Discussion with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Council on Foreign Relations‘ „Morse Lecture“ series
11 March 2021
Thank you so much Jim,
It’s really great to see you again.
And many thanks for your strong commitment to our transatlantic Alliance, to NATO.
And also many thanks to the Council on Foreign Relations for inviting me to address such a distinguished audience today.
This year, CFR celebrates its centennial.
That is an impressive milestone, congratulations!
Foreign Affairs magazine has been with me from my young age.
My parents would get a copy delivered at our house in Oslo.
And I loved flipping through the pages.
It gave me the impression that the big, wide world out there was coming straight into our home in Oslo!
Over the decades, much has been said and written about the importance of adapting the NATO Alliance.
Including by you Jim. And others in this audience.
After the Cold War, in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and again following Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and the rise of ISIS.
Now, we are at another pivotal moment in transatlantic history.
A moment to reinforce the unity between Europe and North America.
Because we are facing many great challenges; the rise of China, sophisticated cyber-attacks, disruptive technologies, climate change, Russia’s destabilising behaviour.
And the continuing threat of terrorism.
No country or continent can tackle these challenges alone.
Not Europe alone.
Nor America alone.
So Europe and North America must work together, in strategic solidarity.
So therefore, I very much welcome President Biden’s clear message on rebuilding alliances and strengthening NATO.
Making our strong Alliance even stronger and more future-proof, is at the heart of NATO 2030, the NATO 2030 initiative.
And it will be at the heart of the NATO Summit later this year.
Together we have the opportunity to set an ambitious and forward-looking agenda for the future of the Alliance.
Let me briefly set out what I see as the main priorities going forward.
We must strengthen our commitment to collective defence.
2021 will be the seventh consecutive year of increased defence spending by European Allies and Canada.
Since 2014, they have contributed a cumulative extra of 190 billion dollars.
So the trend is up and it must continue to go up.
We should also increase common funding for our deterrence and defence activities.
This would boost our ability to defend and deter.
Demonstrate our solidarity and political resolve.
And contribute to a fairer burden sharing within the Alliance.
We must also strengthen our transatlantic consultations on security and defence issues.
NATO is the unique platform that brings Europe and North America together to discuss and decide every day.
And together, we need to continue to broaden our agenda to tackle existing and new challenges to our security.
For example, we need to do more on climate change.
NATO should aim to become the leading international organization when it comes to understanding, adapting and mitigating the impact of climate change on our security.
We should also raise our level of ambition when it comes to resilience and innovation.
We need strong militaries.
But also strong, resilient societies, to address the full spectrum of threats.
NATO should aim to guarantee a minimum standard of resilience among Allies.
And we need more investment in innovation, to maintain our technological edge and remain competitive in a more competitive world.
Lastly, we must stand up for the international rules-based order, which is being challenged by authoritarian powers, including China.
The rise of China offers opportunities, for instance for our economies, but it also poses challenges for our security and way of life.
That is why we should deepen our partnerships with countries like Australia and Japan.
And reach out to other like-minded countries around the world.
I also believe this is the time to develop a new Strategic Concept for NATO.
The last one dates back to 2010, and our strategic environment has significantly changed since then.
We need to chart a common course going forward, agree on how to prioritise and tackle existing and emerging challenges.
And recommit to our fundamental values.
This year is a crucial year.
With an important Summit coming up, we have a unique opportunity to open a new chapter in the transatlantic relations.
We must all seize it.
So let me stop there, and I look forward to our discussion, thank you so much Jim.
JAMES STAVRIDIS [Operating Executive, The Carlyle Group; Former Supreme Allied Commander Europe, NATO]: Thank you very much, Secretary General. The format here is that I will ask the Secretary General a few questions, sort of bouncing off his excellent opening statements, and then at about half past the hour I’ll open it up to the membership. I think we all wish we were together in one place in New York but I see our participants are over 300 and it’d be hard to pack that many into the headquarters in New York. So perhaps there is a silver lining here.
Secretary General, let me begin with something you spoke about a moment ago. And that was China. Over my right shoulder, I’m now going to indulge myself and mention, yesterday I released a new book, the title is 2034: A Novel of the Next World War, and it projects us into the future, 2034, to think about the rise of China, if it all goes terribly wrong.
My question for you is how do we avoid that, how do we avoid a war with China? And specifically in broadening NATO relationships in Asia and I completely agree, Japan, Australia and New Zealand Singapore – the list is quite long of potential partners.
Would NATO be willing to operate, for example, on freedom of navigation patrols in the South China Sea? So a two part question. How do we avoid conflict with China? And a specific question: would NATO be willing to join these freedom of navigation patrols?
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: Thank you so much, Jim, and congratulations on your new book. The rise of China is, it will be defining for the transatlantic relationship in the years ahead. And we need to understand that when we look at China from NATO, we have seen an enormous change.
It was actually at our summit in 2019, in London, in December – that was the first time we as an Alliance, made common decisions, had agreed language on how to address the rise of China.
And at that time that was seen as a kind of radical step, an important change of how NATO addressed the security implications of the rise of China.
Since then we have seen convergence of views, among Allies. Allies recognize of course that there are opportunities but also challenges related to the rise of China.
I strongly believe that NATO should remain a regional Alliance, North America and Europe together.
But at the same time we need to take into account that the threats and challenges we are facing in this region, North America and Europe, they are global, and they are impacted by the rise of China. So we need what we call a global approach. And this is partly about standing up for our values.
China would soon have the biggest economy in the world, the second largest defense budget they already have and they don’t share our values. And therefore just to stand up for our values, work with like-minded countries, for instance in Asia-Pacific: Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan and potentially others, is part of our response.
Fundamentally, the way to prevent war is always to send a clear message to any potential adversary, that if one Ally is attacked, the whole Alliance will respond. That message, our collective defense security guarantees – Article 5, that has preserved peace for more than 70 years.
Because as long as there is no misunderstanding, no room for miscalculation, an attack on one Ally will never happen because it will trigger the response from the whole Alliance.
This is important for Europe. But it’s also important for the United States, because the United States is of course big; big military, big economy. But compared to China, I meet many in the United States who are actually concerned a bit about the size.
Then for the United States, it is a great and big advantage to have 29 friends and allies, as the United States has in NATO. And together, all of us, we represent 50% of the world’s GDP and 50% of the world’s military might.
So, NATO has always been important, but if you are concerned about the security consequences of the rise of China, and the size of China, then actually NATO is more important than ever. Because together we will be able to prevent war, prevent conflict, by just sending a very clear message of unity and the collective defense commitment within the Alliance.
Then, whether we can be participating in freedom of navigation patrols or activities. There is no such proposal on the table, and I will be very careful starting to speculate because that will only create uncertainty and potential misunderstandings.
So I will just limit myself to saying that NATO Allies, as individual Allies, are already present in the South China Sea. Germany sent some naval ship there recently. United States, UK, France, others have operated there. We have a close partnership with Australia. I visited Australia a couple of years ago. And one of the things that were of course very much concerned about was freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. So, no concrete proposal on the table. But we are consulting, working closely with partners, and with Allies which are operating in the South China Sea.
JAMES STAVRIDIS: Thank you. And I’ll just add to your excellent remarks about 50% of the world’s GDP and 50% of the military budget. What I try to point out to Americans who say: oh, you know, why doesn’t Europe spend more money on defense? I tell them, hey, add up all of the European spending and collectively, it is Europe that has the second largest defense budget in the world, China would be third.
So, again, your point, this collective action together is very much a part of the future of NATO.
Sir, I’d like to turn to climate. Here, I would like to just make one point, which is that this is an area where conceivably, the United States, European Union and China, collectively, could work together, I think. This could be a zone of cooperation, even as we deal with the challenges that we’ve both just discussed about China.
Help the audience understand in a little more detail what NATO’s role could be in climate change. Because I agree with you I think it very much has to be part of the future the Alliance.
JENS STOLTENBERG: Climate change matters for NATO.
Because, climate change, matters for security. And climate change is a crisis multiplier.
So therefore, it matters for NATO. Of course NATO will not be the main platform to negotiate big climate conventions and protocols and agreements in the future, that’s for the UN and other international organizations to do. But NATO has a role to play.
And I think that, at least in, in three ways.
First, since climate change matters for our security, we need to be the organization, the international institution that has the best understanding, the best analysis, and the best assessment of the security because implications of climate change. Because without understanding the problem we are not able to cope and tackle the problem.
More migration, more competition, conflict about water, land, scarce natural resources, are already the consequences of climate change, and it will be even more important in the future. So, first task for NATO is to understand the security consequences of climate change.
The second task is to adapt to climate change, global warming.
Because our militaries they are operating out there in nature.
At sea, in the air, on land. And with climate change, it impacts the way we can operate.
It is as simple as that. Rising sea levels will impact a lot of our naval bases, other infrastructure and we need to plan and to take into consideration the consequences of rising sea levels.
Melting ice impacts where we can operate in the High North. And the security challenges, for instance, in the Arctic. Increased temperatures, as we for instance have seen many places in the world already, it will impact how our soldiers can do their work.
NATO is present in Iraq with a training mission. Last summer, there were many days with more than 50 degrees Celsius. I don’t know how much that is in Fahrenheit, but it’s very warm.
So of course, if you’re going to operate in that kind of extreme weather, you need uniforms, you need training, you need soldiers who are able to tackle extreme weather; be it cold, windy, wet stormy, whatever, but more extreme weather will impact military operations. So we need the uniforms, we need vehicles, we need equipment, we need the infrastructure that is able to sustain more extreme weather. So that’s the second task of NATO and we need to share best practices, provide guidelines, exercises, all that enable us to deal with more extreme weather.
Wilder, windier, warmer weather will impact military operations.
The third task for NATO is to help to reduce emissions. Because we know that military missions planes, ships, bases, they are emitting a lot of carbon dioxide. And the challenge is that we need to be able to reduce emissions without undermining our operational effectiveness.
We need to be effective, we need to function, but at the same time try to reduce emissions, partly because that will reduce the contribution of military footprint to global warming. But secondly, because it’s actually possible to reconcile operational effectiveness with being more environmentally friendly. We know that, you know, throughout history at least throughout the history of hydrocarbons, the supply of fossil fuel has been one of the most critical things in any military operation.
You can read about the Rommel struggling in the North Africa, not being able to get gasoline to his battle tanks or Patton who could have moved much faster to France if he had more access to gasoline. And there are many other examples.
In Afghanistan, one of the most vulnerable operations we actually did was to transport diesel in trucks from Pakistan all the way to our different bases to fuel our aggregates to produce electricity.
So the thing is that if we can make our operations more energy efficient, turn to solar panels or biofuels or other types of energy, it will be environmentally friendly, but also potentially increase the strength and the resilience of military operations.
So these are areas and we already work on that. Our Science for Peace Programme, developing alternative fuels, sharing best practices and so on. NATO is not perhaps the main responder to climate change, but we need to understand, we need to adapt and we need to contribute to reduce emissions.
JAMES STAVRIDIS: What an excellent portrait of the role. The only thing I could add to it just from the perspective of the United States. I’m coming to you from my native state of Florida, which is often, if you will, attacked by hurricanes. In the summer, we have terrible fires in our forests in the West. Often our militaries are called into participate in humanitarian work, disaster relief. That takes time away from training, it takes attention away from it, it becomes an additional burden.
And I think in your remarks I hear in an awareness in the NATO context of that as well.
Secretary General, let me turn to one other area that has been very much on my mind and on the minds of many Americans over the last few weeks, and that is cyber, and cyber security. As you are well aware, we’ve undergone a significant cyber event here.
I would personally define it as a cyber-attack, we could have a conversation about what defines a cyber attack but it’s of course the SolarWinds hack, which came at companies and attacked 400 of the Fortune 500 companies, have penetrated many sectors of the US government. It was almost certainly generated from Russia. It’s an example of the challenges we all face.
I’d love to hear some comments about what NATO is doing in thinking about cyber. I remember as a Supreme Allied Commander going off into the NATO Cyber Security Centre in Tallinn, Estonia. This was something that was coming on line, as I departed some years ago. Where are we now and where are we going in cyber, Secretary General?
JENS STOLTENBERG: Cyber will only become more and more important for our defense, both for our military defense but also for protecting our civilian societies, our critical civilian infrastructure.
And again, NATO has adapted but we need to continue to do more, because we are confronted with more frequent and more sophisticated cyberattacks.
What we have done is that we have decided that cyber can trigger Article 5, and that’s a very strong message, meaning that we equalize cyber attack with kinetic attacks.
So, if we assess that the cyberattack has the seriousness, the scale and the scope, then we can trigger our collective defense clause. We don’t have to respond in cyber, but of course we can respond in cyber, or in other domains.
Second, we have established cyber as a military domain, alongside air, sea, land.
And we are helping Allies with improving their cyber defenses. We again share best practices, have the center in Tallinn you just mentioned. We have conducted the biggest exercises in the world when it comes to cyber defense, and we are constantly both improving the protection of our own cyber networks at our headquarters.
But you know when we operate in Afghanistan, or Iraq, or in Kosovo, or the battlegroups in eastern part Alliance, cyber networks are critical for command and control for everything we do, we need to protect these networks.
Then let me add that we have also the last years, been able to develop and integrate into NATO, what we refer to as sovereign national cyber effects. It is all very often called offensive cyber and that has been used by Allies. I’ve seen for instance how Allies have used offensive cyber against ISIS, taking down their networks, reducing their capabilities to recruit, to finance, to send out propaganda.
So, we also have national cyber effects, integrated in the NATO planning, and when necessary NATO operations, because we need to be able to be defensive but also when necessary also to use offensive cyber as NATO Allies used against for instance, ISIS.
The last thing I will say, which is a task for NATO is to address some of the very difficult ethical, but also arms control, questions raised by cyber warfare, cyberattacks.
We don’t have to find answers, but we need to look into how to address that because it will be an important part of any potential military conflict in the future, it will have a cyber dimension.
JAMES STAVRIDIS: Well said. And here in the United States, there’s a conversation that is beginning about whether or not we need a cyber force. As I’m sure you’re aware last year we created a space force, the United Kingdom is moving toward a space force. This isn’t really a question just a comment that I think within the Alliance there’ll be more specialization in this area on the part of the uniformed military, [inaudible] civilians.
I think your comments are precisely correct in that keeping this front and center for the Alliance is just critical.
Well we’ve talked about three topics and they all began with C: China, cyber and climate. I can’t think of any other topics that begin with C. So I think it’s time to open this up to the larger membership. I’m sure there’ll be some terrific questions. I’ll conclude my small part here by just saying, drawing a line under your comment that it’s time for a new Strategic Concept for the Alliance.
As you said, 2010 was the last time we did this. I participated in that as SACEUR. Madeleine Albright, did a marvelous job chairing that effort. I’m sure this will be something to watch as it unfolds and I’m so glad, if I can conclude with this, that you have extended and will now be our Secretary General for another two years. Certainly time to do this and bring all your experience as we create this new Strategic Concept.
Okay with that, Laura, I’ll turn it over to you to bring in individual questions, as you will.
MODERATOR: We’ll take the first question from Mirna Galic.
MIRNA GALIC: Thank you so much. This is Mirna Galic from the Atlantic Council, Secretary General, it’s such a pleasure to be able to listen to you speak and ask you some questions. You’ve mentioned and also the expert report that came out in December mentioned the importance of NATO engaging more holistically with its allies in the Asia-Pacific: Japan, Australia, South Korea New Zealand.
China is a great entry point for that but there’s some ways in which those relationships can be improved more holistically, including in terms of exercises. It’s sometimes difficult for these partners to make it to Europe or North America, where the majority of NATO’s military exercises are held. And in theory, a more mutually accessible location like perhaps the Indian Ocean might be better.
I know you’ve wisely already said he would not speculate on NATO operating in the South China Sea, but do you think that given that NATO has operated in the Indian Ocean before, this area might be a potential place for some NATO exercises with these partners down the line, if all sides are agreed? Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG: I personally have an open mind to look into different ways of working more closely with our Asia-Pacific partners and you mentioned. And I also think actually there is potential to look into whether we can also have new partners in the Asia-Pacific, for instance mentioned, India.
But when it comes to concrete activities I’m a bit careful about speculating because I think that we need to discuss this among Allies, and we need to discuss it with our partners in in the region.
But as you have said, or as you just said, NATO has operated in the Indian Ocean before, fighting piracy. We are in Afghanistan, which is actually in Asia. So, of course, if we make a decision, then of course it’s possible for NATO to operate also in that part of the world.
I think the big decision was actually taken back in the beginning of the 1990s, then we had this discussion whether NATO should go beyond our borders, but it was about you know after the end of the Cold War, we discussed whether NATO should just stay in NATO territory as it did for 40 years during the Cold War.
And then we had this famous discussion of whether NATO should go beyond our territory, and we went beyond NATO territory first in the Balkans, then later on into Afghanistan, and I have opened mind to also do more with Asia-Pacific partners, but that has to be decided when we have complete discussions with partners and with all Allies.
JAMES STAVRIDIS: Thank you Laura. How about another question for the Secretary General.
MODERATOR: We’ll take the next question from Alexander Vershbow.
ALEXANDER VERSHBOW: Hi, I’m Sandy Vershbow, I’m at the Atlantic Council as well. And I was Mr Stoltenberg’s Deputy Secretary General until the end of 2016. Good to see you and Jim Stavridis again. I’ve a easy question – relationship with Turkey.
Turkey and the rest of the Allies have been drifting apart over the last few years over many issues: Syria, refugees, maritime boundaries, offshore gas exploration, and of course, the acquisition of Russian technology by the Turkish armed forces.
Mr. Secretary General how successful, have you been so far in your efforts to defuse some of the disagreements and tensions among Allies? And do you see any prospect of a compromise on the S- 400, such as a deactivation of the systemn that would enable Turkey to rejoin the Alliance and the F-35 Program in particular?
JENS STOLTENBERG: First of all, it’s great to hear your voice, Sandy and I really appreciate the time we work together at NATO. You were there when I came in 2014 and I have learned a lot from you. So great to hear your voice. I am not able to see you, but I recognize the voice.
Then on Turkey: Well, there are concerns and there are problems. And I have never tried to hide that. You mentioned them. The decision to acquire S-400, the Russian air defence system. I have actually raised those concerns myself in Ankara several times. I raised concerns I have about the consequences of the Turkish decision to acquire Russian air defense system, Eastern Mediterranean migration, there are other issues that has caused concern among Allies. And I have discussed them directly with the Turkish leadership. And we have seen also some difficulties in the relationship between Allies, for instance, Greece and Turkey regarding the situation in the eastern Mediterranean.
So I don’t try to deny that. But I think that we have to take into account at least one important thing, and that is that Turkey is an important Ally.
You can just look at the map and realize the strategic geographic location of Turkey. The Black Sea. The Mediterranean. And then of course bordering Iraq and Syria. Turkey has been important, infrastructure in Turkey has been important in the fight against ISIS, liberating the territory ISIS controlled in Iraq and Syria. Turkey remains important in our efforts to fight terrorism in that region.
So I strongly believe that my task, NATO’s task, is to do what you alluded to: how can we defuse tensions, how can we find positive steps in the right direction. And what we have done is, on S-400, to look into whether there are other alternative systems. We have, of course, the European system SAMP/T, Italy and France. We have a US Patriot batteries.
And NATO has actually deployed Patriots to Turkey. Spain is now deploying one Patriot battery on behalf of our reliance in Turkey and we continue to try to find ways to find alternative systems that can help address the problem related to the Turkey’s decision to buy, acquire the S-400.
We are also looking into other ways to try to defuse tensions, and we have succeeded in establishing what we call deconfliction mechanisms at NATO, where military experts from Turkey and Greece, meet. And where have agreed some improved lines of communications, to cancel some military exercises in the Eastern Med.
And by doing that at least, reducing the risks for repeating what we saw in the 1990s where the similar tensions and similar increased military presence, by Turkey and Greece in the Eastern Med, the Aegean, led to downing our planes casualties and really serious situations. By the NATO deconfliction mechanism the risk for that happening again has been reduced. And we have helped to pave the way for talks, exploratory talks between Turkey and Greece on the underlying disputes in the Eastern Med.
NATO also helped to try to address the migration issue, we have the NATO activity, NATO naval presence in the Aegean, which is important partly because you have ships there. But most important because we actually bring Turkey and the EU, Turkey Greece, Turkey Frontex together. And by that, helping to implement the deal, the agreement between Turkey and the European Union on migration.
So I’m not saying that we can solve all issues but at least NATO is a platform where we address difficulties, try to find ways to defuse tensions and make some steps in the right direction. And we continue, of course, to look for ways to how to deal with the S-400 issue which is of great concern for Allies.
JAMES STAVRIDIS: Excellent and comprehensive. And Ambassador Vershbow, my dear friend Sandy, great to hear your voice. Ambassador Vershbow and I also work together during my time, which kind of, Sandy overlapped both of us. This is a nice chance for the three of us to be virtually together for a moment.
Secretary General, if I may, I’d only add one thought to your excellent composition. And it’s simply an observation as the SACEUR in charge of operations globally. In every operation that we undertook, Turkey delivered. They sent troops to Afghanistan, the Balkans, to counter piracy, to Libya, which many nations opted out of. So we ought to, as you said, recognize what comes with Turkey is a basket of challenges that we have to work with, but they’ve also been strong contributors across the fabric of the Alliance certainly during my time there, I believe, on to the present. A balance view I think is the bottom line here. Again, thank you, Ambassador Vershbow. And Laura, we are ready for the next question.
MODERATOR: We’ll take the next question from John Kornblum.
JOHN KORNBLUM: Thank you very much. I am also a longtime NATO veteran going back into the 1970s. And my question deals with maybe the other elephant in the room that you didn’t mention: Russia.
NATO, beginning in the 1970s, together worked out an approach to Russia, which ended up being very successful. We do not, especially with the enlargement of NATO it’s much harder to have a common position. But I don’t see much evidence of NATO working on a common position and wonder if, first part of my question is, isn’t this a time for the NATO Council to take up Russia, the way it did back before the end of the Cold War?
Second question is the NATO Russia Council. That was an effort. I was also part of that, to try and engage Russia with NATO. For many reasons it didn’t work. I wonder if you see any opportunity to reactivate, to focus, to use the NATO-Russia Council to start a dialogue with Russia, which could perhaps lead to some improvement for all NATO’s Allies?
Well, we are regularly discussing and addressing Russia in NATO and in the North Atlantic Council.
And I think we have to remember that actually there is one other C that we could discuss, we will because we discussed climate, China, and cyber but we can add Crimea.
And that was actually a trigger for a renewed effort by NATO to respond to aggressive actions by Russia and then more assertive Russia which we have seen over the last years.
And since 2014, not least because of the Russian behavior, not only in Ukraine, Crimea, but also elsewhere, and also the deployment of new novel weapon systems, the violation of the INF Treaty and so on, NATO has implemented the biggest reinforcements or collected offense in the generation.
You know we have combat-ready battlegroups in eastern part of Alliance. If someone has suggested that back in 2014 or before that, it would have been said that’s impossible. Now we have them in place, every day, 24/7. All Allies have stopped cutting defense spending. Until 2014, all Allies were reducing defense spending every year. Now, all European Allies and Canada have increased defense spending every year in seven years, added 190 billion extra over those years for defense spending, and that’s very much triggered by the behavior of Russia.
We have tripled the size of the NATO response force: more exercises, new commands, and so on. So, I’m not I’m not saying that’s only because of Russia, but it’s very much because of Russia and the battlegroups, the increased presence in the Black Sea region, the Baltic region, is triggered by Russia’s behavior, since it is a response to Russia.
But as you know, NATO’s response to Russia is not only the deterrence and defence. It is also dialogue, and I am a strong supporter of, and believer, in the NATO response which has been there since the 70s actually: the dual track approach: deterrence and defense, and dialogue. And for me, there is no contradiction between deterrence, defense, and dialogue. Actually, as long as we are strong, as long as we are firm, as long as we are united, we can talk with Russia.
Dialogue is not a sign of weakness for me. Dialogue is a sign of strength. And therefore, we should continue to strive for dialogue with Russia. We have been able to activate the NATO-Russia Council, there were no meetings in NATO-Russia Council for a couple of years after the illegal annexation of Crimea. Then, over the last one and a half years, there has been no meetings in the NATO-Russia Council. But that’s not because of us, that’s because of Russia, because they have not responded positively to our invitations to convene new meetings in the NATO-Russia Council. But we are ready, we would like to sit down and continue to use this Council, the NATO-Russia Council as a platform for dialogue, meaningful dialogue with Russia.
Let me add one more thing about dialogue.
We need dialogue to try to strive for a better relationship with Russia.
But even if we don’t believe in a better relationship with Russia in the foreseeable future, we should talk to Russia. We need dialogue to manage a difficult relationship. Dialogue is for instance about arms control. And even during the coldest period of the Cold time, we were able to talk to the Soviet Union, about arms control. We need dialogue to prevent incidents, accidents [inaudible] risk reduction in our interaction with Russia.
So, so, I strongly believe that, we should prevent any room for miscalculation, misunderstanding about the readiness of Allies to defend each other, but based on that we can sit down and talk to Russia, because Russia is our neighbor and we should do whatever we can to reduce tensions and at least manage a difficult relationship with a neighbour.
JAMES STAVRIDIS: Thank you, Secretary General and thank you, Ambassador Kornblum and also for your long, long service in the diplomatic corps and your ambassadorship to Germany at a very important time. Sir, thank you.
Secretary General, I might just take the moderators prerogative and add a fifth C, since you added Crimea. The one I’m going to add is: what about NATO where it’s really cold? So I’d like to hear your thoughts on the High North, something as a Norwegian you understand deeply. I think I once said to your chief of defense General Harald Sunde that you know I really didn’t want to go all the way up North. It was so cold and the weather was so bad and he said: Jim, there is no bad weather, only bad equipment.
Norway, understands the High North, I think, perhaps better than any other NATO ally with the possible exception of Canada. The two of you, however, have had different views as nations on the High North, low tension. Could you say a word about NATO and its views up there where it’s really, really cold?
So first of all, Jim, I know that you know the cold, the High North and cold environment up there quite well. You have been there and, and as NATO’s Supreme Commander you know that part of our Alliance very well.
Second, for me it is important to say that the High North, the Arctic is not something beyond NATO territory, it is within our area of responsibility. You mentioned Canada but also the United States, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, we are NATO members, and we are Arctic states with territory, land, but also territorial waters, which are in the High North, north of the Arctic Circle. Almost half of Norway is actually in the Arctic. So we should, you didn’t do that, but sometimes we speak about the Arctic as something beyond NATO. No, the Arctic is inside NATO, and five Arctic states, our NATO Allies, and we are present.
But, and you also were right at that what we always said is that the High North, we have low tensions. It’s still High North, we think is a bit too easy to say that we have low tensions but we should strive to have at least not as high tensions as we have, as we have other places in our relationship with Russia. Because we need to work together. And that’s exactly what we do in the Arctic.
I welcome the fact that NATO Allies are working with Russia in the Arctic Council, in the Barents Council, in this regional cooperation between the countries in the Barents region.
Not least on issues like search and rescue, environment, energy and so on. I think there is potential, not only potential, we actually see that that NATO Allies are working with Finland, Sweden as countries outside the Alliance, but also with Russia. It demonstrates that dialogue works, also when we have a difficult relationship with our neighbour, Russia.
The strategic importance of the High North, the Arctic has always been there, but with the melting of the ice. And the melting of the ice has been regarded as a kind of first step towards more commercial traffic.
So far, we have not seen that much but potentially it will be more ships sailing from Asia to Europe, over the Northeast Passage. And military operations will change when the ice is melting. And this is not something that will potentially happen in the future. It is happening now. The extent of the ice in the Arctic North Pole has diminished significantly already. And it will continue to do so as we see increased global warming.
Increased Russian presence, more Russian bases in in the High North has also triggered the need for more NATO presence, and we have increased our presence there with more naval capabilities, presence in the air, and not least, the importance of protecting transatlantic undersea cables transmitting a lot of data.
So, we need to be present in the Arctic, we need to step up and the increase readiness of our forces also affect our ability to be present in the Arctic.
The last thing I would say is that, if you look at the map, it’s very easy to think…Actually Russia and the United States, they are very close, you just pass the North Pole. And that’s the shortest distance between our two continents. And we have to remember that even though the maps normally confuse us a bit because if you look at the globe you see the proximity between Russia and the North America.? You can see there, crossing the North Pole.
JAMES STAVRIDIS: Well, Sir, we have about 10 minutes left. We’ve got six or seven questions in the queue so we’ll kind of consider this a bit of a lightning round here at the end. Laura, can you see how quickly we can get through some of these questions so make them move, thank you.
MODERATOR: We will take the next question from Jane Harman.
JANE HARMAN: Thank you. It consoles me that both of you are so close to NATO and still heading NATO, it means a lot to me and certainly my colleagues at the Wilson Center. I also want to salute the service of our immediate past ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison, my colleague from Congress, who I think did a magnificent job.
Here’s my question. I was thinking of what are the strategic advantages of NATO, compared to other organizations in Europe or other organizations the US belongs to, to meet current threats? And here’s an idea. The most important threat right now is the pandemic and NATO and certainly the US defense apparatus are extremely good at logistics. Is it a goal of NATO or should it be a goal of NATO, with our participation, to master the logistics for the world of distributing vaccines, and not just distributing them but making sure that get into arms? Wouldn’t that build enormous goodwill for any follow on activities of NATO and also enormous goodwill for the US as it re-enters, hopefully, a friendly set of alliances?
I will now try to be short, because only 10 minutes left or even less than. But first of all, I must say Kay Bailey Hutchison she has been really a good friend and a strong supporter and a very staunch supporter of our Alliance. And I really appreciate working with her the time she was Ambassador of United States to NATO.
Second, the strategic advantage of NATO is that NATO is the only institution that brings together North America and Europe, every day, in NATO.
We are the most successful alliance in history because we are actually military alliance, 30 allies, standing together. So as long as we stand together we can manage any threats from any direction.
Thirdly on COVID. Well, NATO has already coordinated and facilitated help from our militaries to the civilian efforts of dealing with the pandemic.
And you also see across the Alliance, in different ways but across the Alliance, we have seen how military has helped to support the civilian efforts to combat the pandemic. Transporting patients, transporting medical equipment, setting up military field hospitals, helping to control borders and now also, again, it differs a bit between Allied countries, but our military, supported often by NATO, are also helping with the rollout of the vaccines.
So, different allies need help in different ways but NATO has coordinated and the military has provided a lot of help already and I’d like to see more of that in the future.
JAMES STAVRIDIS: Thank you so much Jane excellent question, I agree. Next question please Laura.
MODERATOR: We’ll take the next question from Ivo Daalder.
IVO DAALDER: Secretary General, thanks so much for being there. Jim Great to see you, was wonderful to do our adventure together for so many years.
Jens, I just wanted to follow up on your answer to John Kornblum’s important question on Russia. And you’re rightfully stressing the importance of dialogue.
I am struck that 50 years after the Harmel Report, 55 years after the Harmel report and 45 years after we had a serious arms control engagement. We have no more arms control. INF is gone. The Conventional Forces agreement is gone, the Vienna Document is gone. Even the Open Skies agreement has disappeared.
And I wonder whether you could, just in a few minutes, say something about how NATO is going to get back into the arms control frame, starting with, first of all, having a dialogue among the Allies themselves about what it is that we seek and how we might be able to enhance that dimension of our relationship with Russia, which is, has been so critical and for the future of our security will remain critical.
JENS STOLTENBERG: Thank you, Ivo. I will again try to be telegraphic. Arms control has been, and still is, extremely important for NATO. NATO has been on the forefront of efforts on arms control for decades. Therefore, we are also extremely concerned that we have seen that not all, but much of the arms control architecture that has been developed over decades has now unraveled.
You mentioned some of the examples, especially the demise of the INF Treaty. Therefore, I also strongly welcome the recent decision by the United States and Russia to extend the New START, which is actually the only remaining arms control agreement, limiting the number of nuclear warheads in the world. The extension of the New START should not be the end, it should be the beginning of a renewed effort on arms control.
And I think there are at least a couple of things that are important.
First, we need to extend arms control to more weapon system than the strategic weapons which are covered by New START. Especially Russia has a high number of intermediate range systems and non-strategic or tactical systems, and they are not covered by New START. So we need some kind of agreement, whether it’s another agreement or just expanded START agreement that covers all these other systems.
Second, we need to address the importance of getting China on board. China is becoming more and more global military power. And with global strength also comes global responsibilities. And China should be part of the future arms control.
And thirdly, new disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence, quantum computing, autonomous systems, facial recognition are now in the process of changing the nature of warfare, as fundamentally as the Industrial Revolution. And again, we don’t have the final answers, but this should also impact the way we do arms control. There are some serious ethical questions and some arms control issues related to new disruptive technologies that I think NATO should be a platform to address.
JAMES STAVRIDIS: Ivo, great to see you and thanks for your good work in this world of international relations at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Secretary General, we’re going to impose on you to do one more question and I think that’ll wrap up our time together. Laura, last question please.
MODERATOR: We’ll take the last question from John Jumper.
JOHN JUMPER: Hello Jim, good to see you again. Mr. Secretary, thank you for this opportunity. I was Commander of the chief staff of the Air Force, US Air Force and Commander US Air Forces Europe during Kosovo operations. My question is, the issues we’ve discussed here today, I want to add another C, Jim, if that’s okay and that’s Charter.
We gone through this list of issues which are very much global in nature. And would seem to expand our horizon behind the sort of regional context of the current Charter, and the mentality of NATO, I might add. During the operations I was involved with, some nations actually cited the Charter as for reasons not to do things. And so the question is, Mr. Secretary General, is it time for a review of the Charter to insert some more agility, to reflect this sort of global role that we’ve discussed here today? And to actually be this force of stability that gets some global notoriety for our efforts, more than we perhaps do today? Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG: Thank you so much. I agree that NATO must be agile and to change, and always look to how we can adapt to evolving security environment. NATO is the most successful alliance in history, partly because we have been able to stand together, 30 Allies, but also very much because we have been able to change when the world is changing. And that’s the kind of need for permanent change since the world continues to change.
But I don’t think that the Charter in itself is the challenge.
I think actually the beauty with the Washington Treaty, the founding charter of NATO, is that it’s very short, very brief document, and it has worked, and it has been.. it has enabled change.
Because as I briefly mentioned, for 40 years NATO did one thing and that was to deter the Soviet Union in Europe. Period. And then, suddenly, the Soviet Union was dissolved and the Warsaw Pact disappeared. And then people asked: what should we do? Out of area or out of business. And we went out of area, we didn’t change the Charter, we actually, we did something that was unthinkable few years ahead.
We went into Bosnia and Herzegovina, and as US was part of few years later, started the missions and operations, the airstrikes in Serbia and Kosovo. We didn’t change the Charter, but we just changed our interpretation of what it means to be part of a collective defense alliance.
And then, if anyone told you in August 2001 that NATO was going to go into Afghanistan that was absolutely impossible. And then, after a few months, the whole of NATO was there, and we’ve been in Afghanistan for 20 years. Our biggest military operation ever. We didn’t change the Charter, we just changed the way we use the Charter to protect Allies, and then we saw the need that to protect the United States, we invoked Article 5 of the Founding Charter as a response to terrorist attack on the United States, and now we need to adapt again.
So, that’s also one of the reasons why I think that instead of changing the Charter, we should change that Strategic Concept which builds on the Charter. Because when we agree that Strategic Concept back in 2010, China is not mentioned at all. So the fundamental shifting of the global balance of power with the rise of China is not mentioned in the current Strategic Concept.
Russia is mentioned as something we strive for a strategic partnership with Russia, that’s the way we refer to Russia. Climate change is hardly mentioned at all.
So, so I think, as I understand what you say. I totally agree with your intention. But I think the best way of doing that is to renew the Strategic Concept. But most importantly, to act. And that’s what I put forward in my NATO 2030 proposals. There are eight proposals, strategic level proposals, on how we actually can do more together, on resilience, on technology, on climate change, but also on deterrence and defense, including more common funding for deterrence and defense activities in this Alliance. Because I think that will demonstrate that NATO is the organizing framework for collective defence for all NATO Allies.
And therefore I hope also that when President Biden comes to Brussels later on this year at the NATO Summit we can agree, a forward looking, agile, ambitious agenda for this Alliance, as we continue to adapt to a changing world.
JAMES STAVRIDIS: Well, that’s a wonderful place to leave. General Jumper, Sir, thank you for your excellent question and your service to the Alliance and to our nation. Secretary General, you have been absolutely terrific you’ve walked us around the Alliance and really around the world in so many very powerful ways. we’re lucky to have you at the helm of this superb organization. On behalf of the 300 members of the Council who’ve listened to this David A Morse lecture, thank you sir and you can’t see them all but I will stand in for 300 people applauding your fine performance. Thank you, Mr. Secretary General, I salute you.
JENS STOLTENBERG: Thank you so much. Thank you. This was really good. Thank you.
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Ilustračné foto: https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/news_182157.htm