Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the second day of the Meeting of NATO Ministers of Defence

  • 22 Oct. 2021 -
  • |
  • Last updated 26-Oct-2021 11:52

(As delivered)

Good afternoon.

Defence ministers met today in the Nuclear Planning Group.
Our security environment continues to deteriorate.
So our consultations are essential to ensure that NATO remains a credible nuclear Alliance as long as nuclear weapons exist.
To preserve peace, prevent coercion and deter aggression.

Today, Allies also signed an agreement to establish a NATO Innovation Fund.

I expect this fund to invest 1 billion euros with innovators across the Alliance working on emerging and disruptive technologies.

New technologies are reshaping our world and our security. 

NATO’s new Innovation Fund will ensure Allies do not miss out on the latest technology and capabilities that will be critical to our security.

The NATO Innovation Fund is one part of a bigger picture. 
In tandem, NATO is building a Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic – what we call “DIANA”.

As part of DIANA, Allies are committed to provide a network of technology test centres and accelerator sites across the Alliance,
to better harness civilian innovation for our security. 
And strengthen the technological bond between Europe and North America.

We need to ensure that Allies are able to operate the different technologies seamlessly, between their forces, and with each other. 

At this ministerial, we also took another important decision for NATO’s adaptation.
Allies have agreed our first Artificial Intelligence strategy. 

It will set standards for responsible use of artificial intelligence, in accordance with international law.
Outline how we will accelerate the adoption of artificial intelligence in what we do.
Set out how we will protect this technology.
And address the threats posed by the use of artificial intelligence by adversaries.

We also met our close partners Finland and Sweden, and the European Union.

NATO-EU cooperation has already reached unprecedented levels.
In cyber space, we exchange information on threats and vulnerabilities in real time.
In the Aegean Sea, our maritime mission works with the EU to implement their agreement with Turkey.
And in Kosovo, NATO troops stand shoulder to shoulder with EU diplomats to bring peace and stability to the region.

I hope to strengthen our cooperation in other areas, such as military mobility, resilience, emerging and disruptive technologies, and the security impact of climate change.

I look forward to a new joint declaration on NATO-EU relations,
which will set out areas for future cooperation.
We must ensure that our approach to security remains coherent.

I welcome the EU’s increased efforts on defence.
NATO has been calling on European Allies to invest more and provide more high-end capabilities for many years.
But these efforts should not duplicate NATO. 
What is needed is more capabilities, not new structures.

Our transatlantic alliance remains the bedrock for our security.

And Europe and North America will continue to stand strong together in NATO, as we face a more competitive world.

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

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu:
Okay, we'll go to the middle of the third row AFP.

1. Paul Handley (AFP):

I started to change the subject a little bit, but last night, President Joe Biden said that the US has a commitment to defend Taiwan against China. Are your Members concerned that NATO could be dragged into a conflict with the US on based on a US commitment like that?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:
I will not speculate about a hypothetical situation. I think what is important now is to reduce tensions in the area.  And if I started to speculate, I think I actually will contribute to the opposite. So we should solve all disputes and differences and disagreements in the region by political and diplomatic means.

NATO Spokesperson: VG

2. Alf Bjarne Johnsen (VG):

Thank you. Mr. Secretary General, you've said yesterday that Norway's new approach to enter meetings on the nuclear ban treaty that will be addressed in this meeting, so what can you tell us?

NATO Secretary General:
Well, I will not go into the details of our internal discussions, but we had good and constructive deliberations today, covering a wide range of nuclear issues, our nuclear posture, and also including the ban treaty. And it is important that the Allies consult, especially on these issues because they are all such great importance for all Allies.  And the importance of consultations was very much underlined during the meeting.

NATO Spokesperson:
Ok. We go there.

3. Mikal Hem (Norwegian Defence News):

Yesterday, President Vladimir Putin said that, Lloyd Austin's recent visit to Ukraine opened up for NATO membership and that would be threats to Russia.  Should we be worried about that?

NATO Secretary General:
No. Partly because NATO is a defensive alliance, and partly because it is for Ukraine, and 30 NATO Allies to decide when Ukraine is ready to join the Alliance.

No other country has any right to intervene, or to have any say in that process because Ukraine is a sovereign, independent nation. And sovereign, independent nations have the right to choose their own path.  And therefore, it is up to Ukraine to decide that they aspire for NATO membership.  And then of course for 30 Allies to decide when Ukraine is ready, when Ukraine meets the NATO standards.

So the enlargement of NATO over the last decades actually contributed to peace, stability throughout Europe, and therefore, there is no way that Russia should be afraid of, or have any right to try to veto or to stop any sovereign nation from joining the alliance.

NATO Spokesperson: Ok. Another from NPR - Deutsche Welle.

4. Teri Schultz (NPR):

Hi, thank you very much. Teri Schultz.  Was there talk about Turkeys possible threat to buy fighter jets from Russia being cut off now by the US over the S- 400 program. I mean how much concern does this cause you even if that wasn't specifically discussed here that not only did Turkey not turn away from the S-400 deal, but that it may be looking toward Moscow for even more armaments. Thanks.

NATO Secretary General:
This was not an issue discussed in this meeting. I have, NATO Allies have many times underlined that of course, defence procurements are national decisions.  What matters for NATO is that new capabilities are interoperable with NATO.  And as I've stated before the S400 is a Russian system, and it is not something we can integrate into the integrated air and missile defence systems of NATO and it’s not interoperable with NATO defence systems.  That has been the message and therefore we also looked into how we can support efforts to find alternative systems, and this work continues.

NATO Spokesperson: Defense News

5. Joe Gould (Defense News):

Thank you Joe Gould from Defense News. On nuclear issues, President Biden indicated before taking office, he believes the sole purpose of the US nuclear arsenal is deterring or retaliating against nuclear attack. With the US nuclear posture review underway, what are Allies saying about a potential sole, purpose or ‘no-first-use’ policy would that be wise? And what new nuclear investments were discussed?

NATO Secretary General:
Well, at the meeting in the Nuclear Planning Group we discussed a wide range of issues.  And I think this group and this format is important because it demonstrates that NATO is the platform where Allies can consult on these issues, which are important for all Allies.

And declaratory policies and the US nuclear policy review, of course, matters for the United States, but it matters also for all Allies, for the whole Alliance.

And that's exactly why we need to consult, and that was the main message on all these issues,
that we need to consult we need to develop common positions and speak with one voice,
because what matters is that we remain strong and united on all issues,
but especially when it comes to nuclear issues.

So Allies welcomed that Secretary Austin updated and consulted with Allies on this issue. And I also know that Secretary Austin also will be here after me, so of course he can then say more about what he said.  But Allies agreed and we welcome that we continue to consult on a wide range of issues including nuclear posture.

NATO Spokesperson: Suddeutsche Zeitung

6. Paul-Anton Krueger (Suddeutsche Zeitung):

Secretary General, quick follow up on that from a German perspective.
Two of the three parties that are currently negotiating to form a government have in a past called for the withdrawal of fuse tactical nuclear weapons from German soil. The third party, the Liberals had a Foreign Minister 10 years ago, who already tried to do this once.
What effect would it have, if the German government would, the new German government would call on the withdrawal of US tactical nuclear weapons from Germany?

NATO Secretary General:
It's not for me to go into those negotiations, but what I can say is that the nuclear sharing arrangements in NATO, they are important for the whole Alliance and especially for the European Allies.  Because that is the way to ensure that we all are part of NATO's nuclear deterrence, that European Allies have a say, that they sit around the same table, and are able to also take responsibility, but also have a say, when it comes to how to develop NATO's nuclear deterrence.

NATO's goal is a world without nuclear weapons. But as long as other countries retain their nuclear weapons, we will remain a nuclear alliance.  Because we don't believe that the world where Russia, China, and countries like North Korea have nuclear weapons, and we do not, is a safer world.
And, the European nuclear, or the NATO nuclear sharing arrangements also is a tried and tested structure. It's  a way to have command and control and actually have all Allies on board when it comes to something which is of great importance for the Alliance.

So, NATO has many times stated clearly the importance of this, and that remains my position, and the position of the NATO Allies as we agreed in June at the NATO Summit this year.

NATO Spokesperson: Politico

7. David Herszenhorn (Politico):

Thanks very much, David Herszenhorn with Politico. 
I wonder if you could update us on after your conversations with the EU about the status of the new NATO-EU declaration?
We know that France in particular among Allies is calling for much more concrete demonstrations of partnership, not just statements. 
At the same time, you mentioned the importance of the nuclear planning group and we know that France does not participate in the Nuclear Planning Group and yet is now the only EU nation with a nuclear arsenal.  So does that diminish the value that you see in the nuclear planning group? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General:
No, the nuclear remains important.  And it's a French decision to not be part of that.  And they're not being part of that for many, many years. So that has not changed.

We have the nuclear powers in NATO, United States, United Kingdom and France.  And then two of them are part of the nuclear planning group with the rest of the Allies. And then it's a French decision that they don't want to be part of that and of course that's a decision we fully respect, but nothing has changed recently regarding that's status and the way France is contributing to NATO also when it comes to nuclear deterrence.

I think it is very important that we now are working on a Third Joint Declaration between NATO and the European Union. I had the privilege of agreeing to the two previous declarations with the President Junker and President Tusk back in 2016 and 2018.  I welcome now this opportunity to also work on a new, on a third Joint Declaration with the president Ursula von der Leyen and President Charles Michel. 

These declarations are important because they shape the framework for our cooperation. 

Then there is a lot of follow on work, and we also identified a lot of areas as a follow up of the previous declarations, like for instance military mobility, maritime security, cyber, hybrid and many other areas where NATO and the EU are working together, we do a lot together.

I mentioned for instance Kosovo where NATO soldiers, support the efforts of European diplomats or EU diplomats, at the GNC, where we have the NATO naval deployment or presence, and, of course cyber, sharing real time information, and many other areas where work together.

So I think the time has come to make a Third Declaration to update, to set out the ambitions for, how to further strengthen NATO-EU cooperation.  We share the same values, we share the same challenges, we share the same neighbourhood, and of course to a large extent we also share the same members.  More than 90% of the people living in the European Union, they live in a NATO country. So it absolutely makes sense that we work together. And I have discussed this, both with President Charles Michel and President von der Leyen, and the aim is to agree on a new joint declaration in December by the end of the year.

NATO Spokesperson
We have time for two very quick questions, one in the room here, gentleman in the middle, and then we'll try to take one last online.

8. Lucas Tomilson (FOX News):

Lucas Tomilson, FoxNews, Mr. Secretary General, are you happy that NATO forces are out of Afghanistan so you can focus on China?

NATO Secretary General:
That was a very difficult decision to decide to end the twenty years of military presence in Afghanistan, but we made it together, after extensive consultations. The alternative was to continue to stay in an open ended military mission, and risking more violence, more casualties and also most likely we would have been forced to increase the number of NATO troops.

Then of course what has happened in Afghanistan is a tragedy for Afghan people, and it's heart-breaking for all of us who have supported Afghanistan for all these years. Now, we are consulting NATO Allies and partners on how we can continue to hold the Taliban regime accountable for what they have promised on terrorism, not to make Afghanistan a safe haven for international terrorists again, and what they have promised on human rights, and also on safe passage.

We continue to work on how to get people out. NATO Allies, of course the United States, but also all the NATO Allies were able to evacuate more than 120.000 people. NATO played a key role with our civilian presence at the airport coordinating efforts. And we're also now working on resettling those Afghans we were able to get out of Afghanistan, and actually have made significant progress over the last weeks and days. And I also thank those Allies who accepted to resettle thousands of Afghans who have supported us in different ways, and their families over the last years.

Then what we have seen in NATO in the last years, it's actually a fundamental shift, and where we are now re-focusing our efforts on collective defence to respond to a more competitive world, state-to-state rivalry. And that of course includes the rise of China, which is fundamentally changing the global balance of power.  And in parallel with that we have gradually reduced the resources, the soldiers, the personnel, we have in missions beyond our borders, like for instance Afghanistan.  But this actually started before the latest decision to end our mission, because not so many years ago we had more than 140.000 troops in Afghanistan, then a year ago it was like around 10.000, and now it is zero.
So, there has been a development over at least since 2014, where we have significantly increased our military presence, readiness in Europe, with the new battlegroups in the eastern part of the Alliance, we're tripling the size of the NATO Response Force to more than 40.000, increasing defense spending by all Allies,  all European Allies and Canada, and investing in high-end military capabilities, collective defense, investing in technology, resilience, the new Innovation Fund we established today.

All of this is part of our broader fundamental shift of the Alliance, where we focus more and more efforts into collective defence to respond to a more competitive and more dangerous world. And that's exactly why NATO is changing because the world is changing.

NATO Spokesperson:
One very quick, I am sorry, we have one very final question online from Radio Television of Montenegro, Ivan Mijanovic.

9. Ivan Mijanovic (Radio and Television of Montenegro):

Thank you very much. Actually I got a question about alleged mistrust in Montenegro is a NATO partner. There were some allegations that during the NATO Summit in June, there was unofficially that said that the Alliance should not share all the information with the new government of Montenegro because of the influence that Serbia and Russia have on it. So could you confirm this? Were there any concerns about the information-sharing with Montenegro? Thank you very much.

NATO Secretary General:
Montenegro joined NATO not so many years ago, and Montenegro is highly valued Ally. Montenegro contributes to global shared security in many different ways, and I also appreciated the presence of the Defence Minister of Montenegro at our meeting yesterday and today at the NATO Defence Ministers meeting here in Brussels.
NATO has very strict security protocols on for instance sharing of information. I cannot go into the details about these protocols but again, I can just assure that we are able to share information in, in a secure and safe way.

NATO Spokesperson:
Thank you very much. This concludes this press conference. Have a good afternoon.

NATO Secretary General:
Thank you.