NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg delivers remarks at an event hosted by the Institute for Regional Security and the Australian National University’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre in Canberra.
It is really a great pleasure to be here today and to have this opportunity to address you all. And it is a pleasure to be here for several reasons, first of all, it is an honor to be at this university, the Australian National University. It’s a highly recognized university and I know that this university have more Nobel Laureates than any other university in Australia, including the Vice Chancellor of the university. So, it is an honor to be at this university. Second, I have to tell you that I have a special feeling every time I’m visiting an academic institution or a university because originally my plan was to become a real academic, to actually become a professor. That was my ambition in life and I started actually doing some serious research work at partly the University of Oslo and partly after that, in the Central Bureau of Statistics in Norway, something called econometrics, statistics and mathematics. And then I was asked, in 1990, to become Deputy Minister for Environment and I was very much in doubt, because I understood that that would undermine my academic career, so I promised myself to only be in politics for a very few years and then go back to do some serious business, to do some serious research. But I have been in politics since then, so my academic career was very short and not very great. So, my advice to you is to stay here. If not, you then risk ending up in politics, which is also quite interesting, but it’s not as serious as what you are doing. So, that’s the reason why I think it’s always nice to be back and to feel the air of an academic institution like this university. And the third reason why I really mean it when I say that it’s a pleasure to be here tonight is that it gives me the opportunity to share with you some thoughts about NATO and some security challenges we face. I will try to not be too long, so we have some time afterwards to have some interaction, some questions and some answers from my side. I am here as part of an official visit to Australia and NATO we are based in our headquarters is in Brussels. NATO is a North Atlantic Alliance, Europe and North America, so we are in many ways oceans apart, Australia and NATO. But we are the closest of partners. We have been working together, Australia and NATO, for many, many years, in many different missions and operations, including in Afghanistan for many years. And this morning, I went to the war memorial and I honored all those who have sacrificed their lives in the NATO mission in Afghanistan. And we are extremely grateful for the support Australia has given NATO for many years. We appreciate the close cooperation with Australia and I strongly believe that the partnership between Australia and Norway and NATO has been very important, but is actually going to be even more important in the years ahead because security challenges are becoming more and more global. It is less and less meaningful to speak about some challenges for European nations and other challenges for nations in this part of the world. We face the same challenges, the same threats, and we need to face them and deal with them together. And therefore, the partnership between Australia and NATO will become even more important. And let me just mention three challenges, three areas where we see more integrated, more global challenges, which we have to deal with together, Australia and NATO. The first is the increased great power competition. What we have seen in recent years is that our global system and values have come under great pressure. We have seen that from Crimea, the illegal annexation of Crimea, the continued destabilization of Eastern Ukraine by Russia. We have seen it in Syria, in the South China Sea, and with the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and not least North Korea. So, many of the values, the rules-based order we have tried to build in the decades after the Second World War, they are now under pressure. And that is very much linked to the increased great power competition we are witnessing. One very recent example, and you mentioned that in the introduction, is the demise of the INF Treaty. Last Friday, a week ago, this treaty ceased to exist. And the INF Treaty is the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, which is a cornerstone for arms control, it has been extremely important for security, for especially European countries for more than three decades, and the Treaty doesn’t only reduce the number of intermediate range weapons, including nuclear weapons, it bans them all. And we see now the demise of this treaty, because Russia has, over the past years, deployed missiles in violation of the treaty. These missiles are nuclear capable, they can reach European cities within minutes. They are hard to detect, they are mobile, and they’re lowering the warning time and therefore also they are reducing the threshold for any potential use of nuclear weapons in an armed conflict. So, this is one example of how the rules-based order, arms control, is undermined by the behavior of Russia violating the treaty and it highlights the importance of trying to support and work together to build up again also arms control regime. We have seen, as I mentioned also, actions by Russia against neighbors, Georgia and Ukraine, and it has been extremely important that Australia has been so clear in showing support, in calling out Russia’s unacceptable actions and in promoting the rules-based order. We are also seeing the impact of the rise of China as a stronger economic power, stronger military power, and China’s role is another sign of increasing global power competition. Its economic rise is powering global growth and it’s quickly becoming a technological leader in many things. This brings many opportunities, financially and politically, for Australia, for European countries, for foreign countries all over the world. But at the same time, it also means that we are faced with some new challenges, and while China represents a very different challenge than Russia, there are some implications for the global rules-based order and for our security. We see this in the South China Sea, in cyberspace, and in Chinese investments in critical infrastructure. So, we need to better understand the consequences of the rise of China, for our security. And one of the reasons why I think it’s important that we work together with countries in this part of the world, with Australia, is actually to help each other to understand and also to deal with the consequences of the rise of China as an economic and military power. So, an increased great power competition is one of the areas where we see that security is interlinked and where we see the value of working with a country like Australia. Another area where we see the same kind of challenge is when it comes to fighting terrorism. That’s a truly global challenge and NATO has played a key role in fighting terrorism ever since the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the United States, and we have been in Afghanistan for almost 20 years, together with forces from Australia. And we do that because it is extremely important to make sure that Afghanistan doesn’t once again become a safe haven for international terrorist, where they can train, plan, organize, terrorist attacks on our countries. And we strongly believe that prevention is better than intervention, so therefore we do whatever we can to try to build local capacity, train local forces, so they can stabilize their own countries and fight terrorism themselves. Therefore, we have turned the mission in Afghanistan, which was a big combat operation with tens of thousands of NATO troops, including Australian troops, as NATO and partner countries, into a train, assist and advise mission, where we train the Afghan forces so they can fight terrorism themselves and stabilize their own country. The good news is that this has created a condition for, or the reason why NATO is in Afghanistan is to create the conditions for a peaceful, negotiated, political solution. And the good news is that we are now closer to a political solution, a peace settlement in Afghanistan, than we have ever been before. And we strongly support the efforts to find a political solution, because we strongly believe that the only lasting solution to the conflict in Afghanistan is a political solution. Our military presence is to underpin a political and peaceful solution. Taliban has to understand that they will never win on the battlefield and they have to sit down at the negotiating table, and that’s the reason why we continue our military presence, as our way to support the efforts to find a political solution. The idea of training local forces as a way to fight terrorism is also the reason why we do training in Iraq. We have made a lot of progress in the fight against terrorism, especially in Iraq and Syria. We have to remember that, not so many months ago, ISIS, or Daesh, controlled a territory as big as the United Kingdom in Iraq and Syria. They were threatening actually Baghdad. And then, the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, Australia is part of that, NATO is part of that, we have helped to liberate all the territory that ISIS held and therefore we have made significant progress in the fight against terrorism, also in Iraq and Syria. The fight is not over. Daesh, or ISIS, is still there, but at least it is a great achievement to make sure that they don’t control any territory anymore. So, that’s another example of how we work together with Australia in addressing a truly global security challenge, fighting terrorism. The third area I will mention is cyber. Cyber is really global. Geography, distance doesn’t matter. And we have seen more and more cyberattacks, we have seen cyber being used to try to undermine our democratic institutions, interfere in elections, and therefore we need to make sure that we have safe and secure cyber networks. NATO has done a lot to strengthen our cyber defenses. We have developed rapid response teams on 24/7 standby that can help NATO countries under attack, and we are setting up a cyber operations center at our Headquarters in Mons, and we have actually decided that cyber is now a domain, military domain, alongside air, sea, and land, recognizing that cyber is as important as any other element of a potential armed conflict, and it’s absolutely impossible to envisage any kind of military conflict without a very important cyber element. That’s also an area where we see a great potential for working closer with Australia. I signed a cooperation program with the Defense Minister yesterday, and one of the areas we have identified where we can work more closely with Australia is exactly cyber. So, my message is that, when we face a more unpredictable world, new threats, new challenges, it is even more important that we have strong international institutions and strong partnerships, as we have with Australia, to deal with the consequences of an increased great power competition, international terrorism and threats from cyberspace. That’s the best way to keep us safe, also in a more uncertain world. And with that, I thank you for your attention and I’m ready to answer your questions. Thank you so much.