Press conference by the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the launch of his Annual Report for 2017

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg presents his 2017 Annual Report, including comments on NATO’s Resolute Support training mission in Afghanistan.
15 Mar 2018

(As delivered) 
 Good afternoon.

Today, I am very pleased to be able to launch my Annual Report for 2017.

The Report shows that, in an unpredictable world, the Alliance is stepping up to keep our nations safe.

In 2017, we continued to invest more and better in our defence. We deployed four multinational battlegroups to the eastern of the Alliance. And strengthened our forward presence in the Black Sea region. We increased our resilience against hybrid warfare. And strengthened our cyber defences. We joined the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, with our AWACS planes. And began training in Iraq. We raised our cooperation with the European Union to unprecedented levels. And we welcomed Montenegro as the 29th member of the Alliance. 2017 was a busy year.And, in 2018, we will continue to do what it takes to preserve the peace.

A more uncertain security environment means NATO Allies need to invest more in defence. Develop the right capabilities. And contribute to our missions and operations. In 2014, Allies pledged to stop cuts to their defence budgets. Increase defence spending. And move towards spending 2% of their GDP on defence within a decade. Since then, we have seen three consecutive years of increased defence spending in Europe and Canada. Adding a total of 46 billion dollars.

In 2017, European Allies and Canada increased their defence expenditure by almost 5% in real terms. And you can find the specific national figures in the Report.

All NATO members have pledged to continue to increase defence spending in real terms. The majority have already put in place plans on how to meet the 2% guideline by 2024. And we expect others to follow.

Allies are investing in major new capabilities. Since 2014, we have added 18 billion dollars to spending on major equipment. In 2017, 26 Allies spent more in real terms on major equipment than in the previous year. And they are also contributing more to operations and missions. For instance, in 2017 we decided to increase contributions to our Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan. And Allies have contributed thousands of troops to our increased presence in the east of the Alliance.

At the end of 2017, there were over 23,000 troops serving in NATO deployments. Up from just under 18,000 in 2014 – before Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and the rise of ISIS. This is an increase of around 30%. So all Allies are stepping up: doing more, in more places, in more ways. To strengthen our deterrence and defence in response to the challenging security environment.

One of those challenges is Russia’s behaviour. Including in recent weeks. The United Kingdom has determined that Sergei Skripal, his daughter and a British police officer were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia. The British government has also concluded that this represents an unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the United Kingdom. The substance used is one of the most toxic ever developed. This is the first offensive use of a nerve agent on Alliance territory since NATO’s foundation. All Allies agree that the attack was a clear breach of international norms and agreements. This is unacceptable. It has no place in a civilised world. The North Atlantic Council addressed this horrific incident yesterday. Allies expressed their solidarity with the UK. They offered their support in the conduct of the ongoing investigation. And called on Russia to address the UK’s questions. NATO regards any use of chemical weapons as a threat to international peace and security. We will be briefed by the UK’s National Security Adviser Sir Mark Sedwill later today. I am in touch with Foreign Secretary Johnson and we are meeting here at NATO on Monday. The attack in Salisbury has taken place against the backdrop of a reckless pattern of Russian behaviour. Over many years. The illegal annexation of Crimea and military support to separatists in Eastern Ukraine. The military presence in Moldova and Georgia against these countries’ will. Meddling in Montenegro and elsewhere in the Western Balkans. Attempts to subvert democratic elections and institutions. And the military build-up from the North of Europe to the Middle East.

Russia has been modernising its armed forces over the last decade. And investing significantly. Developing new weapons. Including with nuclear capabilities. And Russia has integrated conventional and nuclear warfare in its military doctrine and exercises. This blurring of the line between nuclear and conventional lowers the threshold for Russia’s use of nuclear weapons. And the blurring of the line between peace, crisis and war is destabilising and dangerous. NATO’s approach remains firm, defensive, and proportionate. NATO will not mirror Russia tank for tank, missile for missile or drone for drone.

We do not want a new Cold War. And we do not want to be dragged into a new arms race. An arms race has no winners. It is expensive, it is risky, it is in nobody’s interest. But let there be no doubt. NATO will defend all Allies against any threat. We will maintain strong conventional forces. As well as a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent. At the same time, we will continue to strive for effective arms control. We welcome the implementation of the new START Treaty. And we will protect the INF Treaty. And we will also continue to seek a meaningful dialogue with Russia. We had three meetings of the NATO-Russia Council in 2017.  And we are working to hold another. This dialogue is difficult. But it is vital to increase transparency and to reduce risk.

NATO does not have the luxury of choosing just one challenge. That is why in 2017, we also stepped up our efforts to project stability beyond our borders and to contribute to the fight against terrorism. Our mission in Afghanistan, NATO’s largest, is helping to train Afghan forces.

So that they can fight terrorism and secure their own country.

We have decided to increase the size of our Resolute Support training mission. From 13,000 to around 16,000. With our assistance, Afghan forces have increased military pressure on the Taliban. Ensuring they did not achieve their strategic objective of capturing a provincial capital in 2017. And we strongly support an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process. I commend President Ghani for his courageous leadership. His offer to the Taliban is the clearest invitation to peace yet. So I call on the Taliban to come to the negotiating table.

There is an opportunity – now – to end the conflict. And build a more secure and prosperous Afghanistan. An opportunity that must be seized.

In 2017, NATO became a full member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. We are working to strengthen the Iraqi Armed Forces to fight terrorism. Training almost 500 Iraqi trainers. So they can share their new skills with thousands of others. This year, we will further boost our contribution. By launching a new training mission in Iraq to build on our efforts. And by providing more support to our partners in the region. Such as Jordan and Tunisia.

Last year, we raised our strategic partnership with the European Union to unprecedented levels.

NATO’s Operation Sea Guardian provided critical support to the EU’s Operation Sophia in the Mediterranean. NATO and EU cyber teams exchange warnings about cyber attacks and malware in real time. And together, High Representative Federica Mogherini and I opened the European Centre for Countering Hybrid Threats in Helsinki.

This is the last Annual Report I will launch at this headquarters. Next week, we begin the final stage of the move to our new Headquarters across the road. A cutting-edge and environmentally-friendly building which makes a fitting home for the Alliance in the 21st century.

The world does not stand still. And neither does NATO.

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



Click here for more information 

For the Annex on the Resolute Support Mission 

And the full report 


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