Press point

by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen following his visit to Kiev

  • 08 Aug. 2014 -
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  • Last updated: 08 Aug. 2014 10:39

Press point by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen following his visit to Kiev

Good afternoon.

I have had very good meetings with President Poroshenko and other Ukrainian leaders. My message is very clear: NATO’s support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine is unwavering.

Our partnership is long-standing. It’s strong. And in response to Russia’s aggression, NATO is working even more closely with Ukraine to reform its armed forces and defence institutions. 

NATO stands ready to support Ukraine with advice and assistance.

We are advising Ukraine on defence planning and defence reform and we are ready to intensify this cooperation. We also advise on technology and energy security.

In June, NATO’s foreign ministers decided to establish four trust funds to assist Ukraine. I discussed with the President how we can best use the trust funds in areas such as command and control, logistics, and re-training of retired military personnel to assist Ukraine in the present situation.

As a sign of our strong support and solidarity, we have decided to hold a special meeting with Ukraine at the upcoming NATO Summit in Wales. And I look forward to seeing President Poroshenko there.  

We will continue to improve the ability of NATO and Ukrainian soldiers to work together. Together, we are planning more joint exercises, more cooperation and more shared training and education.

I look forward to welcoming the President to the NATO Summit in Wales and to making our partnership even stronger.

It is the right of every country to choose its own foreign policy, without foreign interference. NATO fully respects that right. But today, Ukraine’s freedom and future are under attack.

Instead of de-escalating the conflict, Russia continues to destabilize Ukraine.

Russia’s support to the separatists continues. It has intensified in scale and sophistication. The downing of MH17 shows the tragic global consequences of that reckless support. And Russia has massed large forces on the Ukrainian border, to shield the separatists and to use any pretext to intervene even further.

So I call on Russia to step back from the brink. Step back from the border. Do not use peacekeeping as an excuse for war-making.

I urge Russia to follow the genuine path to peace. To stop its support for separatists. To pull back its troops from Ukraine's border. And to engage in a sincere dialogue for a peaceful solution.

That is what Ukraine needs. That is what Russia says it wants. And that is what the whole international community is working for.

And with that, I am ready to take your questions.

Question (in Russian): How will NATO react if the Russian Federation uses the excuse of peacekeeping to invade?

NATO Secretary General: At this stage, this is still a hypothetical question. As I mentioned, we are very much concerned that Russia keeps this option open. But I do hope that Russia steps back, because it wouldn’t be in Russia’s interest to intervene further. Further intervention from the Russian side would lead to further isolation, further international isolation of Russia. I have no doubt that if Russia were to intervene further it would lead to deeper, more profound, tougher economic sanctions that would really hurt the Russian economy.

Question (in Russian): Can you confirm that you announced today that NATO is stopping practical cooperation with Russia?

NATO Secretary General: We suspended our practical cooperation with Russia in all areas and that has affected practical cooperation projects when it comes to Afghanistan, counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, counter-piracy. I strongly regret that because I think basically we have a common interest in addressing these security challenges.  But obviously after Russia’s illegal military actions in Ukraine we can’t continue business as usual. This is the reason why we have suspended practical cooperation with Russia and they will be kept suspended as long as Russia doesn’t comply with the fundamental principles of the founding documents of NATO-Russia cooperation.

Question (in Russian): Would NATO intervene militarily if Russia were to attack Ukraine? 

NATO Secretary General: Again, such further Russian intervention in Ukraine is still a hypothetical question and we never answer hypothetical questions. As I mentioned, I have no doubt that the international community would react decisively through broader and deeper and more tough economic sanctions if Russia were to intervene further. As regards NATO, we have already discussed with Ukraine how we can step up our military-to-military cooperation, more intensified Ukrainian participation in NATO exercises, training, education and also long-term assistance to modernise the Ukrainian armed forces and the Ukrainian security sector but these activities will proceed irrespective of the situation in Eastern Ukraine. They are part of the distinctive NATO-Ukraine partnership that we hope to see further developed in the coming years.

Question: Secretary General you mentioned two days ago, that the whole NATO Summit would be a turning point for NATO. And that NATO would be ready after it [inaudible] would boost the readiness of NATO. And that the Summit would help to cope with new threats.  But isn’t that too late already to cope with this Russian aggression? Don’t you think that Putin’s thinking is [inaudible] how many divisions does NATO have to stop Putin?

I can assure NATO does have all the capabilities needed to ensure effective protection of all our Allies. But I have stressed that the illegal Russian behaviour has created a completely new security situation in Europe and we will have to adapt to that. Let me remind you, that since the end of the Cold War, for more than 20 years, we have spent a lot of efforts to develop a constructive relationship, a constructive partnership with Russia. We have even decided at the NATO-Russia Summit in 2010, that we will develop what we call a true strategic partnership with Russia. But as we all see Russia doesn’t consider NATO as a partner, on the contrary, when you read Russian military documents and when you listen to political leaders in the Kremlin you realise that they consider NATO an adversary.  We strongly regret that but we will have to adapt to that. That’s what I have stressed and this is the reason why at the summit I would expect us to adopt a series of measure under the headline of a Readiness Action Plan with the aim to improve our ability to act swiftly, if needed, to ensure effective protection of all our Allies. So just to stress once again we do have all the capabilities needed to ensure effective protection of our Allies but of course the illegal Russian behaviour makes it necessary to adapt and that’s what we are doing.

Question (in Ukrainian): How will you support Ukraine? Will you deliver arms?

First looking ahead to our summit in Wales, we’ll have NATO-Ukraine Commission meeting. At that meeting I hope we can adopt a joint declaration that will outline areas where we will enhance cooperation between NATO and Ukraine in the coming years, and that will include assistance to build-up capacity and modernize the Ukrainian armed forces and the security sector. And as I mentioned in the short term I could envisages more intensified Ukrainian participation in NATO exercises, training and education. So, as regards delivery of equipment, that’s not a NATO issue and the reason is that within our Alliance it’s not NATO that possesses military equipment. It is individual nations, so the possible delivery of equipment is a national decision taken by individual allies and not by NATO as an Alliance.

Question (In Russian): You say the West is united, but what about pro-Russian Allies like France, Austria and Switzerland? 

Let me remind you that Austria and Switzerland are not members of NATO. But it points to an important conclusion. Namely NATO is not the only response to this crisis. The NATO response should be seen in connection with the response from other international actors such the European Union, the US, G7 and so far I think we have seen a quite strong unity among these actors in the response to the illegal Russian military actions. Of course there is no reason to hide that there are different views, but despite that we have succeeded in maintaining strong international unity in the response to the illegal Russian behaviour. And all decision within NATO are taken by unanimity, by consensus so by definition we move together.  And so far we have taken determined steps based on unity within our Alliance and I’m sure that will also be the case in the future, including at the Summit in Wales.

Question: You just said that NATO stopped all cooperation with Russia, but in continuation to the previous question, with regard to the selling of Mistrals, because France is a NATO member state. So what is the status of the selling of those ships.

This is a national, this is a French national decision. Again, as NATO is not in possession of military equipment, and as it is not NATO that invests in equipment, it remains a national decision.

Having said that, I’m also confident that the French government will take responsible decisions that also take the overall security environment into account.

Question: Do you see any role for NATO in securing the crash site of MH17?

No. And we haven’t received any request in that respect.