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“Time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life.” John F.Kennedy

NATO’s New Civilian Chief on Russia’s Changed Behavior


NATO’s New Civilian Chief on Russia’s Changed Behavior

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg delivers his first public policy speech at an event hosted by the German Marshall Fund in Brussels

Jens Stoltenberg, secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, gave his first policy speech on Tuesday morning since taking office on Oct.

1. A few hours later, he sat down for an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

Here is an edited transcript:

WSJ: In your speech this morning, you said you wanted a cooperative relationship with Russia but that Russia has to want such a relationship. In the current environment, what would be the signals indicating Russia wants a cooperative relationship?

JS: Change in their behavior because now they are violating international law, they are violating their international obligations, they are using force to change borders and that, of course, undermines conditions for a constructive and cooperative relationship with Russia.

My main message today is that a precondition for a constructive relationship with Russia is that we have a strong NATO. There is no contradiction between being in favor of a strong NATO and at the same time aspiring for a more constructive relationship with Russia. Actually, I believe it is the opposite. They only way we can have a constructive relationship with Russia is that we have a firm, predictable policy based on strong collective defense, a strong alliance, because that creates the basis to engage with Russia.

And then I used Norway as an example. And our experience is that because we have been part of NATO since it was founded, and since we have invested in defense – our defense spending actually increased in real terms since 2005 when I was prime minister – that created the basis and the confidence in a small country like Norway neighboring a big country like Russia to go into many different areas of cooperation. I believe that has been to the benefit of both countries. Even if I don’t believe you can copy the Norwegian experience to all other NATO allies because there are different historical circumstances, I believe we can inspire each other and learn from the Norwegian experience.

Another part of my message about Russia is that NATO’s here to stay and Russia’s here to stay, so we are going to have a relationship. So the question is not whether we are going to have a relationship but what kind of relationship. And especially when times are difficult as they are now  — the most difficult relationship since the Cold War – then the need for some kind of transparency and predictability is even greater because then we have to avoid that the crisis spirals into something worse, that misunderstandings create even bigger conflicts. So even at times like this there is a need for some kind of organized relationship with Russia.

WSJ: There is a formal place where Russia and NATO talk – the NATO-Russia Council – but as soon as there’s a problem, it seems the activities are suspended so it doesn’t seem to be the ideal forum for transparency and predictability that you’re looking for. So what is needed in institutional terms?

JS: NATO is a military alliance and a political alliance. We are increasing our military capacities as a result of the more aggressive behavior seen from Russia. We have the biggest reinforcement of our collective defense – the Readiness Action Plan that I am going to implement. Something we are doing because we have seen a change in behavior from Russia.

It’s also important what NATO does as an institution with the NATO-Russia Council and so on, but we are also a platform for the policies conducted by the different allies. Our allies also have a relationship with Russia in different ways. The United States has underlined it is working with Russia on issues like fighting terrorism and so on. Partly we speak about engagement with Russia in a NATO framework, and partly we speak about engagement with Russia as NATO allies on a bilateral basis, everything from Norway still working on fisheries and energy in the north to the United States discussing different issues with Russia.

It’s important what NATO does as an organization in Brussels but it’s also important what we do as 28 allies in our relationship with Russia.

What we have decided is to suspend all practical cooperation but we have not suspended the NATO-Russia Council. There have been two meetings in the council since the crisis in Ukraine, and we have stated again at our summit in Wales that channels for political communication remain open.

I believe that’s in a way the channels we need for all weathers, for all circumstances. Even during the Cold War, we had communication with the Soviet Union on issues like confidence-building measures and notification of exercises. We have some of these agreements still in place, such as the Open Skies, which aim at having guidelines for how we inform each other of our activities. Because we live now in a time with more snap exercises, more military presence along the borders, a more difficult political relationship and of course then it’s important to avoid misunderstandings and avoid that the crisis spirals out of control.

WSJ: Does it worry you then the increased reports of Russian incursion in various ways into NATO airspace and that kind of thing?

JS: We have seen a change in Russian behavior. Of course in Ukraine, but we have seen also increased military activities in other parts of Europe, along the borders of other NATO countries and in the Baltic Sea for instance. And that’s the reason why it’s so important to implement assurance measures, also next year. That’s the reason it is so important on the Readiness Action Plan which will strengthen our military capabilities. The plan we agreed on is the biggest reinforcement of our collective defense since the end of the Cold War.

We have more planes in the air—five times as many as we had a year ago. We have more ships in the Baltic and the Black Seas, and we have a substantial increase in boots on the ground, exercises, and troops on a rotational basis in our eastern allied countries. We are also following up on the decision to establish a very high-readiness force, the Spearhead Force, which is going to be a force which we can deploy on very short notice and which is an answer to the threats we see both from the east and from the south.

I feel as my main responsibility to make sure that we are delivering on the promises we made, and that we are implementing the Readiness Action Plan on time and in full.

WSJ: On the Spearhead Force, you said in your speech that there will be a decision by defense ministers in February about the size of the force. When is it going to be up and running?

JS: I cannot give you an exact date but while we are in the process of establishing the spearhead force, we are doing some other things. We are going to implement reassurance measures, meaning more air policing, more naval presence, more boots-on-the-ground exercises next year.

Second, we are working with our military authorities to establish an interim spearhead force which most probably will be based on the NATO Response Force. The Spearhead Force is something that comes in addition, but we have the NATO Response Force, and we are looking into the possibility of making that more ready, more able to deploy on even shorter notice as an interim solution until we have a full Spearhead Force in place.

In adding, the Spearhead Force is partly about troops but partly about command-and-control elements which are going to be in our eastern allied countries: the Baltic countries, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. Those command-and-control components are important because that will also increase our ability to reinforce. And in addition, prepositioning of equipment and supplies will even more increase the possibility to reinforce.

We have not had troops based in Norway. We had some command and control, we have this warfare center, but what we have is prepositioning of equipment and we have the infrastructure to receive reinforcements. Now we are looking at infrastructure — airfields harbors, command and control and prepositioning — so we are able to reinforce quickly if and where needed. So the Spearhead Force is important but we have to avoid the misunderstanding that it is the only thing.

WSJ: To go back to Russia, is it possible to have a cooperative relationship with a country that has annexed and proposes to keep a part of Ukraine, specifically Crimea, and looks like effectively going to be carving off another part of eastern Ukraine?

JS: The reason why I called for Russia to change behavior is because Russia is undermining the conditions for a constructive relationship. And of course we call for them to withdraw their troops from Ukraine. They have removed substantial number of regular troops from parts of eastern Ukraine, but they still have special forces in eastern Ukraine and they have substantial forces in Crimea. And we don’t recognize at all the illegitimate and illegal annexation of Crimea.

But as we stated in Wales, we aspire for another relationship. That’s because we believe that that would benefit both NATO and Russia and in the long run also contribute to a more stable and peaceful Europe.

WSJ: I’ve just come from Russia, where there is a sense that it has been ill-used by the West and by NATO. That there was time when Russia wanted a closer relationship with NATO and the Russian narrative is that it was rebuffed. Is there some case to say that NATO could have handled Russia better in the past?

JS: No. We have strived for a cooperative relationship with Russia and the NATO allies have also worked for a policy which included Russia in many important institutions, like the World Trade Organization, the NATO-Russia Council and more open borders in general. It has been advantage for Russia to have more trade and more open borders, and Russia has been invited into the G-8 and other international fora. All of this as a contribution to including Russia in an open international economy and cooperation.  And I feel very certain that this has been to the advantage of Russia. So therefore I regret that Russia is in a way pulling back on many of these areas where we have made this kind of progress.

In addition, of course, we have been very clear all the way that we have an open-door policy. That’s based on the fundamental idea that it’s up to each and every country to decide for itself what kind of security arrangement it will be part of. Every country that has joined NATO has done so out of its own will, and you have to respect that decision. And the enlargement of NATO and also of the European Union has been a great success and has contributed to a more peaceful, more democratic development in Europe.

WSJ: Some Russian analysts have talked about the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty as being something that’s not relevant for Russia. How important do you think this is and what would happen should the treaty be abrogated?

JS: The INF is important. It contributes to stability and security in Europe. It is a treaty which removes a whole class of nuclear weapons – ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with a range of 500 to 5000 kilometers – and that is important. NATO is not part of the treaty. It’s a treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union, but then Russia has taken it on. Russia should be in full compliance with the INF treaty and in a verifiable way because it is a treaty of great importance.

WSJ: If it abrogated it, would it give the U.S. the opportunity to bring weapons back into Europe?

JS: I would not speculate what would happen if they leave the treaty. I think now is the time to once again underline the importance of the treaty and call for Russia to respect it.

WSJ: You also said that in relation to the south that force has to be considered as a part of what NATO does, that it can’t be ruled out. Was that in response to the idea that some governments think that if they just train a few soldiers that will do?

JS: The message was that there are a lot of uncertainties and nobody can tell with certainty what will be challenges one, two, three years ahead. I think we all see the importance of trying to find local solutions to train, advise, to prevent conflicts, to work with local governments to build defense capacity and so on. That’s an important part of my message related to the south, and we speak of many different crises. But at the same time we cannot rule out the possibility that we also in the future may face situations when it’s the right thing for NATO to use military force as we did in Afghanistan and in Libya.



Published by , 03.11.2014 at 10:01
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Kevin Kern
Kevin Kern 4 November 14 00:18 NATO needs to show on the ground that it remained relevant in Europe. Currently, Central and Eastern Europe feel they must please Putin because NATO military capability and political commitment are eroded. This means that business and political interests of NATO members are already heavily hit. Text hided expand
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