NATO Defence Ministers met by secure video conference on Wednesday (17 June 2020), making decisions to strengthen the Alliance’s deterrence and defence.
In response to Russia’s growing arsenal of nuclear-capable missiles, Allies agreed a balanced package of political and military measures, including strengthened air and missile defence, advanced conventional capabilities, intelligence, exercises, and steps to keep NATO’s nuclear deterrent safe, secure and effective.
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also stressed the Alliance’s commitment to arms control, saying: “We will maintain our deterrence and defence but we will not mirror Russia. We have no intention to deploy new land-based nuclear missiles in Europe.”
Ministers also addressed NATO’s missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, which play a key role in the fight against international terrorism.
Transcript of June 17 press conference by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the meetings of NATO Defence Ministers (transcript)
We have just concluded a meeting focused on NATO’s deterrence and defence as well as our missions and operations. COVID-19 does not mean that other challenges have gone away.
State and non-state actors continue their attempts to destabilise, disrupt and divide Allies. So, NATO’s job is to remain ready to defend all Allies against any threat.
Today, we addressed Russia’s extensive and growing arsenal of nuclear-capable missiles and their implications for NATO’s security.
Last year, Russia’s deployment of SSC-8 missiles led to the demise of the INF Treaty. The SSC-8 missiles are dual-capable, mobile, and hard to detect. They can reach European cities with little warning time. And they lower the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons.
Russia is also modernising its intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Its hypersonic glide vehicle has entered operations.
Russia has tested its air-launched ballistic missile system. And is developing a nuclear-powered cruise missile. We have also seen a pattern over many years of irresponsible Russian nuclear rhetoric, aimed at intimidating and threatening NATO Allies.
Russia’s behaviour is destabilizing and dangerous.
At our meeting today Ministers discussed these challenges and agreed a balanced package of political and military elements. This includes strengthening our integrated air and missile defence.
A number of Allies have announced they are acquiring new air and missile defence systems, including Patriot and SAMP/T batteries.
We also agreed to strengthen our advanced conventional capabilities. Allies are investing in these new platforms, including fifth generation fighter aircraft.
And we are also adapting our intelligence, and our exercises.
Ministers also met in in the Nuclear Planning Group format.
NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements have served us well for decades, allowing us to forge common ground on nuclear issues.
The NATO nuclear deterrent in Europe remains vital for peace and freedom in Europe. And today we decided on additional steps to keep the NATO nuclear deterrent safe, secure and effective.
We will maintain our deterrence and defence but we will not mirror Russia.
We have no intention to deploy new land-based nuclear missiles in Europe.
NATO has a strong track record on arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation. NATO has reduced its nuclear arsenal in Europe by 90 percent since the end of the Cold War.
But others now need to engage.
As a major military power, China also has major responsibilities. So as a rising global power, it is high time for China to participate in global arms control.
We also discussed NATO’s missions and operations, including in Afghanistan and Iraq. Allies reiterated their strong commitment to Afghanistan’s long-term security. This commitment is vital to ensuring the peace process continues to move forward.
To support the peace process, we are adjusting our presence in Afghanistan, and we will consider further adjustments in troop levels in close coordination with Allies.
The Taliban have to live up to their commitments, take part in intra-Afghan negotiations and make real compromises for lasting peace.
In Iraq, security forces have made enormous strides. ISIS has also tried to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic. So, when I spoke to new Prime Minister al-Kadhimi last month, I stressed that NATO remains committed to working with Iraq in the fight against international terrorism.
To ensure that ISIS does not return, today Allies reiterated their commitment to stepping up our efforts in Iraq, in full consultation with the Iraqi government and the Global Coalition.
Both Afghanistan and Iraq have requested NATO assistance in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. And both have received aid from NATO Allies, including critical medical supplies.
So, our partners can count on us – not only in countering terrorism, but also in countering the pandemic.
I also discussed with the Ministers my reflection on NATO 2030. This is about keeping our Alliance strong militarily, making it stronger politically, and more global.
Tomorrow, we will take further important decisions. To ensure NATO is prepared for a possible second wave of COVID-19, with a new operational plan, a stockpile of medical equipment and funding for the quick acquisition of medical supplies.
So, with that, I’m ready to take your questions.
Click here for the full transcript, on the NATO website.