Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the meetings of NATO Defence Ministers

  • 13 Feb. 2019 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 13 Feb. 2019 21:45

(as delivered)

Good afternoon.

Allied Defence Ministers have just met to address Russia’s violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

All 29 NATO Allies agree that the SSC-8 missile system developed and deployed by Russia is a significant risk to our security.

It is mobile and hard to detect.

It can reach European cities with little warning, carrying a conventional or nuclear warhead.

And it lowers the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons.

The United States and other Allies have engaged with Russia about this missile system for years.

Including at a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council last month.

It’s clear that a treaty that is only respected by one side cannot keep us safe.

That is why the United States, with the full support of all NATO Allies, has announced its intention to withdraw from the INF Treaty.

This will take six months.

So Russia still has a chance to come back into compliance.

And we call on Russia to take this opportunity.

Russia knows what to do.

All Allies stand ready to engage further with Russia.

But we are also preparing for a world without the INF Treaty.

And Defence Ministers discussed this today.

NATO is currently assessing the consequences of Russia’s breach of the Treaty.

I will not pre-empt the outcome of this process.

But any steps we take will be defensive, measured and coordinated.

And we do not intend to deploy new land-based nuclear missiles in Europe.

NATO will continue to maintain credible and effective deterrence and defence.

At the same time, Allies remain committed to effective arms control, disarmament, and non-proliferation.

NATO does not want a new arms race.

Our Alliance remains agile and ready to deal with any threat from any direction.

We are currently adapting the NATO command structure.

And working on a new Readiness Initiative, which we call the “Four Thirties”. 

This means that Allies will make available: 30 combat ships, 30 land battalions,

and 30 air squadrons,

within 30 days or less. 

To increase our ability to respond quickly and decisively to any future crisis.

Today, a number of nations have made offers to our Readiness Initiative.  

And I welcome this.

Because it will not just increase our readiness,

But it will also help us share the burden of our security more fairly.

Tonight, we will discuss progress on three areas of burden sharing:

Cash, capabilities and contributions.

At our Summit in July, leaders agreed there is a new sense of urgency.

And decided to develop credible national plans.

As a result, since 2016, European Allies and Canada have spent an extra 41 billion US dollars on defence. 

And based on the latest national plans, this number will rise to a cumulative one hundred billion dollars by next year.

Allies are modernizing their equipment. 

And contributing more to NATO missions and operations.

There is still work to do to adapt to an unpredictable world.

But as we approach our 70th anniversary, the Alliance is in good shape.

And with that, I am ready to take your questions.

Oana Lungescu [NATO Spokesperson]: Okay, we’ll go with Reuters in the first row, please.

Robin Emmott [Reuters]: You mentioned in the beginning, you said that Russia still has six months to come back into compliance on the INF Treaty. I wondered, do you envisage any shift in the NATO diplomacy to try and encourage Russia to comply?

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: All Allies and NATO as an alliance will continue to engage with Russia. We have already raised this issue in the NATO-Russia Council, we did that just a few weeks ago, where we called on Russia to come back into compliance in a verifiable and transparent way. NATO has been and is very united on the issue of INF, meaning that we both convey a message to Russia to come back into compliance, but we are also united as in our plan, and prepare for a world with more Russian missiles and without the INF Treaty.

I expect the INF Treaty to also be an issue that will be addressed at the Munich Security Conference, because this affects, of course, all NATO Allies but also other countries. We will continue to raise this in the framework of the NATO-Russia Council and I know that several Allies have already, and are planning, to raise this bilaterally with Russia.

So, Russia knows that we are ready, knows that we think and believe that the INF Treaty is of great importance, but no treaty will work if it’s only respected by one side. And, therefore, it is Russia that has the responsibility to come back to compliance and to preserve the Treaty.

Oana Lungescu: Okay, we’ll go all the way up there, the lady in red in the middle. The microphone is coming.

[Danish TV]: You mentioned you don’t want a new arms race against Russia, but at the same time you have now agreed today to do plans to do this ‘Four 30s’. How come you view that this initiative, such a big initiative, is necessary in NATO? How can this not be viewed as an aggression by Russia? This is my first question. The other question is: Denmark has now put forward proposals about burden-sharing, will put Denmark in a position to deliver 1.5 percent in 2023. What is your response to Denmark? Can they now lean back and enjoy, or will they need to come back with more ?

Jens Stoltenberg: No Ally can lean back. All Allies have to be agile and to contribute to our shared security, to our collective defence. But, I welcome the fact that Denmark is stepping up, that Denmark is doing more, both when it comes to increased defence spending but also when it comes to contributions to NATO missions and operations.

The majority of NATO Allies now have plans to reach the 2 percent guideline, spending 2 percent of GDP by 2024. Not all Allies have submitted plans to do so, but even those Allies that don’ currently have plans to reach the 2 percent, even those Allies have started to increase – and what they do also makes a difference. And Denmark is in that group of Allies that have not yet currently a plan to reach 2 percent, but which have a plan to increase, and not only have a plan to increase, but actually have started to increase. So based on the reports we have received from all Allies, we can state that all Allies have stopped the cuts. And, we have to remember that for many, many years European Allies were cutting defence spending. Now they are all increasing, investing more.

Second, more Allies will reach the 2 percent target, meaning more Allies have already reached that target and the majority have plans to reach it by 2024. So if we then look at what has happened since 2016, by the end of next year they will have added 100 billion extra for defence spending. So, this matters, this helps, and I welcome what Denmark is doing.

But, of course, no Ally can lean back. We all have to do more, invest more and increase the readiness of our forces and contribute, for instance, to this new readiness initiative. The readiness initiative is about making NATO able to handle a more unpredictable and uncertain world and the best way of doing that is to have ready forces which can be deployed, which can be used, if necessary. The reason to have a strong and ready Alliance is not to provoke a conflict but to prevent a conflict. And that’s the way we have been able to preserve peace and prevent conflict for 70 years – sending a clear message to any potential adversary that NATO is there, we are able to react and if one Ally is attacked, it’s considered as an attack on the whole Alliance and we can then support. The challenge for us is to find the right balance between being strong, firm – but at the same time avoiding a new arms race and continuing to engage in dialogue with Russia. We do that by being balanced and measured in our responses, by continuing to strive for a meaningful dialogue with Russia, and also by the messages we are sending when it comes to responding to the Russian violations of the INF Treaty, because the fact that we are saying that first of all we will take our time, before we make any decisions, because we are now focused on the remaining six months, which is an opportunity for Russia to come back into compliance.

Second, we say that our responses will be measured, defensive and we have also stated that we don’t have any intentions of deploying new nuclear land-based systems in Europe. So, we are not mirroring what Russia is doing and I think the way we are dealing with this shows that we are actually looking for that balance between being firm, but at the same time preventing a new arms race.

Oana Lungescu: Polish TV, the lady in the first row.

[Polish TV]: . I have question related to Poland, because today in Poland, Poland has sealed the contract to buy HIMARS rockets from US, and also today, American ambassador to Poland thought in interview that the US is considering increasing American presence, military presence in Poland. Could you comment on this please? And do you think that it can increase security of NATO?

Jens Stoltenberg: So first of all, it’s not for NATO to decide exactly from where different Allies buy their equipment. We have a NATO defence planning process where we agree on different capabilities that different Allies should acquire, but where they buy them from or acquire these different systems is not for NATO to decide, but we allocate different capability targets and then we leave it to, of course, the nations to decide exactly how they fill or meet those capability targets.

Second, the United States and NATO, we have already increased our presence in Poland. We have one of the new battle groups, in the Eastern part of the Alliance, it’s based in Poland. And, the United States is the lead nation for that battle group. We have also a new US Armoured Brigade in Poland which rotates in Europe, but which rotates regularly also through Poland. And we have seen also more investments in infrastructure, more exercises of NATO Allies and of course, US being part of that in Europe, including in Poland. We are constantly addressing our posture. We are adjusting the posture. So it’s nothing new that NATO and US, that we are increasing our presence also in a country like Poland.

Oana Lungescu: Okay, TASS, second row.

Denis Dubrovin [TASS News Agency]: Thank you very much, Denis Dubrovin, TASS News Agency. Mr Secretary General, at the last NATO summit here in Brussels, US president Mr Trump has said that NATO countries should actually pay 4 percent of their GDP for defence. Now United States has withdrawn from the INF Treaty and there is a perfect reason to pay more, because NATO has to develop new defensive actions in the new . . . situation. So do you expect that at the upcoming summit in Great Britain, the new threshold for military defence will be higher, to 3 or maybe 4 percent? Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg: The United States has not withdrawn from the INF Treaty. The United States has declared its intention to withdraw and started the process – but giving Russia six months to come back into compliance. And we all have to understand that the problem is not the announcement from the United States, but the problem now is that Russia continues to deploy new nuclear-capable missiles in Europe, in clear violation of the INF Treaty. And this is not only an issue that has been raised by the Trump administration, but it was actually originally raised by the Obama administration almost six years ago.

So we have given Russia a lot of time to come back into compliance. They continue to violate the Treaty and therefore all Allies agree that Russia is in violation of the Treaty, we did that through our statement in December and all Allies support the US announcement, because the INF Treaty doesn’t work if it’s only respected by one side, it doesn’t keep us safe. We have an agreement related to 2 percent, at the summit in July. We all agreed that there is a new sense of urgency to deliver on that commitment. And the good news is that we are doing exactly that. And I also know that the United States recognizes the progress that European Allies and Canada are making. President Trump mentioned the fact that the European Allies and Canada will add 100 billion extra US dollars for defence spending from 2016, by the end of 2020. So my focus, and NATO’s focus, is to deliver and to implement what we have already agreed on defence spending.

Oana Lungescu: Washington Post. Over there.

Michael Birnbaum [The Washington Post]: Thanks. Michael Birnbaum from The Washington Post. This is Acting Secretary Shanahan’s first trip to, to NATO and his first sessions with his counterparts. Could you give us a sense . . . you know there was a lot of . . . well, Secretary Jim Mattis was well-loved here at NATO and there was general nervousness about anybody other than Mattis coming from the Trump administration, could you give us a sense of what message Secretary Shanahan sent in his first interactions with defence ministers and how that message was received by his peers? Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg: The message from Acting Secretary of Defense, Patrick Shanahan was very well received by all NATO Allies, because it was a very strong and a very clear message about the US ironclad commitment to NATO, to Article 5 and also the very strong personal commitment he has to NATO. I met him a few weeks ago. I know that his background from defence industry, but also some years at the Pentagon, is a background which is highly valued by NATO Allies. And also the fact that he’s coming directly from Iraq and Afghanistan, where NATO has operations, where we train, assist and advise the Iraqi forces and the Afghan forces, also made it very useful and something we very much welcome, the fact that he then came to the NATO ministerial and can share his assessments and his analysis coming directly from NATO operations.

Secretary Mattis was, of course, also a welcomed participant at the NATO ministerial meetings, but we all look forward to working with Secretary Shanahan. I welcome the fact that he received me in Washington, he is now welcomed here at the defence ministerial meeting and he has a strong personal commitment to the Alliance. And we are really encouraged by his very strong message today on the commitment to NATO but also on the INF and the importance of NATO remaining united in the way we respond to the INF Treaty.

Oana Lungescu: Bloomberg, lady on the third row, yeah, thanks.

[Bloomberg]: Thank you. Did any member state bring up the issue of China and cyber security during today’s meetings? And a second question, if I may: what will NATO do if Turkey decides to go ahead and buy the Russian missile system? Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg: The session we just finished was about INF and therefore it was not so much focused on other issues. We will discuss NATO readiness later on today, and also deterrence and defence, and I expect that Allies will also mention the fact that China is a rising power and some Allies have already expressed concerns related to cyber security infrastructure, and so on. But in the session we just finished, this was not the issue.

Then, on the S-400, well, it’s up to each and every Ally to decide what kind of equipment they acquire, that’s a national decision. At the same time, I know that there is a dialogue going on between the United States and Turkey on the question of missile and air defence. I know that there is also some contacts between Turkey and other Allies – France and Italy – on a French-Italian system called SAMP-T. And on top of that, NATO has already deployed two batteries, one SAMP-T battery and one battery of Patriot missiles in Turkey. That’s done by Spain and Italy.

Oana Lungescu: Okay, Deutsche Welle, the gentleman in the middle.

[Deutsche Welle]: Secretary General, just for me to understand what was decided today by the defence ministers, so you, you just de— . . . on the INF, of course – so you just decided to think how to prepare for the world without INF, while also engaging with Russia diplomatically, and isn’t it a bit late to start thinking about it now? And the second question: German Minister, Ursula von der Leyen, she said that she doesn’t exclude anything in the mix of . . . of what, of how NATO may react to Russia not complying with INF. So do you exclude anything, like you said that NATO is not intending of deploying nuclear missiles, do exclude it? Thank you very much.

Jens Stoltenberg: NATO didn’t start to think today. The Alliance has been thinking for decades and we have actually been thinking and assessing and analysing the consequences of the new missiles, the new Russian missiles for actually some time, because we have seen the violations, we have seen the deployments of the new Russian missiles. They are mobile, they are hard to detect, they will reduce the warning time and therefore they reduce the threshold for any potential use of nuclear weapons in armed conflict.

But, our main focus has been – and still is – to try to preserve the Treaty, to try to maintain this cornerstone of arms control, which didn’t only reduce the number of missiles, but actually abolished, banned a whole category of missiles – all intermediate-range missiles. So we continue to work for the best solution, and that is arms control, to preserve, save the INF Treaty. But, the only way to do that is for Russia to come back into compliance. And there is still a window of opportunity. So we actually do two things at the same time: we prepare, we think, we analyse the consequences of the Treaty breaking down; but at the same time, we try to save the Treaty because there is no doubt that that’s the best way to address this challenge. If we don’t succeed with that – and that’s up to Russia, and we will only know that at the end of the six-month period – then, of course, we need also to respond. We will take our time. We will be measured, because we want to avoid a new arms race. At the same time we have to understand that the new Russian missiles, they are not an isolated event or thing, they are part of a broader picture where we are seeing Russia investing heavily in modern military capabilities over a long time, including new nuclear capabilities.

They have announced a lot of new nuclear weapon systems and they have used force against a neighbour in Ukraine. All of this has led to the biggest reinforcement of NATO’s collective defence for a decade, or for decades, since the end of the Cold War. So we have actually already done something, by increasing the readiness of our forces, tripled the size of the NATO Response Force, deployed combat-ready troops to the eastern part of the Alliance. We have, after years of cutting defence budgets, we have started to increase defence budgets, investing in modern capabilities and, also, for instance, reforming our command structure, so we are able to move forces more quickly over the Atlantic and throughout Europe. So it’s not like NATO’s not doing anything, we are doing a lot. But what we do is measured and responsible, to find this balance between being firm, strong, but at the same time not escalating the situation unnecessary. I can’t remember the last part of the question.

[Deutsche Welle]: [inaudible; off mic]

Jens Stoltenberg: We have now this process going on which is also then part of an ongoing adaptation of NATO. It didn’t start today, it has been an ongoing process for some time. But, when it comes to how we react to the specific deployment of the SSC-8 and the demise of the INF Treaty, well, first of all we still try to save the Treaty by calling Russia back into compliance. It’s therefore it’s too early to pre-empt the conclusions. There are different options, a wide range of different possibilities of NATO to respond. We don’t have to mirror what Russia does, and we haven’t done that before either, meaning mirror missile-for-missile or plane-for-plane or whatever they deploy. But, we just have to make sure that we still have credible and effective deterrence and defence, and we can do that by using different tools. What I have said, without pre-empting the conclusion, is that we will do it as an Alliance, united. That’s important. Second, that it will be measured and defensive. That’s important. And I have stated that NATO doesn’t have any intentions of deploying new nuclear-capable ground-launched systems in Europe, and I think this is clear message before we, as I say, arrive on the final conclusions of our process.

Oana Lungescu: Thank you very much. This concludes this press point, thank you.