Statement to the media
by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg after his meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov of Russia
I just finished a meeting with Minister Lavrov and our focus was on the relationship between NATO and Russia. And we also addressed the issue of convening a meeting of the NATO Russia Council. The NRC has never been suspended, but there has been more than a year since the last council.
I believe it would be useful to have a meeting of the NRC and we explored the possibilities of holding a new meeting. For NATO, it’s absolutely necessary that, if a meeting takes place, that we have to address Ukraine. Because the situation in Ukraine is the reason why we have the difficult situation in Europe now, especially in the relationship between NATO and Russia. But we also think it is useful to address transparency, risk reductions, transparency related to military activities. Because especially when we have increased military activity along our borders, it is important to have as much predictability and transparency as possible to try to prevent incidents, accidents. And if they happen, to make sure they don’t spiral out of control and create really dangerous situations.
The downing of the Russian plane which violated the Turkish airspace is an example of kind of incidents we have to prevent and why it’s important to make sure that if anything similar happens in the future we avoid it from spiraling out of control. I’d also like to underline that to continue political dialogue is always important, but it is especially important when the times are as difficult as they are now. Therefore, we will continue to have political dialogue and engagement with Russia. And that’s especially important when the situation is like we face now.
Q: Suddeutsche Zeitung: Did Russia agree that Ukraine should be on the agenda?
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: We agreed that we should continue to explore the possibilities of holding a meeting. That is as far as I can go now. We haven’t agreed on any agenda but we agreed to continue to stay in contact and explore the possibilities of holding a meeting.
Q: Financial times: Both you and SACEUR have mentioned Russia carving out a zone of influence […]. Will deal agreed at Munich Security Conference cement Russia’s influence and harden their A2AD capabilities rather than roll back their military operations?
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: The reason why NATO is adapting its military posture, especially in the eastern part of the Alliance, is Russia’s military buildup over several years, also with A2AD capabilities. In the Barents Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea and now also in the Mediterranean. That’s one of the reasons why we are adapting both by increasing the readiness of our forces but also by increasing our presence in the Eastern part of our Alliance. On the agreement reached in Munich last night, I welcome that agreement. Because it is important to support all efforts to find a negotiated peaceful solution to the crisis in Syria, and it’s important to see a cessation in the armed hostilities. This has to be the first step toward a lasting ceasefire and a negotiated solution and, of course, humanitarian help to the suffering people. So I welcome the agreement. The important thing now is to see this implemented on the ground. And that remains to be seen.
Q: Unknown: Did you receive reassurance from Minister Lavrov that Russia will stop bombing moderate opposition forces?
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: I have underlined several times I would welcome a more constructive role of Russia fighting ISIL in Syria. Because up till now Russia has mainly targeted opposition groups and this has undermined the efforts to find a peaceful solution. But that’s also the reason why I welcome yesterday’s agreement and now it’s important to see it implemented. I will not go into how it will be implemented because what is important now is that parties will sit together and agree on the implementation of the agreement.
Q: Wall Street Journal: You said what you want to discuss with Russia, but are you willing to discuss what they want, like NATO reinforcement in the East and how this affects the NATO Russia Founding Act?
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: The NRC is made to be an all-weather council – both when tensions are low and when they are high as they are now. We all have to be ready to discuss also difficult issues, issues where we disagree. The purpose of political dialogue is also to address also issues that are complicated, where there is disagreement. But it would be wrong that I now start going into details on the dialogue we have, on the agenda and on the different topics. Because that would make it more difficult to convene a meeting. But of course NATO is also ready to discuss issues where there are disagreements. That’s one of the reasons why we have this kind of meetings.
Q: DPA: Why was it not possible to agree on a new meeting?
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: We agreed to continue to explore the possibilities of convening a meeting. This illustrates there are some challenges in the relationship between NATO and Russia. It is exactly these challenges that make it important to keep channels of political dialogue with Russia. They are open, we meet in different formats, on different levels, we meet at the ambassadors’ level in Brussels, and the NATO Russia Council meeting we are exploring to convene is at the ambassadors’ level. I met several times with Minister Lavrov. So we meet and we discuss. But so far we have not been able to agree on how to convene a NRC meeting. If I started to go into all the elements of why we have not been able to convene a meeting, it would make it even more difficult to convene one. Sometimes it is better not to say too much. Thank you!