Conversation between NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Rose Gottemoeller
Payne Distinguished Lecturer at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC),
Stanford University, 09 March 2021
ANNA GRZYMALA-BUSSE [Europe Center, Freeman Spogli Institute]: Hello, everyone. I’m Anna Grzymala-Busse, Director of the Europe Center here at the Freeman Spogli Institute. And on behalf of CISAC and the Europe Center it is my great pleasure to welcome you to our fireside chat with NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg. We have all been following the dramatic changes in international security cooperation and very much look forward to the conversation. If you have questions, please post them in the Q&A.
And we’ll start with Ambassador Mike McFaul, director of the Freeman Spogli Institute and former ambassador to Russia with the introductions, followed by a conversation between the Secretary General and Secretary Rose Gottemoeller, and then a question and answer session. This has been a very eagerly anticipated event. And so without further delay, I’m going to turn things over to Mike. Thank you.
MIKE McFAUL [Director, Freeman Spogli Institute]: Thanks, Anna. And thanks to the Europe Center and for CISAC for cosponsoring this. They’re both centres here at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, which I direct. We are thrilled today to have NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at this pivotal moment, I think, for both the Alliance and America’s relationship with NATO. So it’s a huge honour to host you here, here in California. We hope that someday we’ll do this physically. I guarantee it’ll be worth the trip, Mr Secretary General. Jens Stoltenberg became NATO Secretary General in October 2014, following a distinguished international and domestic career. Twice Prime Minister of Norway, Mr Stoltenberg also served in 2013/14 as the UN Special Envoy on Climate Change. Under his leadership, NATO has responded to a more challenging security environment by implementing the biggest reinforcement of its collective defence since the Cold War. At one of the most pivotal moments in the Alliance’s history, he has advocated for increased defence spending and better burden-sharing within the Alliance and a greater focus on innovation and resiliency.
Today, we have the perfect person to lead this discussion, not only because she actually has a real fire going, but because she has a tremendous career and service in thinking about issues of NATO, most recently serving as the Deputy Secretary General of NATO. And I think, Rose, you said yesterday in your event that you were the first woman ever to do so, is that correct? Currently, Rose is our Payne Distinguished Lecturer here at CISAC – the Center for International Security and Cooperation. She’s also a Hoover fellow here at Stanford University. And before going to NATO, she served for five years in the Obama administration, including, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security. And she was a lead negotiator for the New START Treaty, the subject of her forthcoming book, which we will be sure to discuss in this series at a later date. But today, the focus is NATO and General Secretary Stoltenberg. So over to you, Rose.
ROSE GOTTEMOELLER [Payne Distinguished Lecturer at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC), Stanford University, and a former NATO Deputy Secretary General]: Thank you, Mike, and thank you, Anna, for your warm greetings to the Secretary General. And Jens, on my own behalf, a warm welcome to Stanford. We do indeed hope that we’ll be able to invite you in person before too long. But it’s a great honour and pleasure to have you with us here virtually today. And a little bit amusing, but I thought I’d turn on our fire, even though it’s the morning here and here in Mountain View the sun is peeking out a bit, but nevertheless, I thought it would be appropriate.
So, let’s dive right in shall we? The first topic I wanted to turn to, I think is on top of everybody’s head, you know, President Biden has been clear, including in his phone conversation with you, that he is committed to rebuilding the transatlantic relationship. And just a few weeks ago, you had the Secretary of Defence, Lloyd Austin, there at NATO headquarters for the defence ministerial, his first since being sworn in. They say that they’re going to really focus on rebuilding alliances, both in Europe with NATO and in Asia. How are the Americans showing you that they are serious?
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: First of all, Rose, I would like to thank you for inviting me to this event and we really miss you here at NATO. It was great to have you as a Deputy Secretary General and the best regards from all of us here in Brussels. And I hope that at some stage I can come to Stanford and meet you there in person.
Then, on the Biden administration, I really welcome the very strong commitment and a very strong message from a President Biden and from his whole security team, the message on strengthening alliances, strengthening NATO. And I have had the privilege of working with President Biden in his previous capacities as Vice President, but also as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And I know that he knows NATO and he knows Europe. And he really understands the importance of NATO bringing North America and Europe together. And I have spoken with him – twice, actually – and also with Secretary Austin, he also attended our defence ministerial meeting. Secretary Blinken will come to our foreign ministerial meeting in two weeks’ time. And the message is the same: that the United States really wants to step up and do more together in NATO.
We have seen it already by the decision to halt the withdrawal of troops from Germany and also the clear message about consulting closely with Allies. But at the same time, I think that the United States will continue, of course, to focus on, for instance, the importance of fairer burden sharing in this Alliance.
And I have put forward also what I call the NATO 2030 agenda, which is a project now to renew and adapt NATO for the future. This will be about strengthening further our deterrence and defence, closer consultations inside the Alliance, resilience technology, a wide range of issues, which is covered in the NATO 2030 agenda. And I, of course, hope and expect that the US will be very supportive of the idea of doing more together in North America and Europe.
ROSE GOTTEMOELLER: Thank you, Jens. And a follow up question to that, I do understand that you are looking forward to welcoming President Biden. I hope it’s planned to the brand new and very impressive NATO headquarters in Brussels, but you may be planning to meet somewhere else in the Alliance.
In any event, I wanted to ask you, what are your particular priorities for that summit meeting? It doesn’t yet have an exact date, as I understand, but the planning is for some time in the early summer of this year, of 2021. So how are you thinking about scoping the agenda for that meeting? Will it be all about NATO 2030 or are there other things you are planning?
JENS STOLTENBERG: First of all, I very much look forward to welcoming President Biden to the NATO summit that will take place later this year, the exact date is not yet decided, partly that’s because of the pandemic. But when I spoke to President Biden, he expressed his strong wish and desire to come to Brussels to meet all the other NATO leaders and the summit will take place here in Brussels in the new impressive headquarters. I think the most important issue for that summit will be the NATO 2030 agenda. But that covers a lot of different topics. It will address how we can further strengthen our deterrence and defence in Europe and in NATO.
We will also broaden the NATO security agenda because we need to address military threats, but also understand that our potential adversaries are using economic tools, political tools. So we need also to, for instance, focus more on resilience, critical infrastructure, we have seen the discussion about 5G telecommunication networks and also how to make sure that NATO maintains the technological edge.
Then we need to make sure that NATO is used as the unique political platform, because NATO is the only institution where North America and Europe meets every day. And this is important also to use when we face challenges where NATO may not be the first responder, but where NATO provides a perfect platform for Europe and North America to sit down together and discuss and try to find common positions on a wide range of different issues.
And then I think also climate, not only think, but I also know, that climate change is part of the NATO 2030 agenda. So actually, NATO 2030 agenda covers a wide range of issues, but it is a kind of forward-looking, ambitious agenda for the future of NATO, making sure that we continue to be the most successful alliance in history.
ROSE GOTTEMOELLER: Thank you. I’m glad you mentioned climate change, because that was a topic that was fairly well, I will put it this way, ‘complicated’ to talk about at NATO in recent years. But again, it’s one of those priorities. I know it’s a personal priority for you, but also it’s a priority for the Biden administration as they plan to re-enter the Climate Accord, the Paris Climate Accord. So I’m glad to hear you’ll be picking that up. There are just so many practical ways that NATO needs to work on these issues, including making it easier for our troops to operate in the field.
JENS STOLTENBERG: As you said, climate change is important for me personally, partly also because in my previous capacity as Prime Minister of Norway, I was very much working on climate change issues and also as UN Special Envoy for Climate Change, of course, this is something I have been working on, actually, since I had my first political position as Deputy Minister for Environment back in Norway in 1990, preparing the Rio Conference where we agreed the convention, which is actually now the framework for the Kyoto Protocol in ’97 and later on the Paris Agreement from 2015.
I strongly believe that NATO has a role to play when it comes to climate change, because climate change, global warming, matters for our security and therefore it matters for NATO. Of course, NATO is not the institution where we are going to negotiate the big agreements between the countries of the world on how to address climate change more in general. But we have a role to play as NATO. Partly because global warming, climate change, is a crisis multiplier. And we have to expect more extreme weather, more fight, conflict about scarce resources, more migration caused by climate change. So NATO should be the institution that has the best knowledge, best understanding of the security implications of climate change, because a precondition to take the right decisions is to have the right understanding of the problem.
Second, we need to understand that climate change will directly impact what we do as military, as a military alliance. Rising sea levels will impact infrastructure all over our territory. We have seen it also in reports, for instance, from the United States, Norfolk, where there’s a major, big naval base, and it was a NATO headquarters. But across the Alliance, rising sea levels will impact our infrastructure. More extreme weather, warm weather, will impact the way we conduct our missions. NATO is present in Iraq. In Baghdad last year, we had many, many days warmer than 50 degrees Celsius. I don’t know what that is in Fahrenheit, but extremely warm. Melting ice will affect the security situation up in the High North. And more extreme weather will just impact the way we operate out in nature. So we need to look at infrastructure, uniforms, capabilities, how they can work, operate, in more extreme weather. And that is a huge task for a military alliance.
And thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, we need to look into and act when it comes to that NATO should play its part in helping to reduce total emissions of greenhouse gases, CO2. And we know that military operations, they require a lot of energy to move heavy equipment, but also just to run missions and operations bases. And that is normally fossil fuel. And there are two problems with that. One is, of course, the emissions of greenhouse gases when you burn all this diesel to generate electricity in our different camps and bases. But it’s also the vulnerability it creates, because transporting huge volumes of fossil fuel is a big challenge for any military operation. So anything that can make our missions and operations more energy efficient, turn to alternative sources for energy – we have seen some examples where we have used solar powered energy, biodiesel and so on – will not only reduce emissions, but it will also increase the resilience of our military operations because we’ll be less dependent on very vulnerable lines of supplies of fossil fuels. This is something I will discuss with Special Envoy John Kerry tomorrow morning when he comes to Brussels – or actually, I think he came today, but I will meet him tomorrow – and we will have breakfast, and then we can discuss NATO’s role in supporting his agenda of addressing climate change.
ROSE GOTTEMOELLER: Well, that’s fantastic, I did read in the paper that he’s going to be there today and I’m delighted you’ll be having breakfast tomorrow, so please give my warmest wishes to John Kerry when you see him.
JENS STOLTENBERG: I will do so.
ROSE GOTTEMOELLER: And it’s clear, Jens, that you are very passionate about this subject, but that is fantastic. And yeah, a lot of our viewers may not know, but NATO has a huge network of its own, like pipelines and everything, to move the amount of fossil fuel around that NATO needs for its missions and operations. So it’s a really, really important set of issues for NATO also.
So I’d note that some of you are already putting your questions in the Q&A portion here at Zoom. So please do use that function if you’ve got a question. I have a couple more for the Secretary General and then I will move to the Q&A list that is building up already. But Jens, I wanted to ask you about a topic we did discuss at NATO a lot over the last four years, and that is defence burden-sharing. And I think you and I always agreed that it was good to put more emphasis on that matter and to get the Allies to really sit up and take notice of their promise to more fairly share the burden of their defence. But it’s a difficult period now with economies across the Alliance reeling from the pandemic and a lot of economic pressures on all of them.
So how are you thinking nowadays about keeping up the momentum in this area? And are there different ways you’re thinking of approaching this issue of how to share the burden of defence? I’d be interested in how you’re thinking about that.
JENS STOLTENBERG: First of all, I think we have to admit that it’s always hard to allocate sufficient resources, funding, for defence, because I’ve been a politician myself and I know that to prioritise between healthcare, education, defence is never easy. But my message to Allies has been that – and is – that when we reduced defence spending, when tensions went down after the end of the Cold War in the 1990s and also the beginning of the 2000s, then we need to be able to increase defence spending when tensions are going up, as they do now. And the good news is that all Allies not only agree, but actually deliver on that pledge we made together in 2014 at the Wales summit when President Biden was part of the Obama-Biden administration. The United States strongly conveyed a message to European Allies and Canada that we need fairer burden-sharing in this Alliance. And all Allies agreed.
And since then, defence spending has increased every year across Europe and Canada. In total, since 2014, European Allies and Canada have added 190 billion extra over these years for defence spending. And the latest figures we shared with our ministers at the NATO defence ministerial meeting in February showed that they continued to do so also last year in 2020, and we expect that to continue in 2021. So the reality is that, despite the pandemic, Allies continue to invest in defence. And they do so partly because they know that the threats and challenges that led to the decision in 2014 to invest more, they have not gone away because of the pandemic. If anything, they are even more serious now than a year or two ago.
Second, they have also seen that the military actually has played a key role in providing support to the civilian efforts, to the civilian health services’ efforts to fight the pandemic: setting up military field hospitals, transporting equipment, medical personnel, helping to control borders, and now also in many Allied countries, the military is helping with the rollout of vaccines. So, yes, it is difficult, but we cannot stop investing because of the pandemic. And that’s exactly also what Allies do – they plan to continue to increase defence investments.
ROSE GOTTEMOELLER: Very good. And I know that history over the last year, even, of what NATO has done to deliver medical supplies and services around the Alliance, I think is really impressive and probably not known enough here in the United States. I have one last question.
We’ve already got a number of really good questions building up in the Q&A list. But I have one more question and that has to do with Silicon Valley. You are speaking today to a Silicon Valley audience, amongst others. Your audience is really from across the globe. But how is NATO using science and technology nowadays? There’s a lot of challenges that come about because of emerging technologies, new threats, new dangers.
Of course, NATO has to get their arms around those. But also emerging technologies are a great opportunity and represent new ways of addressing the challenges of deterrence and defence and keeping the peace. So how are you thinking about using new technologies, emerging technologies in the NATO context? And what do you think about the partnership with places like Silicon Valley that are placing a lot of emphasis in this area?
JENS STOLTENBERG: So first of all, I think that technology always represents both opportunities and challenges, dangers. It’s the way we apply, the way we use the technology. And every technology can be used in good ways or bad ways. That has been the case always, but in one way, even more so now, as we see so many new and disruptive technologies with enormous potential, both in a constructive but also in a destructive way.
Second, I strongly believe that new and disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence, autonomous systems, big data, biotech, facial recognition, all of that and especially combined, will change the nature of warfare as fundamentally as the Industrial Revolution. And I think it’s hard to grasp, hard to understand, for good or for bad, how technologies are now changing the nature of any potential future conflict.
And thirdly, of course, NATO and NATO Allies need to maintain our technological edge. That has always been an advantage we have had compared to any potential adversary. And we need to maintain that in a world with more competition. We, for instance, see China investing heavily and actually being in the lead in some of these technologies and having great ambitions, for instance, when it comes to artificial intelligence. And they also have access to data because they are such a state-controlled country, easier access to data than, for instance, in some of our countries, or in most, or in all NATO allied countries.
I think that what we have to do is at least three things.
First of all, we need to invest. One of the reasons why we have pledged to invest more is that that’s the only way to keep our technological edge. The best way to develop new technologies and to also apply them in military systems and capabilities is, of course, to invest in new, modern systems. So when we have new, modern fighter jets, we use new technology in them. NATO just had some new drones deployed – ground surveillance drones we have deployed in Sigonella in Italy. The drones themselves, they’re … new and excellent, but the most impressive thing is the technology we put into the drones. So when we decided to invest more at the Wales summit, NATO summit, in 2014, we decided to invest more, but also better – meaning that we also decided that 20 percent of our defence budget should go to research and development and investment in new capabilities. That is driving technological change and driving the implementation of new technologies in military capabilities. So, spending: extremely important.
Second, NATO has always had a role to make sure that the Allies can operate together – interoperability. This has been a basic task for NATO. Up till it has been, you know, about fuel standards, so we can fuel each other’s planes and ships and whatever it is; spare parts that the different nations can use, so basic standards. This is even more important when we have extremely advanced systems, because we must avoid a kind of technological gap where Allies are not able to operate together, where we have planes or ships or whatever or soldiers’ communications systems that cannot communicate, they have to be connected and NATO has to help to set those standards to make sure that 30 Allies can operate together, also with new, disruptive technologies.
And thirdly, I think that NATO has an important role to play when it comes to addressing some of the serious and difficult ethical questions related to these new technologies: arms control issues – and Rose, you could help us there – how do we do arms control in cyberspace? And then when it comes to Silicon Valley, I strongly believe that we need to work with the private sector. We need to engage with them. We are looking into new, innovative ways of finding funding and also working with start-ups. And I think that for NATO it is extremely important what is going on in Silicon Valley. Traditionally, it was, you know, government programmes that was driving technological change: nuclear, GPS, the Internet is actually a result of government technological development. Now, we are more dependent on the private sector and we need to work with them. And therefore, part of the NATO 2030 agenda is also about technology, working with the private sector, innovative ways of building partnerships with the private sector.
ROSE GOTTEMOELLER: Well, thank you. As Mike McFaul and I said at the outset, we really do hope that we’ll soon be able to invite you in person to come and visit and certainly to also spend some time visiting some of the companies out here and talking to them. I’m going to open up now to our very good questions that have been coming in.
And I’m going to start with an old colleague and friend, Ambassador Fatih Ceylan, who you’ll remember very well, former ambassador of Turkey to NATO. And he asks, ‘Mr Secretary General, a new Strategic Concept or an updated Strategic Concept? What is the intention with President Biden at the helm of the United States?’ For those of you who aren’t familiar with NATO, we have, for decades, had Strategic Concepts that are a kind of overarching concept for the operations of the Alliance and the one we currently have dates from a decade ago. So it’s an issue to be looked at. But, Mr Secretary General, how are you thinking about this matter today?
JENS STOLTENBERG: So I, strongly – first of all, it’s great to hear from Fatih Ceylan again, and my best regard to you. Then, on the Strategic Concept, I think the time has come to update, renew, NATO’s Strategic Concept. The current Strategic Concept has served us well for more than a decade, actually. It was agreed at our NATO summit in Lisbon in Portugal in 2010. And a lot of what is there today, I think should be also part of a new Strategic Concept. But some things also have to be changed. And the most important, the reason for update, develop a new Strategic Concept, is the fact that the world has changed. And that is not fully reflected, of course, in the in the Concept we agreed in 2010. For instance, in the current Concept, we refer to Russia, where we say that we are aspiring for a strategic partnership with Russia. That was before Ukraine, before Crimea and before the much more assertive behaviour of aggressive actions by Russia over the last years and especially since 2014.
Climate change is, as I just mentioned just briefly, and hardly mentioned at all. And climate change, I think, it really impacts our security environment, so it should be addressed in a new Strategic Concept. China is not mentioned.
And I think that the rise of China really is defining for the transatlantic relationship and NATO has to address the rise of China. We don’t regard China as an adversary, but of course, the fact that they are now the second largest defence spender in the world, soon the biggest economy, the challenge China represents to the rules-based order, to our core values of democracy, that we have a big power, China, not sharing our values, all of that makes it necessary for NATO to remain a regional alliance, but to respond to the global challenge that the rise of China represents. So I hope that when the NATO leaders meet at the Brussels NATO summit later this year, they will agree to task me to start to develop a new Strategic Concept. And then they can agree a new Strategic Concept at the following summit in 2022.
ROSE GOTTEMOELLER: Very good. Thank you very much for that, that’s very interesting to hear of how your thinking is evolving on that. Now, you raised China right at the end, and several questions in the chat get at the NATO-China relationship. I will mention my Hoover colleague, Elizabeth Economy, who’s also at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. She said, ‘I appreciated Secretary General Stoltenberg’s expressions of concern about some troubling behaviour by China. Could he say a few words about how he envisions NATO’s future engagement in Asia?’
So, beyond China, but primarily, I suppose the gist of the question is focussed on that pivot to Asia that President Obama first announced some years ago and the fact that the United States is going to be spending more time and attention focussed in the Pacific Basin, rather – or we say now the Indo-Pacific region – rather than all in Europe. So that is Elizabeth’s question. And as I said, there are several excellent questions about China here in the chat.
Daniel Gough also asks, ‘What are the opportunities and limitations of NATO when it comes to engaging states such as China to tackle global challenges such as climate change or the pandemic?’ So lots of food for a response, Mr Secretary General, and back over to you.
JENS STOLTENBERG: So, first of all, it is absolutely correct to say that the rise of China also represents opportunities. And we have seen that over many years. The rise of China has helped to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. And it has represented big economic opportunities for our economies, for our markets, for our exports. So, of course, the rise of China has also been important for all NATO Allies, especially when it comes to economy and trade. But at the same time, there are some serious challenges.
I strongly believe that NATO should remain a regional alliance. NATO should remain an alliance for North America and Europe. But being a regional alliance, we need to take into account that the challenges we are facing are more and more global. Traditionally, we faced one big challenge, and that was the Soviet Union in Europe. Now the world is very different. So we need to have a global approach, while we remain a regional alliance. And then, of course, the rise of China is one of those global challenges. I mentioned that they don’t share our values and we see that they crack down on Democratic protests in Hong Kong. We see how they persecute minorities, the Uyghurs, violating basic human rights. We see also how they expand their influence in the South China Sea, how they are threatening Taiwan and how they also bully countries all over the world. Australia, when Australia asked for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus; or Canada, where they actually just arrested some Canadian citizens.
And I have seen it myself, as a Norwegian politician. I was Prime Minister when the Norwegian Peace Prize Committee awarded the Peace Prize to a Chinese dissident. And then immediately China just blocked everything with Norway: economic sanctions, no political interaction and so on. So this behaviour is a great challenge to all of those who believe in a rules-based order – an order we have developed over decades together. NATO should respond in many different ways. Partly, we should work more closely with our partners in the Asia-Pacific: Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and potentially also others. And because we should help to form a community of like-minded democracies and NATO is therefore stepping up the cooperation or the partnership with these countries. But we need also to respond at home.
One of the reasons why we need to invest and make sure that we keep the technological edge is the rise of China and their heavy investments in new, modern capabilities and the use of new, disruptive technologies. Thirdly, we see that China . . . it’s not about NATO going into the Asia-Pacific, but it’s about the fact that China is coming closer to us: in cyberspace, and we see them in Africa, in the Arctic, and investing in our own critical infrastructure in Europe. We have seen the discussion about 5G and I welcome very much a convergence of views among Allies on that issue.
And for NATO to address China is something quite new. The first time we actually had a decision on China, language on China, was at the NATO summit in London in 2019. But since then, a lot has happened and it proves that NATO can change and adapt when the world is changing. And we will, of course, also continue to engage with China. We have some military contacts, but I also, for instance, met with the Chinese Foreign Minister. And we are open to further strengthening our engagement with China.
ROSE GOTTEMOELLER: Thank you so much, because I really agree with you that China represents both opportunities and challenges. That was the language from the London summit, and I think it’s important to take that balanced look. Lots and lots of questions about Russia. And you already mentioned that, of course, the USSR’s role in Europe and the threats that it imposed on Europe and now evolved to this period when Russia has seized Crimea and when there are many concerns about the continuing destabilisation of the Donbass and what is going on there.
We have a question about how NATO is thinking about the situation in the Black Sea, for example, with the militarisation of Crimea that is going on by the Russian Federation. So can you talk a bit about NATO and work with its partners in the Black Sea Region, with Ukraine and Georgia in particular, and how you’re thinking about addressing the challenges – and indeed the threats – that Russia imposes in that area on some of NATO’s partners and indeed on some of the NATO countries in the region, such as Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey, of course, is a special case – I assure the viewers we’ll come to Turkey in a moment – but there is a lot of interest, of course, in how NATO thinks about deterrence and defence in the Black Sea Region. So back over to you, Jens.
JENS STOLTENBERG: I will say some few words about the Black Sea Region in a moment.
But first, more general about Russia. In our current Strategic Concept, as I mentioned, agreed in 2010, we stated that we are aspiring for a strategic partnership with Russia. And after the end of the Cold War, we really believed that we could develop a close partnership with Russia. I thought that myself and NATO Allies were working hard to achieve that, we established what we call the NATO-Russia Council, you know that very well, Rose.
And we had President Putin and President Medvedev, they attended NATO summits – in Bucharest, in Lisbon, and elsewhere. And we had much engagement at summit level, ministerial level, ambassadorial level with Russia, and we worked for a strategic partnership. Just months before the illegal annexation of Crimea, Russia and NATO were planning a joint military operation to safeguard the destruction of chemical weapons from Syria – that was going to be a joint NATO-Russia operation.
So since then, especially since 2014, things have really changed. And NATO has responded. We have to understand that we have implemented the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence in a generation, since the end of the Cold War, with the battlegroups in the eastern part of the Alliance, something we never had before, combat-ready battlegroups in Poland and the Baltic countries, tripled the size of the NATO response force, higher readiness of our forces, and increased investments in defence, 190 billion extra across Europe and Canada just since 2014. Part of that adaptation is also new command structures for the Atlantic, the vital link between Europe and North America and in Europe, in Germany. Then, on the Black Sea, well, that has been part of our adaptation, that we also have increased our presence in the Black Sea, with air policing, with more naval presence. Just the last few couple of months we have seen several US naval ships sailing in the Black Sea. All the NATO Allies have operated there with naval and air assets.
And we have also established what we call a tailored forward presence in Romania. And we are working not only, of course, we have three littoral states, Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey, but also two very close partners, Georgia and Ukraine, and we are working closely with them. So we have also the Enhanced Air Policing in the region. And all of this is part of NATO’s response to a more assertive Russia. Let me just add briefly that by saying that we are delivering credible deterrence and defence, because we see Russia responsible for aggressive actions against Ukraine, increased military presence in North Africa and elsewhere in the Middle East.
But we continue to pursue what we call a dual-track approach to Russia: deterrence and defence, combined with an effort to establish, develop, a meaningful dialogue with Russia. That’s not easy, but I think it’s extremely important, also because we, of course, support all efforts for verifiable and balanced arms control with Russia.
ROSE GOTTEMOELLER: Thank you. I am very glad you gave that more extensive answer. I want to make sure that we got the southeast of the Alliance included, but it’s very good to have that entire laid down. So thanks very much for that, Jens. Now, as promised, the tough question. I remember I used to get it quite a bit while I was still NATO Deputy Secretary General and I know you get it quite frequently.
Given Turkey is becoming a dictatorship and its recent closeness with Russia – I understand Erdoğan and Putin are even meeting, or speaking by phone even today – but should not Turkey be expelled from NATO? What do you think about that?
JENS STOLTENBERG: I think that Turkey is an important Ally. At the same time, I have expressed my concerns about many issues and I know also that many Allies have expressed their concerns. I think that it is nothing new, that we see differences between Allies. That has been the case throughout our history. And of course, the best thing is when you are able to agree on everything, but when there are differences and disagreements, also on serious and important issues, at least NATO is a platform for Allies to raise these differences and disagreements and to express their concerns and to have open and frank discussions. And that’s exactly what we have had in NATO on many of those issues where I know that Allies are concerned about issues related to Turkey.
For instance, the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, migration, the Turkish decision to acquire the Russian air defence system S-400, the rule of law, and so on. And then I think it is important at least that NATO is a platform where these issues are openly discussed. I raised these concerns myself, including the S-400 issue, the Eastern Med and so on, also in Ankara. And, of course, NATO is founded on some core values: democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty. And I personally attach great importance to these values. But at the same time, I think that we need to understand that Turkey is an important Ally, because you can just look at a map and then you see that Turkey is extremely important, not least because it’s bordering Iraq and Syria. And the progress we have made in fighting ISIS, liberating the territory they controlled in Iraq and Syria and controlling millions of people, infrastructure bases, airports in Turkey have been of great importance. And therefore, I’m always looking for: how can we try to reduce tensions? How can we try to find some steps in the right direction?
And we have, for instance, been able to establish what we call a deconfliction mechanism in NATO to address the risks related to increased tensions, combined with increased military presence of two NATO Allies, Turkey and Greece. During the 1990s, when we had similar tensions and similar increased military presence, that led to casualties, to downing of planes and we need to prevent that from happening again. And therefore, I welcome the fact that we have been able to find some positive steps, establish a deconfliction mechanism at NATO, where military experts from Greece and Turkey – two valued Allies meet, sit down, establish communication channels, cancelled some exercises, and by that, at least reducing the risks, for incidents and accidents, and if they happen, prevent them from coming out of control. And this has also helped to pave the way now for exploratory talks between Turkey and Greece on the underlying disputes in the Eastern Med.
So, I realise, I recognise that there are challenges, but I think the best thing is to address them as NATO Allies, inside NATO, in an open way and have NATO as a platform for trying to find ways to reduce tensions and find positive steps in the right direction.
ROSE GOTTEMOELLER: Thank you very much and I’m very glad you brought up what NATO has been doing in the Eastern Med, working with the two NATO Allies there, Greece and Turkey. That was another question that we had in the chat, so I’m very grateful to you for covering that. Now, yesterday, we had International Women’s Day and we had a very nice event that Condoleezza Rice chaired at the Hoover Institution, celebrating some of the women scholars. And, well, my book was part of the mix, but a number of us were on the call, it was really a great event. And I was glad because here in the United States, to be honest with you, International Women’s Day isn’t that big a celebration compared to in many other countries of the world and including, I know, the
Russian Federation is very, very big on it as a national holiday even.
But we have a question from Heidi Hart that is relevant. It says, ‘What is the future of the Women, Peace and Security agenda in the NATO 2030 framework? How is it being prioritised and mainstreamed as NATO’s strategic priorities shift?’
JENS STOLTENBERG: First of all, congratulations both on the International Women’s Day yesterday on 8th March and then also congratulations on your new book on arms control. You are really an expert and you know so much about that, so I think it’s very important that you write it down and that we can all read it in different articles, books and speeches you have written. So thank you for that.
Then Women, Peace and Security remains important for NATO and we are constantly looking into how we can do more. We say both because it’s the smart thing, but also the right thing to do. We know that, of course, for NATO to be able to mobilise the full potential of our populations in the different NATO allied countries is of great importance. And if you only focus on half of the people living in your country and in NATO, then we are half as good as we could be if we mobilise the strength of both men and women.
We are, gradually, more and more capable of doing that. And I welcome that we see that tradition, of course – defence, army, military – have been totally male dominated, but that’s gradually starting to change. And for instance, if we look at our armed forces, but also when we look at, for instance, the defence ministers, more and more are women. Not so many years ago, there were hardly any. Now it’s roughly six, seven, eight ministers are women. It’s not half, but it’s significantly better than not so long ago. And you were our first woman, Deputy Secretary General.
Then, of course, this is also about the women in conflict. This is about NATO missions and operations. And we do whatever we can to make sure that, for instance, sexual violence, gender-based violence is something we have to fight in all ways. And therefore, we train our troops and our forces, first of all, of course, to behave in a correct way themselves, but equally important, to make sure that when we train other forces, when we train in Afghanistan or in Kosovo or in Iraq and many other places, we help them to be aware of, to monitor, to see, to report on any kind of gender-based violence and to build the right attitudes among the armed forces. And of course, we have achieved that, or at least we have made a lot of progress together with local forces.
I had the privilege myself some time ago to visit female pilots in Afghanistan trained by NATO. And of course, that’s good for the Afghan air forces to have pilots, but it is also extremely important for, as role models, changing the way people regard women and the role of women in the Afghan society when you suddenly have female pilots flying helicopters and planes in Afghanistan. So, we will continue to push that also as part of the NATO 2030 agenda.
ROSE GOTTEMOELLER: Thank you. Well, again, Mr Secretary General, you’ve given me the great opening for the next question. We’ve had some questions about Afghanistan and the Afghanistan peace process. And, of course, the Biden administration is carefully reviewing this matter now and has been, I’m sure, also in touch with you about it.
And I’m interested – and of some of our viewers are interested – in knowing how are you thinking currently about the situation in Afghanistan, our NATO Training Mission there, but also then the Afghan peace process and how to continue it and, we all hope, garner success from it? So Afghanistan is the next the next question.
JENS STOLTENBERG: Afghanistan demonstrates the importance of NATO because we have to understand that we are all in Afghanistan as a result of an attack on one Ally: the 9/11 attack on the United States. And that is the first and only time we have invoked Article 5, the collective defence clause of our founding treaty. Hundreds of thousands of European and Canadian soldiers have served shoulder to shoulder alongside US troops in Afghanistan over now two decades, more than a thousand of them have lost their lives. And this is in addition to all the American soldiers who have paid the ultimate price in Afghanistan. So I think it demonstrates that when one Ally was attacked – the United States in 2001, 9/11 – it mobilised the whole NATO, the whole of NATO and partners.
And they have paid with blood and treasure in support of our common fight against international terrorism. And the main reason why we have been in Afghanistan for so long is, of course, to prevent the country from once again becoming a safe haven for international terrorists, planning, organising attacks against the United States and other NATO allied countries.
And we have also been able to build an Afghan security force, which is now responsible for the security in their own country. And I think that if there’s any lesson learnt from Afghanistan, then it is that we should have started earlier to build local capacity.
I strongly believe in NATO as a training Alliance. Prevention is better than intervention. And of course, we are still in Afghanistan, but our presence today is very different than what it was not so many years ago, when we were more than 100,000 troops in a big combat operation. Now the NATO mission is roughly 10,000 troops in the Train, Assist and Advise Mission. And of course, that’s a very different thing than 100,000 plus in combat. Having said all that, it is no good solution. There are only difficult dilemmas in Afghanistan.
No Ally would like to stay in Afghanistan longer than necessary. At the same time, we will not leave too early, because then we risk that Afghanistan again becomes a safe haven for international terrorism. This is a difficult dilemma.
My main message to Allies is that we need to stay very closely coordinated, act together, decide together, under the principle or the motto of: we went into Afghanistan together, we should adjust our presence there together, and when the time is right, we should leave together. Therefore, we strongly support the peace process.
All Allies welcome the agreement that was made last year and we welcome the renewed efforts by the Biden administration, by President Biden, to find a peaceful, negotiated solution. That will not be easy, but talks, the peace process is the only way to a viable, lasting political solution in Afghanistan. I think also what demonstrates the commitment of European Allies, non-US Allies and partners to our presence, to our mission in Afghanistan is that now there are actually more non-US troops in the NATO mission than there are US troops in the NATO mission. And it just, again, demonstrates the strength of NATO. We work together, we stand by each other and we consult very closely on the peace process. Secretary Austin updated Allies when he met them virtually at our defence ministerial meeting not so long ago. And I also expect and I am absolutely certain that when Secretary Blinken meets all the NATO ministers in two weeks, Afghanistan will once again be one of the main issues we will discuss and consult, to make decisions together.
ROSE GOTTEMOELLER: Very good. You know, sadly, Jens, we are running out of time, we have such a wonderful list of questions here, which we haven’t had a chance to touch on. So I apologise to some of the 53 questioners who haven’t had a chance to get their question asked.
But I’m going to end on the question that is near and dear to your heart. Greg Nelson asks, ‘How important do you think the emerging Arctic region is to NATO’s security? Is NATO prepared to take advantage of the Arctic? What capabilities does NATO have to protect it from Russian activity?’
JENS STOLTENBERG: First of all, it’s near to my heart because I have spent very much of my time up in the Arctic. And then you have to really understand that the Arctic is not only up by the North Pole, the Arctic is – half of my own country is north of the Arctic Circle. And we have the midnight sun and zero sun during winter. So the Arctic is not far away.
Five NATO Allies are actually Arctic countries and much of NATO territory and NATO waters are in the Arctic. And therefore, NATO is present in the Arctic. And as part of the broader adaptation of our Alliance over the last years, we have increased our presence in the Arctic, meaning with more naval presence, more air presence. We have NATO Allies, but also including the United States, operating more in the Arctic.
And we, of course, realise the increasing strategic importance of the Arctic, partly caused by global warming, because less ice, more open sea, and partly because of the increased Russian presence in the Arctic. We used to say that in the High North, we have low tensions. I think that’s not as correct to say anymore because we have seen increased tensions also in the High North. But to some extent, it reflects something which I think is important to try to preserve, and that is that we have more cooperation with Russia in the High North than we have elsewhere.
NATO Allies work in the Arctic Council, in the Barents Council, the Barent regional cooperation with the Nordic countries and Russia, and the Arctic Council with all the Arctic countries. We work with Russia on issues like search and rescue, environment and so on. And I know from – again, from Norway – that Norway, being a NATO Ally, they had developed quite close cooperation with Russia up in the High North, on fishery, on energy, on environment, on search and rescue. We agreed a borderline or a delimitation line on the Barents Sea and the Polar Sea and the military in Norway, they have regular contacts with the Russian military, very open lines of communications to avoid any misunderstandings and miscalculations up in the High North. So I say this because there are many reasons to be concerned.
We see a more military presence of Russia, also with extremely advanced new capabilities, nuclear capabilities, submarines. We see the transatlantic undersea cables, all of that, something that NATO is very focused on. But at the same time, we see that in some areas and in some ways it’s actually possible to work with Russia and the High North is an example of that. So we should continue to strive for, at least to some degree, lower tensions in the High North, because that’s the best way to secure the interest of NATO Allies.
ROSE GOTTEMOELLER: Thank you so much. And to those of you, 54 questioners we didn’t get to, I’m really sorry. We could keep you here all night, Mr Secretary General, but as it’s already after 9:00 p.m. your time, I think we shall have to let you go. But thank you so very, very much.
I’ve had many messages in the chat about how much people have appreciated your remarks and what a great event you’ve made it. So thank you very much for that. I can applaud from where I am in Mountain View, California, but I know the rest of the audience is applauding as well. And again, next time I hope we will be able to invite you in person to the NATO . . . to the NATO headquarters – you are there! To our campus here at Stanford. So thanks, thanks again very, very much.
JENS STOLTENBERG: Thanks so much, Rose, great to see you and all the best. And I hope to see you soon in person.
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Ilustračné foto: https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/photos_182021.htm