PARTNERING FOR THE BETTER

Kuwait 2017 | DIPLOMACY | GUEST SPEAKER

TBY talks to Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary-General of NATO, on the ICI-NATO Regional Centre and the role it will play in strengthening the relationship for a stable future.

Jens Stoltenberg
BIOGRAPHY
Jens Stoltenberg was appointed as Secretary-General of NATO in 2014. He holds a postgraduate degree in economics from the University of Oslo. From 2000-2001 and 2005-2013, he served as Prime Minister of Norway. Under his leadership, the Norwegian government contributed Norwegian forces to various NATO operations. Stoltenberg is a strong supporter of enhanced transatlantic cooperation, including better burden sharing across the Atlantic. He has had a number of international assignments. These include chairing the UN High-level Panel on System-wide Coherence and the High-level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing. He was also UN Special Envoy on Climate Change.

What does NATO envision with the opening of the ICI-NATO Regional Centre in Kuwait?

The opening of the ICI-NATO Regional Centre marked two important milestones: a milestone in the strong bond that unites NATO and Kuwait and a milestone in the blossoming partnership between NATO and the entire Gulf region. We owe a debt of gratitude to the State of Kuwait, and in particular Sheikh Thamer Ali Al-Sabah for his leadership and steadfast support. Furthermore, we are grateful to Kuwait for hosting this center, for being such a strong and valued NATO partner, and for its long-standing leadership in promoting regional security. NATO's Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) was designed to contribute to long-term regional security and stability. This center is a historic achievement, and NATO's first such presence in the Gulf region. We envision it to be a vital hub for cooperation between the alliance and Kuwait, as well as our other Gulf partners, including in our important fight against terrorism. We will work together in a range of different areas, including strategic analysis, civil emergency planning, military-to-military cooperation, and public diplomacy.

How will this center strengthen the relationships between the ICI members and NATO?

The security of the Gulf countries is directly linked to the security of all NATO allies. We face common security threats and we share the same aspirations for peace and stability. Working more closely together than ever before is essential, and for that we have now developed individual cooperation programs with all our ICI partners, tailored to their specific security interests and needs. The NATO-ICI Regional Centre in Kuwait aims to foster cooperation between NATO and ICI countries in the fields of the strategic and policy analysis, military-to-military cooperation, civil emergency planning, public diplomacy, and cultural awareness. The center will also facilitate the implementation of our individual cooperation programs and will allow us to reinforce our level of interoperability, which will be key in responding together to future crises. Modern security institutions and well-trained local forces represent our best weapons in the fight against violent extremism. NATO has a long history of working with partners to project stability beyond our borders, including through enhancing the defense capacities of its partners. In addressing the most pressing security challenges of our time, we are much stronger together than we are alone, and that is what this NATO-ICI Centre is all about—deepening trust, building cooperation, and working together to make our nations safer.

What are the reasons for the establishment of this regional center, particularly in Kuwait?

Kuwait has been a strong and dedicated NATO partner for many years and has been a driving force in building greater security and stability in the Gulf region. In 2015, we signed the NATO-Kuwait Transit Agreement to facilitate the transit of personnel and supplies to our NATO Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, and to make any future NATO activities in the region more effective. In 2004, Kuwait was the first country to join NATO's ICI and also the first ICI country to establish the Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme with NATO. Today all four ICI countries—Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE—have these cooperation programs with NATO. Our relationship with Kuwait and the other ICI partners reached a new level last year, when all four countries opened diplomatic missions to NATO. On the sidelines of the opening of the regional center, we held a meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Kuwait, where we discussed regional security challenges and how we can work together to address them. As the regional center is the alliance's first such presence in the Gulf, it will be a vital hub for our practical cooperation. This is essential, because our security is directly linked. We have learned over the years that we are much stronger with allies and partners than we are alone.