Q&A WITH NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL JENS STOLTENBERG

Wall Street Journal on September 3, 2015, published an interview with Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, just before his visit to Lithuaniato open a set of small command postscalled NATO Force Integration Units, or NFIUs. Mr. Stoltenberg discussed how NATO can deter Russian aggression in Europe, among other topics.

Edited excerpts of the conversation follow:

On deterring Russia:

“For 40 years NATO’s main and almost only task was to provide deterrence in Europe. The Cold War ended, the Berlin Wall fell and so instead of going out of business we went out of area [to Afghanistan]. Now we are on our way back.”

“What we need in Europe is much heavier troops, different kinds of capabilities for higher-end, heavier operations than crisis management in Afghanistan. It is a different kind of requirement. that is why I welcome decision by the United States to pre-position equipment.”

“We are going to need different kind of troops for collective defense.”

“The military forces we have in Europe are unused but they are very useful because they provide deterrence. NATO delivers something every day in Europe and that is deterrence.”

“Deterrence works when it comes to state actors. Deterrence is much more difficult with non-state actors.”

On talking to Moscow:

“Another lesson I learned from being a Norwegian politician is there is no contradiction between defense and dialogue. Ever since I became deputy minister for environment in 1990 [in Norway], I have, in different positions, cooperated with Russia on environment, energy, fisheries, industry.”

“This is something Norway was able to do: a pragmatic working relationship with Russia, not in spite of our membership in NATO but because military strength, collective defense provided a small country in NATO, a neighbor of Russia or the Soviet Union, the basis we needed for constructive dialogue.”

“Strong defense…is the basis for political engagement. For me dialogue is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength. When you are confident, when you feel strong, when you are part of a strong alliance, you can engage.”

“Of course cooperation between countries requires that some fundamental principles are respected. Not least that you respecting your neighbors and to do so you have to respect your neighbor’s borders. That is what made Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea so serious.”

“We disagree, but that is one of the reasons we should meet. The whole idea that to talk is some kind of concession or to talk is some kind of weakness is wrong. Especially when tensions are increasing, especially when we have more military activity, more planes in the air or more ships at sea. Or when we disagree on Georgia. It just adds just reasons or arguments for the dialogue.”

On NATO exercises:

“Every nation has the right to exercise its forces. We have decided to do more exercises, different kinds of exercises…It is part of the increased readiness of our forces. It is a signal this force is ready, it is there.”

“What NATO does is proportionate, transparent, predictable…The challenge with Russia is they are undermining the whole idea of the different agreements we have developed over decades. The Vienna document…and other agreements, which have as main purpose to create predictability and transparency.”

Comment: The former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg in this interview recalls how Norway on different occasions in the past has cooperated with Russia. The reason Norway could do this was that it was a member of NATO. Strong defense, indeed, is the basis for political engagement. Important future steps to strengthen European ability to stop Russian aggression is membership of Finland and Sweden in NATO. Vital is also future membership of Ukraine and Georgia in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

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