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179th Military Committee in Chiefs of Defence Session Press Conference Transcript NATO HQ, Brussels, Belgium

General Petr Pavel (Chairman, NATO Military Committee):  Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my pleasure to welcome you at this brand new auditorium in our new NATO Headquarters. Let me begin my last MCCS conference press update by giving you an overview of the main outcomes of the second Chiefs of Defence meeting in 2018.

Today’s sessions have focused on the Alliance’s adaptation and modernization. The international security environment continues to be highly volatile, which means that the Alliance needs to ensure its constant readiness to respond to any threat or challenge. We have made a lot of progress, but we still have work ahead of us in adapting the Alliance for whatever the future may bring.

We started our meetings today with the Deputy Secretary General, Rose Gottemoeller and Chairman of the European Union’s Military Committee, General Mikhail Kostarakos. With the discussions centred on the priorities for this year’s Summit in July, and how the military will support the Alliance’s objectives.

Our second session was with our Enhanced Opportunity Partners: Georgia, Jordan, Australia, Sweden and Finland. We addressed issues of security and stability in Europe’s southern neighbourhood. With instability and conflict in the Middle East, North Africa and the Sahel, coupled with terrorism that continues to threaten our societies, the Chiefs of Defence exchanged the views on what more support the Alliance can provide to our Partners, such as for example training. Regarding the NATO Training and Capacity Building Mission in Iraq, the Chiefs of Defence noted the need for NATO to continue discussions with the new Iraqi government once it is formed and reiterated the importance of the Mission being complementary with other international efforts, in particular under the Global Coalition and the EU. Greater coherence of Coalition, NATO, EU, UN and national activities in Iraq, and in general across the South could deliver greater effect in a more efficient way.

Now on a more personal note: Adaptation is synonymous with change. As my tenure comes to an end next month, I want to take this opportunity to thank both SACEUR and SACT. For their continues support for their leadership of your respective commands and your invaluable advice during my three years here as Chairman that allowed me to lead the military part of this alliance’s most significant adaptation in recent years. I would name just a few initiatives, such as: NCS Adaptation, enhanced deterrence and defence, Forward presence, our activities in the South including the Hub, addressing Cyber issues, relations ship with Russia and many others.

Denis, I know you are also departing shortly. And I think that we can both agree that we are leaving the Alliance in a strong position, moving forward with its modernization and ready and able to fulfill its three core tasks. Nearly seventy years after its creation, NATO's essential mission has not changed: to ensure that the Alliance remains an unparalleled community of freedom, peace, security, and shared values, including individual liberty, human rights, democracy, and of course the rule of law. I am very honoured to have been part of this endeavour.

With that said, let me now offer the floor first to SACEUR.

General Curtis M Scaparrotti (Supreme Allied Commander Europe):  Thank you Peter and to each of you here.

Good Evening.  Thank you for coming tonight. 

First I would like to make a comment and thank Peter. Thank for your service here, you have led the NATO Military Committee through a period of significant change.  And your impacts will last for a long time. Under your leadership ACO and ACT, in coordination with your staff have laid the foundation for NATO’s adaptation and future, and I have deeply enjoyed working with you. You’ve been a great supporter of the work I have done as well and I wish you the best in the future.

I would also like to thank Dennis, General Mercier, my battle buddy here, as the other Commander. Under Dennis’ leadership, Allied Command Transformation continues to innovate through various technologies that allow Allied Command Operations the warfighting capacity and capability needed to strengthen our posture and be ready for the future.

And what we have been able to do is only been possible because I have a great team mate here, and our teams have worked closer than perhaps ACO and ACT has ever done I think in the history of NATO. Our teams are good teams and I appreciate your support in that regard. 

Today marks the first MCCS in the new building, this is quite an auditorium. I guess the architecture of this to represent unity and I would tell that meetings that we had in here today also were a good demonstration of Alliance unity and the strength of the Alliance.  

I would like to thank the Chiefs of Defence for their attendance today and working with us, as Dennis and I and Petr presented the issues he noted.

As we work to address NATO Command Structure Adaptation initiatives, I see Allied Command Operations as a highly proficient and agile Command, dedicated to the planning and execution of NATO Operations, and providing resilient and effective mission Command with standing and deployable Headquarters; a command ready and relevant to the full range of missions and the changing, complex environment, and working in close cooperation with our Nations and Partners. 
NATO is charged and ready. It’s responsive – and we test this on a daily basis through our operations, activities, and exercises.

In Iraq, we are investing in capacity building and training efforts with enabling countries and will continue to enhance resilience and security in Iraq.  At the last Defence Ministerials, we were charged with planning a NATO training mission in Iraq following requests from the Iraqi government and the Global Coalition.  We are working hard on this plan to ensure we are contributing to the development of the Iraqi security institutions and to the long term stabilization of Iraq.

On NATO exercises, such as Trident Juncture 2018, this an important element of the Alliance’s readiness and continued adaptation to new security challenges. They ensure our troops are able to respond to threats from any direction and demonstrate that the Alliance stands ready to defend all Allies and is committed to protecting our shared values.

Our military service members are trained and ready.  The commitment to the mission is unwavering, demonstrated through our vigilance and warfighting readiness. But today we are in a challenging environment, so therefore we must remain committed to this Alliance—the greatest Alliance in history. 

And we must remain united in our collective resolve as we look to future challenges and how we will meet them.  And we must remain dedicated to preserving a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace, and I am confident we can do so, particularly with the recommendations that were taken today. 

And with that, I’ll hand it over to Denis.

General Denis Mercier (Supreme Allied Command Transformation):  Thank you Peter and Mike.

Since I took command of Allied Command Transformation in September 2015, I have attended eight Military Committees in Chiefs of Defence session, here in Brussels or in one of our allied nations. This one was the last before my hand over, which will be in September this year.

This press conference provides me with the opportunity to publicly thank my two colleagues and friends, General Scaparotti, Mike and General Pavel, Peter. I would like to express my profound gratitude for the great job we did together, as a team, to improve peace and security in the Euro Atlantic area. I could not have imagined better leaders and friends to work with.

I still have more than four months before leaving, so I will continue to promote my mission to focus Allied Command Transformation on warfare development. Our efforts will ensure SACEUR has the warfighting capacity he needs to face any challenge today and in the foreseeable future.

I have presented today different ideas, presenting our disruptive technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, can improve our decision making processes, logistics capabilities, and other domains useful for the Alliance military posture.

One of my main achievements as SACT is the contribution of my command to the adaptation of the NATO command structure, which has been endorsed by our nations and will soon be a reality. Through the necessary evolution of the NATO command structure we will reinforce the defence and deterrence posture of our Alliance.

I truly believe that this adaptation is only a step to keeping a competitive edge. Our Alliance has to continue to innovate, and adapt to a very challenging environment.

We are members of the most successful military Alliance in the world because we have always been able to adapt.

In February 2018, Defence Ministers decided on the key elements of this new NATO Command Structure: They will take further decisions in June, including on timelines, as well as the locations of our new commands. I am very proud of the contribution we did, together, with Allied Command Operations and SACEUR for this adaptation of our command structure.

I cannot finish without addressing a few words regarding the exercise Trident Juncture 18. Trident Juncture 18 will take place this November in Norway and is designed to ensure that NATO forces are trained and ready. It will be an important test, and a tremendous display of our collective capabilities. It is comprised of two parts: a live exercise conducted in and around Norway and a command post exercise conducted mostly in Naples.

With over 40,000 participants from more than 30 nations, this exercise is a prime example of NATO Allies and partners working together in peacetime as well as in a crisis. It will be one of NATO

This exercise has air, sea and land elements, and Norway offers the possibility to train realistically in all of these domains. The cold and wet weather will pose additional challenges to our troops, and will train them to operate in extreme conditions. It is very important for NATO to show that it is ready to defend and deter in any geographic part of the Alliance.

The exercise scenario is not real. But the lessons we will learn from it are very real. So are the benefits for our resilience and our strength. And the exercise will integrate many experimentations of new capabilities and systems as it will strengthen our military capacity.

NATO is a defensive Alliance. This is why we are open and transparent in the way we exercise. Observers will be invited, and the international rules on military exercises will be respected in full.

Thank you!

Moderator: Now I will ask for you to state your name and outlet when asking your question. Julian, please.

Julian Barnes –Wall Street Journal: I wondered if you could talk a little bit about NATO counter-terrorism efforts beyond Iraq and Afghanistan. Secretary Pompeo on his visit here to Brussels talked again about how counter-terrorism is important to the Trump administration, we will here from the President and the Secretary General tomorrow but can you characterize a little bit about what you discussed today, what new initiatives that NATO is going to do to address this problem. And just as a related matter the Command Structure Review is very much orientated to problems about the East, the Logistics Command for moving material across the continent, the Atlantic Command for defending sea lanes but does it really do anything that addresses the concerns of southern facing Allies of the counter-terrorism problem.

General Curtis M Scaparrotti (Supreme Allied Commander Europe): I will take it if you want.

General Petr Pavel (Chairman, NATO Military Committee): Go ahead.

General Curtis M Scaparrotti (Supreme Allied Commander Europe): First of all, when we look at counter-terrorism, obviously our ability to project stability with building capabilities as we are going to do in Iraq as we are planning to expand in Iraq as a part of this, Afghanistan the same thing, we work with Tunisia, Jordan and other places with the same perspective. We work hard on the exchange of information, on information sharing and how to break the barriers that we have both within NATO and with our Partners. Every place you go around the globe that is one of the toughest things having to do with information and intel, the difference between military information and that that’s within the civilian governance realm, those are the things that we work on and our headquarters actually by nature of the way that they are structured and what we train on given the environment that we live in today works on being able to produce that kind of analysis and help other nations as well as their civilian side where we can with information flow and analysis of information but that’s part of it. I would tell you that the Hub by its very nature, it is focused on the South but it is focused on transnational threats of all kinds that helps us with the CT environment as well.

To the NCS question, I would just say that we tend to focus towards the East because you see the largest pieces that this within the NCS, the two new large headquarters orientated largely towards getting back into a peer competitor and a very dynamic environment but actually the NCS has been very carefully structured so it does respond 360 to all three of our core missions that we have. The Hub is one specifically that has to do with the South but the changes that we have made internal to each of those headquarters were to respond to the challenges in today’s environment, like cyber, like information and the need to connect between our Strategic Operational and NATO Force Structure, etc. that’s built in to the entire… the entire Command Structure and those things apply just as importantly to efforts in the South and those challenges as it does to our peer competitor challenge that we look at in the East is how I would respond to that. We very much focused on the ability to do that.

General Denis Mercier (Supreme Allied Command Transformation): If I can just complement that with this. We have developed very recently a Concept for Counter-Terrorism which goes beyond as you mentioned Afghanistan and Iraq with three main chapters regarding assessments, engagements and the capabilities we need. For your second question, when we look at the necessity to organize logistics in SACEUR’s AOR, it is not only for a threat that could come from the South, we still have in the Strategic concept the possibility… the necessity to be able to engage two major and six small joint operations together. If we had to engage a few operations together, the organization of the logistics in the full AOR would be a very important task as well. So this decision is not only focused on the threat that could come from the East.

Teri Schultz – NPR & Deutsche Welle: To follow up on Julian’s question, to be fair those are things that you have done, those are advancements that you have made but President Trump says that he wants more, that NATO can do more against counter-terrorism so I think what we are looking for is what more can you do that the accomplishments that you have just reviewed?

General Curtis M Scaparrotti (Supreme Allied Commander Europe): I would tell you that we are doing some of those things now but we are going to do them better, that’s part of this adaptation. You know I see you smiling but headquarters today have got to be dramatically different in their agility and their skills than they were yesterday and those things make a difference in counter-terror. You go to any intelligence centre today, okay and you look at what they are striving to do in terms of fusion – that’s what we’ve got to build. And the United States is still trying to perfect the skills and how better to do that so I would tell you that, it isn’t about a thing, it isn’t necessarily about a new headquarters of some kind, it is  about improving the skills that are internal to headquarters that we have. Secondly, we are a part of the Coalition. Now that’s happened since, you know last year as well. NATO is a part of that Coalition, that’s the difference because what it does is it gives us that coordination and participation in the Coalition on a daily basis that we didn’t have before, that was done only done individually by nations. So those are some of the things that we are looking at and we’ll continue to get better and make a difference at counter-terrorism. The last thing I will say is that as you know this threat is 360, there is not a nation in Europe that doesn’t have a concern about the transnational threats or terrorist threats so again when we designed this NATO Command Structure and we look at it, we’ve got to be able to look at it 360 – we’ve got to look at not only the external threat but the internal threat and how we help our Nations secure themselves. 

General Petr Pavel (Chairman, NATO Military Committee): I will probably add one more thing and it’s to do more in counter-terrorism is not just killing more terrorists, it is much broader than that and we spent about a third of our time today discussing issues of the South and they are not just we have done but they are about the plans that are ahead of us and they include a number of training activities with the Partners in the region to increase their resilience and capacity to deal with these issues with our assistance so I think the range of measures that we are taking and are going to take is quite broad and southern Nations have addressed all their challenges and all their concerns and they approved the way ahead so I can tell you that they are happy with the way-ahead that we have taken.

Moderator: Front row over here please

Jamie Macintyre – Washington Examiner:  As little as six months ago we were getting very upbeat assessments from US Commanders in Afghanistan in the briefings that we got at the Pentagon. The new strategy was called a game-changer and one of the generals said he thought we had turned the corner in Afghanistan. Today we see that the Afghan Forces are in a tough fight with the Taliban, so my question to you General Scaparrotti, is three fold. One is, do you think we have turned a corner in Afghanistan or how would you describe it? Two, what kind of progress do you think is reasonable to expect this year in Afghanistan, and the last part is what more does NATO need to do to ensure that progress is achieved?

General Curtis M Scaparrotti (Supreme Allied Commander Europe): To ensure the progress I would tell we need to continue our resolve, we need to continue the manning and the capabilities that we’ve committed to, which we still need some that I would like to see Nations fulfil to bring that Commander to his full requirement, that would be very helpful. Secondly I would tell you, I don’t typically use the term turn the corner or something like that, this is tough fight and is going to be a long fight. I have always believed that and I have served there a couple of times as a Commander.

But I think the plan we have in place, and importantly the Afghan RoadMap which is theirs. I mean I know that, I have talked to President Ghani and heard him describe it, it’s their plan .I think it’s right. I think it has a good perspective and I think their subordinates actually are committed to executing that, that is different and I think that is one of the differences here with what we have gone into this past year and what we are moving into now. And so we want to see them execute that Roadmap. This will be a year that I think you’ll see a second, what I would expect to see is a second year where the Afghan Forces are successful in leading that fight, and decreasing the ability of Taliban to operate throughout their fighting season. And being in a position to continue to improve that plan and get ready for the next one. We did that last year.

You know today, for instance you see the violence that started this summer campaign but at this point this year, we are 15% below any point at the start of a campaign for the last five years overall in violence at this time. And we are below the norm for the amount of attacks or violence for the start of a campaign in this particular precise period that is started. So why you see the high profile ones, what you don’t see below that in context, is their ability to do it in a broad way. To have the capacity or the up-tempo that they have shown in the past. And we know that they are struggling some in their chain of command etc. So from my perspective we see the Afghans carrying this fight forward well enough that at the other end, we have had a second year of putting pressure on the Taliban, and enough pressure that as we look to the future, what would I hope to see, is more of them coming to the table for reconciliation and we have to get to a negotiated point, and that’s the whole point of the Roadmap, is to build capacity and put that kind of pressure on.

General Petr Pavel (Chairman, NATO Military Committee): If I may Mike, I would like to add one point and it’s more civilian than military. And I think it is quite a new phenomenon which we heard recently at a meeting here in Brussels of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, both from military Commander as well as from senior civilian representative. And it’s the growing frustration, dissatisfaction of Afghan public with the protracted conflict and the growth of peace movements and pressure on local authorities as well as on government to end the conflict. And also high visibility attacks take a lot of attention of international media but at the same time they are cutting support to Taliban internally. So the situation is changing slowly even in Afghan society and the move towards ending the conflict is very much different from what we learnt over the last couple of years.

Moderator: Iryna, Unian please

Iryna Somer – Ukrainian News Agency: Question for you, General Pavel. This is your last press conference and I do believe I am allowed to ask a question on a little bit different topic, because I am Ukrainian, it is obvious, it will be on Ukraine. After all these years working with Ukrainians, what will be your advice to your successor, how to deal with this partner? And second part of my question, recently you were in Ukraine, can you please tell us what is in your report to North Atlantic Council? What is your conclusion? Thank you.

General Petr Pavel (Chairman, NATO Military Committee): I will be very brief. I think the best way ahead is to continue the path we have set on and it’s to make Ukraine successful, both militarily and economically, because this is the best answer to Russian approach to Ukraine. So we will continue supporting Ukrainian Armed Forces to be modern, capable and having a good deterrent effect. We will also support Ukraine through a number of means within this comprehensive package that we have for Ukraine including financial support and institutional support, political support, and we will keep pressing Russia to comply with international norms. And my report about the visit in Ukraine was very positive assessment on the progress the Ukrainian Armed Forces are doing on the part of reforms. Because even though it may look slow for some that are not informed, actually the progress that they are doing is quite remarkable.

Moderator: Jim please. Last question.

Jim Garamone - DoD News: All three of you Gentlemen mentioned Trident Juncture. Obviously you attach a lot of importance to it. What lesson do you hope Russia gets from this exercise, and exercises like it?

General Curtis M Scaparrotti (Supreme Allied Commander Europe): First thing I’ll say briefly is, it is part of our deterrence of Russia. It is a demonstration of our capability, how we see the world and what we are able to do. And it is simply that, a deterrent message.

General Denis Mercier (Supreme Allied Command Transformation): And to add to that, we do not have soo many opportunities to have very large LIVEX, live exercise where we deploy real troops. I mentioned more than 40,000 and this is a good demonstration of first our unity, this a demonstration of the way we work with even with Partners, because a few Partner Nations will be engaged, and this is a good demonstration of our interoperability, and that is very important to make this demonstration that, when we are twenty-nine, we are not less performant than one, we are much more, and that’s the message we intend to send with Trident Juncture 18.

General Curtis M Scaparrotti (Supreme Allied Commander Europe): And if I could say one other, is and I have emphasized this before, if you look at our exercises compared to what Russia does for instance, this is an exercise that is focused on defence, it’s a defensive of the sovereign nations that are part of NATO, that’s what we do. And that’s what this will represent as well.

General Petr Pavel (Chairman, NATO Military Committee): And even though I haven’t mentioned the exercise,but I will add one sentence. And it that by having this exercise, we will fully comply with all the norms and obligations in terms of Vienna process.


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