2015 we registered a small increase in defence spending amongst European Allies and Canada.
And our estimates for 2016 indicate a further increase of 1.5 % in real terms this year.
This is progress. But I will call on Allies to keep the momentum, and to do more. Because we need to match our defence spending with the security challenges we face.
Tonight, we will meet with the EU High Representative Mogherini, as well as our partners Finland and Sweden, to discuss how we can make our cooperation even stronger.
For instance, to boost maritime security and to fight hybrid threats.
Tomorrow we will look at the broader arc of instability beyond our borders.
And consider what more NATO can and should do to project stability.
For instance in Iraq.
In providing further direct support to the Global Coalition fighting ISIL.
And in the Central Mediterranean.
We will also meet in the NATO-Ukraine Commission. We will assess the latest security developments, Ukraine’s progress on the path of reforms, and stepping up our support.
So we have a very full agenda at this ministerial.
And I am confident that the decisions we take will pave the way for a successful Summit.
And with that, I’m ready to take a few questions.
Oana Lungescu: We will start with Reuters over there.
Question [Reuters]: Secretary General, what additional measures is the Alliance willing to take to discourage Russia in the Black Sea area, Romania, and Bulgaria? Thank you.
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: We are looking into how we can increase our presence in the Black Sea region. We have already increased our presence with more air-policing, with assurance measures, with more naval presence and more exercises. But we are also looking into what more we can do. And we are discussing and addressing an offer from Romania that they can provide the framework, the headquarters for brigade which can then organize and facilitate NATO activities in the region, including exercises and also assurance measures. So this is on the agenda, this is something we are addressing, but the details have to be decided later.
Oana Lungescu: ANSA, Italian News Agency.
Question: SecGen, last week Italy announced that it will deploy missiles in Turkey in the framework of reassurance measures decided for this crisis. And Italy is by the way also one among the less spending countries for defence in NATO. During your recent visit in Rome to Premier Renzi did you get reassurances that Italy will take a different trend in defence spending?
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: First of all, I welcome that Italy is going to deploy SAMP/T missile defence system to Turkey. They have started to do so and I welcome that because this is yet another example of how we show solidarity inside NATO with all Allies. And NATO has decided to have assurance measures, we they have already deployed different assurance measures to Turkey because they are bordering all the instability, all the violence to the south, Iraq and Syria. And therefore we have different kinds of assurance measures in Turkey. AWACS surveillance planes, we have Spanish Patriot batteries and have more naval presence in eastern Mediterranean. And the Italian deployment of SAMP/T will add and augment these efforts and this is something I welcome very much. It shows the NATO solidarity. Defence spending was an issue I discussed with the Prime Minister Remzi when I met him in Rome recently. I expect of course all Allies to make good on the pledge we all made together two years ago to stop cuts in defence spending and gradually increase and then move towards spending two percent of GDP on defence. Italy is committed NATO Ally. They contribute to many operations and missions but of course it is important that also Italy delivers on defence spending as it is important that all Allies deliver on defence spending.
Oana Lungescu: Gentleman over there.
Question: Secretary General, do you see a necessity of cooperation, NATO cooperation, with the EU mission Sophia in Mediterrenean Sea? And what would be the distinctive role of this mission, NATO mission?
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: We need to enhance the cooperation between the EU and NATO. And we are actually doing that now. We have step up our efforts to enhance our cooperation. Just over last months we have been able to agree on an arrangement between the EU and NATO on cyber and we have also been able to agree on all the operational issues related to our cooperation in the Aegean Sea, where NATO vessel ships work together with Frontex and the Greek coastguard. So actually over last few months we have been able to agree more formal arrangement with the EU than in the previous thirteen years. So we are making progress and I would like to see also more progress in the Mediterranean. And that is exactly what we have asked our military planners, to come up with recommendation, with an assessment what more we can do building on experience from the Aegean Sea and then possibly moving to the Central Mediterranean. NATO has… we have assets, we have ships, we have capabilities, we have intelligence, we have surveillance capabilities which can be useful in support of the EU mission Sophia. Exactly how we are going to cooperate and exactly what we are going to do are among the issues we will discuss tonight with High Representative Mogherini and the Defence Ministers of NATO.
Oana Lungescu: Lady over there.
Question [BBC]: Secretary General, what message are you going to give Russia as you are going to this important summit?
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Our message is that NATO will continue to protect and defend all Allies against any threats coming from any direction. And that is the reason why we implemented the biggest reinforcement to our collective defence since the end of the Cold War and at this meeting and at the Summit we will take new decisions, particularly related to forward presence of our forces in the Eastern part of the Alliance with battalions in the Baltic countries and in Poland and also with tailored presence in the south-east of Europe. At the same time we convey a very strong message about that we don’t seek a confrontation with Russia, we don’t want a new Cold War. We will continue to strive for more constructive and cooperative relationship with Russia and especially when tensions are high as now, I think it’s important that we continue to keep channels for political dialogue, but also military contacts because we have to avoid incidents, accidents like for instance the downing of the Russian plane over Turkey. So, we will continue to keep channels for political dialogue open to try to manage relationship with Russia in the best possible way.
Oana Lungescu: One last question. Gentleman in the center.
Question [Gazeta.ru]: Has NATO as an organization any plans to place some extra nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles in European countries, maybe in Eastern Europe? Thank you.
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: We are going to have a meeting in the NATO nuclear planning group today. And we will assess and make sure that we will continue to have a credible, safe, and secure nuclear deterrent. And we will also welcome updates from both the UK and the US on their contributions to the NATO’s nuclear deterrent. But I am not going to any specifics. We will continue to have credible and safe and secure nuclear deterrent as part of NATO’s defence posture.