Joint press point
with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Prime Minister of Estonia, Jüri Ratas
So Prime Minister Ratas, welcome to NATO headquarters.
I know that you have been here before but this is your first visit to NATO HQ as Prime Minister. It is really a great pleasure to welcome you here and to meet with you and to discuss a wide range of different issues.
Estonia is really a steadfast Ally, contributing in so many different ways to NATO. You are in Afghanistan, helping to keep Afghanistan a stable country and preventing Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for international terrorists.
You also play a key role in strengthening NATO’s cyber-defences. Your Cyber Centre of Excellence is of great importance for the whole Alliance and we think that it’s extremely important that we continue to strengthen our cyber-defences very much based on the work that takes place in Estonia. also leads by example on defence spending.
Then we also of course welcome the leadership that you have shown for so many years on defence spending. You spend more than 2% of GDP on defence. That is something I welcome very much and it also show that you are leading through example, helping me to also convince other Allies to increase their defence spending.
We also think it’s a very important role that Estonia plays when it comes to strengthening NATO-EU cooperation. I believe we need to work even closer together and later on this year Estonia will have the Presidency of the EU and I look forward to working even closer with you, then also in the capacity of the Presidency of the EU. We of course welcome Estonia’s strong support to NATO, Estonia’s support for NATO is strong, and NATO’s support for Estonia is just as strong. We are air-policing, our jets keep your skies safe. We have increased naval patrols in the Baltic Sea and NATO exercises on land. And next month, a multi-national battlegroup led by the UK will arrive in Estonia and I thank you for Estonia’s pro-active engagement as a host nation. All NATO Allies agree that we need to increase our presence in the Baltic countries and in Poland and we are doing that by the deployment of four battlegroups to the three Baltic countries and to Poland. This sends a clear signal of NATO unity, credible deterrence. At the same time our response is measured, it’s proportionate, and we continue to strive for a more constructive relationship with Russia. I welcome the fact that we’ve been able to convene three meetings of the NATO-Russia Council, underlining that we keep channels for political dialogue open and we also think that we need to develop our military lines of communications to avoid miscalculation, to increase predictability and to reduce risks.
So once again, Prime Minister Ratas, welcome, it’s great to have you here, welcome, and thank you for being such a steadfast and staunch Ally.
OANA LUNGESCU (Moderator): Okay, we’ll go to Estonian television.
Q: Thank you. Johann Stralla (sic) from Estonian Public Broadcasting, I have two questions. First of all a question to the Secretary General, has NATO already received or are you hoping to receive an invitation to observe the ZAPAD exercise that is going to take place in the autumn? And a question for Prime Minister Ratas, the Lithuanian President has pressed NATO to take additional security measures in the region ahead of the exercise, do you see a necessity for that? Do you see, are you seeking for more support from NATO? And then my second question for both of you, should NATO react to the announcement from Russia’s Minister of Defense that Russia’s creating a dedicated propaganda division in the Army, is that a challenge for the E.U. is that a challenge for NATO or is that a challenge for each and every member State individually?
JENS STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General): First on the ZAPAD exercise. Every nation has the right to exercise its forces as long as it’s done within the agreed international obligations and relations. We would welcome an invitation to observe the ZAPAD exercise. NATO strongly believes in transparency, predictability related to military activities like exercises. We will also welcome an advanced briefing on the exercise. One of the reasons why we believe it is important to keep channels for political dialogue open to maintain the NATO Russia Council as a platform for dialogue with Russia is that that provides a platform also for advanced briefing, reciprocal briefings from NATO and from Russia on exercises. We invited Russia to observe ten of our exercises last year and of course we would very much welcome an invitation to observe the ZAPAD exercises. Oh, I can do perhaps…
JURI RATAS (Prime Minister of Estonia): Okay, thank you. We also know that ZAPAD will take place in the second half of this year or in the end of summer. Also Estonia at the same time holding the Presidency in the European Union and it is a very important period and time for us. How to say, we are monitoring ZAPAD every day and if it is necessary I’m sure that we are together with NATO and reacting very strongly.
JENS STOLTENBERG: When it comes to the question of propaganda I will just say that we are concerned about what we see as more propaganda, more disinformation. This has been a pattern over a long time. At the same time I think it’s important to underscore that NATO’s response to propaganda is not propaganda. The way to counter propaganda is not by more propaganda. We strongly believe in providing facts, the truth, because in the long run the truth will prevail over propaganda. So what NATO is doing is that we provide facts, we help allies to be able to answer questions and to provide the truth, the facts to counter propaganda. At the same time I think it’s also important to remember that an independent press, journalists that ask the hard questions, check the facts and are part of an open democratic society, has always been important but its perhaps even more important know when we see that we see more propaganda more disinformation. Independent press is part of a democratic society and NATO is supporting and protecting democratic open societies.
JURI RATAS: We know quite well what means Russian propaganda in Estonia and what it could do is important that we also building our strategic communication every day and we discuss it I can say every Cabinet meeting how to increase, how to build our strategic communication and I think it’s one thing what we could do against a Russian propaganda.
OANA LUNGESCU: BNS
BNS: I’ll follow up on what Johann has asked. The President of Lithuania has said that the allied battalions that have not yet been sent to the Baltic States that they are no longer sufficient even though they are not yet there and NATO should consider additional security measures before this ZAPAD exercise in September. Do you think that’s necessary and is it a topic that could come up on this, next Summit in May? Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG: I will answer that in a moment but just let me add one more thing about propaganda. And that is that of course cyber and cyber defense is also a way of countering propaganda and misinformation. And to and there Estonia plays a key role. You are really a leader when it comes to developing cyber defenses. The Cyber Centre of Excellence, which is an important platform for sharing best practices, having exercises, developing technology is really something I appreciate very much and Estonia plays a key role. Then on the battle groups, I think it’s important to remember that the battle groups is not the only thing that NATO does. We have tripled the size of the NATO response force so we can reinforce if needed and part of that is that we have established a new spearhead force where the lead elements are able to move within a couple of days. So we can if needed reinforce quickly the Baltic countries, Poland and also other parts of the Alliance. We have also established eight new small headquarters in the three Baltic countries and some other allies in the Eastern part of the Alliance. Those headquarters, the NATO force integration units, are important to link the national forces of Estonia with NATO forces to prepare exercises but also to help to reinforce if needed. We are also increasing our investments in infrastructure, there would be more pre-positioned in supplies, equipment in the Eastern part of the Alliance, so we are doing much more than only the four battle groups. That’s one very important element, but only one element. Let me add that for NATO it is important that we respond in that measured, proportionate way. What we do is defensive, we don’t want a new Cold War, we don’t seek confrontation with Russia and we don’t want a new arms race. And that’s exactly why we are looking for the balance between sending a clear signal on NATO solidarity, providing credible deterrence with a multi-national presence and at the same time being proportionate and measured to avoid escalating tensions.
JURI RATAS: If I may to add that for our opinion is important that in this spring time we could see Estonia, the battle groups from United Kingdom, the battle groups from France and they rotating (inaudible) and these are I think where it’s important that we are strongly, our national forces on the boots of, the boots on the ground, and also our partners, also our allies is in Estonia if another side of the border will be Zapad.
OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you very much. This concludes this press point. Thank you.