Joint press point

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with Romanian Prime Minister Dacian Cioloș and US Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work following the Aegis Ashore operationalisation ceremony at Deveselu base, Romania

  • 12 May. 2016 -
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  • Last updated: 13 May. 2016 16:45

This is an important day for NATO and for transatlantic security.

The Aegis Ashore site in Romania we have just inaugurated will further boost our ability to counter the threat we face from ballistic missiles.

The threat to NATO Allies from missiles outside the Euro-Atlantic area is real.

Several countries are seeking to develop or acquire them.

Our missile defence programme represents a long-term investment against this long-term threat. NATO Allies made the decision to develop this system at the Lisbon Summit in 2010. And we have been making steady progress since then.

Our system is not directed against Russia. It is purely defensive. And it will not undermine Russia’s strategic deterrence. Geography and physics make that impossible. The NATO system cannot shoot down Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles from here in Romania or from Poland.

Our system is designed to tackle threats from outside the Euro-Atlantic area.

We have made this clear to Russia many times. 

And we will continue to engage in dialogue with Russia when and where we can.

Keeping channels for communication open is even more important in times of tensions.

Ballistic missile defence is an important part of NATO’s defence and deterrence.

Because NATO will defend all Allies against any threat.

And we will take further steps to do so at our Summit in Warsaw in July.

So let me once again thank the United States and Romania for their key contribution to our collective defence. 

MODERATOR: Gentleman thank you very much we’ll start the questions with Gregish Sasu (sic) of Digitoni Corp (sic).

Q: Speaking in Romanian.

TRANSLATOR: A question for the Prime Minister.

Q: Speaking in Romanian.

TRANSLATOR: I’d like to ask you what the position of the government of Romania is regarding the recent reactions of various Russian Federation officials regarding this project.

Q: Speaking in Romanian.

TRANSLATOR: Reactions which are not in favour of this project and the second question.

Q: Speaking in Romanian.

TRANSLATOR: How will Romania take part in the defense of the base of Deveselu?

DACIAN CIOLOS (Romanian Prime Minister): Speaking in Romanian.

TRANSLATOR: As was emphasized here today by our American friends and by the NATO Secretary General.

DACIAN CIOLOS: Speaking in Romanian.

TRANSLATOR: This system is not directed against Russia.

DACIAN CIOLOS: Speaking in Romanian.

TRANSLATOR: Then I must emphasis the fact once more that this is not an offensive system it is a defensive system.

DACIAN CIOLOS: Speaking in Romanian.

TRANSLATOR: It is legitimate for any country to allocate resources and to defend itself.

DACIAN CIOLOS: Speaking in Romanian.

TRANSLATOR: And I’d like to thank our U.S. partners one more time for making this decision.

DACIAN CIOLOS: Speaking in Romanian.

TRANSLATOR: And I hope that NATO will integrate this system in its own NATO defense system.

DACIAN CIOLOS: Speaking in Romanian.

TRANSLATOR: Experts can tell you that this is a defensive system and is definitely not directed against Russia.

DACIAN CIOLOS: Speaking in Romanian.

TRANSLATOR: Regarding the participation of Romania in the defense of this facility there is a protocol in place that clearly stipulates what the role of Romania is in defending this site.

MODERATOR: Thank you. We’ll go next to Gordon Lubold from the Wall Street Journal.

Q: Hi, thank you. Despite the assurances you provided, Mr. Secretary this question is for you, to Russia Moscow still doesn’t believe the assurances. My question is are you worried that this move today further aggravates Moscow to the point where it will be harder to negotiate with them diplomatically over things like Syria and counter-terrorism and the like?

ROBERT WORK (U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense): Well I would hope not. The idea of this type of Ballistic Missile Defense site pre-dates the Obama Administration. I was the Under Secretary of the Navy in 2009 when we were deciding on how to go forward with the ideas that originated and I can tell you I was in on every single decision make, decision making step along that way and Russia never came into the conversation. It was never ever about Russia it was always about Ballistic Missiles coming out of the Middle Eastern Region towards NATO allies and U.S. Forces in Europe. And I’d just like to echo what the Secretary General has said. We have offered to the Russians to show them the technical specs, we have done everything we can to try to make sure that they understand the capability of the system and why it does not pose any type of a threat to their strategic deterrence. So I would hope that communications remain open between us and that we continue to work through issues that we disagree on but I hope that it’s not the case and I’m not certain that the Secretary General has a following.

JENS STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General): I would just echo what you just said in a way that this about missile defense and therefore it’s about defense and our system cannot undermine or weaken Russia’s strategic deterrent and we cannot shoot down their Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles with interceptors from neither the site in Romania or the site we are building in Poland. And that’s about physics and about geography because the interceptors are too few and the sites are either too far south or too close to Russia to be able to shoot down Russian Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. So this Ballistic Missile Defense, it’s for defense. It’s defensive and it’s not about Russia it’s about defending ourselves against threats outside the Euro-Atlantic area.

MODERATOR: Next we’ll go to Robin Emmott of Reuters.

Q: Thank you very much. Question for the Deputy Defense Secretary. We’ve been repeatedly told by U.S. officials that the site here and the site in Poland will develop their capabilities over time. Does that mean that one day these sites could have the technology to defend against Russian short and medium range ballistic missiles? Thank you.

ROBERT WORK: That is not the intent of this site. This site is basically designed for intermediate range and long range ballistic missiles that are emanating primarily from the Middle East and there is no intent for us to go for shorter missile, I mean defense against shorter missiles. This is for the broader defense against a threat that is outside the Euro-Atlantic area of operations. So there is no plans at all to do that.

MODERATOR: Next we’ll go to Elainey Panayatu (sic) of Independent News It (sic).

Q: This is a question to both Secretary General and Deputy Secretary Work. We heard that the BMD is not actually a hundred percent effective because it is not a shield so how effective is it and should there be an obligation for NATO countries to contribute to improve the system?

JENS STOLTENBERG: First of all this is the most advanced, the most comprehensive possible Missile Defense System that we can have in a way that this is very sophisticated, very advanced system and we have never seen anything like this in the world before. Second, it is developed because over a long period of time have seen the the proliferation of ballistic missiles. Countries not so far from NATO are in the process of developing their Ballistic Missile Systems and also trying to acquire this kind of system. So therefore we are investing in, we are making a long term investment facing a long term threat and and this is really vital and it’s key and it’s really enhancing our ability to defend NATO allies against those ballistic missile threats.

ROBERT WORK: Ballistic Missile Defense is one of the most technically challenging operations that you can imagine. It’s like hitting a bullet with a bullet. The way we determine the (inaudible) through a series of tests and demonstrations we develop what is called a probability of kill of a single shot and if the probability of the kill is to low we will take two shots at the incoming missile. So we believe this is an extremely effective system. Sometimes we’ll take just one shot, sometimes we’ll take two. But we believe very strongly in its ability to knock down incoming ballistic missiles into the area. Now to your second question was should NATO allies help build a system up over time and that’s already happening as the Secretary General said. There is an early warning radar in Turkey which tells this radar where to look in the sky. There is a command centre in Germany that tries to determine when and what type of shots you should take against incoming missiles. There are four ballistic missile destroyers that Spain hosts at Rota and those forces have the same interceptors that you find here. The United Kingdom is developing a radar that looks very very far and helps cover the northern countries and both the Netherlands and I think Denmark, is that right Mr. Secretary General?


ROBERT WORK: Are improving theirs. And I would expect that to happen over time. This is a system of systems that protects NATO and every time you add a new part that makes the whole system better I would imagine that that will continue over time.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Next question from Christian Pontazi (sic) of (inaudible) News.

Q: Mr. Secretary General (inaudible) is not going to have a (inaudible) and Navy presence in the Black Sea as Romania requested, and how is it going to function?

JENS STOLTENBERG: So we have already increased our naval presence in the Black Sea and we did so because we agreed that after the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia and the destabilizing behaviour of Russia in Eastern Ukraine supporting the separatists we decided to implement what we call assurance measures in the Eastern part of the alliance. And part of these assurance measures is increased naval presence in the Black Sea. It’s more exercises and we are now assessing what more we can do. And I discussed with the President this morning exactly how we are now looking in to, what more we can do to make sure that we have sufficient military presence both on land but also in the Black Sea but at the same time reminding ourselves or understanding that there’s a close link between presence and the ability to re-enforce and NATO has increased its ability to re-enforce if needed. We have tripled the size of the NATO response force. We have established a High Readiness Joint Task Force and this together is the answer we have given to the behaviour of a more assertive Russia. So, yes increased presence has already been implemented, implemented and we are looking into what more we can do and we will make decisions at our Summit in Warsaw when it comes to presence and re-enforcement.

MODERATOR: Sir, thanks…

DACIAN CIOLOS: Speaking in Romanian.

TRANSLATOR: Of course this was the initiative of Romania and Romania has been forthcoming in trying to initiate a large NATO presence in the Black Sea.

DACIAN CIOLOS: Speaking in Romanian.

TRANSLATOR: We are aware that in order for this to happen we need the involvement of other allies and partners, Romania is not enough.

DACIAN CIOLOS: Speaking in Romanian.

TRANSLATOR: And we have fairly advanced talks with our neighbours in Bulgaria and our friends in Turkey to advance this idea.

DACIAN CIOLOS: Speaking in Romanian.

TRANSLATOR: Once this presence is built we hope to have the cooperation and participation of other allies and I have to emphasize that this presence would be exercise only.

DACIAN CIOLOS: Speaking in Romanian.

TRANSLATOR: And our intent is to submit this proposal to the Warsaw Summit and this is something that I’ve talked to the President and to the NATO Secretary General.

ROBERT WORK: And if I could, yesterday in Bucharest when I met with the President and the Minister of Defense and the Minister of Foreign Affairs it was a bittersweet day because we buried two Romanian comrades in arms yesterday who lost their lives in Afghanistan. And so once again I would just like to extend the condolences of the entire Department of Defense Mr. Prime Minister to the people of Romania and to the Armed Forces of Romania. As this is a technological marvel but the people, the things that make it work are people, men and women and they’re the ones who bear the most sacrifice of what we do and I would just like to salute the two brave warriors who lost their lives in Afghanistan and to extend my condolences to the people of Romania.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. I’m afraid that’s all we have time for. Thanks very much for coming gentlemen. Thank you very much for your time.