Following are excerpts from a CNBC interview with Jens Stoltenberg , Secretary General, NATO, from the World Economic Forum 2017 with Julia Chatterley.
JC: Thanks so much Louisa. Let's move on. The President Elect's choice for UN Ambassador, Nikki Haley, broke with Trump on a number of issues during her confirmation hearing. She criticized Russia, and reiterated the US's strong alliance with NATO. In the meantime, US Vice-President Elect Mike Pence has said NATO will remain an important check on Russian aggression. Joining us now is Jens Stoltenberg, he's the Secretary General at NATO. Secretary General, thank you so much for joining us this morning. The noises that come from the future administration are disconnected. Do Nikki Haley's comments here comfort you?
JS: I'm absolutely certain that the new President and the new administration will be strongly committed to a strong NATO, because a strong NATO is important for Europe, but it's also important for the United States. Two world wars have learned all of us that stability and peace in Europe is also important for the United States. And we have to remember that the only time NATO has invoked the Article 5 on collective defense laws was after the attack on the United States, and hundreds of thousands of European soldiers have fought in Afghanistan in a military operation that was a direct response to an attack on the United States.
JC: Have you spoken to the President Elect?
JS: I had a phone call with him after he was elected, that was a really good conversation, and he reconfirmed the strong commitment of the United States to NATO, to the transatlantic bond, and this is something which is not only words, but is also deeds, because we see that the US is now increasing its presence in Europe with a new brigade, and this has a strong bipartisan support in the US.
JC: Did he use the obsolete word with you, and do you think he's got justification? Because the message here from those close to him was NATO was formed at a time when we were fighting communism, and actually now the big issue is Islamic State. So, actually, the treaty, the setup here needs changing. Do you agree with that?
JS: NATO is the most successful alliance in history, because we have been able to adapt and to change when the world is changing. For 40 years, NATO was about a collective defense in Europe, deterring the Soviet Union. Then after the end of the Cold War, we went out of the NATO territories, to the Balkans, to Kosovo, ending conflicts, ethic conflicts there. Afghanistan, fighting pirates off the Horn of Africa. Now, in many ways, NATO is coming back to Europe, because we see a more assertive Russia, we are strengthening our collective defense in Europe again. So I think the success of
NATO is that we have always been able to adapt. President Elect Trump is focused on the importance of Europeans paying more, I totally agree with him, and I welcome the fact that European allies have now started to increase defense funding-,
JC: But more is needed.
JS: There is a long way to go, but after many years of decline in defense spending across Canada and Europe, at least we have seen that the trend has shifted, we see now increased defense spending again in Europe, and that's a move in the right direction, and I think that I will look forward to working with Donald Trump on pushing that further when he becomes President.
JC: But you disagree with the 'obsolete' word?
JS: The important thing now is that we come together, to sit together with the new President, we have a summit in Brussels, where the President will come, and then we can sit together around the table and agree how to continue to modernize and strengthen NATO.
JC: I'll take that as a yes. So, I spoke to the German Defense Minister and she said to me yesterday, 'Russia is no friend of the EU.' Then we have a situation where the President Elect says that he'll take Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel on an equal standing, at this point. He says that after Brexit, the EU will lose other members. The Kremlin agrees with him. Does that strengthening, or apparent strengthening of a relationship between the United States and Russia, seemingly excluding or criticizing the EU, worry you?
JS: I very much believe that in times of turmoil, or uncertainty, we need strong institutions, strong international institutions, like, for instance, NATO, to strengthen the transatlantic bond, but also strong Europe, a strong European Union. What we have seen is a more assertive Russia.
JC: And the US appears to be supporting that.
JS: Well, I think the important thing is we-, NATO also wants a dialogue with Russia.
JC: So actually, the President Elect could be a way to facilitate that?
JS: Russia is our biggest neighbor. Russia is there to stay. We cannot isolate Russia, and NATO doesn't want a new
Cold War, we do not want a new arms race, so therefore we are striving for a more constructive relationship with Russia, but that has to be built on strength, and a firm and predictable approach from NATO, but as long as we stand together, as long as we are strong, then we can also engage in political dialogue with Russia, try to diffuse the tensions and to create a more constructive relationship.
JC: Do you think that the world is a less safe place, as a result of the rhetoric that we're hearing from the President Elect, at this moment?
JS: What I think is that the United States will remain strongly committed to the transatlantic bond, to the close cooperation with all European allies, because it is in the interest of the United States to have allies, friends, as NATO, especially in times of turmoil and uncertainty.
JC: Sir, thank you so much for speaking to us this morning. The Secretary General, there, of NATO, Louisa, I'll hand back to you.