by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Institute for Regional Security and the Australian National University's Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Canberra

  • 08 Aug. 2019 -
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  • Last updated: 08 Aug. 2019 17:08

(As delivered)

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Thank you for that warm introduction.  It is really a great pleasure to be here today and to have this opportunity to address you all.  And it is a pleasure to be here for several reasons; first of all, it is an honour to be at this university, the Australian National University.  It's a highly recognised university and I know that this university have more Nobel Laureates than any other university in Australia, including the Vice Chancellor of the university.  So, it is an honour to be at this university.  Second, I have to tell you that I have a special feeling every time I'm visiting an academic institution or a university because originally my plan was to become a real academic, to actually become a professor.  That was my ambition in life and I started actually doing some serious research work at partly the University of Oslo and partly after that, in the Central Bureau of Statistics in Norway, something called econometrics, statistics and mathematics.  And then I was asked, in 1990, to become Deputy Minister for Environment and I was very much in doubt, because I understood that that would undermine my academic career, so I promised myself to only be in politics for a very few years and then go back to do some serious business, to do some serious research.  But I have been in politics since then, so my academic career was very short [laughs] and not very great.  So, my advice to you is to stay here.


Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: If not, you then risk ending up in politics, which is also quite interesting, but it's not as serious as what you are doing.  So, that’s the reason why I think it's always nice to be back and to feel the air of an academic institution like this university.  And the third reason why I really mean it when I say that it's a pleasure to be here tonight is that it gives me the opportunity to share with you some thoughts about NATO and some security challenges we face.  I will try to not be too long, so we have some time afterwards to have some interaction, some questions, and some answers from my side.  I am here as part of an official visit to Australia and NATO, we are based in… our Headquarters is in Brussels.  NATO is a North Atlantic Alliance, Europe and North America, so we are in many ways oceans apart, Australia and NATO.  But we are the closest of partners.  We have been working together, Australia and NATO, for many, many years, in many different missions and operations, including in Afghanistan for many years.  And this morning, I went to the war memorial and I honoured all those who have sacrificed their lives in the NATO mission in Afghanistan.  And we are extremely grateful for the support Australia has given NATO for many years.  We appreciate the close cooperation with Australia and I strongly believe that the partnership between Australia and Norway… and NATO is… has been very important, but is actually going to be even more important in the years ahead, because security challenges are becoming more and more global.  It is less and less meaningful to speak about some challenges for European nations and other challenges for nations in this part of the world.  We face the same challenges, the same threats, and we need to face them and deal with them together.  And therefore, the partnership between Australia and NATO will become even more important.  And let me just mention three challenges, three areas where we see more integrated, more global challenges, which we have to deal with together, Australia and NATO. 

The first is the increased great power competition.  What we have seen in recent years is that our global system and values have come under great pressure.  We have seen that from Crimea, the illegal annexation of Crimea, the continued destabilisation of Eastern Ukraine by Russia.  We have seen it in Syria, in the South China Sea, and with the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and not least North Korea.  So, many of the values, the rules based order we have tried to build in the decades after the Second World War, they are now under pressure.  And that is very much linked to the increased great power competition we are witnessing.  One very recent example, and you mentioned that in the introduction, is the demise of the INF Treaty.  Last Friday, a week ago, this treaty ceased to exist.  And the INF Treaty is the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, which is a cornerstone for arms control; it has been extremely important for security, for especially European countries, for more than three decades, and the treaty doesn’t only reduce the number of intermediate range weapons, including nuclear weapons, it bans them all.  And we see now the demise of this treaty, because Russia has, over the past years, deployed missiles in violation of the treaty.  These missiles are nuclear capable, they can reach European cities within minutes.  They are hard to detect, they are mobile and they're lowering the warning time and therefore also they are reducing the threshold for any potential use of nuclear weapons in an armed conflict.  So, this is one example of how the rules based order, arms control, is undermined by the behaviour of Russia violating the treaty, and it highlights the importance of trying to support and work together to build up again also arms control regime.  We have seen, as I mentioned also, actions by Russia against neighbours, Georgia and Ukraine, and it has been extremely important that Australia has been so clear in showing support, in calling out Russia's unacceptable actions and in promoting the rules based order.  We are also seeing the impact of the rise of China as a stronger economic power, stronger military power, and China's role [inaudible] is another sign of increasing global power competition.  Its economic rise is powering global growth and it's quickly becoming a technological leader in many things.  This brings many opportunities, financially and politically, for Australia, for European countries, for foreign countries all over the world.  But at the same time, it also means that we are faced with some new challenges, and while China represents a very different challenge than Russia, it also…there are some implications for the global rules based order and for our security.  We see this in the South China Sea, in cyberspace and in Chinese investments in critical infrastructure.  So, we need to better understand the consequences of the rise of China, for our security.  And one of the reasons why I think it's important that we work together with countries in this part of the world, with Australia, is actually to help each other to understand and also to deal with the consequences of the rise of China as an economic and military power.  So, an increased great power competition is one of the areas where we see that security is interlinked and where we see the value of working with a country like Australia.  Another area where we see the same kind of challenge is when it comes to fighting terrorism; that’s a truly global challenge and NATO has played a key role in fighting terrorism ever since the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the United States, and we have been in Afghanistan for almost 20 years, together with forces from Australia.  And we do that because it is extremely important to make sure that Afghanistan doesn’t once again become a safe haven for international terrorist, where they can train, plan, organise terrorist attacks on our countries.  And we strongly believe that prevention is better than intervention, so therefore we do whatever we can to try to build local capacity, train local forces so they can stabilise their own countries and fight terrorism themselves.  Therefore, we have turned the mission in Afghanistan, which was a big combat operation with tens of thousands of NATO troops, including Australian troops, as NATO and partner countries, into a train, assist and advise mission, where we train the Afghan forces so they can fight terrorism themselves and stabilise their own country.  The good news is that this has created a condition for… or the reason why NATO is in Afghanistan is to create the conditions for a peaceful, negotiated, political solution.  And the good news is that we are now closer to a political solution, a peace settlement in Afghanistan, than we have ever been before.  And we strongly support the efforts to find a political solution, because we strongly believe that the only lasting solution to the conflict in Afghanistan is a political solution.  Our military presence is to underpin a political and peaceful solution.  Taliban has to understand that they will never win on the battlefield and they have to sit down at the negotiating table, and that’s the reason why we continue our military presence, as our way to support the efforts to find a political solution.  The idea of training local forces as a way to fight terrorism is also the reason why we do training in Iraq.  We have made a lot of progress in the fight against terrorism, especially in Iraq and Syria.  We have to remember that, not so many months ago, ISIS, or Daesh, controlled a territory as big as the United Kingdom in Iraq and Syria.  They were threatening actually Baghdad.  And then, the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, Australia is part of that, NATO is part of that, we have helped to liberate all the territory that ISIS held and therefore we have made significant progress in the fight against terrorism, also in Iraq and Syria.  The fight is not over.  Daesh, or ISIS, is still there, but at least it is a great achievement to make sure that they don’t control any territory anymore.  So, that’s another example of how we work together with Australia in addressing a truly global security challenges… challenge, fighting terrorism. 

The third area I will mention is cyber.  Cyber is really global.  Geography/distance doesn’t matter.  And we have seen more and more cyberattacks, we have seen cyber being used to try to undermine our democratic institutions, interfere in elections, and therefore we need to make sure that we have safe and secure cyber networks.  NATO has done a lot to strengthen our cyber defences.  We have developed rapid response teams on 24/7 standby that can help NATO countries under attack, and we are setting up a cyber operations centre at our Headquarters in Mons, and we have actually decided that cyber is now a domain, military domain, alongside air, sea and land, recognising that cyber is as important as any other element, of a potential armed conflict, and it's absolutely impossible to envisage any kind of military conflict without a very important cyber element.  That’s also an area where we see a great potential for working closer with Australia.  I signed a cooperation programme with the Defence Minister yesterday, and one of the areas we have identified where we can work more closely with Australia is exactly cyber.  So, my message is that, when we face a more unpredictable world, new threats, new challenges, it is even more important that we have strong international institutions and strong partnerships, as we have with Australia, to deal with the consequences of an increased great power competition, international terrorism and threats from cyberspace.  That’s the best way to keep us safe, also in a more uncertain world.  And with that, I thank you for your attention and I'm ready to answer your questions.  Thank you so much.

Moderator: At the 2019 London Summit, which you’ve said will address current and emerging security challenges.  We know that climate change is a threat multiplier and the last time that climate change was referred to in a summit communique was the 2014 Wales Declaration.  You’ve been quite honest about your disagreements in NATO, but you’ve also made the point consistently that disagreements can be overcome.  If the core driver of NATO is to defend and protect its members, then what are the prospects for NATO's climate change agenda?

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: NATO is a political-military Alliance and we, as you said, we know that there are disagreements on different issues, also between NATO Allies, and it's a well-known thing that, for instance when it comes to the Paris Accord, addressing climate change, the agreement that we made back in 2015, there are different views between NATO Allies and at least one Ally has decided not to be part of that agreement. 

I think it is important to understand that NATO is a tool to solve many problems, but NATO is not a tool to solve all problems.  Meaning that the main purpose of NATO is to preserve peace, to create security.  That’s important because peace and security is so important to addressing so many other issues; development but also fighting climate change.  But NATO is not the tool to solve the climate change challenge.  I think that’s, for instance the UN, the Climate Change Negotiations. NATO will not be the tool or the international platform where we make climate change agreements. 

So, we have to understand that the international community have different tools to solve different tasks; NATO's main responsibility is to provide peace and stability, that’s extremely important.  Then there are other important tasks, like climate change, there we use other tools, like for instance especially the UN, to deal with that. 

Having said all that, I think it is important, as you mentioned, to realise that climate change has security implications.  It can force people to move, change the way we live, where we live, and so on, and of course that can fuel conflicts. 

So therefore, climate change matters for NATO Allies and, despite the disagreements on whether the Paris Accord is a good or bad agreement, we all have to realise that there are consequences of climate change.  And for me, it just makes it even more important that NATO is able to deliver peace and stability, because that creates better conditions for the politicians, for the governments of the world to also deal with climate change.

Moderator: Thank you.  We have very limited time, so if we keep the questions really brief and no comments.  Let's fire them away.

Question: My question was does the Eurasian Collective Security Treaty Organisation, which consists of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, pose a significant security challenge to NATO?

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: No.  For many reasons.  Partly because that organisation is not a very strong organisation.  And actually, some of those countries are also actually partners of NATO.  So, we don’t regard that as directed against us. 

Second, Russia is part of that, but we don’t see an imminent threat against any NATO Ally and actually, we try to reduce tensions.  Our main task is to preserve the peace and therefore we continue to work for a better relationship with Russia.  And therefore we don’t regard that as a significant security challenge.

Moderator: Next question, Marcus?

Question: Hi, I'm Marcus Harrington, I'm a student here at ANU and my question is, so Russia and China have worked a bit more closely in recent years through the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.  What sorts of threats does this pose for NATO and countries like Australia?

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: I don’t use the word threat, because I think that we have to realise that, for instance come to China, there is a potential for working together.  There is a potential for also benefiting from the rise of China, with a stronger economy; it's important for our trade, for our economies, for our exports.  And. as I also said, we don’t see any imminent threat stemming from Russia either. 

We see some challenges.  We see some questions related to the rise of China and also a more assertive behaviour of Russia, and we are dealing with that, partly through strengthening NATO, partly by investing more in defence and making sure that we are able to deliver credible deterrence and defence every day.  Because the main purpose of NATO is that we stand together and protect each other.  Meaning that if one Ally is attacked we regard that as an attack against all Allies.  It's one for all and all for one.  

And by sending that message every day in a credible way to any potential adversary, we don’t sort of point at any particular, then we don’t provoke conflict, but we prevent the conflict.  So, for us, it's not about establishing enemies or adversaries, it's about just sending a signal to everyone that we are safe, we are secure, because we stand together and we protect each other.  And therefore, NATO is the most successful Alliance in history because we have been able to prevent any or all Allies from being attacked, and especially for European nations that’s a very unique situation.  It's an unprecedented period of peace in Europe we have seen since the Second World War and it's not only because of NATO, but NATO has been extremely important in making that happen.

Moderator: Thank you.  Next question?  Ladies?  Front with the glasses.

Question: Hi, I'm Daniel. I'm a student at ANU.  In China's 2019 … [inaudible] White Paper, they’ve stated the renewal of the No First Use policy in their nuclear posture.  However, with China's continual advancements in nuclear capability, will NATO at some point question this credibility?

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: I think what we have seen is that China has invested heavily in new nuclear… new military capabilities, including in new nuclear capabilities, new nuclear weapons.  For instance, China has developed and deployed many, many intermediate-range weapons, so weapons that would have been prohibited by the INF Treaty, if they had been part of the treaty.  And that’s a paradox; that the INF Treaty which we have regarded as a very important treaty, it only covered the United States and Russia, or the Soviet Union originally back in… because it was signed in 1987, and at that time China didn’t have so many nuclear weapons.  Now, they have more and more nuclear weapons, including intermediate- range weapons. 

So, that’s the reason why several Allies, including the United States, have argued in favour of establishing or developing a new regime or a new way of addressing arms control, which is not only about bilateral agreements between Russia and the United States, but which includes also China.  I'm not saying that this is easy, but I think that it is the right thing. 

I will not speculate so much about the credibility of China's No First Use strategy.  What I will say is that, as long as there are nuclear weapons in the world, NATO will remain a nuclear Alliance.  NATO's aim is a world without nuclear weapons.  We all see the danger, the potential, devastating effects of any use of nuclear weapons.  So we strive for a world without nuclear weapons.  But that has to be achieved by a balanced, verifiable, controlled reduction of nuclear weapons.  It cannot be achieved by unilateral nuclear disarmament by NATO countries. Because a country, or a world where China, Russia, North Korea and so on have nuclear weapons, while NATO has none, then that’s not a safe world.  So, we strive for nuclear disarmament, but it has to be balanced and verifiable.  And as long as there are nuclear weapons, NATO will remain a nuclear Alliance.

Moderator: Great, thanks.  At the back?

Question: Hi. Thank you for your comments earlier.  NATO has been at the forefront of investment in cyber security. Does it take an event like 2007 to make that a … [inaudible] Alliance's priority.

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: When you refer to 2007, you're thinking about the attacks against Estonia, yeah?  No, cyber was on the NATO agenda also before 2007.  Estonia is a NATO Ally that was under heavy cyber-attack in 2007.  I remember that very well because at that time I was Prime Minister of Norway and Estonia is a close, almost neighbour, at least they are part of the Nordic-Baltic Group and I remember I met with the Estonian Prime Minister.  He told me how actually the whole society was under attack and it demonstrated the vulnerabilities, when it comes to cyber and cyber-attacks. 

But the 2007 attacks against Estonia triggered focused and increased efforts related to cyber defence, because it demonstrated how vulnerable we are.  So, it was a very bad situation. The only good thing to say is that it made us able to do more and since then we have really stepped up our efforts and what we do to protect our networks, and also protect our societies, against cyber-attacks.

Moderator: Great, thanks. 

Question: Hi.  Following the conclusion of any US-Taliban negotiations and presumably the withdrawal of US forces, do you envisage any ongoing NATO commitment to Afghanistan?

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: To be honest, it's a bit too early to answer that question.  It is a possibility. First of all, we don’t know if and when there is a deal. Of course that deal, that agreement will have consequences for the presence of NATO and US troops, and Australia troops, in Afghanistan. 

Since the deal is not agreed yet, it's a bit early to say now exactly what kind of consequences, what kind of drawdown and what kind of reduction and how fast and so on.  We are prepared for the fact that a deal with reduce the NATO presence, the presence of international troops in Afghanistan. 

Then I believe that there at least may be a need for continued presence, in one way or another.  That has to of course been in accordance with the agreement and we will only stay in Afghanistan if we are invited to stay in Afghanistan.  But at least there is a possibility for that because I think that, even if there is an agreement between Taliban and the United States, and supported by NATO Allies, there will still be other terrorist groups in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda, ISIS.  And there is a need to fight those groups.  And it's absolutely possible to foresee a situation where there will be a need for continued international support from NATO countries and partners, in helping Afghanistan to fight those groups.

But it's a bit early because first we don’t know what kind of agreement there will be; second, any presence of NATO is dependent on the agreement and that we are welcome by the Afghan government.

Moderator: Great.  At the front here?

Question: Thanks.  Ben Hewitt from the Royal Australian Navy.  You mentioned a few issues that are global in nature and some things that have been on the agenda recently. One of those issues is space.  I'm interested in what the… what's the challenge involved in negotiating space policy between NATO member states, that have diverse interests in the space arm and what opportunities do you see for collaboration between Australia and NATO in outer space?

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Space is extremely important and we just agreed - when was that, I think it was in June - the framework for a NATO Space Policy.  Different NATO Allies have of course a space policy, but this is the first time NATO as an alliance have agreed and established a space policy.  This is a framework, so we will fill it with content and different activities as we move on. 

This is not about militarisation of space, but it's about recognising the importance of satellites for our communications. What’s happening in space is extremely important for what's going on on earth.  Tracking forces, early warning of missile attacks, all kinds of communications, surveillance, all that, navigation, GPS, all of that is dependent on space capabilities.

And therefore to protect them, to make sure that we work together in addressing some of these challenges, we have established this space policy.  We have also an absolutely open mind to work together with Australia in addressing some of these issues and challenges related to space.

Moderator: Great, thanks.  Just in the middle.

Question: My question is do you think Huawei is a threat to cyber security?

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: So, we are now in the process of revising what we call NATO's Resilience Guidelines and especially the guideline on telecommunication.  NATO has different resilience guidelines.  The aim of these guidelines is to ensure that we have safe and secure, resilient infrastructure, including telecommunications, and we are now in the process of revising the guideline on telecommunications.  Also to make it relevant and updated in light of the 5G issue.  And we haven’t concluded that work yet. 

There is always the belief that we will name different companies, but what we most likely do is to establish a kind of minimum standards for the safety, the security, the resilience of our 5G networks, and then make sure that these are agreed by all NATO Allies.  And that’s the best way also to make sure that different NATO Allies, not necessarily have exactly identical approach, but at least have some kind of minimum common approach to the issue related to 5G.  Because 5G is extremely important.  It will affect all sides of life, whatever we do, or at least almost all activities, from healthcare to industrial production, to communications to energy. And, therefore, it is important that we make sure that we have secure and resilient networks. 

Different NATO Allies are now addressing this issue.  I don’t think any of them have named specific companies, but of course they have set standards which not all companies in the world are able to meet.

Moderator: Right at the back.

Question: Thanks for coming.  I just want to ask you, is there a future for an Arab-NATO Alliance, and if so, which region, which side would you choose, in terms of like the … [inaudible]?

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: An Arab-NATO…

Question: An Arab-NATO Alliance.

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Arab-NATO?  We have several Arabic countries which are partners of NATO, especially in North Africa, but also a country like Iraq for instance, and we are working closely with them.  But there is not a specific NATO-Arabic Alliance.  But there are several countries, Arabic countries, which are close partners of NATO.  We have something called the Mediterranean Dialogue, that’s not an Arabic thing, but it involves the countries in North Africa and also Jordan.  And as I said, for instance, Iraq is a partner; we work with Iraq in the fight against Daesh and also work for instance with Jordan, in helping to stabilise the region.  So yes, we are working with Arabic countries, but there is no prospect of a NATO-Arabic Alliance.

Moderator: Right.  Final two questions, one at the front and one right at the back.

Question: Hi, thank you for coming.  MacCallum Johnson from Strategic and Defence Studies Centre.  Many in our defence force are saying that artificial intelligence, like cyber, is a new frontier in kind of the big issues that are happening around the world.  What is NATO currently doing to engage with artificial intelligence?  And is there any capacity for us to engage with you on that?

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: The answer is yes. There is absolutely the potential to work together with Australia on the development of disruptive or new emerging technologies, as artificial intelligence.  And again, the Cooperation Programme I signed with the Defence Minister yesterday mentioned development of capabilities, also technology, as an area where we can work together.  You have also some excellent scientists, some very qualified people, who can also really contribute to development of different types of technology. 

Second, the fact that we are now investing more in defence means that we are also investing more in new, very advanced military capabilities, and artificial intelligence will become more and more an integrated part of that.  The issue is of course to make sure that, when we develop new systems, we do that in a way which is in accordance with international law. And of course that we also realise it also raises some ethical issues. We need to try to develop some norms for how we deal with these kind of new weapons systems, including autonomous weapons and other weapons, which will change the nature of conflict as fundamentally as the industrial revolution changed the nature of conflict before the First World War.  So, we have just seen the beginning of a fundamental change of how weapon systems are working.

Moderator: And to wrap us up with questions, at the back.

Question: Hi, I'm Colleen from the Department of Defence.  Just going back to the discussion about … [inaudible] agreement you signed yesterday, one of the things that came out of it was the potential options for NATO engaging more in the Pacific, and just going back to the first question, about climate change is one of the biggest security… or the biggest security threat countries and I was just wondering how you'd imagine NATO engaging in the Pacific playing out?

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: As I  mentioned in the introduction, I have been a UN climate envoy and, in my capacity as a Norwegian politician, I worked on climate change for many, many years, and actually my first political position was to be Deputy Minister for Environment, back in 1990. We prepared the first Rio Conference in 1992 that agreed the Climate Change Convention, which is the convention that is the basis for all the different protocols, the Kyoto Protocol and also the agreement in Paris. 

And I believe that climate change is really serious and we have less and less time to be able to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases. The reality is that we have to find a combination of mitigation, reducing emissions, and adaptation.  Adapting to the fact that the temperature is rising, and there are potentially extremely serious consequences of climate change. 

I think that, as with many other … when I was young, which is many years ago, then climate change was not a big environmental issue.  We hardly knew about it in the 70s and actually even the beginning of the 80s.  Then the big issue was acid rain, emissions of sulphur.  It was the ozone layer, the hole in the ozone layer.  It was a lot of emissions from… you know, with poison from industry or… yeah, polluting water and so on.  Lead from gasoline; in many big cities, all over the world, emission of lead from gasoline, from cars, was a big environmental problem.  Now, all these environmental problems, at least in countries like Australia, Europe and so on, they have been absolutely solved or mitigated, or at least we are very close to doing that. 

So, the big environmental problems from the past have been solved, in a way hardly anyone believed was possible.  The destruction of the ozone layer was really scary in the 80s.  And now there are hardly any emissions of ozone… destroying gases anymore.  I say this because the way we have been able to solve is by introducing new and very advanced technologies. 

And I strongly believe that it is possible also to solve the global warming and address climate change, through the development of technology.  To do that, we need to use the market forces, and the best way of doing that is to price carbon emissions, because then it will become extremely expensive, or expensive to pollute, and very profitable to develop new and clean technologies. 

This is not a NATO position because NATO, as I said, is not the platform, not the international tool to address these issues.  That’s, as I said, other international bodies, especially the UN.  So, in the capacity as Secretary General of NATO, I am not working on, for instance, pricing of carbon.  That’s for others to deal with.  But I think that NATO has to realise that there are, as I also said, some potential security consequences of global warming. 

NATO is analysing and looking into the consequences of the security changes we see, also in the Pacific region, for our security. But that’s not directly linked to the issue of climate change. That’s something we do based on the more traditional issues and challenges we are faced with in the military and security domain.

Moderator: Great.