NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s opening remarks at the press conference ahead of the NATO Leaders’ Meeting. NATO leaders will meet in London on 3-4 December 2019. Please note this file corresponds to the live feed as-aired, including slides.
Good afternoon. The Secretary General will preview the meeting of NATO leaders next week and then he will be happy to take your questions. Secretary General.
Good afternoon. NATO leaders will meet in London next week. Together, we will mark the 70th anniversary of the most successful alliance in history and look to the future together. NATO continues to be the bedrock of peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area and today Europe and North America are doing more together than in decades. We have raised the readiness of our forces, and for the first time in our history, we have combat-ready troops in the east of our Alliance, we fight international terrorism, including with training missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we are modernizing our Alliance to deal with the challenges of the future. When leaders meet next week, they will build on these achievements and they will make decisions on a range of issues including further improvements to the readiness of our forces, recognizing space as an operational domain, updating our action plan against terrorism, and balancing the burden more fairly when it comes to investing in our defense. Today, we are releasing new defense spending figures. They show the fifth consecutive year of growth in defense spending across European Allies and Canada. As you can see, for many years, Allies kept cutting billions from their defense budgets. Now, they are adding billions. The real increase for 2019 is 4.6%. By the end of next year, European Allies and Canada will have invested well over 100 billion U.S. dollars more since 2016. In fact, this figure now stands at 130 billion. When leaders met in Brussels last year, they decided to develop national plans. Now, nations have submitted their updated plans to NATO. And we see the results. Based on these plans, I can announce that the accumulated increase in defense spending by the end of 2024, will be 400 billion U.S. dollars. This is unprecedented progress and it is making NATO stronger. All Allies are increasing defense spending. More Allies are meeting the guideline of spending two percent of GDP on defense. This year, nine Allies will meet the guideline, up from just three Allies a few years ago and the majority of Allies have plans in place to reach two percent by 2024. Allies are also investing billions more in new capabilities and contributing to NATO deployments around the world. So we are on the right track. but we cannot be complacent. We must keep up the momentum. This includes having more forces at higher readiness. Last year in Brussels, leaders launched the NATO Readiness Initiative. This means 30 battalions, 30 air squadrons, and 30 combat ships ready within 30 days. We have made substantial progress. Allies have already designated over 90% of these forces and I expect leaders will be making further announcements next week. NATO is continuing to modernize in all areas. Leaders will recognize space as our fifth operational domain alongside land, sea, air, and cyber. This is a clear recognition that space is essential for the success of our operations and missions whether for early warning, communication, or navigation. Last week, the first of NATO’s new surveillance drones arrived in Sicily from the United States. and we have just signed a contract worth one billion U.S. dollars to modernize our AWACS surveillance planes, which are essential for our missions and operations. All of this is part of NATO’s increasing ability to monitor and respond to crises. Leaders will take stock of NATO’s role in the fight against terrorism when they meet next week including our training missions in Iraq and Afghanistan which continue to play a key role in preventing the resurgence of ISIS and other terrorist groups. We welcome peace talks in Afghanistan. The Taliban needs to make real compromises to achieve a credible deal and NATO continues to support Afghan security forces to create the conditions for peace. We will also discuss Russia and the future of arms control. NATO Allies have been united in their response to Russia’s aggressive actions. Our dual-track approach of defense and dialogue remains valid and we continue to coordinate closely. We have agreed that our response to Russia’s breach of the INF Treaty will be defensive, measured, and coordinated and this will be an important part of our work for the months to come. Leaders will also address the implications of the rise of China. This presents opportunities. But Allies also need to take into account China’s significant military modernization, its increased presence from the Arctic to the Balkans, and in cyber space, and its major investments in our infrastructure. To increase our resilience against a range of challenges, we have agreed updated baseline requirements on telecommunications, including 5G, and we will continue to focus on the security of our critical infrastructure which is vital for our military operations and our day-to-day life. NATO is the only forum that brings Europe and North America together every day to address the key issues for our shared security. We are 29 Allies. Each with its own history, culture, and political parties. So we should not be surprised that sometimes we disagree but the strength of NATO is that we have always been able to overcome our disagreements and unite around our core task, to protect and defend each other. In our 70th anniversary year, I am proud of our record. NATO helped to end the Cold War without a shot being fired, we made possible the peaceful reunification of Germany and Europe, we stopped the bloodshed in the Western Balkans, and we took a lead role in Afghanistan after 9/11. Today, NATO protects almost one billion people. We continue to fight international terrorism and we stand united against Russia’s aggressive actions. Every day, NATO planes patrol our skies, NATO ships secure our seas, NATO troops protect our borders, and NATO’s nuclear deterrent remains the ultimate guarantee for Europe. Our Alliance is active, agile, and adapting for the future. Standing together, North America and Europe represent half of the world’s economic might and half of the world’s military might. In uncertain times, we need strong multilateral institutions like NATO. So, we must continue to strengthen them every day to keep all our citizens safe. And that is what we are going to do when leaders meet next week. With that, I am ready to take your questions.