Joint press point

with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg

  • 21 Jan. 2015 -
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  • Last updated: 22 Jan. 2015 11:46

JENS STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General): It is really a great honour and a great pleasure to welcome the Prime Minister of Norway to the NATO Headquarters.  We have met before. But this is the first time we meet in our capacities as Prime Minister of Norway and Secretary General of NATO.  And we have had an excellent meeting where we have addressed a wide range of different issues.  And I commended Norway for being a strong and determined ally for all that Norway has done as an important member of the NATO Alliance for so many years.

We also addressed the crisis in Ukraine.  And we are concerned about a serious escalation of the fighting in Eastern Ukraine and for several months we have seen the presence of Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine. And we've also seen a substantial increase in the number of Russian heavy equipment in Eastern Ukraine.

This does not contribute to a peaceful solution of the conflict. So we call on Russia to stop its support for the separatist forces; to respect its international obligations; and to uphold the Minsk Agreements.

In addition to address the serious situation in Ukraine, we also addressed several other challenges NATO is facing.  We see the threats from the South, from the fighting, the violence which is taking place in Iraq and Syria, the instability in Northern Africa and also the terrorist attacks taking place in our streets of the capitals of Europe, in Paris, which are linked to these conflicts. 

And that just underlines the importance of fighting terrorism in many different ways.  NATO is doing so by exchanging information related to foreign fighters; also by developing technology which can enable us to detect explosives; and of course the mission in Afghanistan which has been an important mission. And the main purpose of the NATO mission in Afghanistan has been to prevent that Afghanistan is a safe haven for international terrorists. 

So together with Norway, NATO and all Allies have worked to fight terrorism in many different ways for many years. And we have to step up those efforts because we have seen the terrorists still a very serious threat to NATO Allies.

We also addressed the pledge we met... we agreed at and we made at the Wales Summit related to defence spending.  And Norway is among a limited group of NATO Allies which has actually increased its defence spending during the last years. And I welcome that; but we all have to do more. 

We have to stop the cuts. And we have to gradually increase investments in defence and move towards the guideline of spending 2% of GDP on defence in the future.

We addressed the implementation of the Readiness Action Plan.  And I'm glad to see that Norway is really contributing both to the air policing in the Baltic region and also with land forces and also in establishing the interim solution for the Very High Readiness Force. 

So I commended the Norwegian Prime Minister for Norway's contributions both through our different missions; but also when it comes to implementation to the Readiness Action and the Very High Readiness Force. 

It was a great honour and pleasure to discuss these issues and all the issues we knew. And I look forward to work close together with Norway and the Norwegian Prime Minister also in the future.  So please...

ERNA SOLBERG (Prime Minister of Norway):  And I would like to start off by thanking the Secretary General for his leadership in these challenging times for both Europe and for the Alliance.  It's challenging both when we see... look at Russia's actions in Ukraine which have been a reminder to us all that Europe at peace is not a given situation.

NATO’s neighbour countries are faced with increasingly unstable neighbours. Terrorism continues to transcend borders. And it even strikes at the heart of nations as we have been reminded of earlier this year. 

This meeting we've had have been focussed on a complex set of challenges, how we can tackle them as an Alliance.  I'm confident that under Jens Stoltenberg’s leadership of NATO he will once again demonstrate his ability to adapt to a changing security landscape.

And we'll have to build on the Wales Summit conclusions.  We set out, of course, to make sure that the Alliance remains relevant, strong and of course was able to carry out its core tasks. 

This is not easy objectives for a General Secretary to work on.  As we have discussed, there was always a lot of priorities in the national budget debates.  But we'll also have to find ways to prioritize on more military spending in the years to come because the security issues are increasing. And we will also need to increase the investments in our military capacities. 

I have reassured the Secretary General today that he has Norway's full support in translating the decisions made in Wales into action and that we are ready to play our part. 

Now, NATO is a cornerstone on the Norwegian security.  We are strongly supporting the reinforced focus on preparedness, the Readiness Action Plan as agreed in the Summit. 

One immediate expression of our strong commitment is the decision to contribute to the interim Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, not a very short name for a task force, together with Germany and the Netherlands. 

And throughout 2015, this interim force will conduct training and exercises for testing ground for how NATO should work to increase his Readiness Force in their future. 

I will not go into all of the different issues that we have discussed; because we will come back to a lot of these in the years to come. But I'd like to underline the fact that NATO is and will be a very important player on most of these international crises that we are seeing both when it comes to the situation in Ukraine. 

But also even if it doesn't have... NATO doesn't have a direct role in Syria and Iraq, the fact that so many nations are meeting both as members, as partners of the NATO operations means that we have a field to discuss security issues and make bonds together on how to tackle other issues also.

So I would just like to say you are running a very... hum, in a very complexity our security landscape. But I think that NATO is going to have a role. And I think we will have a lot to do.  And that the General Secretary... Secretary General I'm sorry will be an important player, an important partner for us so that we can create more stability both in Europe but also outside Europe and combat all of these insecurities that we are seeing now. Thank you.

OANA LUNGESCU:  A couple of questions. We'll start with Reuters.

Q: Adrian Croft from Reuters.  A question for the Secretary General.  Do you agree with President Poroshenko's assessment today that Russia has 9,000 troops in Ukraine?  And if it's correct that Ukrainians... sorry, for the Ukrainians to say it's correct that the Russians are escalating the situation, should NATO be doing more beyond what's already been agreed in Wales, thanks?

JENS STOLTENBERG:  I will not go into specific figures or numbers, partly because what we have seen is that the Russians have moved forces back and forth. And they have a high number of forces on the border. And they have been, as I said, moved both in and out of Ukraine.  So I will not comment on specific numbers. But what I can say is that we have seen over a period of several months that there are Russian forces inside Eastern Ukraine.

As I underlined, we've also seen heavy equipment.  And we have seen an increase in Russian equipment inside Eastern Ukraine.  We speak about equipment like tanks, artillery, armed vehicles, advanced air defence systems.  And this Russian military presence with forces and equipment in Eastern Ukraine does not contribute to a peaceful and negotiated solution.

And that's the reason why we call Russia to stop supporting the separatists to withdraw its own forces from Eastern Ukraine and to respect the Minsk Agreement. 

And what NATO is doing is that we are, of course, supporting Ukraine.  We have the trust funds. We have provided... We give strong political support. And we have also implemented our own assurance measures to underline that NATO is ready to protect and defend all Allies in the situation we've seen in Europe today.

OANA LUNGESCU:  Second question there.

Q:  Alf Fiunsen(?), (inaudible) Newspaper in Oslo.  As you said, Mister Secretary General, Norway falls under the 2% spending limit for defence expenditures. Would you say it's an obligation for a rich country as Norway to reach the target?  And would you, Mrs. Prime Minister, have a plan for reaching the 2% within your tenure?

JENS STOLTENBERG: It's an obligation on all NATO Allies to fulfil and to follow up the decisions we made together, heads of States and heads of government in Wales in September.  But the invest... defence investments pledge is about stopping the cuts.  It's about gradually increase defence spending as our economy grows; and then to aim to move towards 2% within a decade.

So the first thing... and Norway has already done that is to stop the cuts; but then to increase.  And I urge all countries, all Allies to do that in the coming years. 

ERNA SOLBERG:  Norway will increase its spending in military defence the next years. We have... we have some large investments and new fighter planes.  There are other areas that we need to invest more in, even if we are reaching the investment goals already.  But I don't think there will be a plan during this next two, three years budget to reach 2%.  I think that's too high an aim.  It's a longer term aim for us to increase it and to reach the goal.  But we'll not do it in the first two to three years, now.

OANA LUNGESCU:  Thank you very much. This concludes this press point. Good evening.