Transcript: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on "Face the Nation," June 4, 2017

Interview: Stoltenberg

"Face the Nation" had a special interview Sunday with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. 

In the wake of a deadly attack that unfolded Saturday night in London, Stoltenberg discussed the importance of boosting efforts to combat terrorism, and NATO's role. He also talked about President Donald Trump's recent decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

What follows is a full transcript of the interview, broadcast Sunday June 4, 2017 on "Face the Nation."

JOHN DICKERSON:  Joining us now is NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg. Mr. Secretary General, we want to welcome you to Face The Nation. NATO in the most recent meeting-- there was a lot of talk about terrorism. How does that relate to what's just happened overnight in London?

JENS STOLTENBERG:  What happened overnight in London just underlines the importance of stepping up the efforts to fight terrorism. And NATO has an important role to play. Our biggest NATO operation ever, our presence in Afghanistan, is about fighting terrorism, preventing Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for international terrorists. And we are in Afghanistan as a direct response to a terrorist attack against United States on 9/11/2001.

But what we decided at the meeting last week was to step up our efforts by joining the global coalition to fight ISIL and also to provide more direct support with our AWACS surveillance planes. And NATO allies are in many different ways now contributing to a very important but long fight that will take time to defeat ISIL and to fight extremists.

JOHN DICKERSON:  And so that NATO role extends now beyond Afghanistan into those AWACS planes helping in Syria and in Iraq as well. Is that right?

JENS STOLTENBERG:  Yes. So first of all, NATO has done many things in the fight against terrorism for many years, but Afghanistan has been the biggest NATO operation. We are increasing our practical support to the counter-ISIL coalition with training of Iraqi forces with AWACS surveillance planes, helping to improve the air picture over Syria and Iraq.

But we're also working with partners in the region, Jordan, Tunisia, to help them keep their own countries stable. That's extremely important in the fight against terrorism. And we're also strengthening our work when it comes to intelligence. We have just established a new division in the Alliance for intelligence and-- improve the ways we are sharing intelligence. And the US is playing a lead role in all of this. US was strongly pushing for NATO joining the coalition. President Trump personally engaged in that issue, and I welcome the lead of the US in the fight against terrorism.

NATO secretary general says Trump is committed to the alliance

JOHN DICKERSON:  You were prime minister in 2011 when there was an attack in Norway. Does this-- reflect on this moment in London based on your experience.

JENS STOLTENBERG:  I think what we see is that the terrorists, they want to change the way we live. And they want to attack our open, free societies.  And the best response is to stand up for our open, free societies and continue to live the lives we want to live. Because then the terrorists will lose.

It also underlies the importance of doing many different things. We need many tools. We need to fight the ideology, the extremism -- political, diplomatic means, but we also need military tools as we see for instance in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria.

JOHN DICKERSON:  What's your response to the president's departure from the Paris Accord this week?

JENS STOLTENBERG:  He has made his decision, and we have heard the reactions from European allies. And I think this illustrates that NATO is an alliance of 28 democracies. We have seen differences before, going back to the Suez crisis in '56 to the Iraq war in 2003. But NATO has been-- able to rise above these differences and stand together, be united around our core task to defend and protect each other. And that's exactly what we are doing now.

JOHN DICKERSON:  NATO has weathered difficulties, but there-- this isn't alone the Paris agreement departure, and there-- there was also some confusion about the president's behavior at the NATO meeting. Do you believe that President Donald Trump believes in the mission of NATO?

JENS STOLTENBERG:  Absolutely, partly because this is a treaty obligation. And by all allies, part of the Washington Treaty, the founding treaty of the alliance. Second, because he has in meetings with me -- publicly when I met him in the White House last month -- stated that, he is committed to NATO and his security team has also stated that very clearly.

But more important is that the US is now increasing their military presence in Europe for the first time since the end of the second—the Cold War.  And the president, President Trump, just suggested a 40% increase in funding for US military presence in Europe. We will-- we will have a new armored brigade. We will have more training, more equipment, more infrastructure. So actions speak louder than words. And we see now actions, meaning increased US presence in Europe.

JOHN DICKERSON:  You mention words. Critics say the president did not mention Article 5 during this NATO meeting, the idea that an attack on one is an attack on all. So is that overblown, people's fixation on his not mentioning that?

JENS STOLTENBERG:  First of all, he has stated several times that he's—he's committed to NATO, and there is no way you can be committed to NATO without being committed to Article 5.  Because NATO is about Article 5, collective defense, stand together, one for all, all for one.

Second, it is in the US interest to have a strong NATO, because two world wars and the Cold War thought us (sic) that stability, peace in Europe is also important for the prosperity and the—and the stability or the security of the United States. We have to remember that the only time NATO has invoked Article 5 was after an attack on the United States.

JOHN DICKERSON:  Has President Trump's pressure on NATO members to pick up their commitments-- their financial commitments, has that been effective?

JENS STOLTENBERG:  It has helped to convey a very clear message about the need for increased defense spending across Canada and Europe.  And a good thing is that the European Allies now understand that we have to invest more in defense, not only to please the United States, but because it is in the interest of Europe to invest more in security because we live in a more dangerous world. And the good news is that defense spending now has started to increase across Europe. We have stopped the cuts. We have started to increase, and more Allies will reach the 2% target this year or next year.

JOHN DICKERSON:  All right, Mr. Secretary General, thank you so much for being with us.


JOHN DICKERSON:  And we'll be right back with our political panel.