Joint press point
with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and President Dalia Grybauskaitė of Lithuania
Jens Stoltenberg (NATO Secretary General): (...) Thank you so much Madam President, I appreciate... I appreciate very much your warm welcome. I'd also like to express that we regard Lithuania as a highly-valued member of NATO. And we are very grateful for Lithuania's contributions to our operations in Afghanistan and in Kosovo; and for the very clear leadership you personally and Lithuania has shown when it comes to energy security.
These contributions demonstrate the importance you attach to our collective defence and our shared security. And in these turbulent times, this commitment is more precious than ever. So we really appreciate your strong commitment to the Alliance.
We have had substantial... substantive briefings on the security challenges we face and the implications of Russia's continued aggressive actions in Ukraine. NATO's commitment to defend and protect all Allies is rock-solid. Collective defence remains our core task. NATO stands with Lithuania as we stand with each and every Ally in the Alliance.
We saw this in action earlier today during our visit to our... when we saw the troops just outside this control centre. They play an important role in the support to our air policing mission in the Baltic region. And we are really grateful for the work which has... which is done at this air space control centre.
That mission has been significantly strengthened in the recent months. And we have also deployed more ships in the Baltic Sea. And since the start of this year, NATO Allies have conducted over 200 exercises.
These measures are important. And they are going to continue; because they provide assurance to the Baltic countries and to the Alliance as a whole. The presence of troops from across the Alliance demonstrates the commitment of all Allies to stand with the Baltic countries.
We are working hard to implement the Readiness Action Plan that we have agreed at our Wales Summit. And it is my top priority to see this plan implemented in full and on time. Because this plan is the key to ensuring that we are capable to deal with the challenges we face in the future, it is so important to also implement the plan. So we are really enhancing our collective defence. This is important because this is the way we can keep Lithuania safe and keep NATO safe.
Another key pledge we made in our... at out Summit in Wales is to reverse the trend of declining defence budgets and to increase investment in defence. This is essential if we are to keep NATO strong and to be able to respond to whatever the future brings.
And that's also the reason why I warmly welcome Lithuania's commitment to raise defence expenditures in the years to come. This is vital. And every step counts.
Madam President, you are strongly committed to a strong NATO. And I thank you so much for your continued commitment to our Alliance, thank you.
Moderator: (Inaudible) Two questions for each. I would like to start with fellow colleagues from Norway. First question, please.
Q: Question for Madam President: How did your assess the security situation of Lithuania today? Do you think that the reassurance measures that NATO has implemented are sufficient?
Dalia Grybauskaitė (President of Lithuania): Their decisions are for this moment sufficient.
Q: Hum, hum.
Dalia Grybauskaitė: But we, actually, what we're doing now, we're implementing them. So that means it's not yet in place, everything we decided in Wales. But we are going fast and rapid. And as Secretary General said it's his own main responsibility now to fulfil what we agreed. And we will be very hardly asking the NATO to be fast... fast tracking this implementation. For us, it is important. And important exactly to be exactly what we decided. Decisions were very good. They were sufficient. But implementation is on the way.
Q: (... Inaudible...) Also the Norwegian Press, Russia wants guarantees that NATO will not expand further east (...inaudible...) What President (inaudible) to you, in Lithuania, to (inaudible) the Russians? What kind of guarantee would Lithuania be willing to give the Russians?
Dalia Grybauskaitė: Lithuania declaring that any sovereign nation makes decisions itself and on its own where and how to participate in the international institutions. No country, any, has right to dictate to sovereign countries to make decisions.
Q: Another question about Ukraine. How many troops and tanks does NATO intelligence show are now in the Ukraine? And how many troops and Russian tanks do you also see positioned in Russia, along the Ukrainian border? And also do you see any evidence that Russia or... rebel forces maybe pushing towards creating a land bridge to Crimea?
Jens Stoltenberg: I cannot go into details when it comes to the exact numbers. But what I can say is that we have seen a military buildup. We have seen a movement of forces, of equipment, of tanks, of artillery and advanced air defence systems into Ukraine.
And we are also seeing movement of forces towards the line which was supposed to be the line that the ceasefire was going to be based on. So we have seen movements of forces also westwarda in... within Eastern Ukraine. And this is very serious; because it's totally undermining the Minsk agreements and it's fuelling the conflict. And it's contributing to new violations of the ceasefire.
And that's the reason why we call on Russia to pull back its troops, to both withdraw troops from inside Eastern Ukraine; but in addition to withdraw troops from the border; because that would be an important contribution to de-escalate the situation.
I would also call on Russia to respect the Minsk agreements and to use all its influence on the separatists to make them respect the ceasefire. Because what we need in Ukraine is a political solution; is based on the Minsk agreements and on a ceasefire which is respected.
When it comes to the intentions, I think it's wrong of me to speculate on what are the intentions of the Russians. But we see that they have capabilities and that they are moving forces towards the border; and also that forces have been moved into Eastern Ukraine.
And that's the reason why we are calling on them to withdraw the forces to defuse the situation; and to respect the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine. And the way they are behaving now is in blatant violation of international law and of the sovereignty of Ukraine.
Q: Do you think (inaudible) back from Russia?
Dalia Grybauskaitė: (translation throughout) We are speaking about... Why is it that you have started to use strong rhetoric with respect to Russia? We see and we all see that our neighbour... Ukraine's neighbour is behaving in a fashion.... That our neighbour should act like a country that respects international law, international commitment; should behave in this way that we see in Eastern Ukraine.
Today we see in Eastern Ukraine Russian soldiers, Russian troops violate the State itself, negates it blatantly. The State orders its troops to take off its insignia, and to act without insignia such a State has all the characteristics of a terrorist State. That's all what I can say. I will not comment on statements made by Lithuanian politicians or foreign politicians!