Secretary-General, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
Operating Executive, The Carlyle Group; Former Supreme Allied Commander Europe, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO); Coauthor, 2034: A Novel of the Next World War; CFR Member
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg discusses the NATO 2030 initiative and his vision to strengthen and modernize the transatlantic alliance.
The David A. Morse Lecture was inaugurated in 1994 and supports an annual meeting with a distinguished speaker. It honors the memory of David A. Morse, an active Council on Foreign Relations member for nearly thirty years.
STAVRIDIS: Hi, everybody. I'm Admiral Jim Stavridis, and I was asked to moderate this meeting because I was the sixteenth supreme allied commander at NATO from 2009 to 2013. I'd like to begin by simply saying that this lecture, this discussion honors David A. Morse. He was a lawyer, a public servant and an internationalist, who was a member of the CFR for nearly thirty years. So today we convene in his honor, David A. Morse. My first task before handing the microphone, if you will, over to the secretary general is simply to introduce him.
He is the thirteenth secretary general of NATO and was the prime minister of Norway from 2005 to 2013. And I will say, as the supreme allied commander during the latter part of his premiership, I had the chance to brief him on several occasions, to meet with him in his native country. First of all, I always looked up to the secretary general because he's six-two and I'm five-five, but he also towers as a statesman, as a leader of his nation. And I'll conclude this very brief introduction by simply saying, Secretary General, wherever I went in NATO, and I encountered the soldiers and sailors and airmen of your nation of Norway, I knew I was in the presence of real professionals of the depth of contribution of Norway to the alliance, then and now, was quite remarkable. Sir, the floor is yours.
STOLTENBERG: Thank you so much, Jim. It's really great to see you again, and many thanks for your strong commitment to our transatlantic alliance to NATO. And also many thanks to the Council on Foreign Relations for inviting me to address such a distinguished audience today. This year CFR celebrates its centennial. That is an impressive milestone. Congratulations. Foreign Affairs magazine has been with me from my young age. My parents would get a copy delivered at our house in Oslo, and I loved flipping through the pages. It gave me the impression that the big, wide world out there was coming straight into our home in Oslo.
Over the decades, much has been said and written about the importance of adapting the NATO alliance, including by you, Jim, and others in this audience, after the Cold War, in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and again following Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea, and the rise of ISIS. Now, we are at another pivotal moment in transatlantic history. A moment to reinforce the unity between Europe and North America, because we are facing many great challenges—the rise of China, sophisticated cyberattacks, disruptive technologies, climate change, Russia's destabilizing behavior, and the continuing threat of terrorism.
No country or continent can tackle these challenges alone. Not Europe alone, nor America alone. So Europe and North America must work together in strategic solidarity. So therefore, I very much welcome President Biden's clear message on rebuilding alliances and strengthening NATO. Making our strong alliance even stronger and more future proof is at the heart of the NATO 2030 initiative, and it will be at the heart of the NATO summit later this year. Together, we have the opportunity to set an ambitious and forward-looking agenda for the future of the alliance.
Let me briefly set out what I see as the main priorities going forward. We must strengthen our commitment to collective defense. 2021 will be the seventh consecutive year of increased defense spending by European allies and Canada. Since 2014, they have contributed a cumulative extra of $190 billion. So the trend is up and it must continue to go up. We should also increase common funding for our deterrence and defense activities. This will boost our ability to defend and deter, demonstrate our solidarity and political resolve, and contribute to a fair burden sharing within the alliance. We must also strengthen our transatlantic consultations on security and defense issues.
NATO is the unique platform that brings Europe and North America together to discuss and decide every day, and together we need to continue to broaden our agenda to tackle existing and new challenges to our security. For example, we need to do more on climate change. NATO should aim to become the leading international organization when it comes to understanding, adapting, and mitigating the impact of climate change on our security. We should also raise our level of ambition when it comes to resilience and innovation.
We need strong militaries, but also strong, resilient societies to address the full spectrum of threats. NATO should aim to guarantee a minimum standard of resilience among allies. And we need more investment in innovation to maintain our technological edge and remain competitive in a more competitive world. Lastly, we must stand up for the international rules-based order, which is being challenged by authoritarian powers, including China. The rise of China offers opportunities, for instance, for our economies, but it also poses challenges for our security and way of life.
That is why we should deepen our partnerships with countries like Australia and Japan and reach out to other like-minded countries around the world. I also believe this is the time to develop a new strategic concept for NATO. The last one dates back to 2010. And our strategic environment has significantly changed since then. We need to chart a common course going forward, agree on how to prioritize and tackle existing and emerging challenges, and recommit to our fundamental values. This year is a crucial year. We've got an important summit coming up. We have a unique opportunity to open a new chapter in the transatlantic relations. We must all seize it. So let me stop there, and I look forward to our discussion. Thank you so much, Jim.
STAVRIDIS: Thank you very much, Secretary General. And the format here is that I will ask the secretary general a few questions, sort of bouncing off his excellent opening statements. And then at about half past the hour, I'll open it up to the membership. I think we all wish we were together in one place in New York, but I see our participants are over three hundred and it'd be hard to pack that many into the headquarters in New York. So perhaps there's a silver lining here. Secretary General, let me begin with something you spoke about a moment ago and that was China.
Over my right shoulder, I'm now going to indulge myself and mention, yesterday, I released a new book. The title is 2034: A Novel of the Next World War and it projects us into the future, 2034, to think about the rise of China if it all goes terribly wrong. My question for you is how do we avoid that? How do we avoid a war with China? And specifically, in broadening NATO relationships in Asia, and I completely agree—Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, the list is quite long of potential partners—would NATO be willing to operate, for example, on freedom of navigation patrols in the South China Sea? So a two-part question: how do we avoid conflict with China? And a specific question, would NATO be willing to join these freedom of navigation patrols, sir?
STOLTENBERG: Thank you so much, Jim, and congratulations on your new book. The rise of China, we’ll be defining for the transatlantic relationship in the years ahead. And we need to understand that when we look at China from NATO, we have seen an enormous change. It was actually at our summit in 2019 in London in December that that was the first time we, as an alliance, made common decisions, had agreed language on how to address the rise of China. And at that time that was seen as a kind of radical step, an important change of how NATO addressed the security implications of the rise of China.
Since then we have seen convergence of use among allies. Allies recognize, of course, that there are opportunities but also challenges related to the rise of China. I strongly believe that NATO should remain a regional alliance—North America and Europe together. But at the same time, we need to take into account that the threats and challenges we are facing in this region, North America and Europe, they are global and they are impacted by the rise of China. So we need what we call a global approach, and this is partly about standing up for our values. China will soon have the biggest economy in the world, the second largest defense budget they already have, and they don't share our values.
And therefore just to stand up for our values, work with like-minded countries, for instance, in the Asia Pacific—Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, and potentially others—is part of our response. Fundamentally, the way to prevent war is always to send a clear message to any potential adversary that if one ally is attacked, the whole alliance will respond. That message, our collected defense and security guarantees, Article V, that has preserved peace for more than seventy years. Because as long as there is no misunderstanding, no room for miscalculation, an attack on one ally will never happen because it will trigger a response from the whole alliance.
This is important for Europe, but it's also important for the United States because the United States is, of course, big. A big military, a big economy, but compared to China I meet many in United States who are actually concerned a bit about size. Then for the United States it is a great and big advantage to have twenty-nine friends and allies as the United States has in NATO. And together, all of us, we represent 50 percent of the world's GDP and 50 percent of the world's military might. So NATO has always been important, but if you're concerned about the security consequences of the rise of China and the size of China, then actually NATO is more important than ever because together we will be able to prevent war, prevent conflict by just sending a very clear message of unity and a collective defense commitment within the alliance.
Then whether we can, what should I say, participate in freedom of navigation patrols or activities, there is no such proposal on the table and I will be very careful starting to speculate because that will only create uncertainty and potential misunderstandings. So I will just limit myself to saying that NATO allies, as individual allies, are already present in the South China Sea. Germany sent some naval ships there recently. The United States, UK, France, others have operated there. We have a close partnership with Australia. I visited Australia a couple of years ago and one of the things they were, of course, very much concerned about was freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. So no concrete proposal on the table, but we are consulting and working closely with partners and with allies, which are operating in the South China Sea.
STAVRIDIS: Thank you. And I'll just add to your excellent remarks about 50 percent of the world's GDP and 50 percent of the military budget. What I try to point out to Americans who say, "Oh, you know, why doesn't Europe spend more money on defense?" I tell them, "Hey, add up all of the European spending and collectively it is Europe that has the second-largest defense budget in the world. China would be third." So again, your point, this collective action together is very much a part of the future of NATO.
Sir, I'd like to turn to climate, and here I would like to just make one point, which is that this is an area where conceivably the United States, European Union, and China collectively could work together I think. This could be a zone of cooperation even as we deal with the challenges that we've both just discussed about China. Help the audience understand in a little more detail what NATO's role could be in climate change, because I agree with you, I think it very much has to be part of the future of the alliance, sir.
STOLTENBERG: Climate change matters for NATO because climate change matters for security. And climate change is a crisis multiplier. So therefore, it matters for NATO. Of course, NATO will not be the main platform to negotiate big climate conventions and protocols and agreements in the future. That's for the UN and other international organizations to do. But NATO has a role to play and I think that at least in three ways.
First, since climate change matters for our security, we need to be the organization, the international institution, that has the best understanding, the best analysis, and the best assessment of the security implications of climate change because without understanding the problem we are not able to cope and tackle the problem. More migration, more competition, conflict about water, land, scarce natural resources, is all the consequences of climate change and it will be even more important in the future. So the first task for NATO is to understand the security consequences of climate change.
The second task is to adapt to climate change, global warming, because our militaries are operating out there in nature, at sea, in the air, on land and with climate changes it impacts the way we can operate. It is as simple as that. Rising sea levels will impact a lot of our naval bases, other infrastructure, and we need to plan and to take into consideration the consequences of rising sea levels and melting ice in places where we can operate in the High North and the security challenges, for instance, in the Arctic. Increased temperatures, for instance I've seen many places in the world already, will impact how our soldiers can do their work.
NATO's presence in Iraq during the training mission - last summer there were many days with more than fifty degrees Celsius. I don't know how much that is in Fahrenheit, but it's very warm (122 degrees F). So, of course, if you want to operate in that kind of extreme weather, you need uniforms, you need training, you need soldiers who are able to tackle extreme weather, be it cold, windy, wet, stormy, whatever, but more extreme weather will impact military preparations. So we need the uniforms, we need the vehicles, we need equipment, we need the infrastructure that is able to sustain more extreme weather. So that's the second task for NATO and we need to share best practices, provide guidelines, exercises. All that enables us to deal with more extreme weather. Wilder, windy, warmer weather will impact military operations.
The third task for NATO is to help to reduce emissions. Because we know that military emissions—planes, ships, bases—they are emitting a lot of carbon dioxide. And the challenge is that we need to be able to reduce emissions without undermining our operational effectiveness. We need to be effective, we need to function but at the same time try to reduce emissions partly because that will reduce the contribution of military footprints to global warming. But second, because it's actually possible to reconcile operational effectiveness with being more environmentally friendly. We know that, you know, throughout history, at least throughout the history of hydrocarbons, the supply of fossil fuels has been one of most critical things in any military operation.
You can read about the Rommel struggling in North Africa not being able to get gasoline to his battle tanks, or Patton who could have moved much faster to France if you had more access to gasoline, and many other examples. Or in Afghanistan one of the most vulnerable operations we actually did was to transport diesel in trucks from Pakistan all the way to our different bases to fuel our aggregates to produce electricity.
So the thing is that if we can make our operations more energy efficient, turn to solar panels or biofuels or other types of energy, it will be environmentally friendly but also potentially increase the strength and the resilience of interoperations. So these are areas that we are already working on, our Science for Peace program developing alternative fuels, sharing best practices, and so on. So NATO is not, perhaps, the main responder to climate change, but we need to understand, we need to adapt, and we need to contribute to reduce emissions.
STAVRIDIS: What an excellent portrait of the role. The only thing I could add to it just from the perspective of the United States, I'm coming to you from my native state of Florida, which is often, if you will, attacked by hurricanes. In the summer we have terrible fires in our forests in the West. Often our militaries are called into participate in humanitarian work, disaster relief. That takes time away from training. It takes attention away from it. It becomes an additional burden. And I think in your remarks I hear an awareness in the NATO context of that as well.
Secretary General, let me turn to one other area that has been very much on my mind and on the minds of many Americans over the last few weeks and that is cyber and cybersecurity. As you are well aware, we've undergone a significant cyber event here. I would personally define it as a cyberattack. We could have a conversation about what defines a cyberattack, but it's, of course, the SolarWinds hack, which came at a company and attacked four hundred of the Fortune 500 companies.
It penetrated many sectors of the U.S. government. It was almost certainly generated from Russia. It's an example of the challenges we all face. I'd love to hear some comments about what NATO is doing in thinking about cyber. I remember as supreme allied commander going off into the NATO Cybersecurity Center in Tallinn, Estonia, this was something that was coming online as I departed some years ago. Where are we now and where are we going in cyber, Secretary General? Thank you.
STOLTENBERG: Cyber will only become more and more important for our defense both for our military defense, but also for protecting our civilian societies, our critical civilian infrastructure. And again, NATO has adapted but we need to continue to do more, because we are confronted with more frequent and more sophisticated cyberattacks. What we have done is that we have decided that cyber can trigger Article V. And that's a very strong message, meaning an equalized cyberattack with genetic attacks.
So if we assess that the cyberattack has the seriousness, the scale and the scope, then we can trigger our collective defense clause. We don't have to respond in cyber but, of course, we can respond in cyber or in other domains. Second, we have established cyber as a military domain alongside air, sea and land, and we are helping allies with improving their cyber defenses. We again share best practices. We have the center in Tallinn you just mentioned. We have conducted the biggest exercises in the world when it comes to cyber defense, and we are constantly improving the protection our own cyber networks at our headquarters.
But, you know, when we operate in Afghanistan or Iraq or in Kosovo or the battle groups in the eastern part of the alliance, cyber networks are critical for command and control for everything we do and we need to protect these networks. Then let me add that we have also during the last years been able to develop and integrate into NATO what we refer to as sovereign national cyber effects. It is very often called offensive cyber and that has been used by allies. I've seen, for instance, how allies have used the offensive cyber against ISIS, taking down their networks, reducing their capabilities to recruit, to finance, to send out propaganda.
So we also have national cyberattacks integrated in NATO planning and when necessary NATO operations, because we need to be able to be defensive but also when necessary to use offensive cyber as NATO allies used against, for instance, ISIS. The last thing I will say, which is a task for NATO, is to address some of the very difficult ethical but also arms control questions raised by cyberwarfare, cyberattacks. We don't have the final answers, but we need to look into how to address that because it will be an important part of any potential military conflict in the future. It will have a cyber dimension.
STAVRIDIS: Well said and here in the United States there's a conversation that is beginning about whether or not we need a cyber force. As I'm sure you're aware last year, we created a Space Force. The United Kingdom is moving toward a space force. This isn't really a question, just a comment that I think within the alliance they'll be more specialization in this area on the part of the uniformed military, the part of civilians. I think your comments are precisely correct in that keeping this front and center for the alliance is just critical.
Well, we've talked about three topics and they all began with C—China, cyber, and climate. I can't think of any other topics that begin with C. So I think it's time to open this up to the larger membership. I'm sure there'll be some terrific questions. I'll conclude my small part here by just saying, drawing a line under your comment that it's time for a new strategic concept for the alliance. As you said, 2010 was the last time we did this. I participated in that as SACEUR.
Madeleine Albright did a marvelous job chairing that effort. I'm sure this will be something to watch as it unfolds, and I'm so glad, if I can conclude with this, that you have extended and will now be our secretary general for another two years. It is certainly time to do this and bring all your experience to bear as we create this new strategic concept. Okay with that, Laura, I'll turn it over to you to bring in individual questions as you will.
STAFF: We'll take the first question from Mirna Galic.
Q: Thank you so much. This is Mirna Galic from the Atlantic Council. Secretary General, it's such a pleasure to be able to listen to you speak and ask you some questions. You've mentioned, and also the expert report that came out in December mentioned, the importance of NATO engaging more holistically with its allies in the Asia Pacific—Japan, Australia, South Korea, New Zealand. China is a great entry point for that, but there are some ways in which those relationships could be improved more holistically, including in terms of exercises.
It's sometimes difficult for these partners to make it to Europe or North America where the majority of NATO's military exercises are held, and in theory, a more mutually accessible location like, perhaps, the Indian Ocean might be better. I know you've wisely already said you would not speculate on NATO operating in the South China Sea, but do you think that given that NATO has operated in the Indian Ocean before, this area might be a potential place for some NATO exercises with these partners down the line if all sides are agreed? Thank you.
STOLTENBERG: I personally have an open mind to look into different ways of working more closely with our Asia-Pacific partners and you mentioned them. And I also think actually there is potential to begin to whether we can also have new partners in the Asia Pacific, for instance I mentioned India. But when it comes to concrete activities, I'm a bit careful about speculating because I think that we need to discuss this among allies, and we need to discuss it with our partners in the region. But as you have said, or as you just said, NATO has operated in the Indian Ocean before fighting piracy. We are in Afghanistan, which is actually in Asia, so we make a decision then of course it's possible for NATO to operate also in that part of the world.
I think the big decision was actually taken back in the beginning of the 1990s. Then we had a discussion of whether NATO should go beyond our borders. It was about, you know, after the end of the Cold War we discussed whether NATO should just stay in NATO territory as it did for forty years during the Cold War. And then we had this famous discussion of whether NATO should go beyond our territory or out of business and we went beyond NATO territory. First in the Balkans then later on into Afghanistan and I have an open mind to also do more with Asia-Pacific partners, but that has to be decided when we have complete discussions with partners and with allies.
STAVRIDIS: Thank you. Laura, how about another question for the secretary general?
STAFF: We'll take the next question from Alexander Vershbow.
Q: Hi. I'm Sandy Vershbow. I'm at the Atlantic Council as well, and I was Stoltenberg's deputy secretary general until the end of 2016. And good to see you and Jim Stavridis again. I have an easy question: the relationship with Turkey. Turkey and the rest of the allies have been drifting apart over the last few years over many issues—Syria, refugees, maritime boundaries, offshore gas exploration, and of course, the acquisition of Russian technology by the Turkish armed forces. Mr. Secretary General, how successful have you been so far in your efforts to defuse some of the disagreements and tensions among allies? And do you see any prospect of a compromise on the S-400, such as a deactivation of the system that would enable Turkey to rejoin the alliance and the F-35 program in particular?
STOLTENBERG: First of all, it's great to hear your voice, Sandy, and I really appreciate the time we worked together at NATO. You were there when I came in 2014, and I have learned a lot from you. So great to hear your voice. I am not able to see you, but I recognize the voice. Then on Turkey. Well, there are concerns and there are problems, and I have never tried to hide that. You mentioned them, the decision to acquire the S-400, the Russian air defense system, and I have actually raised those concerns myself in Ankara several times. I raised concerns I have about the consequences of the Turkish decision to acquire the Russian air defense system, Eastern Mediterranean migration. There are other issues that has caused concern among allies, and I have discussed them directly with the Turkish leadership. And we have seen also some difficulties in the relationship between allies, for instance, Greece and Turkey regarding the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean.
So I don't try to deny that. But I think that we have to take into account at least one important thing, and that is that Turkey is an important ally. You can just look at the map and realize the strategic geographic location of Turkey. The Black Sea, the Mediterranean, and then of course bordering Iraq and Syria. Infrastructure in Turkey has been important in the fight against ISIS, liberating the territory ISIS controlled in Iraq and Syria. Turkey remains important in our efforts to fight terrorism in that region.
So I strongly believe that my task, NATO's task, is to do what you alluded to, how can we defuse tensions, how can we find positive steps in the right direction. And what we have done on S-400 is to look into whether there are other alternative systems. We have of course the European system—SAMP/T— in Italy and France. We have a U.S. Patriot batteries, and NATO has actually deployed Patriots to Turkey. Spain is now deploying one Patriot battery on behalf of our alliance in Turkey and we continue to try to find ways to find alternative systems that can help address the problem related to the Turkish decision to acquire the S-400.
We are also looking into other ways to try to defuse tensions. And we have succeeded in establishing what we call deconfliction mechanisms at NATO where military experts from Turkey and Greece meet and have agreed on some improved lines of communications, cancelled some military exercises in the Eastern Med, and by doing that, at least reducing the risks for repeating what we saw in the 1990s where similar tensions and similar increased military presence by Turkey and Greece in the Eastern Med, the Aegean, led to downing of planes and casualties and really serious situations.
By the NATO deconfliction mechanism the risk for that happening again has been reduced, and we have helped to pave the way for talks, exploratory talks, between Turkey and Greece on the underlying disputes in the Eastern Med. NATO also helped to try to address the migration issue. We have the NATO activity, NATO naval presence in the Aegean, which is an important part because you have ships there. But most importantly because we actually brought Turkey and the EU, Turkey, Greece, Turkey, Frontex together and by that helping to implement a deal, the agreement between Turkey and the European Union on migration.
So I'm not saying that we can solve all issues, but at least NATO is a platform where we address difficulties, try to find ways to defuse tensions, and make some steps in the right direction. And we continue, of course, to look for ways to how to deal with the S-400 issue, which is of great concern for allies.
STAVRIDIS: Excellent and comprehensive. And Ambassador Vershbow, my dear friend, Sandy, great to hear your voice. Ambassador Vershbow and I also worked together during my time, which kind of Sandy overlapped both of us, so this is a nice chance for the three of us to be virtually together for a moment. Secretary General, if I may, I'd only add one thought to your excellent composition, and it's simply observation as the SACEUR in charge of operations globally. In every operation that we undertook, Turkey delivered. They sent troops to Afghanistan, the Balkans, to counter piracy, to Libya, which many nations opted out of. So we ought to, as you said, recognize what comes with Turkey is a basket of challenges that we have to work with, but they've also been strong contributors across the fabric of the alliance certainly during my time and, I believe, on to the present. A balanced view, I think, is the bottom line here. Again, thank you, Ambassador Vershbow. And Laura, we are ready for the next question.
STAFF: We'll take the next question from John Kornblum.
STAVRIDIS: You're probably on mute, John.
Q: Thank you very much. I'm also a longtime NATO veteran going back into the 1970s, and my question deals with maybe the other elephant in the room that you didn't mention—Russia. NATO, beginning in the 1970s, together worked out an approach to Russia, which ended up being very successful. We do not, especially with the enlargement of NATO, it's much harder to have a common position, but I don't see much evidence of NATO working on a common position and wonder if—my first part of my question is—isn't this a time for the NATO Council to take up Russia the way it did before the end of the Cold War?
Second question is the NATO-Russia Council. That was an effort, I was also part of that, to try and engage Russia with NATO. For many reasons it didn't work. I wonder if you see any opportunity to reactivate, to focus, to use the NATO-Russia Council to start a dialogue with Russia, which could perhaps lead to some improvement for all of NATO's allies.
STOLTENBERG: Well, we are regularly discussing and addressing Russia in NATO and in the North Atlantic Council, and I think we have to remember that actually there is one other C that we could discuss. We already discussed climate, China and cyber, but you can add Crimea. And that was actually a trigger for a renewed effort by NATO to respond to aggressive actions by Russia and a more assertive Russia, which you have seen over the last eight years. And since 2014, not least because of the Russian behavior not only in Ukraine, Crimea, but also elsewhere, and also the deployment of new novel weapon systems, the violation of the INF Treaty and so on, NATO has implemented the biggest reinforcement of our collective offense in a generation.
Now we have combat-ready battle groups in the eastern part of the alliance. If someone has suggested that back in 2014 or before that, it would have been said that's impossible. Now we have them in place every day, 24/7. All allies have stopped cutting defense spending until 2014. Allies were reducing defense spending every year. Now all European allies and Canada have increased defense spending every year in seven years, added a $190 billion extra over those years for defense spending. And that's very much triggered by the behavior of Russia. We have tripled the size of the NATO Response Force, more exercises, new commands, and so on. So I’m not saying that’s only because of Russia, but it’s very much because of Russia. The battle groups, the increased presence in the Black Sea region, the Baltic region, is triggered by Russia’s behavior so this is the response to Russia.
But as you know, NATO's response to Russia is not only the turns of events. It is also dialogue, and I am a strong supporter of and a believer in the NATO response, which has been there since the '70s actually, the dual-track approach: deterrence defense and dialogue. And for me there is no contradiction between defense and dialogue. Actually, as long as we are strong, as long as we are firm, as long as we are united, we can talk with Russia. Dialogue is not a sign of weakness. For me, dialogue is a sign of strength. And therefore we should continue to strive for dialogue with Russia.
We have been able to activate the NATO-Russia Council. There were no meetings in the NATO-Russia Council for a couple of years after the illegal annexation of Crimea. Then over the last one and a half years, there has been no meetings in the NATO-Russia Council, but that's not because of us. That's because of Russia, because they have not responded positively to our invitations to convene new meetings in the NATO-Russia Council, but we would like to sit down and continue to use this Council, the NATO-Russia Council, as a platform for meaningful dialogue with Russia.
Let me add one more thing about dialogue. We need dialogue to try to strive for a better relationship with Russia. But even if we don't believe in a better relationship with Russia in the foreseeable future, we should talk to Russia. We need dialogue to manage a difficult relationship. Dialogue is, for instance, about arms control. And even during the coldest period of the Cold War, we were able to talk to the Soviet Union about arms control.
We need dialogue to prevent incidences, accidents, transparency, risk reduction in our interaction with Russia. So I strongly believe that we should prevent any room for miscalculation, misunderstanding about the readiness of allies to defend each other. But based on that we can sit down and talk to Russia, because Russia is our neighbor and we should do whatever we can to reduce tensions and at least manage a difficult relationship with a neighbor.
STAVRIDIS: Thank you, Secretary General. And thank you, Ambassador Kornblum, and also for your long, long service in the diplomatic corps and your ambassadorship to Germany at a very important time. Sir, thank you. Secretary General, I might just take the moderator's prerogative and add a fifth C, since you added Crimea. The one I'm going to add is what about NATO where it's really cold. So I'd like to hear your thoughts on the High North, something as a Norwegian you understand deeply. I think I once said to your chief of defense, General Harald Sunde, that you know, I really didn't want to go all the way up north. It was so cold and the weather was so bad and he said, "Jim, there is no bad weather, only bad equipment." Norway understands the High North, I think, perhaps better than any other NATO ally with the possible exception of Canada. The two of you, however, have had different views as nations on the High North. A little tension, could you say a word about NATO and its views up there where it's really, really cold? Thank you, sir.
STOLTENBERG: So first of all, Jim, I know that you know the cold, the High North, and the cold environment up there quite well. So you have been there and as NATO's supreme commander, you know that part of our alliance very well. Second, for me, it is important to say that the High North, the Arctic, it's not something beyond NATO territory. It is within our area of responsibility. You mentioned Canada but also the United States, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, we are NATO members and we are Arctic states with territory, land, but also territorial waters, which are in the High North and north of the Arctic Circle. Almost half of Norway is actually in the Arctic. So we should, you didn't do that, but sometimes we speak about the Arctic as something beyond NATO. No, the Arctic is inside NATO—
STOLTENBERG: —and five Arctic states are NATO allies and we are present. And you're also very right that what we always say is that in the High North we have low tensions. It's still the High North. I think it's a bit too easy to say that we have low tensions, but we should strive to have at least not as high tensions as we have in other places in our relationship with Russia because we need to work together and that's exactly what we do in the Arctic. I welcome the fact that NATO allies are working with Russia in the Arctic Council, in the Barents Council, this regional cooperation between the countries in the Barents region, not least on issues like search and rescue, environment, energy and so on.
I think there is a potential for, not only potential, we see that allies, NATO allies, are working with Finland, Sweden as countries outside the alliance but also with Russia. And it demonstrates that dialogue works also when we have a difficult relationship with our neighbor Russia. There's strategic importance of the High North. The Arctic has always been there, but with the melting of the ice at least it changes. And it has been always the melting of the ice has been regarded as a kind of first step towards also more commercial traffic. So far we're not seeing that much but potentially it will be more ships sailing from Asia through Europe over the North-East Passage.
Military operations will change when the ice is melting. This is not something that potentially will happen in the future, it's happening now. The extent of the ice in the Arctic, in the North Pole has diminished significantly already, and it will continue to do so as we see increased global warming. Increased Russian presence, more Russian bases in the High North has also triggered the need for more NATO presence, and we have increased our presence there with more naval capabilities, presence in the air, and not least, the importance of protecting transatlantic undersea cables transmitting, you know, a lot of data.
So we need to be present in the Arctic. We need to step up and increase the readiness of our forces. It also affects our ability to be present in the Arctic. The last thing I will say is that if you look at the map it's very easy to think that the—actually Russia and the United States, they are very close. You just pass the North Pole. That's the shortest distance between our two continents. And we have to remember that even though the maps normally confuses us a bit because if you look at the globe you see the proximity between Russia and North America crossing the—you can see it there crossing the North Pole.
STAVRIDIS: It's right there.
STAVRIDIS: Well, sir, we have about ten minutes left. We've got six or seven questions in the queue, so we'll kind of consider this a bit of a lightning round here at the end. Laura, can you see how quickly we can get through some of these questions. So make them move.
STAFF: We'll take the next question from Jane Harman.
Q: Thank you, it consoles me that both of you are so close to NATO and still heading NATO. It means a lot to me and certainly my colleagues at the Wilson Center. I also want to salute the service of our immediate past ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison, my colleague from Congress, who I think did a magnificent job. Here's my question. I was thinking of what are the strategic advantages of NATO compared to other organizations in Europe or other organizations the U.S. belongs to meet current threats?
And here's an idea: the most important threat right now is the pandemic. And NATO and certainly the U.S. defense apparatus are extremely good at logistics. Is it a goal of NATO or should it be a goal of NATO, with our participation, to master the logistics for the world of distributing vaccines and not just distributing them but making sure they get into arms? Wouldn't that build enormous goodwill for any follow-on activities of NATO and also enormous goodwill for the U.S. as it reenters, hopefully, a friendly set of alliances.
STOLTENBERG: I will now try to be short because we have only ten minutes left or even less than that. But first of all, Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchinson has been really a good friend, and a strong supporter, and a very staunch supporter of our alliance and I really appreciated working with her the time she was an ambassador of the United states to NATO. Second, the strategic advantage of NATO is that NATO is the only institution that brings together North America and Europe every day in NATO. We are the most successful alliance in history because we are actually a military alliance, thirty allies standing together. So as long as you stand together we can manage any threats from any direction.
Thirdly, on COVID, well, NATO has already coordinated and facilitated help from our militaries to the civilian efforts of dealing with the pandemic. And you also see across the alliance in different ways, but of course in the alliance we have seen how the military has helped to support the civilian efforts to combat the pandemic—transporting patients, transporting medical equipment, setting up military field hospitals, helping to control borders. And now also, again, it differs a bit between allied countries, but our militaries, supported often by NATO, are also helping with the rollout of the vaccines. So different allies need help in different ways but NATO has coordinated and the military has provided a lot of help already and I'd like to see more of that in the future.
STAVRIDIS: Thank you so much, Jane. Excellent question. I agree. Next question, please, Laura.
STAFF: We'll take the next question from Ivo Daalder.
Q: Secretary General, thanks so much for being there. Jim, great to see you. It was wonderful to do our adventure together for so many years. Jens, I just wanted to follow up on your answer to John Kornblum's important question on Russia. You're rightfully stressing the importance of dialogue. I am struck that fifty years after the Harmel Report, fifty-five years after the Harmel Report, and forty-five years after we had a serious arms control engagement, we have no more arms control. INF is gone. The conventional forces agreement is gone. The Vienna Document is gone. Even the Open Skies Agreement has disappeared. And I wonder whether you could just in a few minutes say something about how NATO is going to get back into the arms control frame, starting, first of all, having a dialogue among the allies themselves about what it is that we seek and how we might be able to enhance that dimension of our relationship with Russia, which has been so critical, and for the future of our security will remain critical.
STOLTENBERG: Thank you, Ivo, I would again try to be telegraphic but arms control has been and still is extremely important for NATO. NATO has been on the forefront of efforts on arms control for decades. Therefore, we are also extremely concerned that we have seen that, not all, but much of the arms control architecture that has been developed over decades has now unraveled. You mentioned some of the examples especially the demise of the INF Treaty. But, therefore, I also strongly welcome the recent decision by the United States and Russia to extend the New START, which is actually the only remaining arms control agreement limiting the number of nuclear warheads in the world.
The extension of New START should not be the end. It should be the beginning of a renewed effort on arms control. And I think there are at least a couple of things that is important. First, we need to extend arms control to more weapons systems than the strategic weapons, which are covered by New START. Especially, Russia has a high number of intermediate range systems and non-strategic or tactical systems and they are not covered by New START. So we need some kind of agreement, whether it's another agreement or just an expanded START agreement that covers all these other systems.
Second, we need to address the importance of getting China on board. China is becoming more and more of a global military power. And with global strength also comes global responsibilities and China should be part of the future arms control. And thirdly, new disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence, quantum computing, autonomous systems, facial recognition, is now in the process of changing the nature of warfare as fundamentally as the Industrial Revolution. And, again, we don't have the final answers, but this should also impact the way we do arms control. There are some serious ethical questions and some arms control issues related to new disruptive technologies that I think that NATO should be a platform to address.
STAVRIDIS: Ivo, great to see you and thanks for your good work in this world of international relations at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Secretary General, we're going to impose on you to do one more question and I think that will wrap up our time together. Laura, last question, please.
STAFF: We'll take the last question from John Jumper.
Q: Hello, Jim. Good to see you again. Mr. Secretary, thank you for this opportunity. I was chief of staff of the Air Force, U.S. Air Force, and commander in U.S. Air Force's Europe during Kosovo operations. My question is the issues we've discussed here today, I want to add another C, Jim, if that's okay and that's charter. We've gone through this list of issues, which are very much global in nature and would seem to expand our horizon behind the, sort of, regional context of the current charter and the mentality of NATO, I might add. During the operations I was involved with some nations actually decided to charter as for reasons not to do things. And so the question is, Mr. Secretary General, is it time for a review of the charter to insert some more agility, to reflect this, sort of, global role that we've discussed here today and to actually be this force of stability that gets some global notoriety for our efforts more than we perhaps do today? Thank you.
STOLTENBERG: Thank you so much. I agree that NATO must be agile and the change and always look to how we can adapt to the evolving security environment today. NATO is the most successful alliance in history partly because we have been able to stand together, thirty allies, but also very much because we have been able to change when the world is changing. And that's the kind of need for permanent change since the world continues to change. But I don't think that the charter itself is the challenge. I think, actually, the beauty with the Washington Treaty, the founding charter of NATO, is that it's a very short, very brief document and it has worked.
And it has been, what is to say, it has enabled change. Because as I briefly mentioned for forty years NATO did one thing and that was to deter the Soviet Union in Europe, period. And then suddenly the Soviet Union was dissolved and the Warsaw Pact disappeared and then people asked what we should do—out of area or out of business? And we went out of area. We didn't change the charter. We actually, we did something that was unthinkable a few years ahead. We went into Bosnia and took over and as you were part of a few years later, we started the missions and operations and airstrikes in Serbia and Kosovo. We didn't change the charter, but it just changed our interpretation of what it means to be part of a collective defense alliance.
And then, if anyone told you in August 2001 that NATO was going to go into Afghanistan, that was absolutely impossible. And then after a few months the whole of NATO was there and we've been in Afghanistan for twenty years. Our biggest military operation ever. We didn't change the charter, we just changed the way we use the charter to protect allies. And then we saw the need that to protect the United States, we invoked Article V of the founding charter as a response to the terrorist attack on the United States.
And now we need to adapt again. So I think that's also one of the reasons why I think that instead of changing the charter, we should change the strategic concept, which builds on the charter, because when we agreed on a strategic concept back in 2010, China is not mentioned at all. So the fundamental shifting in the global balance of power with the rise of China is not mentioned in the current strategic charter. Russia is mentioned as something we strive for a strategic partnership with Russia. That's the way we refer to Russia. Climate change is hardly mentioned at all.
So I think, I understand what you say, I totally agree with your intention, but I think that the best way of doing that is to renew the strategic concept, but most importantly to act. And that's what I put forward in my NATO 2030 proposals. There are eight proposals, strategic-level proposals, on how we actually can do more together on resilience, on technology, on climate change, but also on deterrence and defense, including more common funding for deterrence and defense activities in this alliance because I think that will demonstrate that NATO is the organizing framework for collective events for all NATO allies.
And therefore, I hope also that when President Biden comes to Brussels later on this year at the NATO summit, we can agree to a forward-looking, agile, ambitious agenda for this alliance as we continue to adapt to a changing world.
STAVRIDIS: Well, that's a wonderful place to leave it. General Jumper, sir, thank you for your excellent question and your service to the alliance and to our nation. Secretary General, you have been absolutely terrific. You've walked us around the alliance and really around the world in so many very powerful ways. We're lucky to have you at the helm of this superb organization. On behalf of the three hundred members of the Council who've listened to this David A. Morse lecture, thank you, sir. You can't see them all, but I will stand in for three hundred people applauding your fine performance. Thank you, Mr. Secretary General. I salute you.
STOLTENBERG: Thank you so much. Thank you. This was really great. Thank you.