Joint press point
by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Estonia, Jüri Ratas
Prime Minister Ratas, Jüri, it’s great to be back in Estonia and to meet with you and it’s a great honour to be here in Tapa. And to see the NATO battlegroup and also to see how Estonia is an excellent host nation for the NATO battlegroup. And I’d like to commend you and Estonia for your contributions to NATO, to our different missions and operations, but not least for leading by example by spending more than 2% on defence. And the good message is that this year there will be more NATO Allies meeting that target and more and more NATO Allies are stepping up their efforts to strengthen our collective defence. And an important part of that is the deployment of the four battlegroups to the three Baltic countries and to Poland and the battlegroup I met today sends a very strong signal of NATO unity, NATO resolve and NATO strength. That is important because we live in a more demanding NATO security environment. The fact is that by deploying four battlegroups with more than 4000 troops from 15 different nations, from both Europe and North-America, we send a clear message that an attack on one NATO Ally will trigger a response from the whole Alliance. And this is part of bigger picture. We have tripled the size of the NATO Response Force to 40000 troops, with a High Readiness Joint Task Force ready to move within a few days. Allied jets patrol the skies over Estonia as part of our Air Policing and NATO ships are patrolling in the Baltic Sea helping to keep the Baltic Sea secure.
NATO’s presence in the Baltic region is defensive, it is proportionate, we are here not to provoke conflict but we are here to prevent conflict.
We see a more assertive Russia, which has implemented a significant military built-up over several years. Also with more and bigger exercises. NATO is closely monitoring Russia’s exercise Zapad. We are sending 3 experts to the exercise following invitations from Russia and Belarus, but these invitations fall short from the transparency required by the OSCE: briefings on the exercise scenario and progress, opportunities to talk to individual soldiers and overflights of the exercise. This is something which is part of the Vienna Document, which is the international agreement regulating the transparency, predictability related to military exercises. And even though we are invited to distinguished visitors’ days both in Belarus and in Russia, we are not invited to take fully part in any kind of Vienna Document observation of the exercise. So we call on Russia to observe the letter and the spirit of the Vienna Document, transparency and predictability are even more important when tensions run high, to reduce the risks of misunderstandings and incidents. So NATO remains calm and vigilant, and committed to keep Estonia and all our Allies safe.
So thank you once again.
Q1. Stefan Leifert, German television ZDF: Secretary General, what could be the response of NATO to Zapad, if Russia does not stick to the Vienna Document?
A1. Secretary General: As the Prime Minister just said, we will follow closely the Zapad exercise, we will monitor the activities and we are vigilant but also calm because we don’t see any imminent threat against any NATO Ally. And NATO has also responded to a more assertive Russia. We are not changing our military posture because of the Zapad exercise but NATO has already implemented important changes in our military posture in response to a more assertive Russia which we have seen developing over several years, with more Russian troops close to our borders, with more modern Russian equipment and also with more exercises, and not least of course for Russia being responsible for using military force against a neighbor, against Ukraine. So therefore we have the Enhanced Forward Presence with the four battlegroups, we have the High Readiness Forces and we have also now more Allies spending more on defence to be able to respond to a more challenging security environment. But NATO’s aim is not to mirror what Russia does, tank by tank, or plane by plane, or soldier by soldier. Our ambition and what we are doing is to respond in a measured, proportionate, responsible way, not provoking conflict but remaining calm and vigilant and ready to react if there is any need.
Q2. Damon Wake, AFP: Secretary General, on North Korea how concerned are you about the situation, the stand-off appears to be getting worse rather than better. Would you call on China or other parties to do more to defuse the situation? Thank you.
A2. Secretary General: I strongly condemn the testing of nuclear weapons in North-Korea. And I condemn the development of North-Korean intercontinental ballistic missiles and I call on North-Korea to refrain from more testing and to abandon their missile program and to abandon their nuclear program. The testing of nuclear weapons and the testing of missiles is a blatant violation of several UN Security Council resolutions and it’s a threat to international peace and security and it increases tensions in the region. So North-Korea must comply with the UN resolutions, they must stop developing nuclear weapons and their missiles and they must engage in constructive dialogue to reduce tensions in the region. NATO is closely following the developments in the region, we are in close dialogue with our partners South-Korea and Japan. We have had several meetings in the North Atlantic Council discussing with our partners the situation and the increased tensions in the region caused by the behavior, the provocative behavior of North-Korea. And I met with Prime Minister Abe in July when he visited NATO HQ, we discussed the situation and how we can work together, and I’m also going to visit South-Korea and Japan in October, later on this year and of course the tensions, the challenges we see caused by the testing of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles will be an important topic which will then be discussed when I visit Japan and South-Korea in a few weeks.