NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed Latvian President Egils Levits to NATO Headquarters on Monday, November 25, 2019.
Good afternoon. The Secretary General and the President will make opening remarks, and then we have time for a question or two. Secretary General.
President Levits, Egils, it is a great pleasure to welcome you here at NATO headquarters. And also to thank you for Latvia’s strong commitment to our alliance. We just discussed preparations for the Leaders’ meeting in London next week. We both agree on NATO’s indispensable role in keeping Europe secure. The foundations of NATO are strong, and we will ensure the alliance is fit for the future. We are strengthening our defense and deterrence, and we are working together to continue to modernize the alliance with a modern command structure, and more forces at higher readiness. We are responding to hybrid and cyber threats, and we have agreed new requirements for protecting critical infrastructure, including 5G. Foreign Ministers have just recognized space as an operational domain for NATO, alongside land, sea, air, and cyberspace. We have also stepped up in the fight against terrorism, with our training mission in Iraq, and our training mission in Afghanistan. The Leaders’ meeting will also address new challenges, including the rise of China, and emerging technologies. I want to thank Latvia for its strong commitment to NATO. You lead by example on defense spending, committing more than two percent of GDP for defense, and investing in major equipment. Your troops help train local forces as part of our Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, and you host the NATO battle group in Adazi, and I had the pleasure of being there when we inaugurated that battle group a couple of years ago. The battle group, led by Canada, includes troops from nine allies. They demonstrate the strength of the transatlantic bond, soldiers from North America and Europe, keeping our alliance safe. And they demonstrate the strength of multilateralism, many countries working together with one common goal. We agree that NATO is the only guarantor of European security. Our forces prevent conflict and preserve peace. They send a clear message of NATO’s commitment to the Baltic region in the face of Russia’s military build-up, and pattern of destabilizing behavior. We will discuss our united approach to Russia at the meeting of NATO leaders in London, next week. So, Mr. President, thank you once again for being here. Thank you for your strong personal commitment to this alliance, and once again, welcome.
Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary General. Latvia is very appreciating your role in the strengthening of NATO and our common defense policy. NATO is a key element of Latvia’s defense and foreign policy. We should not forget that Latvia is, since 70 years, the strongest military and defense alliance in the world, and that should be also continued in the same way. Because the challenges are new, different, but a necessity to have a strong defense alliance is there, NATO unites member states with the same value basis, and those values should be defended. Also, with the means, military and defense means. Latvia welcomes the presence of NATO, especially with, you mentioned already, multilateral battle troop in Latvia, which consist of nine nation’s forces, which is very important to organize, and to learn the cooperation between different defense forces. We are welcoming very much this battle group, which is led by Canada, and this also shows the transatlantic relations between European pillar and North American pillar is very strong, and also American presence in Poland, which is also have some influence, and we have also some American presence in Baltics is strong and should be, as in the last 70 years, the cornerstone of NATO strategy and NATO politics. So, transatlantic unity is the cornerstone of NATO, and this should not be questioned. We are, of course, for strengthening the defense force of capacity of European member states of NATO fully integrated in the NATO strategy in NATO system. But, of course, also, NATO, European, NATO members should strengthen their contribution. I am proud that Latvia belongs to the member states of NATO which fulfills two percent obligation to spend two percent of GDP for defense. This is a common decision of all NATO member states, and we are looking forward that all NATO member states would… in a period which is not too long, to fulfill this two percent obligation. So, we are doing with all of this since the last few years. You mentioned, Mr. Secretary General, that a new challenge, just for NATO, especially cyber war, and to new technologies, that shows that NATO is a necessity to have NATO is very actual, and we should keep NATO together as a united union of member states, which based on the same values, and we are willing, Latvia is willing, and I’m sure that, also, all NATO members states are willing to defend their values, their democratic order, also by NATO. Thank you, Mr. Secretary General for your personal contribution to the strengthening of our defense capacity. Thank you.
[Woman In Background] Latvian Radio.
(mumbles) I have a question for the Secretary General. There’s been a lot of talk about burden sharing at a famous two percent, but there is also debate about the contribution to the NATO central fund, or the central budget. It’s clear that the US wants to reduce their payments into that fund, but not all the other member states of the alliance agree to increase their payments, to sort of cover that gap. Could you update us on how the debates are going in this round, please?
In NATO, we adopt the budget for the next year, every year. So, that is an annual process, and we have now, as always, a process, which we need to conclude to adopt the budget for next year. So, that is part of the regular discussions within NATO about the budget, and the cost shares, and I am absolutely certain that we will conclude that in due time.
[Woman In Background] Okay, thank you very much. This concludes this press (mumbles).