by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission at the level of Foreign Affairs Ministers
It’s nice to see you all. We have just finished a timely meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission with foreign minister Klimkin. Klimkin was together with us via Video Link, because he had to be present in the Rada, the Parliament in Ukraine, because the government is going to be hopefully confirmed later on today.
During the meeting, we discussed the challenges which Ukraine is facing. And we also reviewed the progress and the situation in Ukraine. We reviewed the follow up on the implementation of the decisions we have made related to Ukraine at our Summit in Wales.
As you can see from the statement which we have just adopted, we strongly condemn Russia’s continued and deliberate destabilisation of Ukraine, including the provision of advanced equipment, weapons and military personnel. We also condemn Russia’s actions which are undermining the security of Ukraine and have serious implications for the stability and the security of the entire Euro-Atlantic area.
The Minsk agreements remain a framework which could pave the way for a peaceful solution. Ukraine has made genuine efforts to respect those commitments. But Russia and separatists have not. We call on Russia to honour its obligations. This includes withdrawing its forces and military equipment from Ukraine and from the Ukrainian border. Providing for effective international monitoring of the border.
And allowing for a negotiated solution which respects Ukraine’s internationally recognised borders.
We condemn Russia’s military build-up in Crimea and in the Black Sea, and the worsening human rights situation on the peninsula. Russia’s annexation of Crimea is illegal and illegitimate. And we do not recognise the annexation.
Despite persistent Russian pressure, the people of Ukraine have made their choice. The parliamentary elections in October showed their strong desire for a future firmly anchored in democracy and towards more cooperation with Europe. The choice of the Ukrainian people to join the family of European democracies is clear. And it has to be respected.
NATO will continue to support President Poroshenko and the new Ukrainian government as they embark on difficult reforms. The prompt implementation of these reforms remains crucial for the consolidation of the Ukrainian democracy.
We remain committed to assisting Ukraine to speed up the reforms. And we are enhancing our support so that Ukraine can better provide for its own security.
At the Wales Summit, we agreed to set up four trust funds for Ukraine.
Logistics. Command, control, computers and communications. Cyber defence. And retraining former soldiers.
We have also recently set up a fifth trust fund to help rehabilitate wounded soldiers.
These trust funds are a concrete signal of NATO’s support. They will help make Ukraine’s defence forces more modern, more transparent, and more effective. And they will help some of those affected by the conflict.
So this meeting was about our strong support for Ukraine but also about our shared and common values.
Today, we reaffirmed that a sovereign and stable Ukraine, firmly committed to democracy and the rule of law, is key to Euro-Atlantic security. We stand united in our support for Ukraine as it works for a future of peace and prosperity.
MODERATOR: We can take a few questions, as I said, because we don't have a lot of time. We'll start with Kyiv Post in the front line.
QUESTION: Thank you. Brian Bonner from the Kyiv Post.
Polls show that most Ukrainians want to join NATO, and many believe that the nation made a mistake in disarming in exchange for security pledges that were not forthcoming… forthcoming, excuse me.
Yet Ukrainians become discouraged when some NATO nations tell Ukraine to forget about NATO membership, that it is a dead end that will only inflame tensions with Russia.
As Secretary General, do you agree that it's better for Ukrainians to forget about their hopes for NATO membership and to stop talking about it? And if you disagree, what will you do as Secretary General, and what should Ukraine's political leadership do to turn these aspirations into reality in our lifetimes? Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG (Secretary General of NATO): NATO's policy of a open door has been a great success for many, many years. It's… it has contributed to democracy, to stability, and to peace in Europe. And we still… we are still committed to the open-door policy.
And I was present at the summit in NATO in Bucharest in 2008, where we made a decision that the door is open, and that Ukraine will become a member of NATO. And we have repeated that at different NATO summits since then.
But during the last year… sorry, for several years now, the position of Ukraine has been a position of a non-bloc nation. That has been the decision of the Ukrainian Parliament and government.
And NATO -- I, we -- respect of course the decision of an independent… of an independent and sovereign country, and we therefore also of course respected the decision by Ukraine to remain a non-bloc country.
Now I've seen that the new government has announced that they are going to… that they want to change that, and of course I will also respect that decision.
And then Ukraine has to, if they want to apply for membership, we will meet that in the same way as we always do, and that is to assess whether Ukraine fulfils the standards and adheres to the principles, which is the precondition for becoming member of Ukraine, but that's something we then have to address if Ukraine applies for membership.
QUESTION: Yes, Secretary General, Johnson Marcus from the BBC. The principal western lever for bringing pressure to bear on Moscow has been economic sanctions. Clearly the decrease in the oil price, the slide in the ruble greatly increases the economic pressure on Moscow.
Do you see this as a positive development more likely to bring compromise from Mr. Putin, or do you rather see that as potentially a dangerous trend that might encourage the Russians to take further rash actions?
JENS STOLTENBERG: I regard the economic sanctions as something which has been a very right decision of the European Union, of the United States, and many other countries.
And even though the economic sanctions is not something which is decided by NATO as such, it's something all Allies have imposed on Russia.
And I support the economic sanctions because I believe it is important that it has some consequences when a country like Russia violates international law, violates its international obligations, and do not respect the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of an independent nation, Ukraine.
And therefore I think that the sanctions are necessary, and they have impact, and of course combined with the fall in the oil price it has… the… the sanctions and the falling oil… oil price has of course… have of course impact on the Russian economy.
So we will continue to provide political support for Ukraine, we will continue to provide practical support for… for Ukraine through the trust funds, and Allies will also continue to support Ukraine by imposing economic sanctions.
And I support those sanctions because it has to have consequences when a country violates international norms, rules, and obligations.
MODERATOR: Süddeutsche Zeitung.
QUESTION: Yes. I just follow up on… to just follow up on Ukrainian NATO membership. You said you respect the decision of the new coalition to aspire for membership, but do you welcome this aspirations?
And did Minister Klimkin bring this issue up in the discussion, and how was it discussed?
JENS STOLTENBERG: So the… the discussions were excellent. And… and they focused on the political support and the practical support that the NATO provides for Ukraine. And he was grateful for the support that NATO provides.
And we reiterated and we confirmed that we will continue to support Ukraine. And we also of course discussed how we can… could even provide stronger or more practical support and expand our partnership.
I'll leave it actually to countries to decide themselves whether they would like to apply for membership in NATO or not. And it's because Ukraine is a independent, sovereign country that I will not interfere in their decisions.
I respect if they apply, and I respect if they don't apply. That's the whole idea with sovereign, independent countries. No country has ever been forced into NATO. All countries that have joined NATO has done so because they want. It's a voluntary process.
And the enlargement of NATO has been a great success because countries have by themselves, by their free will, decided to create the strongest military alliance in the world because we are an alliance of democracies, we are an alliance of countries which have decided by themselves to work together and to protect each other.
And it's one for all, and all for one, and this is an alliance where you are free to leave if you want and no-one is forced to join the Alliance.
If… if a country apply, then of course we will consider whether they fulfil the principles and the… and the standards which is needed to be a member. That's also the case for Ukraine.
MODERATOR: One last question. Our Ukrainian colleague in front here.
QUESTION: In the… in the opening of SAM, new Ukrainian politics, when Ukraine wants to NATO, we must be ready to give the biggest territory, our territory, for military bases. What do you think about it?
JENS STOLTENBERG: Well, I think it's much too early to… to start to speculate on conditions and… and… and what will be the concrete consequences of membership or… or because the present status is that Ukraine is a country which is a non-bloc country, and they have decided so themselves.
If that's changed, or… or… or if that's going to change, well, I… I have stated many times that then we are going to of course deal with that in the normal way, assess whether Ukraine fulfils the principles and the… and the… and the standards which we require from all members.
So… so I think I just should leave by that.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. That's all we have time for. Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG: Thank you.