by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the NATO-Ukraine Commission meeting at the level of Foreign Ministers
We have just concluded two very productive days.
With important decisions for our security.
We have just decided to invite Montenegro to begin accession talks to become the 29th member of our Alliance.
We have agreed to sustain the presence of our mission in Afghanistan, to train, advise and assist the Afghan forces. And we will sustain our force level at around 12,000 troops during 2016. We have also launched work to ensure the Afghan forces continue to be funded until 2020.
We have stepped up efforts to deal with challenges from the south.
With further measures to assure Turkey, the NATO Ally who’s on the frontline of that volatile region.
And more support for our partners in North Africa and the Middle East. We have also focused on the east.
We underlined that we will continue our political and our practical support to Ukraine. NATO is committed to supporting a peaceful and diplomatic end to the conflict. And while we have seen some progress in the implementation of the Minsk agreements, there is a real risk of a resumption of violence. Russian-backed separatists have not yet withdrawn their troops and equipment. Illegal groups in Eastern Ukraine have not been disarmed. And Ukraine has not been able to re-establish control over its border. The Minsk agreements are the only path to a political solution to the conflict. They must be implemented in full by all sides.
Ukraine doesn’t stand alone. We are helping Ukraine in several different ways. To modernise its command and control, cyber and logistics capabilities. These projects have a real impact on Ukraine’s ability to defend itself and to strengthen and reform its institutions.
Ukraine continues to show its commitment to implementing ambitious reforms. There is a fundamental need for Ukraine to continue on this path. And NATO will continue to support Ukraine.
Last night, we also discussed our relationship with Russia. Challenges posed by Russia’s actions in the Euro-Atlantic area will be with us for a long time. Allies expressed regret at the decline in military transparency in Europe over the last decade. We agreed that our priority now is to work to restore predictability in our relations. Last week’s incident with the Russian plane highlights the importance of getting this right.
That is why it is important to step up work on transparency and risk reduction.
Most immediately, through intensified efforts to reach agreement next year on a substantive update of the OSCE’s Vienna Document. This is important and is an important tool designed to increase openness and transparency concerning military activities, including the observation and notification of exercises.
And second, we will develop further proposals on transparency and risk reduction. To avoid misunderstandings, miscalculations, and incidents spiralling out of control. Being firm in defending our Allies and seeking reciprocal transparency about military activities must go hand-in-hand. As the world has become less predictable, we need to modernise the rule-book of European security.
And with that, I am ready to take your questions.
NATO Spokesperson: Over there, 1+1 TV, second row.
Unidentified Male Speaker: Yeah. Thank you. Secretary General, Ukraine is not Macedonia unfortunately, but can we expect some inspiring news towards the Warsaw Summit next year? That's one question. The second is a NUC would do you like and dislike in Ukrainian policy in reforming itself up to this Defence Minister Summit this summer when we were supposing to get some development in reforming our armed forces, et cetera, et cetera, and we don't really feel that Ukrainian government has fulfilled all the projects and all the things that it should be doing this time. And the very last one, do you see any new deadline for Minsk as it doesn't work? Thank you.
Jens Stoltenberg (Secretary General, NATO): We just had an excellent meeting in the NATO-Ukraine Commission, and Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin updated us, and we went through all the different strands of work and all the different challenges Ukraine is facing. And the meeting in itself was a very strong expression of solidarity with Ukraine from all NATO allies and from the Alliance as such. And I think that also it is important to understand that we will continue to provide both political support and practical support for Ukraine. And actually during the meeting, some allies also announced increased support for Ukraine with new pledges to support the different trust funds we have to finance the program and the cooperation we have with Ukraine.
What we do when it comes to logistics, command and control, cyber and other areas are of great importance for Ukraine, and that was also very much underlined in the meeting. Moreover, several allies are also doing a lot on a bilateral basis. They do training. They do other kinds of advice and assist to the Ukrainian Forces, and this adds to what NATO is doing as Alliance, develop the efforts of several NATO allies.
So this will be high on our agenda. We are continuing to stay very focused on how we can work with Ukraine. But the most important thing is to make progress in implementing the Minsk agreements, meaning that we have to see withdrawal of heavy weapons. We have to see the full implementation of the ceasefire, exchange of prisoners, and of course we are also very strongly calling for that the OSCE observers are getting full access to the area so they are able to monitor the full implementation of the Minsk agreements.
So we continue to support a negotiated solution to the crisis.
Our support for Ukraine is taking place now. It will be an important part of our preparations for the summit in July. And I'm certain also that the summit will express strong political and practical support for Ukraine. Exactly in what ways I think is a bit too early to prejudge.
NATO Spokesperson: Kiev Post.
Unidentified Male Speaker: Hi, Kiev Post. How does NATO justify the creation of the Russia NATO Commission, and how does it promote the stated goal of restoring predictability and transparency with Russias military activities in light of the fact that NATO has acknowledged that Russia's de-stabilizing Europe and hence many NATO member countries in light of the fact that NATO has acknowledged that Russia is trampling upon the sovereignty of many nations. It has five border disputes with out of six NATO partner countries. Would you please comment on that? Thank you.
Jens Stoltenberg: Last spring after the start of the crisis in Ukraine, NATO decided to suspend practical cooperation with Russia, but we decided at the same time to maintain, to continue political dialogue with Russia. And the NATO-Russia Council is part of this political dialogue. It has never been suspended. So therefore its not possible to resume something which is not suspended. We have actually had have two meetings in the NATO-Russia Council after the start of the crisis in Ukraine.
So this is not about going back to business as usual. This is not about assuming anything. It is about how to use what we already have, and that is the NATO-Russia Council. And we will now look into and explore how we can have a meeting, the agenda and the timing, but the Council has never been suspended, and we are looking into how we can use a tool which has been there all the time. Because we never closed or suspended a political dialogue with Russia. We have had political dialogue with Russia ever since the crisis started, but what is suspended was the practical cooperation, and that remains suspended.
NATO Spokesperson: Wall Street Journal.
Julian Barnes: Julian Barnes, Wall Street Journal. Mr. Secretary General, Russia said today that the expansion to Montenegro was could lead to retaliatory measures. I wondered what you made of that comment? And then more broadly, how did you balance over the last couple of days those allies who want a harder line to talk about deterrence with Russia, and those who want more dialogue? There have been two different approaches here to Russia, and how do you how does the Alliance handle that?
Jens Stoltenberg: First about your question about Montenegro. We have decided to invite Montenegro to start accession talks with NATO. That decision is not about Russia. It is about Montenegro and NATO, 28 NATO allies deciding to go further towards the path of full membership. And to invite Montenegro is not directed against Russia. It is a decision for our security, for the security of 28 allies, and for the security of Montenegro.
So I think its important once again to underline that it is a fundamental principle that every nation has its sovereign right to decide its own path, including what kind of security arrangements it wants to be a part of. And no other country has any right to try to interfere in that decision-making process. So this is a decision which is up to 28 NATO allies and Montenegro to make, and no one else has the right to interfere.
Second, on deterrence and dialogue. Yesterday we addressed exactly that, and theres a very strong message from all allies that there is no contradiction between strong defence deterrence and political dialogue. Actually the message is the opposite. But as long as we are strong, as long as we provide deterrence then we can also engage in political dialogue. And thats the only way. And thats the reason why we are adapting to a new security environment by increasing our collective defence by making our Forces more ready, more prepared, and increasing the readiness and preparedness of Forces. And we are continuing to strengthen our collective defence. At the same time, we are striving for a more cooperative and constructive relationship with Russia because we believe that its also in Russias interests to not confront NATO, but to cooperate with NATO. But we are very clear that political engagement has to be based on strength, and that's the reason why we are doing both at the same time.
I will add one more thing about that, and that is that as I've said before, this is also very much my own experience from Norway, being a small country bordering Russia, and before that the Soviet Union. We were able to work with Russia on many different issues and areas, not despite of our membership in NATO but because of our membership in NATO. We were able to work with, to politically engage with, and also cooperate with Russia in many different areas: fishery, energy, border, environment, because we had the strength being part of the NATO Alliance.
NATO Spokesperson: Okay. Well go to Georgian TV.
Georgia: Georgia Public Broadcaster: Mr. Secretary General, we are at a final document, and we read that Georgia will become a member of NATO with MAP. It was decided in Bucharest Summit. It still stands. And then we read that Georgia has all practical tools for to prepare for eventual membership. So can you explain does it mean that we still need membership action plan or we have all tools to prepare?
Jens Stoltenberg: We have exactly the same position as you just referred to in the statement. This is a common statement agreed by all 28 allies. And we recognize that Georgia is making progress. We are reconfirming the decisions we have made before, and that includes also the requirement for MAP, and this is something which has been part of our approach all the time. So we are saying and stating exactly what's stated in the statement.
I'm saying that the map is included in the requirements for the progress we are going to continue to make together with Georgia.
NATO Spokesperson: One last question.
GDS TV Georgia: In the communique it stated that for the Warsaw Summit we will explore new practical ways to intensify efforts. Could you please tell us what does it concretely means, and what should Georgia wait for from Warsaw Summit?
Jens Stoltenberg: What we will do is that we will continue to work with the Georgia, and we have achieved a lot, both when it comes to supporting the reforms, which Georgia are implementing on the rule of law, on modernizing its different defence institutions, and modernizing other institutions. And we are also continuing to work with Georgia when it comes to modernizing its defence, its armed forces. We will continue to implement the substantial package. We will do training, and we will have more political dialogue.
So in all these strands we are working together with Georgia to move Georgia forward on the path towards membership. Then of course we will make we will follow and we will continue to assess the progress which Georgia is making, and again its too early for me to prejudge exactly what we will decide in July, but we will continue to work closely with Georgia and continue to work with them to make sure that Georgia is continuing to making progress.
NATO Spokesperson: Thank you very much. This concludes this final press conference of the Ministerial. Thank you.