Joint press conference
with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the President of Lithuania at NFIU Headquarters
President Grybauskaitė, thank you for your welcome. It is great to be back in Lithuania.
Here I see our Alliance at its best.
I see twenty-eight nations united by trust.
United by solidarity.
United by our resolve to stand by each other.
And Lithuania is committed to NATO.
You help make a difference in Afghanistan and Kosovo.
You show leadership on important NATO initiatives – like the Energy Security Centre of Excellence, which you host here in Vilnius.
And your determination to increase defence spending in the years ahead is an example for other Allies.
And I really commend you for your efforts of increasing defence spending because that is a commitment we made together and it’s great to see that you are delivering on that commitment.
NATO is committed to keeping Lithuania safe.
And to keeping all Allies safe.
Allies’ aircraft police the Baltic skies.
NATO ships patrol the Baltic Sea.
And we are carrying out more and larger NATO exercises.
Today we took another step together.
We just inaugurated the new NATO Force Integration Unit here in Vilnius – as we are doing in five other Eastern European countries.
In Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, and Romania.
These small headquarters are a vital link between national forces and the forces of other NATO Allies.
They will make it easier for our troops to deploy together - whether for exercises or in response to a real threat.
We seek confrontation with no one.
But we find ourselves in a world of more and more complex challenges.
Like a more assertive Russia.
Moscow continues to fuel the violence in Ukraine by providing the separatists with forces, equipment, and training.
Russia and the separatists must demonstrate their commitment to the Minsk Agreements not only in words, but also in deeds.
And I welcome also the efforts to have a renewed ceasefire and it’s important that all parties respect and implement the renewed ceasefire.
NATO is monitoring the situation carefully.
And we are responding with proportionate defensive measures.
We are doing what is necessary to safeguard all Allies against any threat from any direction.
And we will always do that.
Lithuania is part of the most successful Alliance in history.
You can count on NATO. Today and every day.
And I know that NATO can count on Lithuania.
So Madame President, thank you once again for your firm commitment to our Alliance.
Q: Why all six units are inaugurated in Vilnius? And what's the meaning of those units? The question goes to Secretary General and to the President.
DALIA GRYBAUSKAITE: I can only express my delight that we have this honour to host this unit. It is a symbolic thing to accept. I would not like to accept more good things than we have done. But I know that this activation is symbolic opening of all six units across the region.
JENS STOLTENBERG: The NATO Force Integration Units are very important because they are a vital link between national forces and multinational NATO forces. They will do planning. They will organize exercises. They will make it easier to reinforce if needed. And they will strengthen NATO's presence in this part of the Alliance.
And also the NATO Force Integration Units are a part of a larger plan which is called the Readiness Action Plan. And this Readiness Action Plan is something we have been very focussed on implementing. And this about making our forces more ready, more prepared. And we have doubled the size of the NATO Response Force. We have established a new Very High Readiness Joint Task Force or a Spearhead Force. I've already seen it. It was deployed in Poland during an exercise there in June.
And we have also implemented what we call Reassurance Measures, meaning more air policing, more naval presence in the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea and also more troops on the ground on rotational basis, doing exercises.
So the NATO Force Integration Units are important in itself; but also because they are one important element of a bigger plan and the adaptation of NATO to a more challenging security environment.
And it is an honour for me to be in Vilnius and to take part in this inauguration and to declare the units are open, here in Vilnius; but as I said also in five other allied countries.
Q: Secretary General, I would like to ask you what do you think Russia's reaction will be on the establishment of command posts? And will that not make the country more aggressive towards us?
JENS STOLTENBERG: Everything NATO does is proportionate. It is defensive. And it's fully in line with our international commitments. NATO has to respond. We have to adapt when we see that environment around us is changing.
And what we have seen during the last year is a more assertive Russia being responsible for aggressive actions, especially in Ukraine, illegally annexing Crimea and continuing to destabilizing Eastern Ukraine. And therefore NATO has to react. That's exactly what we are doing. And there is no reason whatsoever to be provoked by the fact that NATO is adapting to a more challenging security environment.
So these small headquarters are vital. They are important. But they are a part of a defensive, proportionate response from NATO to a more challenging security environment.
DALIA GRYBAUSKAITE: I can shortly add that NATO is supposed to protect and defend; but not supposed to please anybody.
MODERATOR: Next question, Bulgarian National TV, please.
Q: Thank you, Mister Stoltenberg, you've just spoken about air policing. But I understand that the number of aircraft that are patrolling over the Baltic skies has been reduced from sixteen to eight. How do you think this will affect the security in the region? And Madam Grybauskaitė, are you concerned about this reduction? Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG: Our commitment to collective defence is rock solid. And we are also strongly committed to continuing the air policing. And the Baltic Air Policing mission is strong. And we will continue to do air policing in this area. And actually we saw planes from the air policing missing passing over when we inaugurated the NFIU, or the small headquarter, today.
We have the planes we need to do air policing. And we will continue with air policing as long as necessary. So there is no reason to be concerned. We will continue and we are committed and we have the planes we need.
DALIA GRYBAUSKAITE: So now, we are not concerned because the Baltic skies were mainly guarded before by twelve, therefore was guarding the Polish skies. So in reality Poland is taking cover by itself, by its own planes. In reality, only four planes have been reduced; but it was calculated reduction, taking into account all threats and aerial challenges around in our skies. So we are under confidence that NATO is capable to provide full security for the airspace.
Q: Baltic News Service. Mister Secretary General, you mentioned that you welcomed the renewed commitment on the new ceasefire in Ukraine from September 1, I understand. Are you optimistic that this time the ceasefire would last?
Madam President, you mentioned that in 2018 Lithuanian funding for defence could reach up to 2% of GDP, do you think it is realistic?
JENS STOLTENBERG: The situation in Ukraine remains very fragile. And that's the reason why I welcome the renewed commitment to implement and to respect the ceasefire. The reports we are getting from Ukraine are a bit mixed. So I think it's a bit too early to tell exactly what's going on on the ground. But at least the renewed commitment offers a fresh opportunity for all parties to fully implement the Minsk agreements.
And the Minsk agreements is the best possible way towards a political solution of the conflict in Ukraine and for a peaceful solution in Eastern Ukraine. And therefore it is very important that all parties respect all elements of the Minsk agreements. And I urge all parties to exercise restraint and also pursue a solution to this crisis through diplomatic channels.
It is important that the ceasefire is respected. It is important that all parties withdraw heavy weapons in accordance with the Minsk agreements from the contact line. And of course, it's also very important that monitors from the OSCE, or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, are allowed full access to the area so they can do monitoring of the ceasefire in a safe way. And Russia has a special responsibility; because Russia continues to support the separatists and thereby violating the Minsk agreement.
I welcome the decision by the Rada on decentralization. That shows that Ukraine is implementing the Minsk agreements. And now I underline the importance of all others to do the same to fully honour the ceasefire and the Minsk agreements.
DALIA GRYBAUSKAITE: As regards our defence spending, this spring, when we decided this issue in the State Defence Council, regarding 2016, we established a very specific amount of money. We have big economic commitments for the next three years; because we have to obtain long-term expense of military equipment. Therefore we are now speaking about the next three years and specific amounts that should ensure our defence. So it is quite realistic that when we increase our defence spending by 150 million each year for the next three years, we will attain the 2% GDP target in 2018.
We also have to strengthen now border control forces, our police forces. So the Council has in principle agreed on this scheme. And now politicians will discuss this issue in Parliament. But I see members of Parliament here who, I hope, will agree that we will reach this target in 2018.