Joint press point

with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the President of the Republic of Finland, Sauli Niinistö

  • 09 Nov. 2016 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 09 Nov. 2016 15:20

(As delivered)

Joint press point with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the President of the Republic of Finland, Sauli Niinisto

President Niinistö,
Dear Sauli,

It is really a great pleasure to welcome you here to NATO headquarters.  That is really something I appreciate because this is the first visit ever by a Finnish President to NATO headquarters.  So in many ways this day is a historic day.

Finland is one of NATO’s closest partners.   You participate in many of NATO’s operations and missions.  You are present in Afghanistan together with NATO troops.  And you also help us in other operations for instance in the Balkans.

This is of great importance both for Finland and for NATO because we share the same values and we face the same security challenges.

And NATO and Finnish troops have worked side by side as I said in many different operations and missions. 

And we have been able to develop a very close partnership on a range of different issues including planning for civil emergencies, and security in the Baltic Sea region.

We are now expanding our cooperation when it comes to information exchanges on hybrid warfare, coordinating exercises, and developing joint situational awareness.

All of this will allow Finland and NATO to address common threats more effectively.

Cooperation means more security for all of us.

Today, our discussion covered a wide range of different issues but also the situation in the Baltic Sea region.

And President Niinistö, NATO very much welcomes your personal engagement on the issue of air safety in the region.

We agree that transparency and risk reduction are vital to avoid incidents.  And if they happen, to prevent them spiraling out of control.

NATO is committed to pursuing our political dialogue with Russia.

In fact, when tensions run high, dialogue is even more important.  

And the NATO-Russia Council is a key forum for dialogue between NATO and Russia.  The Council has met twice this year.  And we intend to hold another meeting in the near future. 

President Niinistö, thank you again for our talks today.

Our close cooperation benefits both Finland and NATO.

And I look forward to taking our partnership further in the future.  And once again a warm welcome to NATO headquarters.

MODERATOR: Wall Street Journal

Q: Mr. President a question for you. With the election of Mr. Trump does that make NATO membership less attractive or more attractive? Do you think that Mr. Trump’s victory will bring more stability or less stability to the Baltic region? And Mr. Secretary General do you anticipate sort of, any, do you anticipate that, NATO would be able to work with Russia in places like Syria like Mr. Trump has suggested or do Russian tactics in places like Syria, prohibit any deep cooperation between the Alliance and Russia.

SAULI NIINISTO (President of the Republic of Finland): If I start, well NATO and NATO membership is not depending on one person only, even though that would be the President of USA, and it doesn’t have an impact in Finland, I do not believe in that. What else we can think well, we heard already earlier this morning, different kind of Mr. Trump talking. He was very constructive and surely we hope that he will continue on that way with regard to Europe to European Union and surely NATO.

JENS STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General): NATO will continue to provide support for the coalition fighting ISIL and also then provide support for the coalition that fights ISIL in Syria and we have just started to provide support with our AWACS surveillance planes. NATO has also increased its presence in Turkey, the ally most affected by the crisis in Syria bordering Syria. But NATO as an Alliance is not present in Syria. We provide support for the coalition and we have increased our presence in, in Turkey. We are of course concerned by the significant Russian buildup and the airstrikes conducted by Russian planes against many different targets in, in Syria, including indiscriminate bombing of civilians, hospitals and, and many other targets especially in in Aleppo. And we are, we are concerned about the military buildup because we have seen that this capabilities have been used in attacking, not only ISIL but, also attacking many other groups and also indiscriminate bombing against also civilians. And we now see the deployment of the Kuznetsov carrier group which will further increase the capability of Russia to conduct even more airstrikes against Aleppo and this is something which we have then expressed concern about, because we saw the risk of exactly this happen when the Russians decided to deploy the carrier group Kuznetsov to the Eastern Mediterranean.


Q: Secretary General how soon do you expect to speak with Mr. Trump and what do you hope to hear from him?

JENS STOLTENBERG: I first of all would like to meet him as soon as possible and I welcome him to the NATO Summit in, in Brussels next year, but I will also, of course, reach out and and look into the possibilities of having a conversation on the phone as soon as possible. But as you understand, nothing has yet been decided and and therefore, that is something the staffs’ of my Secretariat here in NATO, but also the transition team of President elect Donald Trump has to look into.

MODERATOR: Gentleman on the left.

Q: I’d like to ask you both Mr. Secretary General and Mr. President, do you think this election result will, I’m (inaudible) Finland, does this election result force some kind of a new rethink about the way in which the security and defense is arranged in Europe? Is it too soon to say anything about that because there’s a pretty lively conversation going on in any event about the EU,  NATO cooperation, etc?

JENS STOLTENBERG: The US commitment to NATO and the US commitment to the collective defense of Europe has been rock solid for almost 70 years and I’m absolutely confident that, that will still be the case and that the US will be committed to the defense of Europe and to the NATO obligations and our security guarantees. And I’m confident because a strong NATO is important for Europe, but it’s also of great importance for the United States. Two World Wars have taught us that stability in Europe is also important for the United States and we have to remember that the only time NATO has invoked our collective defense clause, Article 5, was after an attack on the United States 9/11. And thousands of European soldiers also from Finland, partner countries of NATO has participated in NATO’S presence in Afghanistan as a direct response on the United States. So I really believe that that the strength of NATO is so important for United States and Europe, so we will continue to respond together to a more challenging security environment.

MODERATOR: Question in the middle.

SAULI NIINISTO: Yes, I have not that much to add to what Secretary General said. Surely I will trust that USA keeps its word, not only to NATO, but also otherwise to international community. What comes to Europe I have said many times that European countries inside European Union maybe should wake up to take more responsibility of their own security and that is surely what Finland is doing, and has been doing, all these decades of, let’s say, self-evident peace time.

MODERATOR: The middle.

Q: (inaudible) Finnish Public TV (inaudible). I have a question to both gentlemen. Are you concerned that a President Trump will find a new kind of relationship with Russia, with Vladimir Putin, and and, where does that leave Europe vis-à-vis questions like the Ukrainian crisis, thank you?

JENS STOLTENBERG: I think we have to remember that the decision made by Heads of State and Government at the Warsaw Summit was a decision about enhanced NATO presence in the eastern part of our Alliance and our absolute confidence that NATO will implement those decisions. We are in the process of doing that now. So more deterrence, more defense, but combined with a message of the need to continue dialogue with Russia and to keep channels for political contact with Russia open. So for NATO, there is no contradiction between political dialogue with Russia and strong deterrence and defense. Actually, we believe that a strong defense, strong deterrence is the foundation for dialogue, political engagement with Russia and I’m confident that that will continue to be the case, also after the U.S. elections.

SAULI NIINISTO: In a situation like this where we are now, surely dialogue is very important, it’s needed and I’m quite sure that President Trump will continue to dialogue. He has expressed many times that he considers it it’s being very important. That has actually nothing to do with deterrence which is the other part that the NATO has decided and also partners to follow. We need these both paths to go forward.

MODERATOR: With that thank you very much. That’s all we have time for.