Joint press point
with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Prime Minister of Romania, Ludovic Orban
Prime Minister Orban,
A warm welcome to NATO Headquarters. It is great to see you here.
And congratulations on your appointment as Prime Minister.
Romania plays a key role in our Alliance.
You contribute to NATO operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo.
You host our ballistic missile defence site in Deveselu.
And your troops deter aggression as part of our multinational battlegroup in Poland.
You also make essential contributions to Black Sea security.
Leading a multinational battlegroup in Craiova,
And participating in joint exercises and maritime patrols.
We agree on the strategic importance of the Black Sea region.
And we have strengthened NATO’s presence on land, at sea and in the air.
To keep our people safe in a more dangerous world, we also need to invest in defence.
So I welcome Romania’s plans to spend 2 percent on defence this year. And I welcome the fact that you have already reached 2 per cent of GDP to defence.
And also your plans to modernise your armed forces over the next decade.
I count on Romania, as on all Allies, to keep up the momentum.
Prime Minister, we have just discussed the current tensions in the Middle East.
The situation in this region remains volatile and fragile.
It is in nobody’s interest to have a new conflict.
Peace and stability in the Middle East is important for NATO Allies.
So Allies continue to consult closely.
Yesterday, I spoke with President Trump.
He asked NATO to become more involved in the Middle East.
NATO has the potential to contribute more to regional stability and the fight against international terrorism.
And we are looking into what more we can do.
This week, I also spoke to Iraqi Prime Minister Mahdi.
I reiterated NATO’s strong commitment to the fight against terrorism.
And to our training and capacity-building mission to prevent the return of our common enemy, ISIS.
We agreed on the need for restraint and de-escalation in the region.
Let me thank Romania for its contributions to NATO’s mission in Iraq.
The safety of our personnel is paramount.
For the time being, we have suspended our training.
And we are taking all precautions necessary to protect our people.
This includes the re-positioning of personnel to different locations both inside and outside Iraq.
But NATO maintains a presence in Iraq.
And we remain in close contact with the Iraqi authorities.
So, Prime Minister, let me once again welcome you to NATO and thank you for Romania’s strong commitment to our Alliance. And I look forward to continuing working closely with you.
Oana Lungescu [NATO Spokesperson]: Okay, we have time for a few questions, we’ll start with CALEA EUROPEANA, gentleman in the glasses.
Question [CALEA EUROPEANA]: Thank you. So as we know, NATO has adapted its posture on the Black Sea, but at the same time we see a challenging situation because Russia is building up its military and so on, ships, missile . . . missiles. In this context, does NATO intend to update its posture on the Black Sea Region? And also, on the Middle East crisis, during the attacks on the Iraqi bases, where were . . . where were hosted Allied forces, does the Aegis Ashore missile defence system, which is hosted by Romania as part of the . . . NATO’s defence system, it was . . . it has functioned, let’s say, properly? Thank you.
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: So, first of all, the Black Sea is of strategic importance for NATO. And NATO has increased its presence in the Black Sea Region on land, at sea and in the air, with enhanced air policing, with more naval presence and also with more presence with land forces, especially with the tailored forward presence and brigade we have in Craiova.
We are constantly assessing the need to further strengthen our presence. We have to remember that three of our member states are littoral states to the Black Sea: Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. And then we have two close partners, Ukraine and Georgia, who are also Black Sea countries. So we are also working closely with them, helping them, working with them, exercising with them.
I recently visited Ukraine, the whole North Atlantic Council visited Ukraine. And . . . and we saw how we are helping them to, for instance, build naval academies and strengthen their naval capabilities. So on top of that, we have increased the readiness of our forces so we can easily re— . . . quickly reinforce. And we are also conducting more exercises. So the Black Sea Region is of importance, great importance for NATO. And we have to remember that what triggered the adaptation, the strengthening of NATO’s collective defence, which we have seen over the last years, was actually the illegal annexation of Crimea in the Black Sea.
Then, when it comes to the ballistic missile defence site in Romania, in Deveselu, we are, of course, vigilant. We are following the situation very closely. But there is no reason to change our posture level, because we have no indication of an increased threat of ballistic missiles to NATO territory. But we remain vigilant. We follow the situation closely. And the missile defence site and the radars are, of course, providing us with valuable information. And we continue to follow the situation very closely.
Oana Lungescu: Romanian TV, lady in grey. Lady in grey there.
Question [TVR]: Hello. Can you tell . . . please tell us, what do you mean by ‘larger involvement in the Middle East’? Can you be more specific?
Jens Stoltenberg: NATO is already playing an important role in the fight against terrorism. And NATO is already present in the Middle East in different ways.
If you look at the wider Middle East region, we are, of course, present in Afghanistan with our Train, Assist and Advise Mission there. We have a Training Mission in Iraq. And we are also working with partner countries in the region, for instance, Tunisia and Jordan. We help them with intelligence, with special operation forces, because we strongly believe that building local capacity, training local forces, is the best way to fight international terrorism.
We . . . just before Christmas, we also visited a new Regional Centre, which NATO has developed and established together with some countries in the Gulf region, a Regional Centre in Kuwait, which is also contributing to our presence and our activities, capacity-building activities, in the wider Middle East region.
So NATO already plays an important role in fighting international terrorism and we are present in the region. What we . . . what President Trump called for yesterday was more NATO involvement. And we are looking into what more we can do. I will not speculate about the outcome, but I will say that I think that NATO has a potential to do more. If we look at NATO’s history, we have conducted big operations before in different theatres in different ways. So we have the command structure, we have tried and tested structures to do capacity-building, to do training. And we have also the structures to do this in a way where we ensure political transparency and consultation and decision-making, involving all the countries being part of this, which is not always only NATO Allies, but also, very often, partner countries. As, for instance, we have seen both in Afghanistan and Iraq, where NATO Allies work with partners.
Then I will highlight the importance of talking with countries in the region. If NATO’s going to do more, of course we’re going to do that together with countries in the region, as we do in Afghanistan, as we do in Iraq, Jordan, Tunisia and elsewhere.
So I spoke with the Iraqi Prime Minister a few days ago. Today I had a meeting with the Iraqi ambassador to NATO. And of course, we will consult, discuss closely with countries in the region, because if we are going to do more, we’re going to do that based on agreement with them.
Oana Lungescu: Okay, NRK, gentleman in the second row.
Question [NRK]: Secretary General and Prime Minister Ludovic Orban. Secretary General, could you please, without concluding, just give us an insight into what capacities and resources that you could deploy in the Middle East that would satisfy what President Trump is asking for? And Prime Minister Orban, tomorrow there will be a meeting in the European Union among the foreign ministers that have been moved forward. President Trump has asked European countries to pull out of what remains of the Iranian deal. Do you support this position? And again, Secretary General, Europe has been challenged because of the situation between Iran and the US. How will this affect the EU and NATO partnership? Will NATO and the EU collaborate tighter and more closely when it comes to the Middle East? Thank you.
Jens Stoltenberg: So we are now looking into what more we can do to help to stabilise the Middle East and to fight international terrorism.
We already do a lot, especially when it comes to training, advising and assisting local forces, as we do in Afghanistan with our Training Mission there. And we do with the Training Mission we have in in Iraq.
I visited Iraq last fall and I saw how NATO trainers are helping the Iraqi forces to improve their skills, their capabilities to fight ISIS, to fight Daesh, to fight international terrorism. And I strongly believe that the best way we can fight international terrorism is not always by deploying NATO troops in big combat operations. Sometimes we have to do that. But the best way is to enable local forces to fight terrorism themselves. And that’s exactly what we do in Afghanistan, what we do in Iraq. And of course, we can look into if we can do more of that kind of activities.
We can also do other things. But I will be very careful about speculating too much about that. Because we are now looking into the different options. We need a proper decision-making process in NATO involving, of course, all Allies. And we need to discuss this with the countries in the region. Because what we do in Afghanistan, what we do in Iraq, Jordan, Tunisia and elsewhere is always, of course, dependent on that we work together with the countries in the region. And this is also one of the issues I then discussed with the Iraqi Prime Minister earlier this week: how we can make sure that NATO can continue and help them in fighting terrorism in Iraq.
Sorry, the other question was about NATO-EU. Well, for me, it is extremely important to work together, NATO and the European Union, because we face the same security environment, the same challenges. We have different capabilities. And when we fight international terrorism, when we try to stabilise the Middle East, we need many different tools. We need political tools, diplomatic tools, sometimes military tools. We need economic tools. So neither EU nor NATO have all these tools. So we need to work together to make sure that we have all the different capabilities, all the different tools we need in the fight against international terrorism.
Ludovic Orban [Prime Minister of Romania]: I think the appeal is not addressed to Romania, because our position was very clear. From our point of view, Iran should respect the provision regarding the non-proliferation of nuclear . . . and for other things, are very clear. I cannot answer in the name of other countries, European countries.
Oana Lungescu: Very last question, NPR/Deutsche Welle?
Teri Schultz [NPR/Deutsche Welle]: Hi, Teri Schultz, thank you very much. Since you’ve already given lots of answers on this, I’ve got to try more. When you told President Trump that you believed that NATO could do more, surely you hadn’t had time to discuss in that very few moments since he made the . . . made the announcement with . . . with all of the Allies. So did you already have the feeling that all 29 . . . or 28, are going to support, perhaps diverting some resources to this new request of the United States? And to the Romanian Prime Minister, do you believe that, given your concerns are in a different part of the world than the Middle East, as are many of the other Allies, is that something you would like to see: NATO money, NATO resources, NATO planning go to the Middle East, when you feel that there are pressures right on NATO’s borders? Thanks.
Jens Stoltenberg: I will just say that President Trump has been very consistent in his message about NATO. He has called on European NATO Allies and Canada to invest more. And he has called on NATO to do more in the fight against international terrorism. We are delivering more, when it comes to investing, to spending, burden-sharing. We still have a long way to go. But I think all NATO Allies, including the United States, recognises that we are making progress when it comes to burden-sharing, defence spending.
We are also, and we have also, stepped up our efforts in the fight against international terrorism, working with countries in the region, North Africa, the Middle East. We have established a Training Mission in Iraq. NATO has joined the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh. We provide support to the Global Coalition, to the efforts of the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh. And all NATO Allies are part of the Global Coalition.
So for me, it’s no surprise that the United States is calling for NATO to do more, because that has actually been the message from the United States for a long time. We are looking into what more we can do. Of course, we make decisions in NATO by consensus. So we need a process. We need agreement within the Alliance, but also with the countries in the region. And this will take some time. But I welcome the fact that we now are looking into what more we can do, because we need to fight international terrorism. There is no way we can avoid doing that. It’s a threat to all of us. And to stabilise, to help to create more predictability, peace, stability, in the wider Middle East region is, of course, important for the people living there. But it’s also extremely important for the people living in NATO countries.
We are more secure when our neighbours are more stable. And that’s exactly why NATO has been addressing these challenges for a long time and why we are looking into what more we can do.
Ludovic Orban: We prove . . . we proved from the moment we became a member of NATO that our involvement was very important. And if NATO will consider it necessary to have a stronger presence and stronger involvement in the fight against terrorists in Middle East or in other parts, we will be part of this action, decision and movement.
Oana Lungescu: Thank you very much. This concludes this press point. Thank you.
Jens Stoltenberg: Thank you.
Ludovic Orban: Thank you.