Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the first meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Foreign Ministers’ session

  • 04 Apr. 2019 -
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  • Last updated: 04 Apr. 2019 21:35

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

Good morning.

Seven decades ago, on this day, in this city, our Alliance was founded.

Foreign Ministers from twelve countries across Europe and North America signed the Washington Treaty.

Those nations promised to stand together, and to defend each other.  That pledge has given us seventy years of peace, prosperity and security.

This morning Allied Foreign Ministers addressed Russia’s continuing violation of the INF Treaty.

By fielding multiple battalions of SSC-8 missiles, Russia has made the world a more dangerous place.

The United States and other Allies have tried to engage with Russia about this missile system for several years.

We all agree that Russia continues to be in violation of the treaty.

And today, we all once again call on Russia to return to full and verifiable compliance with the INF Treaty.

But time is running out.  So NATO is preparing for a world without the INF Treaty.

Today, we discussed the way forward.  And what potential measures we can take, should Russia not return into compliance.

We will not mirror what Russia is doing. We will be measured and coordinated. And we have no intention of deploying ground-launched nuclear missiles in Europe.

At the same time, NATO will continue to maintain credible and effective deterrence and defence.

And all Allies are strongly committed to arms control and non-proliferation.

Russia’s ongoing violation of the INF Treaty is a pattern of destabilising behaviour.

Russia used force to illegally annex Crimea from Ukraine.  And continues its military build-up across the region.

We call on Russia to release the Ukrainian sailors and ships it seized last year near the Sea of Azov.

And we discussed what more we can do to enhance our security in the Black Sea region.

We agreed a package of measures to improve our situational awareness. And to step up our support for both Georgia and Ukraine.  In areas such as the training of maritime forces and coast guards. Port visits and exercises. And sharing information.

This will build on our already close cooperation.

Right now, one of NATO’s naval groups is on patrol in the Black Sea.  And today, it is exercising with Ukrainian and Georgian ships.

So we will maintain our focus, and our presence in this vital region.

With that, I am ready to take your questions.

Oana Lungescu [NATO Spokesperson]: OK, we'll start with the New York Times, over there, yeah.

Question [New York Times]: Mr Secretary General. Over here. I wondered… you outlined today and yesterday in your speech the sort of strong steps NATO has taken to deter Russia in Europe. Mr Trump has talked consistently and mentioned it in his meeting with you, about better relations with Russia. Is it time to emphasise deterrence less and dialogue more? How do you sort of balance between those two?

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: For NATO, and for me, and for all Allies, there is no contradiction between deterrence, defence and dialogue. Actually, we strongly believe that as long as we are strong, as long as we are united, as long as we adapt to the actions of a more assertive Russia, respond to that, then we can also engage in dialogue. So, one of the main reasons why we now are able to engage Russia in dialogue as we do, on many issues; risk reduction, arms control, Ukraine and so on, that’s exactly because we are united and exactly because we have shown, by the increased readiness of our forces, by the increased military presence in the eastern part of the Alliance, that we are united. So, this is about the dual track approach, deterrence, defence and dialogue, and we will continue to pursue that dual track approach. And it was strongly supported by all the Allies in the meeting we just ended.

Oana Lungescu [NATO Spokesperson]: [We have ZDF]

Question: Once again a question on burden sharing: has Germany again be subject of discussion? And if so, is it only the USA criticising Germany for falling short or also other countries?

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: So, all NATO Allies made a promise to invest more in defence, to improve burden sharing in the Alliance. And I expect, and all Allies expect, that Allies deliver on what they have promised. The good news is that that is exactly what is now happening because, after years of reducing defence spending, all Allies have started to invest more. The majority of NATO Allies have submitted plans on how to reach the 2% goal by 2024, and I expect other Allies to follow. Germany has started to increase and we have seen healthy increases in the Germany defence investments, Germany defence budgets, over the last years. And also in the proposed budget for 2020, for next year, there is a continued increase in defence spending. So, this is about all Allies having to make good on the pledge they made. This is not about, you know, only pleasing the United States, this is about that we see that we live in a more challenging and demanding security environment and therefore we need to invest more in our own security, to preserve peace and to safeguard freedom.

Oana Lungescu [NATO Spokesperson]: OK, we'll go to the gentleman in the front row here.

Question: Secretary General, I would like to shift the question to partnership. I would like to know about NATO-Azerbaijan partnership, and also Azerbaijan's contributions to NATO missions and activities. Thank you so much.

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Azerbaijan is a close partner of NATO, and works with us in furthering international peace and security. Not least, Azerbaijan makes important contributions to the NATO mission in Afghanistan, by providing troops and assistance to NATO Allies on transit routes, on land, in the air and by rail, for example through the use of the BTK rail link. These are important contributions to the success of the NATO mission. And all our partners, including our partners in the Caucasus region, make valued contributions to our mission.

Oana Lungescu [NATO Spokesperson]: OK, and we'll have one last question, the gentleman with the beard in the second row.

Question: Mr Secretary, yesterday US Vice President said Turkey must choose between remaining a critical member of NATO Alliance and going forward with its procurement of S-400 systems. Do you share this threat by US Vice President? Is Turkey's procurement of S-400s a red line for its membership to the NATO Alliance? Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: It is a national decision what kind of systems different NATO Allies procure, but we fully realise that this is now a challenge and it is an issue that has been discussed is addressed by the United States and Turkey. It is not on the agenda of this Ministerial meeting, but NATO provides a platform, including this meeting, for dialogue between Allies on this issue and that’s one of the important reasons why we welcome that NATO is able to provide a platform for also addressing issues where there are disagreements between NATO Allies, for instance on the issue related to the S-400 and the involvement, or the planned delivery of F-35s to Turkey. We have to remember that NATO is augmenting the air defences of Turkey and we do that by deploying Patriot batteries, Spanish Patriot batteries to Turkey, and also Italy is deploying SAMP/T batteries, augmenting the Turkish air defences. I also welcome the fact that there is ongoing dialogue between United States and Turkey on delivery of Patriot systems to Turkey, and also that there is dialogue going on between Turkey, Italy and France, looking into the possibility of delivering a French/Italian system, SAMP/T. I hope that it's possible to find a solution to this issue, because we see now that this is an issue where there is disagreement between two Allies; Turkey and United States.

Oana Lungescu [NATO Spokesperson]: Thank you very much. I know there's lots more questions. Unfortunately, that’s all we have time for at this moment.

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: There will be more time at the last press conference.

Oana Lungescu [NATO Spokesperson]: Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Thank you.