Joint press point
by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Latvia, Māris Kučinskis
Prime Minister Kučinskis, very much welcome to NATO headquarters. It is a great pleasure to have you here and to meet with you here at the NATO headquarters in Brussels.
And let me also congratulate you on your appointment as Prime Minister, I’m looking forward to cooperate with you in your new capacity.
You are taking office at a challenging time for European security.
And NATO is adapting to keep all Allies safe.
Latvia is strongly committed to NATO.
And NATO is strongly committed to Latvia.
You contribute to NATO in many different ways. You contribute to our Response Force. And to our exercises on land, at sea and in the air.
Your troops help make a difference in Afghanistan.
And you provide strong support for our partner Ukraine, both politically and practically.
You, Latvia, host one of our new Force Integration Units in Riga.
This small headquarters will play a key role in planning and exercising.
And to help ensure that our forces can deploy quickly, if needed.
We recently decided to enhance our forward presence in the eastern part of our Alliance.
We also agreed that this presence will be multinational.
This sends a very clear signal. An attack on any Ally will be met not just by national forces, but by all Allies.
Our military authorities will provide advice on the size and composition in the coming weeks.
These decisions mean that there will be more NATO in Latvia than ever before.
In July, we will meet again at the Warsaw Summit.
The decisions we take there will ensure that our Alliance is even stronger and more flexible, to adapt to threats from any direction.
But what will never change is our steadfast determination to keep our people safe.
So Prime Minister, once again welcome to NATO headquarters, I’m looking forward to our cooperation.
MODERATOR: Latvian radio.
Q: Hello radio Latvia. My first question to Secretary General how would you rate overall security situation in the Baltics and in Latvia particularly and if I may Latvian for Prime Minister Kucinskis.
INTERPRETER: Question asked in foreign language. Prime Minister what are the questions that you’ve discussed? What does Latvia have to do to until the Warsaw Summit when receiving assurance that there will be a continuous presence, a NATO presence in Latvia.
JENS STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General): When it comes the security situation in the Baltic Region we see a changed and more challenging security environment. We don’t see any imminent threat against any NATO ally including the Baltic allied members of NATO but we see a more assertive Russia with a significant military buildup in the region and that’s also the reason why NATO is responding and NATO has responded by increased presence in the Baltic Region with air policing, with naval presence in the Baltic Sea and also with more exercises of troops on the ground on a rotational basis. And we decided to further increase our presence in the Eastern part of the alliance including the Baltic region. We made that decision at our Defense Ministerial meeting in February. Now we are working on how this decision is going to be implemented and I expect decisions to be taken at our Summit in Warsaw deciding more on the numbers and how we are going to follow up. What we can already say is that the increased presence of NATO in the Baltic region is going to be a multi-national presence meaning forces from different NATO allied countries sending a very clear signal about that an attack on one ally will be met by forces from the whole alliance that we stand together. And this is a strong and important signal not least for Latvia and for the other Baltic countries. Moreover we have also increased the readiness and responsiveness of our forces. We have tripled the size of the NATO Response Force so we can deploy forces quickly if needed. So NATO together with Latvia we are responding to a more challenging security environment in the Baltic Region.
INTERPRETOR (Translator for Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis): And at NATO Summit it will speak about works to be done, till that time, in fact we speak about how it’s important that Latvia shows that we step by step increase our defence budget. Regarding long term rotational forces we should be prepared and should prepare to host them. And of course Latvia should discuss and make a common position with Lithuania and Estonia, that’s very important to us because unity of Baltic States is important and co-operation between our countries, all three countries too.
Q: A couple of days ago there were two Russian military ships and a submarine in Latvian economic (sic) zone waters, how would you interpret that and would you say that relationship with Russia is growing more intense, there is more tension? And the second question for the Latvian Prime Minister.
INTERPRETOR: Question asked in foreign language. Dear Mr. Kucinskis there are asylum seekers are looking for the ways to go through Russia too have you…
JENS STOLTENBERG: We have seen a significant Russian buildup, military buildup in also the Baltic region with more planes, with more naval presence and also with more troops and that’s the reason why NATO is responding both with increased military presence and with increased readiness and preparedness of forces to deploy if needed. At the same time I think it’s important to also underline that everything NATO does is defensive, it is proportionate and it is absolutely in line with our national commitments. And we do not seek confrontation with Russia. We don’t want a new cold war so therefore we also convey a message of that there has to be a balance between military strength and political dialogue and engagement and I discussed with the Prime Minister the importance of both pursuing the path of strengthening our military capabilities, our defences but at the same time pursuing political engagement with Russia because Russia is going to be our biggest neighbour. Russia is going to continue to be our biggest neighbour so therefore we also need to continue to strive for a more constructive and cooperative relationship with Russia. But that has to be based on some fundamental rules and values and one of the most important values is of course the importance of respecting the borders of your neighbour because that’s a pre-condition for a constructive relationship.
INTERPRETOR: The question about asylum seekers is on the agenda of European Union and the context with the cooperation with Turkey. This question of cooperation with Turkey, NATO’s presence in the Aegean Sea is very important it’s one of the points to be discussed and the point will be discussed if the results of this plan may bring other ways then we also as a member of European Union we must stress that these questions will be kept on agenda, therefore two, two possible ways one through one through Baltic countries and Balkans.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much this concludes this press point. Thank you.