by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Munich Security Conference
It’s good to see you all.
I’m glad to be back here at the Munich Security Conference. It’s an important platform for defence and security issues. I am coming directly from the NATO ministerial meeting in Brussels where we addressed a wide range of pressing security issues including Russia’s continued violation of the INF Treaty. This Treaty is important because it has banned all intermediate-range land based systems in the whole world for decades. Russia’s violation is something which we take very seriously and all Allies continue to call on Russia to come back into compliance with the INF Treaty.
We also addressed burden-sharing in NATO, in the North Atlantic partnership and I welcome that fact that European Allies and Canada are stepping up. Since 2016 they’ve added 41 billion extra US dollars for defence spending and we expect that number to increase to 100 billion dollars by the end of next year.
I also had the pleasure of welcoming the Republic of North Macedonia at the table during the ministerial and it was great to welcome defence minister, deputy prime minister Radmila Shekerinska at the meeting, because now we have signed the accession protocol for North Macedonia. And therefore they are now participating in the meetings.
I think I’ll stop there and then I’m ready to take some questions.
QUESTION: What do you expect from Foreign Minister Lavrov concerning the INF Treaty? And also, will you be looking for what he’s going to say about global security in a world where the Treaty does not any longer exist?
SECRETARY GENERAL: It is important to meet with Russia, and to discuss also the difficult issues, including the violation of the INF Treaty. Dialogue is always important, but especially when tensions are high, as they are now. I expect the INF issue to be, of course, one of the main issues to be addressed during the meeting. Because all Allies are extremely concerned about the continued Russian violation of this treaty. That Russia continues to deploy new missiles in Europe, nuclear-capable missiles, which are hard to detect and which reduce the warning time and any potential use of weapons, nuclear weapons, in an armed conflict.
What we are focused on now, the main message from NATO now, is that Russia must come back into compliance. And there is a six month window, because the withdrawal process will take six months. And therefore Russia has an opportunity to come back into compliance. And that’s the best and the most effective way to save the INF Treaty. We are preparing, of course, for a world without the INF Treaty and with more Russian missiles. I will not prejudge the outcome of this process, but what I can say is that we will respond as an alliance together. We will be measured. And we have no intention of deploying new land-based nuclear missiles in Europe. So the INF issue is of course something that will be important during the whole Munich conference, because it affects the security of the whole of Europe and North America.
QUESTION: The organizers of this conference say that there’s a risk of the international system, rules-based system, falling apart. What do you say to that?
SECRETARY GENERAL: We see that many of the institutions that were established after the end of the Second World War are under pressure. And these institutions have served us all well. They help to maintain a global order which has been the basis for peace and for prosperity. In uncertain times we need stronger institutions, not weaker institutions. Because strong institutions, they help us to reduce risk. And when surprises happen, they help us to deal with surprises and uncertainty. For NATO, this means that in a more unpredictable world, it is even more important to have a strong NATO. And therefore my focus has been on how can we modernise, how can we strengthen NATO. And I’m glad to see that Allies are stepping up, we are doing more together, North America and Europe, now than we have done for many years. This is partly about strengthening international institutions like NATO, but it is also about having strong defence, invest, and also of course about strengthening the transatlantic cooperation between North America and Europe. So we need stronger international institutions, stronger multilateral frameworks to respond to a more uncertain world.
QUESTION: Daesh, ISIS is not definitely defeated in Iraq and Syria. And is this now very dangerous, what can NATO do? And can you tell something about Nord Stream 2?
SECRETARY GENERAL: NATO Allies, as part of the Global Coalition fighting Daesh, ISIS, have made enormous progress. And Daesh has lost almost all the territory it controlled a few years ago. We have to remember that Daesh actually controlled a territory as big as the United Kingdom, and 8 million people. And now they hardly control any territory at all. NATO and NATO Allies have of course been an important part of this, in Iraq, and Allies have also been present in Syria. NATO provides training and support to the Iraqi forces to make sure that Daesh never re-emerges again. NATO as an alliance is not present on the ground in Syria, but we provide support to the Coalition, and some NATO Allies are. It is important to fight terrorism in many different countries. We are in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and elsewhere to defeat terrorism.
When it comes to Nord Stream, I will just say that there are different views about that issue among NATO Allies.
QUESTION: Secretary General, what will revive arms control?
SECRETARY GENERAL: NATO strongly supports arms control, because arms control has served us all so well for so many years. We have to remember that since the end of the Cold War, we have reduced the number of nuclear warheads on the NATO side here in Europe by approximately 90%. And the INF Treaty didn’t only reduce the number of weapons, but actually banned all intermediate-range nuclear weapons, put the number to zero. And we have for instance the New START agreement, which reduced the number of long-range weapons systems, missiles, warheads on long-range missile systems to 1,550. So we have seen enormous progress over decades when it comes to arms control. Now this arms control regime is under severe attack. And the main reason is Russia’s violation of the INF Treaty. There are no new US missiles in Europe, but there are new Russian missiles in Europe. And this concern about the new Russian missiles was raised by the Obama administration almost six years ago, and we have continued to raise that with Russia again and again and again. But Russia has not adhered to our calls, and they continue to violate the Treaty. We continue to call on them to come back into compliance. NATO will continue to work for arms control, because we don’t want a new arms race. We think that arms control will keep us all safer, and we are therefore also continuing to work for verifiable reductions and limitations in the number of nuclear warheads.
QUESTION: Munich… has called such countries as Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, states of uncertainty. Do you agree with that? And what can NATO do to reduce uncertainty?
SECRETARY GENERAL: We provide a lot of support to countries like Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova. They are partners of NATO. We work with them, we help them with implementing reforms, modernizing their defence and security institutions. We strongly support their sovereignty, their territorial integrity, and we provide political and practical support. And we will of course continue to do so.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary General, how do you respond to the foreseeable criticism by the American partners that Europe is not spending enough on defence, the 2% goal?
SECRETARY GENERAL: Well the message from the United States, from President Trump, from all the other representatives of his administration, is that they are committed to NATO, to Article 5, but they call on European Allies and Canada to invest more. The good news is that that is exactly what European Allies now are doing. For years we were cutting defence budgets, now we have started to increase. All Allies are increasing investments in defence. And just since Trump came into office in 2016, European Allies and Canada have added 41 billion extra US dollars for defence spending, and I expect that number to be 100 billion by end of next year. So the reality is that we are now moving really in the right direction. And this is recognized also by the United States. At the same time, also the United States are increasing their presence in Europe. We have more US troops, more American exercises, more US investment in infrastructure now than before. So European Allies are doing more, but also US is increasing their military presence in Europe.
QUESTION: NATO follows what happens in Libya – what about Libya’s future?
SECRETARY GENERAL: We strongly support the UN-led efforts to find a political solution to the crisis in Libya. We believe that that’s the only way to find a peaceful solution, and we think also that the international community of course should be ready to provide support. NATO is ready to provide support to the UN-recognized Libyan government. We don’t speak about military training, but capacity-building, helping them to build defence and security institutions.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary General, are you going to speak with Russian Minister Lavrov about Georgia and Ukraine?
SECRETARY GENERAL: I expect so. We don’t have a fixed agenda, but of course Ukraine is always very high on any agenda, any meeting with the Russian side. And Georgia and Ukraine are two countries we regularly address in our meetings. We have had meetings of the NATO-Russia Council, and there we have discussed these issues again and again. In NATO we strongly believe in a dual track approach to Russia. We need to be united, we need to be strong, but we need also to combine that with political dialogue with Russia. Because Russia’s our neighbour, Russia’s there to stay. And we need to strive for a better relationship with Russia. And even without a better relationship with Russia, we need to manage a difficult relationship with Russia. We have more military presence, we have more tensions, we have more exercises close to our borders. And we need to avoid any miscalculations, any incidents, accidents. And if they happen, we have to make sure that they don’t spiral out of control and create really dangerous situations. So dialogue with Russia is important especially in difficult times as we see now.