NATO ready reaction force to expand eight-fold –– to more than 300,000

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday 27 June 2022 said NATO leaders meeting in Madrid this week were set to sign off on key decisions, including a new Strategic Concept, a major strengthening of NATO’s deterrence and defence and greater support to Ukraine.

Speaking in Brussels ahead of the NATO Summit which begins today, the Secretary General said NATO leaders would also focus on investing in defence, aim to make progress on Finland and Sweden’s historic applications for NATO membership and deepen cooperation with Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

 

Secretary General Stoltenberg’s address plus Q&A…

Good afternoon.

   

Our NATO Summit in Madrid this week will be transformative.
With many important decisions.

Including on a new Strategic Concept for a new security reality.
A fundamental shift in NATO’s deterrence and defence.
And support to Ukraine now, and for the future.

Our new Concept will guide us in an era of strategic competition.

I expect it will make clear that Allies consider Russia as the most significant and direct threat to our security.

It will address China for the first time.
And the challenges that Beijing poses to our security, interests, and values.

It will also cover our evolving approach to a number of other threats and challenges.
Including terrorism, cyber, and hybrid.

At the Summit, we will strengthen our forward defences.

We will enhance our battlegroups in the eastern part of the Alliance up to brigade-levels.

We will transform the NATO Response Force.
And increase the number of our high readiness forces.
To well over 300,000.

We will also boost our ability to reinforce in crisis and conflict.

Including with:

More pre-positioned equipment, and stockpiles of military supplies.
More forward-deployed capabilities, like air defence.
Strengthened command and control.
And upgraded defence plans, with forces pre-assigned to defend specific Allies.
These troops will exercise together with home defence forces.
And they will become familiar with local terrain, facilities, and our new pre-positioned stocks.
So that they can respond smoothly and swiftly to any emergency.

Together, this constitutes the biggest overhaul of our collective deterrence and defence since the Cold War.

And to do this, we will need to invest more.

Today, we are releasing new defence spending figures.

They show that 2022 will be the eighth consecutive year of increases across European Allies and Canada.

By the end of the year, they will have invested well over 350 billion US dollars extra since we agreed our defence investment pledge in 2014.

Nine Allies now reach – or exceed – the 2% target.
Nineteen Allies have clear plans to reach it by 2024.
And an additional five have concrete commitments to meet it thereafter.

Two percent is increasingly considered a floor, not a ceiling.

We will also agree to invest more together in NATO.
For the benefit of our security.

The Ukrainian government and people continue to resist Russia’s brutal war of aggression.
Their courage and commitment are an inspiration.
And I welcome that President Zelenskyy will join us at the NATO Summit.
NATO and Allies have provided substantial support to Ukraine since Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Including with military and financial aid.
And training for tens of thousands of Ukrainian forces.

All of this is making a difference on the battlefield every day.
And since the invasion in February, Allies have stepped up even more.
With billions of euros’ worth of military, financial, and humanitarian assistance.

At the Summit, we will agree a strengthened Comprehensive Assistance Package for Ukraine.
This will include substantial deliveries of support.
In areas like secure communications, anti-drone systems, and fuel.

Over the longer term, we will help Ukraine transition from Soviet-era military equipment, to modern NATO equipment.
And further strengthen its defence and security institutions.

At the Summit, we will also take decisions to continue adapting NATO.

Including with a new one-billion-euro NATO Innovation Fund to invest in dual-use emerging technologies.
And on climate change, we will agree to cut greenhouse gas emissions for NATO as an organisation.

We will also deepen our cooperation with NATO’s closest partners.

I welcome that Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and the Republic of Korea will join us for the first time at our Summit.

Georgia and the European Union will also take part.

And we will adopt new packages of support for our partners Georgia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Republic of Moldova.
As well as Mauritania and Tunisia.

We also aim to make progress on Finland and Sweden’s historic applications for NATO membership.
While ensuring the security concerns of all Allies are addressed.

I spoke with President Erdogan on Saturday, and will meet with Prime Minister Andersson later today.

I am glad that President Erdogan, President Niinisto, and Prime Minister Andersson have accepted my invitation to meet in Madrid tomorrow.
And today, we are hosting another meeting of senior officials from all three countries here at NATO Headquarters.

Finally, Allies will discuss threats and challenges from the south.

We will recommit to the fight against terrorism.
Address the food crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
And consider our response to Russia and China’s increasing influence in our southern neighbourhood.

Above all, we will reaffirm that the transatlantic bond remains the bedrock of our security.
Europe and North America, together in NATO.

With that, I am ready to take your questions.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Okay, we’ll go to Bloomberg, in the second row.

Natalia Drozdiak (Bloomberg): Thank you so much for the question. I just want to follow up on the meeting tomorrow between the leaders of Turkey, Sweden and Finland. What do you expect from that meeting tomorrow? And is it still possible that Sweden and Finland could join the Summit in Madrid as invitees? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: We have worked hard since Finland and Sweden applied for membership to ensure that they can join the Alliance as soon as possible. At the same time, we need to take into account concerns expressed by Allies, and in this case, clearly expressed by Türkiye. And that’s the reason also why we have intensified the dialogue with our Ally Türkiye and with Finland and Sweden over the last weeks.

I spoke with President Erdoğan on Saturday. And I’ll meet Prime Minister Andersson later today.
And then, I’m very glad that President Niinistö, President Erdoğan and Prime Minister Andersson will meet in Madrid tomorrow, and accepted my invitation to meet on the margins of the Madrid Summit.

The purpose of that meeting is of course to make progress on the accession of Finland and Sweden. I will not make any promises. But I can just assure you that we are working actively to ensure progress. Because the applications of Finland and Sweden to join NATO they are historic. It will strengthen the security of Finland and Sweden. It will strengthen NATO. And it will be something that will contribute to stability across the Euro-Atlantic area, Europe and North America. So the aim is to make progress. And then it’s too early to say what kind of progress we can make by the Summit.

NATO Spokesperson: Ok, we will go to French television in the last row.

Julien Gasparutto (France TV): Thank you for the question. There are a lot of tensions around Kaliningrad. Do you think the threat is serious? Do you think that Russia could attack one of the Baltic states? And what could be the response of NATO if there would be an attack? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: So NATO is there to protect and defend all Allies. And we have increased our presence in the Baltic region. We have done that since 2014 with the battlegroups, with higher readiness, with more air policing. But since the invasion of Ukraine, we stepped up further. And now we have more than 40,000 troops under direct NATO command, most of them in the eastern part of the Alliance and many of them in the Baltic region.

The purpose of this increased presence is to send a message that we are ready to protect and defend every inch of allied territory, including of course Lithuania, and the other Baltic countries. And by doing that we are providing credible deterrence. And the purpose of credible deterrence is not to provoke a conflict, but to prevent a conflict, to prevent Russia or any other potential adversary from attacking a NATO allied country.

And I’m confident that Moscow, President Putin understands our collective security guarantees, understands the consequence of attacking a NATO allied country. It will trigger a response from the whole Alliance. And to underpin that message we have increased the presence. So that’s the main message, is that we will defend. And by sending that message clearly we are actually preventing an attack.

Then, of course, we are concerned about the military build-up in Kaliningrad. We have seen that for many years also with highly advanced weapon systems. That’s also partly the reason why we have modernized our armed forces, our capabilities, and also increased our presence in that part of the region. Let me also add that what we now see is that Lithuania is implementing EU-agreed economic sanctions. And NATO Allies welcome the EU sanctions. NATO Allies have also imposed sanctions on Russia. And these sanctions are important because they ensure that President Putin has to pay a price for this reckless, heinous, brutal military attack on Ukraine.

NATO Spokesperson: Ok, we will go to Frankfurter Allgemeine.

Thomas Gutschker (FAZ): Thanks a lot. Secretary General, I have two questions following your introductory remarks. The first one: you’ve said that we will, or NATO will, enhance battlegroups in the eastern part up to brigade level. Does that apply to all the eight battlegroups or just to some of them? Question number one. And question number two on common funding. You’ve made the case to double the common budget last year and that was met by significant resistance from a few member states. Now it appears that you’re almost there. So it won’t be doubled, but almost, the budget. Could you please explain why this has changed in the meantime? And how this is related to the war against Ukraine and the new posture at the eastern flank. Thanks.

NATO Secretary General: First, the increased presence of the brigade level will be something we will do in some of the eight countries where we today have battlegroups. We don’t have a one size fits all. There are different needs in different countries. And we also need to see the whole region as one and assess the total need for increased forward presence.

But of course, this has to be understood in the light of what has already happened. Because since the invasion, we have doubled the size of the existing battlegroups, for instance Germany has increased their presence in Lithuania, UK increased presence in Estonia, and Canada and other countries increased presence in Latvia. So more or less doubled the size of the existing four battlegroups we had before the invasion.

Then, we have doubled the number of battlegroups, from four to eight. And then, we have added in more troops and forces both on land, but also sea, and air forces. So this is a huge and significant increase of NATO’s presence in the East. What we are doing now is that at the Summit we will take decisions that will be transformative for our deterrence and defence, that will lead to the fundamental shift in the way we organize collective defence in NATO. And that will be built on many elements on sea, naval, cyber power, but when it comes to the land element, the main messages is party to have up to brigade level forward presence. Germany in Lithuania is one example. I expect other Allies to make similar announcements. Then, it will be based on more forward deployed equipment, stocks, fuels, weapons, ammunition. And then, it will be made up by pre-assigned forces in their home country. But these forces will train, exercise regularly in those countries where they are pre-assigned to be deployed in times of crisis. And by doing that we are fundamentally strengthening both our forward defence but also our ability to quickly reinforce. It’s quite…to move people goes quite fast, to move heavy equipment takes time. But with more forward deployed equipment, including lots more forward deployed combat formations, and more exercises, we will significantly increase our ability to defend and protect all Allies also in the eastern part of the Alliance.

Then, on common funding. Well, first of all, I think we have to understand common funding as part of the broader efforts to increase defence spending. The big money will go to the national defence budgets. And we have an impressive story to tell. Back in 2014, when we agreed the Defence Investment Pledge, only three Allies met the guideline of spending 2% of GDP on defence. And defence spending was also declining across Europe and Canada. Since then, defence spending has increased in all countries. And nine Allies now meet the 2% to guideline. And in addition, some are very close to be at 2%, they are very close. And that will be of course the big numbers. But a part of that is what we spend together. And this is of course a reflection of the same challenges that has led to the commitment to invest more. But this is about spending smarter by spending together. Investing in pre-positioned equipment, command and control, infrastructure, but also in support for partners.
I will not go into the details. This is something which is now finalized as we prepare for the Summit. But we agreed a year ago to do more together and of course we will follow up on that when we meet in Madrid later this week.

NATO Spokesperson: Ok, we had Imedi.

Ketevan Kardava (TV Imedi): Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary General. You said that the new Strategic Concept will describe Russia for the first time as the most significant and direct threat to Alliance security. Does it mean that, with this decision, you will not… so, it’s not a space anymore for dialogue with Russia? It’s not a relevant issue? And a question about Georgia: how NATO is going to enhance support for Georgia in this very difficult moment? You will meet our Prime Minister in Madrid, and what should we expect in the context of open door policy in the Summit? Thank you very much.

NATO Secretary General: So Russia has walked away from the partnership and the dialogue that NATO has tried to establish with Russia for many years. They have done so not least by the brutal invasion of Ukraine, a blatant violation, not only of international rule, but also of all the documents and agreements we have signed with Russia to try to establish a framework for a meaningful dialogue with Russia. So the meaningful dialogue we worked for so many years…that’s not on the table, that’s not working, simply because of Russia’s behaviour. They have chosen confrontation instead of dialogue. We regret that, but of course then we need to respond to that reality. And that’s exactly what we do with the fundamental shift in our deterrence and defence, and all the other measures we take, not least to provide support to Ukraine from NATO Allies and NATO.

Then of course, there is a need to still have lines of communications to prevent incidents and accidents. And also at some stage, hopefully, be able to engage in some kind of arms control efforts. But the dialogue and the partnership we strived for… we have to remember that, for instance, in the current Strategic Concept, agreed at the Lisbon Summit in 2010 – and I attended that Summit as the Prime Minister of Norway – at that time, President Medvedev of Russia participated in the meeting and we agreed in the Strategic Concept, which is still the current Strategic Concept, and we will have a new one later this week, we said that Russia is a strategic partner. That will not be the case in the Strategic Concept we will agree in Madrid. I expect that Allies will state clearly that Russia poses a direct threat to our security, to our values, to the rules-based international order.

Then, on support for Georgia, I think that if there’s any lesson learnt from the invasion of Ukraine, a close and highly valued partner of NATO for many years, is the importance of providing support now, early… that support sooner is better than support later. Therefore, I’m glad that NATO Allies provided the support to Ukraine, training, assistance in many different ways since 2014. But if anything, we should do more and we should also do more for other Allies which are vulnerable for Russian attempts to meddle in their domestic political affairs. And therefore, I expect that at the Summit we will agree to step up political and practical support to partners at risk from Russian interference. We will help them to build their capabilities and strengthen their resilience. For Georgia, we could increase our support by building on the substantial NATO Georgia package, including in areas such as situational awareness, secure communications, resilience, and cyber. We also have the NATO Training Center outside Tbilisi, we can step up the efforts there, and we can support Georgia in developing its own cyber capabilities and provide additional personnel to the NATO Liaison Office in Georgia. So, support for Georgia and other Allies that are vulnerable for Russian interference will be a key message from the NATO Summit.

NATO Spokesperson: Ok, we will go to the Spanish Radio.

María Carou (Radio Nacional de España): I would like to ask about Ceuta and Melilla. Is [there] going to be some inclusion of these two cities in the Strategic Concept that you are working in a for Madrid Summit? If that means that these two Spanish cities are going to be covered, are going to be protected by NATO now? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: The Article Six of the Washington Treaty defines the geographical scope of our collective defence guarantee, Article Five, and it defines it as the territory of any of the parties in Europe, or North America, or islands under the jurisdiction of any of the parties in the North Atlantic area, north of the Tropic of Cancer.

That said, I think we have to understand that the issue of invoking Article Five and our collective defence clause is a political decision. So it has to be taken by consensus, by all Allies in the North Atlantic Council, based ultimately on what would matter in that particular case. So that’s as far as I can go when it comes to comment on any specific issues.

NATO Spokesperson: Polish Radio.

Beata Płomecka (Polish Radio): Thanks for the question. Secretary General, you’ve just answered the question to my colleague from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that in some member states these battlegroups will be enhanced and the security situation will be taken into consideration so I assume, as the real threat is from Russia, these battlegroups will be enhanced in Poland and Baltic states. But will there be just only a political decision by the leaders during the Summit or it will be up to the Member states that send actually soldiers to these countries to enhance it? So when exactly will we hear that these battle groups are enhanced? And the second question: do you think that these blockades… Russian blockades of Ukrainian support and over 20 million tons of grain blocked in Odessa…do you think it will come up during the Summit, and is there a place for NATO to intervene? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: I’m absolutely confident that the appalling consequences of President Putin’s brutal war against Ukraine, also on the global food market, and food prices, and grain export, will be addressed at the Summit. Partly because this matters for NATO and also because many Allies or several Allies are engaged in different efforts to try to find a solution, both to increase the capability of supporting or getting grain over land out of Ukraine. But of course, there are some logistical challenges. So the big capacity will be if we are able to open sea lanes and sea transport of grain. Allies are involved in different ways. I was speaking, as I said, with President Erdoğan, and Türkiye is playing an active role in trying to find a way to get ships to cross over the Black Sea and bring grain out of Ukraine. The easiest way to end this is, of course, for President Putin to end the war. Because this spike in food prices is not a result of the sanctions: it is a result of the war. It’s the war and the Russian blockade against Ukrainian ports that has led to the drop in the export of food, grain and the extreme consequences for food prices all around the world. And that’s also the reason why this will be discussed and addressed, both in the meetings but also in the margins of the meetings when NATO Allies meet to try to support efforts to find a solution to get grain out of Ukraine.

Then, Poland is one of our biggest Allies. And of course, we already have NATO Allies, and especially United States already has a significant presence in Poland. There is now a process looking into how we can further increase the presence, and the whole idea of strengthening our presence up to brigade level is absolutely something which is relevant for Poland. Details will be decided as we implement those decisions at the Summit. But I’m confident that Poland will see that NATO has and will increase its presence in different ways to strengthen our deterrence and defence also in Poland.

NATO Spokesperson: Ok, Swedish News Agency, TT.

Wiktor Nummellin (Swedish News Agency): Coming back to Sweden and Finland, on a technical way regarding the process, is it now too late for Sweden and Finland to become invitees for the Summit? And, in any case, which kind of meetings, which meetings would you expect Sweden and Finland to take part in during the Summit?

NATO Secretary General: So first of all, Finland and Sweden will participate in the meetings because they are invited as close partners so we will have a meeting with partners, the first day, on Wednesday, where Finland and Sweden will participate at the level of Heads of State and Government in a way regardless of where we are in the accession process.

Second, we are working intensively on this issue to try to make as much progress as possible, as soon as possible. But since we speak about an issue which is of great importance for Finland and Sweden, but also for all Allies, and in particular Türkiye, which has expressed some specific security concerns. I will not give any promises or speculate about any specific timelines. The Summit has never been a deadline. But of course, the Summit takes place. We have all the leaders there, we have the Swedish and the Finnish leaders there too. So that provides us with an opportunity that we should seize to see how much progress we can make and that’s the reason why we have been working so actively on this issue over the last weeks and days. And also why I welcome that Finland, Sweden and Türkiye have accepted the invitation to participate in the meeting in Madrid. And also that we had a meeting today at the NATO headquarters. But when different countries are involved in the process, no one can promise on behalf of the others if and when we reach an agreement. The only thing I can promise is that we’re working as hard as we can, and as intense as we are able to, to find a solution as soon as possible.

NATO Spokesperson: Thank you very much, this concludes this press conference. See you in Madrid.

NATO Secretary General: Thank you.


 
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