by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg prior to the Informal meeting of European Union Defence Ministers in Riga
It’s great to be back in Latvia. I visited Latvia in December last year. And I’m looking forward to meet with EU defence ministers. I think the fact that the Secretary General of NATO meets with the def ministers of the European Union just underlines the close cooperation, relationship that exists between the European Union and NATO.And I very much appreciate this opportunity to meet with the ministers because the meeting takes place at a critical time for European security. Because as we speak, as we meet here in Riga we see a very difficult situation and deteriorating situation in eastern Ukraine.We have seen that the ceasefire has not been respected, we have seen the separatists in eastern Ukraine making advances, especially in and around the Debaltseve and they have used advanced weapons to attack the Ukrainian forces in Debaltseve. Russia provides support for the separatists, with providing them with heavy equipment, advanced weapons, forces and training and the ceasefire is also undermined by the fact that the OSCE monitors are not allowed access to be able to do their job to monitor the ceasefire. And I urge Russia to withdraw all its forces from eastern Ukraine, to stop all its support for the separatists and to respect the Minsk agreement and to also use all its influence on the separatists to make them respect the ceasefire. I support the decision by the UN Security Council which call on all the parties to respect the Minsk agreement and to respect and implement the ceasefire and the Minsk agreement and the ceasefire remains the most important tool we have to achieve a negotiated peaceful solution to the conflict in Ukraine and therefore I urge all parties to implement the Minsk agreement in full and to respect the ceasefire.
Question: If the ceasefire doesn’t work, what can the West and NATO do then for Ukraine?
Secretary General: Our main focus now is to make the ceasefire work and to support all efforts to see the implementation of the ceasefire and all the other elements of the Minsk Agreement, for instance the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the line of contact. In addition NATO will continue to provide strong political support for Ukraine. Support of its independence, its territorial integrity. We will provide practical support for Ukraine, with modernising, reforming their defence, their army and of course we are also adapting our own defence posture to the fact that we see that the security environment in Europe is changing because of the actions of Russia. The aggressive actions of Russia in Ukraine. And that was one of the main issues I discussed with the president today, is the importance of the implementiaton of the Readiness Action Plan, to make our forces more ready, more responsive and also to maintain the assurance measures in the Baltic region, in Latvia and other countries in the Baltic region, to make sure that NATO is able also in the future defend all Allies.
Question: Is NATO already ready to protect its eastern Allies, like Latvia? Is NATO ready for hybrid war?
Secretary General: Yes, NATO is ready to protect all Allies against any threat. But what we have to focus on is that we should be able to also do that in the future. And since the security environment is changing we have to adapt. And that is exactly what we are doing. We have already implemented the assurance measures. Which means that we have more planes in the air, more ships at sea and also more troops on the ground on a rotational basis, making us more able to defend and to project all Allies. And we are also adapting to the fact that we see an increased use of hybrid warfare. That is about many different elements. And we are in the process of implementing and also developing the strategy on meeting hybrid warfare. That is partly about better situational awareness. So intelligence and reconnaissance is important and it is part of the Readiness Action Plan which we are now implementing. It’s partly about being able to deploy the right forces, at the right time and the right place. And that is the reason why we are establishing the spearhead force and also the enhanced nato response force. That is about increased responsiveness and readiness of our armed forces. The third important element is decisions making. We have to be able to make decisions in the right time to be able to respond to hybrid warfare. This is something we already do but we are going to develop it further to keep NATO strong also in the future.
Question: What do you think of the situation in Libya and do you think four years after it was a mistake to have a NATO mission in Libya? [inaudible follow-up question].
Secretary General: It is a very serious situation in Libya and we support the efforts of the UN to try to find a peaceful solution to the fighting which is going on in Libya. At the same time I think we have to remember that the NATO operation for Libya was an operation with a clear UN mandate . It was about protecting civilians against attacks from the regime and we did that. I think the challenge has been what happened afterwards. There should have been more follow up, more presence of the international community, but that’s not only a NATO responsibility. There are many different international organizations and I think all see now that there should have been more presence after the military operations ended in 2011.