NATO Secretary General Press Point with French President (Q&A)

Q&A session during NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s joint press point with President of France Emmanuel Macron, November 28, 2019.

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[Interpreter] Good morning question by. You talked about it earlier. Would you be in favor of an implication of NATO in this the Sahel against jihadism one way or another? And for Secretary General, are you satisfied with the new formula of cost-sharing for the direct budget of NATO, with a reduction of the American contribution and an increase of the German contribution, according to the information that we have? And what about France? Thank you. Regarding the Sahel, like I said earlier today, and the Secretary General said as well, France is involved and is acting on behalf of all of us. As a matter of fact, with a number of Allies who all stand by us and also engage and I salute their contribution, be it equipment or troops as well. And also allow me to salute once again our armies and our soldiers and express our trust and that of the entire nation. Our mission there is an important one. That being said, the current circumstances in the Sahel are leading us today to consider any strategic option. I held the first meeting yesterday and over the coming weeks we will dedicate ourselves to some deep-rooted work by the government and the army, in order to look into the modalities of our intervention. And let me tell you again, all of the options are on the table. Against this background, and depending on the decision that France will be taking, a greater involvement of the Allies is, of course, something that would be very favorable. Now, as to the financial issue, like the Secretary General said, French investments in defense, which is rooted in our planning, military planning law. Well, you know what our choices are. And then there is a clear burden-sharing and France, like we said, will not reconsider and reopen these. If some want to look into cost-sharing, as it is called, they can come on, if they want to see what France’s contribution is, they can attend the ceremonies we will organize on Monday to pay tribute to our soldiers and they will see what price we’re paying.

The issue of burden-sharing in this Alliance, in NATO, I think it is important to distinguish the two very different things. One is the total defense spending, how much Allies invest in their national defense. That’s total defense spending in national defense budgets. The other issue, which is about much less money, is how to fund, finance, the NATO budget. The running of the NATO headquarters and some common-funded capabilities. On the first issue, total defense spending, we have seen a significant shift over the last years. Because after the end of the Cold War, all Allies were cutting defense budgets. Now we see that all Allies have stopped the cuts. All Allies are investing more. More Allies meet the two percent guideline, investing two percent of GDP on defense. And the majority of Allies have already plans in place on how to meet that guideline by 2024. And France is increasing significantly. And France has clearly said that they will also meet the two percent guideline. So, when it comes to total defense spending, we have seen a significant increase by Allies. And if you add together what European Allies and Canada do, they will have added more than 100 billion more for defense since 2016. And based on the national plans, they will add even more in the coming years. So, there is no doubt that we have seen a significant change. Allies are investing more, France is investing more. Allies are investing more and France is investing more. And this is because we live in a more unpredictable world, we need to invest more in our shared security. Then, a total different issue is actually the issue you asked about, and that is how to fund the NATO budget, the headquarters and so on. And it’s correct that we have now agreed a new formula for sharing those costs. The U.S. will pay less. Germany will pay more. So now the U.S. and Germany will pay the same, roughly 16% of NATO’s budget. Then the rest will be shared among all the other Allies. And this is a formula we then have agreed to finance the NATO budget.

[Reporter] Or you can answer in French. By saying that NATO is brain dead, is this your way of asking, inviting Monsieur Stoltenberg to come to Paris as soon as possible? And do you still think that NATO is brain dead? And also, within the same perspective, member country Turkey says that it will block the deployment of enlarging troops in the Balkans and Poland, if NATO does not support its military plans in northern Syria against the Kurdish militias. This is for both of you? What is your perspective on that? And finally, protecting Europe is also about digital security and cybersecurity. What is your position, for both of you, on Huawei building 5G networks in Europe?

[Interpreter] As to your first question, I always had an opportunity to meet with the Secretary General ahead of all of our summits, so it is always the case. And I very much was looking into the current situation and the past two summits were strictly dedicated to reduce, and I very much respect that, the financial burden for the United States. But the questions are raised, are still open, and we do not have answers yet. Peace in Europe, the post-INF, the relationship with Russia, the issue of Turkey, who is the enemy? So, as long as we did not sort out these issues, let us not negotiate about cost-sharing or burden-sharing. So maybe we needed a wake up call to continue, and I’m pretty glad about it that this was the case and now we shall very much look into our purpose and our ultimate goals. Now we need a methodology between the Heads of State and Governments with the Secretary General and the organization, so that on the basis of these questions, we can make some useful progress in the weeks to come. But I very much fully stand by what I did in lifting the ambiguities, because I thought we have the responsibility of not simply continuing to talk about financial issues, given what the genuine challenges are today. Against this background, you raised, and that was your second point, the cybersecurity and digital security, and rightly so. Is it a topic which is crucial for NATO? I believe it can be in a world of interoperability, where we very much rely on communication equipments and systems. It is along this line that I’ve requested our services to work on that, never pointing out a particular operator or a particular country, but I believe what we need is, at the level of each country and then at the European level, European Union level, and for some topics within NATO’s Allies, very much consider our operational autonomy. What are the consequences, also, on what today we consider as trade operations? Our armies are more and more interconnected. They will be using the 5G. Are we sure that all of the information, the intelligence we share through these channels are under our control? It is not just a commercial issue, it is a strategic one. And very often I note that people very much enjoy some discussions as a matter of principle about the country or another. But the very same have hardly any consideration for the consequences of the commercial or trade decisions taken. I’m not pointing fingers, but I’m saying that on some military activities, or some activities we might be launching either alone, or within NATO, or with some of our European partners, what are our technological vulnerabilities? We should consider any threat whatsoever. It is a fundamental thing, and I think we should very much have a different approach to that. It is essential for the future. Thank you.

NATO is a strong Alliance, but more than that, we are adapting, we are agile and we are active. So, we are responding to a changing world. And the reason why NATO is the most successful alliance in history is that we have been able to change when the world is changing. And that’s exactly what we have done over the last years, that’s exactly what we are doing. We continue to modernize this Alliance by now addressing space, which is critical for our military operations on the ground and also by addressing all the threats and challenges we see in cyberspace. We are stepping up our joint efforts to fight international terrorism. And as I said, we have just implemented the largest reinforcement of our collective defense in a generation by higher readiness of our forces, and these are issues we will then continue to address when we meet at the Leaders Meeting in London. In uncertain times, we need strong multilateral institutions and therefore we need a strong NATO. Then there’s no secret that there are disagreements and differences between NATO Allies. We are 29 different Allies, and of course, there are differences. But the strength of NATO is that we have had the same kind of differences before, but every time we have been able to overcome them to agree around our core task, protecting and defending each other, one for all and all for one. And by doing that, we have been able to preserve peace for an unprecedented period in Europe, which is the main task for NATO, is to preserve peace. On Turkey, that’s an example where we see differences. And I expressed my concerns about the consequences of the Turkish military operation into northeast Syria. So, there are differences. But at the same time, we all agree on the importance of not jeopardizing the gains we have made in the fight against ISIS. We have to remember that all NATO Allies have, are part of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS/Daesh. The fight is not over but we have made enormous progress. Not so many months ago, ISIS controlled a territory as big as the United Kingdom. Eight million people. We have liberated all those people, millions of people and all that territory. And we have a strong agreement in NATO that we must continue the fight against ISIS. And we just met in the Global Coalition where all NATO Allies and NATO are members. On 5G, the 5G will affect all sides of our societies. It will connect almost all things working together, so it is important for transportation, for electricity, for all aspects of the civilian life. But of course, also important for military operations. Therefore, the resilience, the security of these systems are of great importance. And that’s also the reason why we recently agreed updated baseline requirements in NATO for telecommunications infrastructure. Our Defense Ministers did that a few weeks ago, including requirements for 5G. This is about making sure that all Allies have risk assessments that analyze vulnerabilities, that they look into risks related to, for instance, foreign ownership, foreign investments, infrastructure, and by doing that we don’t name any specific country or company but we make sure that all Allies take these risks seriously and that we make sure that when we invest in 5G, we do that in a way which doesn’t undermine the resilience of our societies.

Merci beaucoup, thank you Mr. Secretary General.

Thanks a lot.

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