You are preparing for the Warsaw Summit, which will be a landmark for European security in these difficult moments we are experiencing. What are the decisions that NATO will adopt at the Warsaw Summit?
We will take important decisions concerning the way NATO reacts and adapts to an environment that is increasingly a security challenge, determined by a more vocal Russia in the East and by the violence and turmoil we are seeing in the south, in Iraq, Syria, Northern Africa and the Middle East. NATO has to adapt and that means the growth of its capacity to react, of force training, but also boosting our presence in the Eastern area.
After 20 years of relative calm, Russia has started to define NATO as a threat, an enemy. What is NATO’s reaction to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and to Russia’s weekly threats toward NATO members such as Turkey and Romania?
What we noticed is a more vocal Russia. We have seen a pattern in Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine, which consisted of Russia using military force to intimidate, to change borders, to obtain what it wants with the help of the military. NATO has to react to these things and is actually doing so. We have prepared the largest Response Force, collective defence force since the end of the Cold War. We have tripled the size of NATO’s Response Force and have boosted military presence in the Alliance’s eastern flank, with larger air and naval presence in the Baltic Sea and Black Sea. Likewise, we have several land forces carrying out exercises at their bases. A great deal has already been done. At the same time, we have created eight small general headquarters in Romania and in seven other allied countries. I have recently visited Romania, where I inaugurated such a general headquarters. So we are raising our presence in the region, in reaction to Russia’s behaviour.
Mr. Secretary General, will the missile shield in Deveselu, Romania, be part of the NATO missile shield that will cover the whole NATO area?
Yes, NATO’s missile shield programme is a defensive programme created to defend NATO allies and their territories against threats from outside the Euro-Atlantic area. The Romanian base will be activated and will be part of this programme very soon, this spring, and this is a step forward in implementing this programme. This shows once again the important role that Romania is playing within the Alliance, as host of a key site for an important NATO programme, the missile defence programme.
Russia always says that this missile defence site in Romania will be aggressive and will be used to attack Russia in the future. We know this is just Russian rhetoric, but what is your reaction to it?
Missile defence is by its very nature something defensive, it has to do with defence, not with offence. And then the purpose, the capacity and the number of interceptors this missile defence is based on clearly shows that it is in no way against Russia. It is not something turned against Russia, it is a defence system that should protect against threats coming from outside the Euro-Atlantic area.
What is your assessment, as Secretary General, of Romania’s profile within NATO? You mentioned our country three times in the Annual Report for 2015.
Romania is a highly valued allied. You have contributed to defence, to security measures in many ways and we appreciate this. You took part in important NATO operations such as the ones in Afghanistan and Kosovo. You are contributing to underscoring defence at European level and you are hosting the missile shield. Likewise, the fact that in recent years you started to raise defence spending, which is essential for NATO to be able to react as it does now, is appreciated. I appreciate your desire to invest more in defence.
After Crimea was illegally annexed by Russia, the strategic balance in the Black Sea region changed. What is NATO’s reaction to this change?
NATO’s reaction consists of boosting our Black Sea presence. We have raised our naval presence in the Black Sea, through several port visits and several NATO warships and, likewise, we have AWACS aircraft flying above the Black Sea region, so we react by raising presence in the Black Sea and in the Black Sea region, and this is another reason why we appreciate the strong involvement of Romania, a country that has a Black Sea coast. NATO allies are important, but being a nation with a Black Sea coast what Romania is doing is very important and higher investment in the defence domain is essential in order to live up to the Black Sea region’s challenges.
What is your message for the Romanian people who have feared for centuries the threat coming from the East?
My message is that a strong NATO is the best guarantee for stability in Europe. A strong NATO is the best way of maintaining peace and stability, but also the best basis for political dialogue with Russia. We do not want a new Cold War, we do not want a confrontation with Russia, we want a constructive relation of cooperation with Russia, but this has to be based on several fundamental principles, for instance respect for the sovereignty and independence of each nation, and for this NATO has to be strong.