Opening remarks

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the press conference following the meeting of the NATO-Georgia Commission

  • 05 Feb. 2015
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  • Last updated: 05 Feb. 2015 19:33

We have just had a very good meeting of the NATO Georgia Commission.

And the meeting very much reaffirmed that Georgia is a very close and strong partner of NATO. And that Georgia is contributing to our shared security in many different ways.

NATO-Georgia relations are very strong, and they are deepening.

NATO is committed to help Georgia make its defence more modern, and thereby enable Georgia to move closer to NATO membership.

We have put together a team of experts to advise the Georgian authorities on defence reforms.

We are setting up a Joint Training Centre in Tbilisi.

There, NATO troops, Georgian troops and forces from partner nations will train and exercise together.

So this training centre is important for Georgia because they are going to train their troops there. It is important for NATO because we are going to train our troops there. And it is important for several partner countries which will also be able to train their troops in the new training centre in Georgia.

And more than a dozen NATO Allies are contributing to these efforts. Several of them announced contributions during the meeting today

And I thank them for their contributions to the training centre and to the implementation of the substantial package.

This is a clear signal of NATO’s strong commitment to Georgia.

We are grateful for Georgia’s significant contribution to our mission in Afghanistan. Georgia also takes part in the NATO Response Force, and in European Union operations.

That just underlines that Georgia is contributing a lot to NATO operations, to our shared security.

And this is what we are developing further by implementing the substantial package and by establishing the training centre.

We welcome Georgia’s steady progress in implementing reforms.

And the positive trends in democratic development.

We encourage Georgia to continue on this path. To consolidate democratic institutions, take forward judicial reforms, and ensure full respect for the rule of law.

Georgia is also playing an active and very constructive role in the Geneva talks on the conflict on its territories.

But unfortunately, that is not what Russia is doing. Just the opposite. 

We condemn the steps taken by Russia in Georgia.

In particular the recent signature of the so-called “agreement” with the Abkhazia region of Georgia.

And we see with concern that Russia is preparing to sign a similar agreement with the South Ossetian region of Georgia.

Such steps are a violation of Russia’s international obligations and commitments.

They contradict the principles of international law.

And they are part of a disturbing pattern of destabilising Russian behaviour in its neighbourhood.

We reaffirm our strong support for Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty within its internationally recognised borders.

We once again call on Russia to reverse its recognition of these two regions of Georgia as independent states.

And to pull back its forces from Georgia.

This is and remains NATO’s clear position.

With that, I am ready to take your questions.

MODERATOR: We'll come to the Georgian media here in front, please.

KETEVAN KARDAVA (Georgian Public Broadcaster): Mr. Secretary General, Georgian Public Broadcaster, Ketevan Kardava, you said that today will you give a further push to the importance work of NATO to help Georgia to look after its own security and move closer to NATO membership. When we are talking about security and how Georgia will look after its own security, can you tell us how NATO estimates and evaluates the threats coming from Russia? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG (Secretary General, NATO): We are concerned about what we see because that's part of a pattern. We have seen it in Moldova, we see it now taking place in Ukraine, the illegal annexation of Crimea and destabilizing behaviour of Russia in Eastern Ukraine, and then we see it when it comes to the two regions of Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions of Georgia.

Of course this is in violation of international law, it's violating the integrity and the territorial integrity of Georgia, and that's the reason why it is so important for us to be very clear in our message that we are of course supporting the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders. That just underlines the importance of the partnership we are developing and we are moving forward, both when it comes to the reform, the defence reform, defence capacity building.

NATO is working on that now, we have people working with the Ministry of Defence in Tbilisi to implement the reforms, to work with them on reforming and modernizing their armed forces, we are establishing the training centre and we're going to have exercises in Georgia. Actually, a new exercise was announced today.

So all of this is part of our partnership which is strong and which is deepening and which is the way NATO is responding to the violation of international law which Russia is responsible for in Georgia.

MODERATOR: We'll go with the Russian media over here.

Q: Mr. Secretary General, do you think that Baltic States and Poland, Bulgaria and Romania are facing a real threat of Russian aggression now or within years?

JENS STOLTENBERG: There's no concrete immediate threat but the reason why we are doing what we're doing with increased presence in the eastern part of the alliance but also establishing the Spearhead Force, increasing the size of our NATO Response Force, is both a response to the behaviour of Russia in the East, changing borders by the use of force, annexing a part of another country, Crimea, and destabilizing Eastern Ukraine, and also what we have seen in Georgia and Moldova, but it's also a response to what we see in the South. So the enhanced NATO Response Force, the establishment of the Very High Readiness Spearhead Force, is a response both to challenges to the East and to challenges to the South.

And the main goal, the main purpose for enhancing our collective defence, enhancing the NATO Response Force and establishing the High Readiness Spearhead Force is to make sure that NATO also, in a changing security environment in the future, is able to protect all allies against any threat, and that's the reason why we are adapting, changing our defence posture, and that's the reason why we are doing what we are doing with the enhanced NATO Response Force.

MODERATOR: Reuters.

ADRIAN CROFT (Reuters): Yeah, Adrian Croft from Reuters. Secretary General, President Poroshenko of Ukraine is calling on NATO allies today to send weapons, and as you know there's a debate in Washington as to whether the U.S. should supply lethal weapons. I know you'll say that NATO doesn’t have weapons to send, but would you support individual allies supplying lethal weapons to Ukraine?

JENS STOLTENBERG: So NATO strongly supports Ukraine. We support the sovereignty, the territorial integrity of Ukraine, we give strong political support to Ukraine and we give strong practical  support to Ukraine. We do that by helping Ukraine to reform, to modernize their armed forces, we do it through the establishment of the trust funds working on different issues, areas where we provide support, practical support for reforms, for modernizing the defence for developing command and control and other elements which are important for Ukraine, and we will continue to do so.

And of course it's important that we have the very close relationship and I will meet with President Poroshenko Saturday in Munich. When it comes to equipment, weapons, as I said NATO doesn’t have weapons, we don’t possess weapons, so that has to be up to each individual ally to decide, and I think it's important that this is something which the different allies address, not NATO as an organization.

MODERATOR: Bloomberg.

JAMES NEUGER (Bloomberg): Jim Neuger from Bloomberg. Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande just announced that they'll go to Kiev and Moscow tomorrow in an effort to broker a ceasefire. Do you have any indications that some sort of lasting agreement is in the works and what do you see as the potential risks of this diplomatic mission?

JENS STOLTENBERG: NATO fully supports all efforts to reach a negotiated peaceful solution to the conflict in Ukraine and therefore we fully support the initiative taken by two allies, Germany and France, and I welcome that they will meet, that they will, that they're making a new effort, and we support that.

I think it's very important that we understand that the situation in Ukraine now is very serious. The fighting has increased, more people are killed, civilians are killed, and we see increased support from Russia to the separatists. They support them with forces, with equipment, with training, and that just underlines the importance of reaching a negotiated agreement. So I welcome and strongly support this initiative.

MODERATOR: We have Ukrainian media over there.

Q: Thank you. Secretary General, I think you knew perfectly well about the message, one of the fake messages delivered by Mr. Putin and his propaganda machine about the NATO legion fighting in Ukraine instead of Ukrainian army fighting on its own soil, the question is where is that real red line where NATO forces could really step in, red line in terms of geography, strategy, military issues if you like? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: NATO supports Ukraine. We give strong political support, we give strong practical support, and we will continue to do so, and we also support efforts to try to find a peaceful negotiated solution. NATO's main responsibility is to of course to protect and defend all allies against any threat and that's a steadfast rock solid commitment that we are protecting all allies against any attack.

The reason why we are developing our forces now, why we're establishing the new Spearhead Force and the enhanced NATO Response Force, and with new command and control units in the eastern part of our alliance is to make sure that we're able to do that also in the future.

MODERATOR: Lady in the front here.

Q: Question from Georgia. Mr. Secretary General, according to the NATO, Georgia and the government allies will open a training centre as we know in our country, I wonder who will provide [inaudible] to finance this centre, and beside Georgia, from which countries will be the soldiers who will train on this training centre?

JENS STOLTENBERG: Today, several nations announced that they will contribute to the centre and to the NATO substantial package in Georgia, and they will partly contribute by providing personnel and partly they will contribute by providing financial support. In addition also the United States will also be key when it comes to NATO exercise in Georgia. I'm not able to give you all the names in detail now, but there are several, I think more than a dozen different NATO countries who are contributing in different ways to the implementation of the substantial package and the training centre in Georgia.

MODERATOR: Russian media over there, gentleman in the third row.

Q (Kommersant Daily): Kommersant Daily, Russia. Secretary General, I would like to ask about the results of today's Nuclear Group meeting. Could you confirm the information that the Russian nuclear threat was the main topic? What was the reaction of ministers, are they concerned about the flights of Russian jets in the European region, and, if so, why? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: The meeting of the NATO Nuclear Planning Group is a regular meeting. We have it usually once a year and this was a regular meeting where we addressed the safety and the effectiveness of our nuclear forces, so this is part of our regular activity and it is important that we also address our nuclear capabilities, and we were briefed by the United States and the United Kingdom which are providing nuclear deterrence for the alliance. So that was the main purpose and the main focus of the meeting and that's actually, that's the reason why we had the meeting.

MODERATOR: We have another question from Georgia at the back.

KOBA LIKLIKADZE (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Georgian Service): Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Georgian Service, Koba Liklikadze. Mr. Secretary General, are you providing a kind of air defence weaponry to protect this military joint Georgia-NATO centre to avoid any further possible attack from [inaudible] part from Russia which have very strong unit from some 35 kilometres from Tbilisi? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: This is a training centre, not a military base, and what we're going to do there is to train and to do exercises. This is something Georgia has requested and we are providing that because we think a training centre is a way of developing our partnership and enhance the skills and the capabilities of both Georgian troops, NATO troops, and troops from partner nations.

MODERATOR: NPR over there.

TERI SCHULTZ (NPR and CBS): Hi, Teri Schultz with NPR and CBS. What are you hoping to get out of your meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov this weekend? I don’t expect you to tell us what you're going to say to him, but everybody knows the deal, everybody knows what's going on on the ground, what can you possibly say that might change Russia's calculus?

If there hasn’t been a temporary ceasefire, will you ask him to allow civilians to be evacuated, will you ask him to start turning on transponders of the aircraft that they're flying near NATO air space? What do you hope to get out of this other than just a conversation? Thanks.

JENS STOLTENBERG: So what I'm doing is that I'm following up on the decisions we have made in NATO to suspend practical cooperation with NATO and then continue to keep channels of political contacts open. I think especially during times of…, difficult times, as we are witnessing now, I think it is important to continue to meet, to continue to discuss and to keep the channels of political dialogue or contact open. This is the mandate I have from 28 allies and it's part of a normal kind of activity given the difficult situation we are in, where we have suspended practical cooperation but keep channels for political dialogue open. We are both participating at the same conference.

I will have several bilateral meetings with Vice President Biden, with Secretary Kerry, with President Poroshenko and with Foreign Minister Lavrov. I will of course reiterate the position of NATO that we call on Russia to respect international law and to do whatever they can to use all the influence on the separatists who respect the ceasefire, and that is important to continue to underline that. In addition, we know that there are now new initiatives taken by Hollande and Merkel and we support those initiatives and hope they will lead to some concrete results.

MODERATOR: Over there.

Q: [Inaudible]. I have a question about Georgia. You mentioned not for the first time that my Georgia is let's say trying to become member of NATO in the future but currently of course Article 5 does not apply to Georgia if something happens but do you see that in some ways security of Georgia is increasing because of current stage of cooperation with NATO or there is [inaudible] for future? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: I very much believe that the partnerships which we have developed with Georgia over a period of some years have been important or has been important both for NATO but also of course for Georgia. Modernizing their armed forces, implementing defence reform, and now establishing a training centre, is of course important also for the security of Georgia. So this is important both for NATO and for Georgia. It's a contribution to our shared security.

MODERATOR: One last question, lady over there.

Q (Current Time, Radio Free Europe): [Inaudible] at Current Time TV, Radio Free Europe. Mr. Secretary General, NATO has encouraged Russia to use its influence over the separatists in Eastern Ukraine to stop the conflict, but do you actually think that at this point in the conflict Russia still has enough pull in that region or are the rebels just running AWOL?

JENS STOLTENBERG: First of all I think it is important that we use all possible channels to convey a very clear message and that's what NATO does, that's what many other nations are doing, the international community is doing. So I think it is important to continue to both provide strong political support to Ukraine but also to convey a very strong political message to Russia.

In addition, we are doing a lot when it comes to our own Response Force, the implementation of the Readiness Action Plan which is at least partly a response to what we have seen, the Russian behaviour in the East. What we know is that there is, there has been a substantial increase in the number of heavy equipment provided by Russia in Eastern Ukraine, and we also have seen training and we have seen Russian forces, and we see Russian forces in Ukraine. It's not possible for me to go into exact numbers but this of course undermines the Minsk agreements and it enables the separatists to launch the attacks which we have seen during the last days and weeks.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much, this concludes this press point. We'll see you later on during the day. Thank you.