Joint press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda

  • 28 May. 2018 -
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  • Last updated: 30 May. 2018 18:07

(As delivered)

Thank you so much President Duda, dear Andrzej,

It’s great to be back here in Warsaw and to meet you again. And Poland was the first country I visited when I became Secretary General back in 2014, I’ve been back many times since then, including for our landmark Summit in Warsaw in July 2016. And I really appreciate to be here because Poland is a very strong Ally.

You participate and contribute to our shared security and our collective defence in many different ways. You lead by example on defence spending, allocating 2% of GDP on defence.

Poland is hosting one the NATO battle groups, US led battlegroups, here in Poland, but you’re also contributing to another battlegroup, the one we have in Latvia. And then Poland is also host of a key site for our Ballistic Missile Defence which is under construction now. I would also like to thank Poland for the many contributions you are making to different NATO missions and operations, in Afghanistan, but also for training activities that NATO conducts in Iraq, and this is about fighting terrorism. When our neighbours are more stable we are more secure.

We had a landmark Summit in Warsaw in 2016, we are now preparing for the NATO Summit in Brussels in July this year and during our lunch meeting we addressed several issues which will dominate that Summit in July.

First of all, deterrence and defence. We need to continue to make sure that NATO delivers credible deterrence and defence. This is part about our increased presence in the eastern part of the Alliance with the battlegroups, and also the tailored-for presence in Romania and the Black Sea region. But it’s also about our ability to reinforce quickly if needed so as you mentioned we are also now discussing different readiness initiatives, measures to increase the readiness of NATO forces so that they can move quickly, deploy quickly if needed.

We also discussed how NATO can combine deterrence, defence, with political dialogue with Russia.

Russia is our neighbour, Russia is here to stay so we need to continue to engage in dialogue with Russia and this week we will have a new meeting of the NATO-Russia Council. I believe that these meetings of the NATO-Russia Council are important because they provide a framework to also discuss difficult issues. For instance, the crisis in and around Ukraine. And therefore, the NATO-Russia Council is a way to raise many different issues, including military transparency, risk reduction but as also mentioned, Ukraine.

And we have seen the consequences of the crisis in Ukraine, Russia’s destabilising efforts in eastern Ukraine with the downing of MH17 and a few days ago we received a report from the joint investigation team and I agree with the Dutch government that Russia should admit responsibility for its part in the downing of the plane and also fully cooperate so we make sure that those who are responsible are held accountable.

We also welcome the fact that NATO is now adapting our command structure. We will make decisions on that at our Summit in July. We foresee that there will be two new commands, one command for Atlantic and one new command for what we call support. But we also discussed the issue of land component commands. That’s an issues where we wait for military advice before we make the final decisions on where to allocate the land component commands.

Let me also highlight that we are focused on the cooperation with the European Union. I welcome stronger EU efforts on defence. At the same time it has been clearly stated by EU leaders and by European leaders that this is not about creating any alternative to NATO, this is about complementing NATO, strengthening the European pillar within NATO and I agree that we need stronger EU efforts, stronger European efforts to also strengthen the transatlantic bond and improve burden sharing.

Last I will mention that at the Summit we will also address issues related to our partners in the east, Georgia and Ukraine, two close partners of NATO and NATO will continue to provide political and practical support to Georgia and Ukraine and because they are highly valued partners where NATO has an important role to play, and we will continue to support them.

So once again, thank you so much for hosting me and my delegation here in Poland, and it’s always a great pleasure to be here and to meet with you.

Thank you.

Question [Polish Television] [Interpreted]:  My question is about increasing funds on defence because Poland fulfilled this condition, but we also declared we have got appropriate law to increase defence spending.  What does that mean for you and what are the possibilities of motivating other countries also to live up to that standard?

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: It means a lot for not only me personally but for NATO because, after the end of the Cold War, NATO Allies reduced defence spending because tensions went down, but when we reduce defence spending when tensions are going down, we have to also be able to increase defence spending when tensions are going up, as they are doing now.  And therefore NATO Allies decided at our Summit in 2014 to stop the cuts and start to increase and move towards spending 2% of GDP on defence.  And that’s exactly what we do.  All Allies have stopped the cuts, all Allies have started to increase defence spending and more Allies spend now 2% of GDP on defence.  Back in 2014, it was only three Allies that spent 2% of GDP on defence.  This year, we expect eight Allies to spend 2% of GDP on defence, including Poland.  And the majority of NATO Allies have put forward plans on how to reach the 2% target within a decade.

So, we are moving in the right direction.  We need to continue to do so.  And the good news is that we now see also economic growth across Europe, so meaning that when you have growth of course you need to allocate even more.  But growth is not a problem, growth is a big advantage because we allocate 2% for defence, that’s the aim, then you have 98% for something else.  So, growth, economic growth is not a problem, it's actually a big advantage, both for the economy, for the fiscal budget or for the fiscal balance, and also for defence spending.  And I commend Poland for leading by example, by spending 2% of GDP on defence.

Question [Polish Radio] [Interpreted]:   Mr President, you mentioned that Poland is declaring its readiness to host the Land Component Command here in our country and you, Mr Secretary General, mentioned that you are waiting for the military analysis to take that decision.  So, my question is, is this decision going to be taken within the decisions taken at NATO Summit about the new NATO command structure?  If so, what are the chances of Poland hosting the Land Component Command?  And if the decision is taken later, then can we expect the decision to be taken?  Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: The Heads of State and Government are expected to make the main decisions on the new command structure, including to establish a new Atlantic Command.  The United States has offered to host that in Norfolk, Virginia.  A new Support Command that Germany has offered to host that in Germany.  And then many other changes in our command structure, including establishing a new command centre for cyber and also new land component commands.  But the exact geographic location of the Land Component Command is not expected to be taken at the summit because we have asked our Supreme Allied Commander Europe, SACEUR, to provide unfettered military advice on that and therefore we also do not expect a decision at the Summit.

Let me also highlight that this will not delay the process because when we take the main decisions we start to adapt, but there will be a long period of transition, so it will not be as if we go from one command structure to another in a question of weeks or months.  It will take time.  So, we can start the process and then we will take decisions on the exact location of the different land component commands later on.

Question [Radio Plus] [Interpreted]:  Hello.  My question is for Mr Secretary General.  We heard a lot about this parliamentary session of NATO that the Alliance is supposed to be more political than military Alliance.  This morning, our Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki said in the parliament that Nord Stream 2 is a hybrid warfare aimed against the European Union and against NATO and Ukraine of course.  So, when we bring these two things together, Mr Secretary General, do you see a possibility of NATO getting more involved in blocking this investment possibly and does NATO have such instruments at its hands?  How do you see such perspectives, Mr Secretary General, which is very important for Poland too?

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: NATO is a military and a political alliance and we provide strong deterrence, strong defence and we have proven able to adapt our military structure, including with increased military presence in the eastern part of the Alliance over the last couple of years.  We are also a political Alliance, addressing many different political issues and also providing a platform for also discussing and raising different political issues among Allies.  And we provide political support to partner nations.  So, we are a military and political alliance.

When it comes to Nord Stream, it is well known that there are different views about that among NATO Allies.  Some have expressed very strong views against the Nord Stream project.  Other Allies have stated that this is a project which is a commercial project and they don’t think that politicians should make decisions regarding such a project, based on anything else than a commercial assessment.

The reality is that NATO is an organisation based on consensus and therefore, first of all, for NATO to make any decisions at all or to express any opinion at all on the Nord Stream will be very difficult, because we don’t see any consensus on that issue within the NATO Alliance.  And second, we don’t have tools to do anything with that kind of energy project.  That’s partly for nations and partly also an issue which I know has been very much discussed within the European Union.  But Allies have strong opinions and I agree that we need to address the question of energy security.  I think that we can do many things to address energy security.  Diversification of supplies is a way to address energy security.  Energy efficiency is a way to address energy security.  But also of course the fact that we see now investments in renewables helps to increase energy security in Europe, because that means less dependence on imported energy.

Question [Polish Press Agency] [Interpreted]:   My question is about the relationship with Ukraine.  Mr President, you mentioned that relations between Ukraine and NATO, Georgia and NATO were also discussed by both of you gentlemen.  So, in this context, let me ask about the possible date of convening a NATO-Ukraine Commission?  And the question to Mr President Duda, we have got good political relations with Hungary, perhaps we are able to influence Hungary somehow to de-block that possibility of them meeting.

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: We will have a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission today at the Ambassadorial level, so we still have very close, or we have very close contact and cooperation with Ukraine.  We have regular meetings with the political leaders.  I have spoken and met with President Poroshenko several times and also with Foreign Minister Klimkin.  So, NATO provides strong political and strong practical support for Ukraine because Ukraine is a close partner and a highly-valued partner.  And Ukraine has also suffered from the aggressive actions of Russia:  Russia illegally annexing a part of Ukraine, Crimea, and also continuing to destabilise eastern Ukraine. 

But you are right that we have a challenge when it comes to convening NATO-Ukraine Commission meetings at a Ministerial level and above.  And that’s related to the language law.  That’s a disagreement between a NATO Ally - Hungary, and a NATO partner - Ukraine.  I just urge Ukraine and Hungary to try to find a solution to that issue.  I have spoken both with the Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, and also with Petro Poroshenko, and this is about reconciling the need to protect the rights of minorities and minority languages.  As far as I know, there are also Polish minorities in Ukraine.  So, to protect the rights of these minorities to speak their language, but also of course a legitimate right for any state to make sure that the people in the country are able to speak the state language. 

This is a dilemma which I have seen in many countries and it has been possible to find a way to balance those two concerns, and I hope that there will be also a possibility to find a way to balance that concern in Ukraine related to the language law.  And I also believe that the recommendation from the Venice Commission forms a good basis to find a solution to address this issue.  Because I think it is important also that we are able to continue to convene the NATO-Russia… sorry, the NATO-Ukraine Commission, at the highest possible level.

Andrzej Duda [President of Poland]: Well madam, quite soon, in about two weeks to be exact, or less than two weeks, there will be a B9 meeting, the meeting of the Bucharest 9.  And I mention this very meeting in the context of Ukraine and Georgia and their cooperation with the North Atlantic Alliance and also the possibility of working with these two partners.  When I was mentioning this issue, I was thinking exactly about what you asked in your question.  For sure during B9 we are going to discuss this issue with our Hungarian colleagues. 

Moderator [Interpreted]: Thank you, Mr President, thank you Mr Secretary General.  Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you very much.  Thank you to the members of the delegation and thank you for your attention.  Goodbye.