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Simon Shepherd interviews NATO Secretary-General


Simon Shepherd: Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary-General of NATO was in New Zealand this week. He was the Prime Minister of Norway when far-right terrorist Anders Breivik killed 69 people in 2011, and he visited Al Noor Mosque during his visit here. But during his visit, he also got New Zealand to agree to expand its military presence in Afghanistan, so I asked him what the three new roles in Kabul will entail.

Stoltenberg: We know that women are vulnerable in many armed conflicts. One of the main reasons why NATO has gender advisers in all our military operations, including in Afghanistan, is that we will make sure that we are protecting women, but also that we are including women as much as possible in our missions and operations. And, for instance in Afghanistan, this is about also recruiting women to the Afghan security forces, to the police, to the army. And I’ve seen myself, for instance, Afghan female pilots being trained by NATO trainers, and this is part of the broader picture supporting the role of women in a country like Afghanistan.

But in terms of New Zealand’s involvement in Afghanistan, will this be the last NATO request or can you see that happening again in 2020 and beyond?
That remains to be seen. We are closer to a peace deal, a negotiated political settlement, in Afghanistan now than we have been ever before. At the same time, I think there is a need for continued support for Afghans. We strongly believe that prevention is better than intervention, and that’s the reason why we train local forces, train the Afghan forces, to enable them to stabilise their own country. NATO’s military presence in Afghanistan is about sending a message to the Taliban that they will never win on the battlefield. They have to sit down at the negotiating table and agree to a political settlement. The good news is that that’s exactly what’s happening now, and hopefully we will reach an agreement which enables us to reduce our presence.

Okay. New Zealand is a small, isolated nation with not a very big military presence. What does New Zealand actually offer to NATO, and what does NATO offer to New Zealand?
New Zealand is an important partner for NATO. You are far away, but we are faced with the same security challenges, the same threats. Cyber is a global threat, and also the fact that we have more great power competition, and the balance of power in the world is changing, that affects New Zealand, and it affects all NATO allies, therefore I welcome that we are working together.

NATO was established post-World War II, and President Donald Trump has called it ‘obsolete’ now. What do you think about those comments?
Well, President Trump has clearly stated that he is a strong supporter of NATO, and he has also stated clearly that NATO is not obsolete, but the most important thing is that the U.S. commitment to NATO is something we see not only in words, but also in deeds. After years of reducing its military presence in Europe, the United States is now increasing its military presence in Europe. And the thing also — we see the importance of U.S., not only in Europe but in this part of the world.

So you’re confident the U.S. will remain a supporter of NATO?
Absolutely.

You mentioned before cyber war and cyber terror. How important is that, in terms of the new face of war, and how NATO is strategising for it?
Cyber, but also new technologies — destructive technologies — in general. They are now changing the nature of warfare as fundamentally as the industrial revolution changed the nature of warfare before the First World War. It’s hard to imagine the consequences, and it’s obvious that cyber will be an integrated part of any potential armed conflicts in the future. Therefore, we have stepped up our efforts to defend cyber networks, to learn from each other, to share best practices. We also strongly believe that the cooperation we already have with New Zealand on cyber is an area where we can do more together, learn from each other, exercise together, and improve the way we protect our networks in cyber space.

What is NATO’s position in terms of dealing with China, which is becoming more and more of an assertive power in the South China Sea?
China is an important economic partner for New Zealand, for NATO allies, for many countries around the world, and the growth of China has been important for our economic growth, and also for alleviating poverty in China and elsewhere. Having said that, we see the increased military presence of China, we see that China is coming closer, also, to NATO allies because they operate — for instance — in cyberspace, they invest heavily in critical infrastructure in many parts of the world. And then, of course, this poses some challenges which we now have to assess and look into the consequences for our security, for the security of our partners like New Zealand, and then find a right balance between utilising the opportunities, but also responding to the challenges we see.

Transcript provided by Able. www.able.co.nz

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