by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the joint press point with Alexander Dobrindt, Chairman of the CSU Parliamentary Group
[Remarks by Mr. Alexander Dobrindt, Chairman of the CSU Parliamentary Group]
Secretary General: Thank you so much, Chairman Dobrindt.
It's a great pleasure and honour to meet you and to meet you all today.
This is the second time I attend the Klausurtagung, organised by the CSU and for me that reflects the strong commitment of the CSU to the transatlantic bond and to NATO.
Of course I would have preferred to meet you in person, but we all understand that the pandemic COVID-19 makes that impossible.
At the same time I also believe that 2021 is a year where we all have hopes that we will be able to turn the corner in the fight against the pandemic and our military forces, NATO allies, NATO provide support to the civilian efforts, trying to cope with the pandemic.
I'm also extremely grateful for CSUs strong support to NATO, not least because we live in a more challenging and more unstable world and then we need strong deterrence, strong defence, and Germany basic key role in providing that through NATO.
2021 will be a pivotal year, not only in the fight against the pandemic. But also, when we face different security challenges.
I strongly believe that 2021 will be pivotal in a way that it will provide us an opportunity to reenergize our transatlantic bond, the cooperation between North America and Europe.
And that this is the time to invest more in our transatlantic bond to understand the importance of fair burden-sharing, and I welcome the increased defence spending by Germany and the commitment to meet the 2% target, the guideline of spending 2% of GDP on defence.
Any attempt to divide Europe and North America will not only weaken the transatlantic bond or weaken NATO, but also divide Europe, so we need to stand together, North America and Europe, and I really count on Germany playing key role in these efforts.
Then, 2021 also is a pivotal year for NATO because we need to decide on our presence in Afghanistan.
We welcome the peace talks that take place between Taliban and the government in Kabul.
There are many challenges, and many uncertainties, but of course, the peace talks are the only path to peace, the only way forward to a peaceful negotiated solution.
We support those efforts, but at the same time we know that we will be faced with a very difficult dilemma.
Next month, NATO's defence ministers will meet, and they need to decide whether to remain, whether to stay in Afghanistan with our military presence, and then risk being engaged in a prolonged military presence in Afghanistan, or whether to leave, but then risk that Afghanistan once again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists.
The third challenge we will face in 2021 is arms control.
Next month, the New START agreement expires which limits the number of nuclear warheads. “NATO has always been on the forefront of arms control fighting for strong and balanced arms control and disarmament, and therefore we need to make sure that we, when the New START agreement expires next month, that we don't end up in a situation where there is no agreement regulating the number of nuclear warheads.
There are many other issues including cyber, the fight against terrorism, and many of the issues which NATO will be faced with.
My main message is that when it comes to all these issues, as long as North America and Europe stand together, Germany being an important part of that, of course the CSU being an important player in Germany, we will be able to tackle and to handle all the challenges we face.
So once again, thank you so much, Chairman, for having me. I'm looking forward to meeting the parliamentarians just after this press meeting.
Alexander Dobrindt (Chairman of the CSU Parliamentary Group): Vielen Dank. Wir haben noch kurz die Gelegenheit für Fragen. Frau Küfner.
Michaela Küfner: It's Michaela Küfner, Deutsche Welle, Secretary General you already mentioned Afghanistan that the decision for or against a withdrawal is due in February, and you spoke previously about conditions-based decision. Which of those conditions do you mean and which of those have already been met?
Secretary General: The more important thing is that we need to make sure that Afghanistan doesn't once again become a safe haven for international terrorists.
We have to understand that the reason why we went in to Afghanistan back in almost 20 years ago was the attack on a NATO ally, the 9/11 against the United States, and Taliban has the committed in the agreement with the United States to make sure that they don't work with, they don't support, they don't help in any way provide any framework support for international terrorists.
So the most important condition is to make sure that Taliban meets that requirement, that they break all ties with international terrorists, including al-Qaeda.
We will of course assess the situation on the ground, we will assess the development in the peace talks and then make our decision.
We have to be honest and say that that will be a dilemma, it will be difficult. It is, of course, a challenge to stay.
We have been there for almost 20 years.
To continue to be militarily involved in Afghanistan is challenging, it has a price and we need to be prepared to stay in a difficult military operation.
On the other hand, if we leave, then we risk that the gains we have made over the last years, preventing Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for international terrorists, that those gains are lost.
So this very difficult decision is something we need to make together because whatever we do, we need to do it in a coordinated and well-planned way.
And I welcome the strong commitment of Germany, to our mission in Afghanistan. Germany leads the NATO presence in the north, and Germany really understands that our presence in Afghanistan is about protecting ourselves, our own countries against terrorist attacks.
Alexander Dobrindt (Chairman of the CSU Parliamentary Group): (in German)
Question: (Starts in German.) What is your view of the situation in the US state of Georgia? Are you concerned that US President Trump could misuse the military for its own purposes?
Secretary General: I have already congratulated President-elect Joe Biden with the victory in the presidential elections. I'm looking forward to working with him and after the inauguration of the 20th of January, I will, of course, welcome him as the heads of state, the President of the United States, NATO's biggest ally.
I have spoken with President Biden. I expressed my congratulations to him and to Vice President Kamala Harris, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
I'm also looking forward to working with her. And I invited Joe Biden to attend the NATO summit later this year.
And I think that's summit it would be important because it will demonstrate the unity of this alliance and the commitment of United States, North America to Europe, and the importance of NATO both for North America and Europe.
It's not for me to comment on the specifics of the elections in Georgia. I'm just confident that when we have a new president in place after the inauguration on the 20th of January, NATO will continue to work with the United States, and with the new president, the president Biden.