May 24, 2017: Secretary General Stoltenberg’s Pre-Meeting Press Briefing

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg giving a press conference ahead

Pre-Meeting Press Briefing

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

Ahead of the NATO Leaders’ Meeting

May 24, 2017

Good morning.

Tomorrow Heads of State and Government in NATO will meet here in Brussels. It will be a short but it will be an important meeting. It will bring together Allied leaders, all Allied leaders from all the 28 Allied countries, and send a strong message of unity and solidarity.

We will mark the handover of our new headquarters from Belgium to NATO with a flag-raising ceremony. This will be a historic milestone: a new home for a modern Alliance.

The site where the new HQ is located was a military airfield during both World Wars and during the construction, we found four unexploded bombs in the ground. So once a place of battle, it will become a venue for dialogue and cooperation between Allies.

We will also dedicate two memorials at our new headquarters. Chancellor Merkel will dedicate the Berlin Wall Memorial. The segment of the wall represents the victory of freedom over oppression. The freedom that Allies continue to preserve every day. And President Trump will dedicate the 9/11 and Article 5 Memorial. This fragment of the World Trade Center recalls the first time Allies invoked our collective defence clause. Symbolising solidarity and our common fight against terrorism.

Terrorists struck again this week in Manchester. This was a barbaric attack, which deliberately targeted children, young people and their families. Our meeting will show that all NATO Allies remain united in the fight against terrorism in all its forms. And in defence of our open societies. Countering terrorism is a complex challenge. It requires a coordinated response. From our law enforcement agencies, our intelligence services, our judicial systems, and sometimes our military. So it is important that we use all the tools that we have to the full.

That is why one of the two main topics we are going to discuss tomorrow will be stepping up NATO’s contribution to the fight against terrorism. To deal with the root causes of terrorism, training local forces is one of the best tools that we have.

And NATO has the expertise, partnerships and staying power to make a real difference.

Today, nearly 13,000 troops from NATO and partner countries contribute to our Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan. Training the Afghan forces to secure their country and deny safe haven to international terrorists.

But the security situation remains challenging. We have recently completed our regular review of our training mission. And our military commanders have asked for a few thousand more troops. We are currently in the process of force generation and I expect final decisions to be taken next month.

All NATO Allies already contribute to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. And NATO supports the Coalition with information collected by our AWACS surveillance aircraft. I expect we will agree to expand our AWACS support for the Coalition. This will contribute to airspace management, making the skies safer. I also welcome that several Allies have committed air-to-air refuelling capabilities for NATO AWACS supporting the Coalition. We are still discussion whether NATO should become a full member of the Global Coalition.

The other major topic for our meeting is burden sharing. This means meeting the pledge we all made in 2014: to stop the cuts, gradually increase and move towards spending 2% of GDP on defence within a decade.

And we are making progress. After many years of decline, total defence spending by European Allies and Canada rose by billions of dollars last year. But burden-sharing is not just about spending. It’s also about capabilities and contributions to NATO missions, operations and other engagements.

I expect Allies will agree to develop national plans. And to report on them every year. These plans will set out how they intend to meet all three aspects of the pledge: cash, capabilities and contributions.

We will decide that Allies will share and report on their progress every year. This will be a new tool. To ensure we keep up the momentum and live up to our commitments.

Prime Minister Markovic of Montenegro will join us tomorrow. The parliaments of all 28 Allies and Montenegro have now ratified the country’s accession to NATO. This is a step forward for Montenegro, for stability in the Western Balkans and for our vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace. We look forward to formally welcoming Montenegro as our 29th Ally in early June.

Tomorrow’s meeting will demonstrate NATO’s ability to change as the world changes. To keep all our nations safe, as we have done since our Alliance was founded almost 70 years ago. What we decide tomorrow will build on what we have achieved in recent years. We have turned the decisions we made at the Wales and Warsaw Summits into reality. Since 2014, we have implemented the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War. Including tripling the size of the NATO Response Force to 40,000 troops. With a 5,000-strong Spearhead Force at its core. Eight new headquarters in the eastern part of the Alliance. Four multinational battlegroups now deploying to the Baltic States and Poland. An enhanced presence in the Black Sea region. And strengthened cyber defences. We have also stepped up our cooperation with the European Union.

I welcome yesterday’s US budget proposal to significantly further increase the US presence in Europe with more troops, infrastructure and exercises. I welcome this strong sign of US continued commitment to NATO and to European security. NATO is adapting to deter any possible aggression. And preserve the peace.

At the same time, we have delivered on our commitment to dialogue with Russia. With four meetings of the NATO-Russia Council in the last year. So we are delivering on both tracks of defence, and dialogue.

We have also transformed our approach to fighting terrorism. In Afghanistan, we have moved from a combat role to a training role. This has shown us the value of supporting local forces in their fight against terrorism.

NATO’s strength allows us to defend our nations at home, to train partners abroad and to engage in difficult but important dialogue.

So – we have accomplished a lot. And we continue to adapt to the future. This is what tomorrow’s meeting is all about.

And with that, I’m ready to take your questions.

Oana Lungescu (NATO Spokesperson): We’ll start with Reuters, third row.

Q: Thanks Oana. Robin Emmott, Reuters. Secretary General, given the fact that the 28 allies of NATO are already members of the counter Da’esh Coalition, why should U.S. President Trump be won over by the decision to join the coalition as NATO? Thank you.

Secretary General: NATO plays a role in the fight against terrorism in many different ways. We are supporting already the Global Coalition to defeat ISIS. Many allies would like to see NATO as a full member of the Coalition for two reasons. Partly because it sends a strong and clear message of unity in the fight against terrorism. And especially in light of the terrorist attacks in Manchester, I think it’s important that we send this unified message that we stand together in the fight against terrorism. But then NATO joining the coalition will also provide a better platform for coordinating the activities of NATO, NATO allies and other partners in the Coalition in the fight against terrorism. So it’s partly a political argument which is presented by many allies that it will send a strong political message and partly a practical argument that having NATO being part of the information flows, the meetings, the consultations in the Coalition will improve the way we coordinate the efforts of NATO with other allies already being part of the Coalition.

Oana Lungescu: Lady in this first row.

Q: My name is Erin Pike from Washington DC and on the occasion of President Trump’s visit tomorrow he has not yet publicly backed Article 5. Has he backed it to you privately? Do you expect him to do it here tomorrow publicly? And separate from that we also learned last week that he shared Israeli intelligence with Russian officials in the White House. You’ll be discussing increased intelligence sharing tomorrow night. Are you concerned that he will betray any members of the alliance and do you expect to discuss that with him. Do you expect other heads of state to discuss that with him tomorrow? Will you put controls in place so he does not betray any members of the alliance?

Secretary General: President Trump has clearly stated his strong support to NATO and the core task of NATO is collective defence. So by expressing strong support to NATO, to our security guarantees, the United States, President Trump, his security team has also of course expressed strong support for Article 5 because Article 5, collective defence is NATO’s core task. And he has stated that publicly but he also of course stated that privately in meetings with me. We spoke on the phone after he was elected twice and we met also last month in the White House discussing NATO and the whole NATO agenda. This is not only expressed by him, but is also expressed by the Vice President when he visited NATO, Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis. They all expressed in meetings and publicly their strong support to NATO and the security guarantees which then of course includes collective defence and Article 5.

Second, this is a support for collective defence not only in words but also in deeds from the United States. Yesterday, the Trump Administration presented a budget where they increase funding for U. S. military presence in Europe by 40%. Which is a significant increase which comes on top of the increase we saw last year. And that enables an increase of military presence of U.S. forces, more exercises, more equipment, more training, more prepositioned supplies, weapons, ammunition, and more investments in infrastructure. So after many years of a decline in U.S. military presence in Europe we now see for the first time in many years an increase. So this is a commitment to our collective defence from the United States not only in words but also in deeds.

Intelligence. Sorry. Well, intelligence, sharing intelligence is a core activity for NATO. We have shared intelligence for many, many years in this alliance. And actually we are stepping up our sharing of intelligence because we have established a new intelligence division and I also expect us to make new decisions on how we can do even more on intelligence tomorrow when we meet the leaders. And of course I trust all allies that they are able to handle intelligence in a good way and that’s what we have been able to do for many, many, many years. And we will continue to do that.

Oana Lungescu: Wall Street Journal.

Q: Mr. Secretary General you mentioned a couple of times the budget proposal from the Trump Administration. Do you think that in any way lessons the pressure on Europe to spend more on its own defence if the United States is going to provide more troops and more deterrence? And as a related matter, last year you talked about $10 billion in extra funding from European allies. What would constitute success in your mind in 2017 and beyond in terms of annual increases in defence spending from Europe.

Secretary General: Increased military presence in Europe does not weaken the need for European allies to invest more in defense. And what we saw last year was that it’s not either more U.S. or more Europe. Actually in 2016 we got more of both. In 2016 was the first year after many years of decline that we saw increased European investment in defence but at the same time we saw increased U.S. presence. So based on what we saw last year it’s absolutely possible to have both more U.S. and more Europe in Europe investing in defence.

So actually there’s no contradiction. It’s not either or. It’s both. And we need both. Then we publish numbers and figures twice a year in NATO. In February in my annual report we published the estimates for 2016 for defence spending in 2016. And the estimate is $10 billion dollars. And we will have new figures, final figures in June. And in June we will also then provide estimates for 2017. I will not give you any specific numbers and I don’t have a clear number which is the difference between success and not success. But I expect the European allies and Canada as a total to continue to increase defense spending moving towards the 2% target.

Oana Lungescu: Washington Post.

Q: Michael Birnbaum from the Washington Post. A related question about the U.S. defence budget. You have said a succession of U.S. officials have said that Donald Trump has said that the U.S. cannot sustain this, can’t hold Europe’s defence on its back. And we’ve heard for years now this mantra in the United States that the U.S. simply, the U.S. public will not support major defence spending here when allies aren’t doing the same thing. To follow on Julian’s question, it does seem like a bit of a contradiction that Trump is on the one hand saying U.S. won’t, there’s no political will to keep spending money on Europe along with this major increase. Are you worried that this is running beyond the political will in the United States and there actually could be a diminishing support, this could actually be damaging to U.S. support for NATO given all this talk that we’re constantly hearing about declining U.S. willingness, popular willingness to spend on Europe.

Secretary General: So I would have been worried if we saw a decline in European defence spending. We saw the opposite. After many years of decline, we see now and increase. We turned a corner in 2015, which was the first year after many years of cuts that we didn’t see any cuts in European defense spending. Actually saw a small increase. The in 2016 we actually saw a significant increase in defence spending in Europe. And I expect defence spending in Europe to continue in 2017 but I don’t have any estimates before June. Then on top of increased defence spending in Europe we also see that European allies are also stepping up in other ways.

By for instance being in the lead nations for our new the Spearhead Force. That is something many different European allies have taken on and they are leading the Spearhead force. And U.K. and Germany are also lead nations for our Enhance Forward Presence, our battlegroups in Estonia and Lithuania. So European Allies are stepping up not only by investing more in European defence but also by providing capabilities and contributions to NATO missions and operations to our readiness and our enhanced presence in the eastern part of the alliance.

For me this is only an additional argument for the U.S. to invest in defence. And I think by showing that Europeans are stepping up it’s easier to go the US Congress and ask for more. And I think actually that’s what you’ve seen this year. Then I would also have to say that yesterday I saw new opinion poll showing that there was significant increase support for NATO in the United States. So actually the popular support for NATO had increased in the United States over the last year. That’s something I welcome very much. Which I think makes it even easier to invest in our alliance. Because this alliance is important both for the United States and for Europe.

Oana Lungescu: Al Arabiya, second row.

Q: Mr. Secretary General, you said that NATO is not ready to deploy forces on the ground in Iraq and Syria. I would like to ask you what is the, what will be the NATO contribution be once you take the decision to enroll in the fight against Da’esh. And a subsidiary question: How long will you be supporting Iraq in the training mission?

Secretary General: There has been no request for any NATO combat role and there is no discussion at all about engaging NATO in a combat role in the Counter ISIL Coalition. And we have to remember also that outside the Counter ISIL Coalition. And when it comes to what NATO does in Afghanistan we have ended our combat role. We don’t conduct combat operations in Afghanistan any more. We have 13,000 troops in Afghanistan but what they do is train, assist and advise. Because we strongly believe that in the long run it is more sustainable that you enable local forces, local governments, local institutions to defend their own country. To fight terrorism themselves. And to stabilise their own countries instead of NATO doing that through big combat operations with a big number of combat troops on the ground.

So that the training is really a main message from NATO because we strongly believe in enabling local forces, local governments to stabilise their own countries. So therefore it’s totally out of the question for NATO to engage in any combat operations. What we are focused on both in Afghanistan and in Iraq and in Libya and other places is how can we train, assist and advise and that’s what we have started to do in Afghanistan. I’m sorry that’s what we do in Afghanistan and what we have started also to do for Iraqi forces, first in Jordan and now inside Iraq. There’s no timetable for how long we will stay. But we will assess and see how long that will be needed.

Oana Lungescu: Jordanian News Agency.

Q: From Arab Today. The war against terrorism started seriously in 2001. At that time Al-Qaeda was in a few mountains in Afghanistan. Now terrorism and extremism is nearly everywhere, at the doorsteps of all of us. And many in the Middle East saying that the West has failed in taking out the causes and the reasons why these extreme groups and extreme elements are successfully recruiting more terrorists worldwide. By not giving just solutions for just problems like the Arab-Israeli conflict. So many believe that the more the West ignores a serious solution for the Arab-Israeli conflict, the more these extreme elements will take advantage and recruit ignorant and very simple people anywhere all around the globe. So do you think that there will be sometime soon a serious [inaudible] to try to take these recruitment tools away from these terrorist groups? Thank you.

Secretary General: I strongly believe that we need many different tools in the fight against terrorism. And one part of that effort to fight terrorism is to address the root causes, they instability, the conflicts, violence we see in many places in the world and in the wider Middle East region. And therefore I support efforts to try to find political solutions, negotiated solutions to many of the conflicts which are creating the ground for terrorism. For instance in Afghanistan the aim is to try to find a political, negotiated solution. We also support the efforts to try to find a negotiated solution to the different conflicts we see in the Middle East. So that’s an important part of the efforts to address the terrorist threats. But then sometimes we also need military means and then NATO has a role to play. And that’s what we have done in Afghanistan and elsewhere. So there’s no contradiction between either being focused on trying to find political solutions and at the same time trying to address the military needs.

Oana Lungescu: TOLO TV, first row.

Q: Thank you. Mr. Secretary General, what do you expect from an increased, let’s say 5,000 NATO and U.S. troops in Afghanistan while a big surge back in 2009 didn’t produce the results expected. And now with ISIS, Da’esh very strong in Afghanistan would it encourage NATO to be involved in some sort of direct combat role against ISIS given that they are not directly related to ISIS in the Middle East? Some of them are local ISIS either from Afghanistan or Pakistan. And how would you differentiate them with the Taliban? Second question relates to Russia’s reported support for the Taliban. How concerned are you about that? Thank you.

Secretary General: The situation now compared to the surge in Afghanistan some years ago is very different. And actually the purpose is totally different. Because at that time NATO and United States – the United States being part of NATO but also with their own activities and operations in Afghanistan – then we were engaged in big combat operation.

Since then we have been able to big up a strong national Afghan army and security force from almost nothing to now around 350,000 troops and policemen. So at the end of 2014 we handed over the responsibility for security in Afghanistan to the Afghan national army and defence forces. And they have proven capable, professional and they have been able to counter every time the Taliban has attacked. And they have proven also able to fight the many different terrorist groups including ISIS in Afghanistan.

So now when there is a request for a few thousand more troops it is something completely different than the surge back in 2009 and 2010. Because then it was a big surge in the combat operation. Now it is a request for a few thousand more troops to do more training and capacity building. At least in the NATO framework. And the aim of that is to for instance further strengthen the Afghan special operation forces. They are proven extremely important in the fight against Taliban and terrorist groups. To strengthen the air defences, the air force of Afghanistan. I met some female pilots trained by NATO. So Afghanistan is now developing their own air forces. And also some officers and some academies to increase modern control. All of this is about training the Afghan security forces to stabilise their own country.

We urge Russia to be part of an Afghan-led peace process. The aim is to reconcile and find a negotiated solution. And this has to be an Afghan-led peace process and of course we have seen reports but we haven’t seen fine proof of direct support from Russia to Taliban so I think we should now focus on what could we do to support the peace process which should be Afghan-led.

Oana Lungescu: NPR.

Q: Terri Schultz, NPR. How do you explain to the allies that are worried about the slippery slope principle, when the war in Afghanistan started it also want a NATO-led combat role in 2001, and by 2003 it was. So you have a perfect example for those that are worried that this is the first step towards a combat role for NATO in counter-ISIS operations.

And second, how worried are you as the investigation in the United States continues, the investigation into Russian meddling now not just in the election but into the inner circle of the Trump administration? Doesn’t that affect the credibility of operations here when you’re working on trying to affect Russian activities and do you have evidence that there was a significant amount of influence on the Trump administration?

Secretary General: Allies, all 28 Allies decide what NATO does. And there has been, as I said, no request, no call for a NATO combat role. Actually I think we have to look, in a way, beyond the combat operation. Because the challenge is that, when Mosul is liberated, then we need some forces on the ground to be able to keep the territory and to make sure that Iraq becomes a stable country.

So what I think we have learned from Iraq, from Afghanistan, from Libya and many other countries, is that one thing is the military combat operation, but perhaps more demanding in the long run is to stabilise after the combat operations have ended. That is what NATO is focusing on when we now are engaged in training, assisting and capacity building in Afghanistan, but also focus on that in, for instance, Iraq.

So again, NATO will only do what Allies want us to do. There has been no call for a combat role. I don’t see any need for a combat role, but I see a big need for NATO to do more, together with Allies and the Coalition, to build the capacity which we need in Iraq to ensure that Iraq is a stable country when the combat operations are over and ISIL is defeated.

The other… that’s a domestic, national issue. I will not go into the US debate related to Russia and the elections. I will only say that this has in no way affected the work in NATO, the way we work together, all allies including the United States here in NATO, and also the way we share intelligence.

Oana Lungescu: Russian media.

Q: Kommersant. First question, is there a possibility for a new NATO-Russia summit on a ministerial level, and the second, will any new proposals on the eastern flank of NATO be discussed on the upcoming summit?

Secretary General: We never suspended the NATO-Russia Council. The NATO-Russia Council can meet on different levels: ambassadorial level, ministerial level and also at the level of Heads of State and Government. And I remember when I was Prime Minister of Norway, I participated several times in NATO summits with President Putin or Prime Minister Medvedev in different formats, with them. So that is something that is still possible, but there are no plans to have such a meeting so I think we are now focused on the NATO-Russia Council meetings on the ambassadorial level, and we will have to come back to in the future when we will address possible high level meetings in the Council.

And the last question was about…?

Q: Kommersant: About will there be any new discussions about new measures to strengthen NATO’s eastern flank?

Secretary General: Yes, I guess it will be addressed. Meaning that I think many NATO Allies will welcome the ability of NATO to implement, because I think we are all impressed by the way NATO has been able to adapt in a very short period of time, to implement the biggest reinforcement in our collective defence since the end of the Cold War. And we have done that since 2014.

We have implemented decisions we have made in September 2014 in Wales, and we have implemented the decisions we made in Warsaw. We are now deploying for four battalions to the Baltic countries and Poland. But I don’t expect any request for any additional measures.

It is important for NATO to convey the message that we don’t seek confrontation with Russia. We don’t want to provoke a conflict. Actually our presence there is to prevent a conflict. And what we do is a measured, defensive response to what Russia did in Ukraine. No one discussed of having battlegroups, NATO forces, in the Baltic countries and Poland before Ukraine. So this is a direct response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

Oana Lungescu: Georgian media.

Q: What should Georgia wait for tomorrow? Can you confirm that leaders will discuss the future of those countries aspiring NATO membership, and also will you discuss open door policy of this organisation – Ukraine and Georgia? And also, this week, NATO Parliamentary Assembly will visit Georgia and we want to hear from you the importance of this visit.

Secretary General: I expect several Allies to address the importance of our partners, including Georgia. Georgia is a key partner for NATO. We have developed a very close partnership with Georgia and we are implementing the different measures: the Substantial Package, the training centre, more activities more training and more cooperation with Georgia.

I also visited Georgia recently with the North Atlantic Council. And the NATO Parliamentary Assembly will visit Georgia in a few days. And I think the Deputy Secretary General will be there, together with the parliamentarians. So that just shows, in a way, how much contact, how much political dialogue we have with Georgia and how much practical support and cooperation.

And Georgia contributes to NATO, with forces in NATO missions and operations, including for instance in Afghanistan, and we are very grateful for all the contributions from Georgia to NATO, especially in Afghanistan.

The decisions we made on Open Door still stand, including what we decided in Warsaw on Georgia. And I think this meeting proves that NATO’s door is open. Because at this meeting we welcome Prime Minister Marković of Montenegro, and all parliaments in all 28 Allied nations, and Montenegro, have now ratified the accession treaty, so we show that the NATO door is open and we continue to work with Georgia to help implement reforms.

Oana Lungescu: ITV.

Q: Just regarding the attack in Manchester, how much do you expect what happened on Monday night to be a topic of discussion during your talks tomorrow, and how much to you think it will influence those talks? And what sort of circumstances to you see on security as a result of what happened there?

Secretary General: The attacks we saw in Manchester will be something which will be addressed I think actually by all leaders in one way or another. Because the attacks were brutal and they deliberately targeted children, young people and families. Doing something which should be absolutely safe and secure: to attend a concert.

And I think that people are also impressed and all NATO leaders are impressed by the way Manchester and United Kingdom have reacted because they stand for their open societies. They don’t want to change the way they live because of the terrorist threats. And they prove that they are not willing to be intimidated and scared by this kind of brutal terrorist attack. And I know the feeling in a way that back in 2011 Norway suffered a brutal terrorist attack where also many children and young people were killed. And it’s always meaningless when innocent people are killed but it’s especially brutal when the lives of so young are cut off in such a brutal way as we saw in Manchester. For me this just underlines the importance of standing in the fight against terrorism.

And I know the feeling in a way that, back in 2011, Norway suffered a brutal terrorist attack where also many children and young people were killed. And it’s always meaningless when innocent people are killed. But it’s especially brutal when the lives of so young people are cut off in such a brutal way as we saw in Manchester.

For me this just underlines importance of standing together in fight against terrorism. Recognising, or fully acknowledging, that we need many different tools. We need to address the root causes inside our own countries, in NATO allied countries, we need political means, we need diplomatic means, we need law enforcement, we need intelligence, but we also need military means and NATO has a role to play. And I expect Allies to step up and agree to do more in the fight against terrorism, not least because of what we saw in Manchester on Monday.

Oana Lungescu: Europa Press.

Q: Anna Pisonero. The possibility to have a centre to fight terrorism. What would it exactly do and do you expect this to be agreed by leaders. And a second quick question if I may, what’s the time slot that leaders will get for their interventions? Will it be the traditional three minutes, or maybe a bit less?

Secretary General: First of all, we will have a timer for the different interventions, that is something that we always have at NATO, at the different ministerials and the different summits. So to have a timer is a normal thing. The exact number of minutes, well I think I have to tell that to the Heads of State and Government first, but it’s a normal procedure that we have at this meeting as we have at all our other ministerial meetings.

We have different centres of excellence addressing fighting terrorism. We are working also at establishing… I know that Spain is now addressing what they can do, so we are welcoming all efforts to do more in the fight against terrorism.

Oana Lungescu: Ukrainian media.

Q: Will the issue of Minsk agreement implementation be raised at this summit? That’s the first question, and the second one: the Ukrainian president has banned the access to the Russian social media in Ukraine. How do you assess this decision and whether you see, NATO sees this Russian social media as a weapon in cyber warfare?

Secretary General: I expect several Allies, and especially France and Germany being from Normandy format, to raise and also to brief other Allies on the implementation of the Minsk agreements. We have to remember that the main reason why, at least one of the main reasons why NATO is implementing the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence and increasing our presence in the eastern part of the Alliance with the four new battlegroups and other measures is because of Ukraine. So NATO has responded, and we support also the economic sanctions of the European Union, and the United States and other countries.

We are concerned about the lack of implementation of the Minsk agreements. We have seen many, many violations of the ceasefire, and we have seen that heavy weapons are not being withdrawn from the contact line.

We are particularly concerned about the international monitoring mission, the OSCE monitors, are not allowed to operate. And recently we saw one of them was killed and several were wounded. This is really hampering the efforts of the OSCE to monitor the Minsk agreements, the ceasefire, which is key to the implementation of the Minsk agreements.

We see how vulnerable many societies are against cyber-attacks. And therefore NATO has significantly increased our own cyber defences, we are also working with partners countries, including Ukraine, on how we can help them to strengthen their cyber networks… cyber defence. The Ukrainian government has made clear that this decree to restrict some of the sites is an issue of security, not one of freedom of speech. And freedom of speech is part of the dialogue we have with Ukraine. It is extremely important for NATO, but it has been clearly stated by Ukrainian government this is not about limiting the freedom of speech, but it’s something they’ve done for security reasons.

Oana Lungescu: Romanian media.

Q: If you remember in Warsaw, you talked a lot about defence and deterring, and in this context I want to know what’s the stage of the discussion about Romanian and Black Sea security, because Black Sea security is still an open issue?

Secretary General: Well, we are increasing our presence in the Black Sea region, we are implementing what we call tailored enhanced Forward Presence built around a Romanian brigade but also with contributions from other countries in the region.

We are also increasing our naval presence and also having more presence in the air. I know that the United Kingdom are deploying planes to the region, conducting air policing. So NATO has increased its presence in the Black Sea region. That is one element of the adaptation of NATO. And again we are delivering.

We have implemented the biggest reinforcement our collective defence, also in the Black Sea Region, since end of cold war. We have, after many years of decline, started increasing defence spending. Romania has announced that they will reach the 2% target this year. Latvia and Lithuania have announced they will meet the 2% target next year.

And then we have stepped up our efforts to fight terrorism, by being more and more focused on training and capacity building. And we have also been able then to deliver on our commitment on dialogue with Russia.

So what we do in the Black Sea region is just one of many elements showing that that NATO has been really able to respond, to adapt and to change to a new and more demanding security environment. And that is the reason why NATO is the most successful alliance in history – is that we have been able to be united, and at the same time able to change when the world is changing. That is what we are going to address when we meet tomorrow.