by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the meeting of the NATO-Russia Council
I have just chaired a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council.
Our second meeting this year.
Our discussions are not easy.
But they are important, especially when tensions are going up.
Today we discussed three topics: Ukraine, the INF Treaty, and transparency and risk reduction.
Ukraine remains the first item of discussion.
We discussed the security situation in eastern Ukraine.
The lack of progress on the Minsk Agreements.
And the tensions in and around the Sea of Azov.
NATO Allies once again called for the release of the Ukrainian sailors and ships Russia seized last November.
On these issues, NATO and Russia continue to have fundamental differences.
We also addressed the INF Treaty.
All members of the NATO-Russia Council agree that the Treaty has been crucial to Euro-Atlantic security.
But the Treaty is now in danger.
Unfortunately, we have not seen any signs of a breakthrough.
And time is running out.
Today, Allies urged Russia once again to return to full and verifiable compliance with the Treaty.
Russia expressed its concerns about the implementation of the Treaty.
All participants expressed strong commitment to effective arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation.
But we must prepare for a world without the INF Treaty, which will be less stable for all of us.
We also discussed transparency and risk reduction.
We exchanged briefings on upcoming exercises.
NATO briefed on Dynamic Mariner 2019, a maritime exercise off the coast of Spain. And provided a follow-on briefing on Trident Juncture 2018.
And Russia briefed on exercises Tsentr and Union Shield.
Such exchanges are an important element of our continuing dialogue.
They help to limit the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculation.
I look forward to continuing these exchanges at future meetings of the Council.
Today’s meeting covered important topics affecting Euro-Atlantic security.
Our discussion was frank, but necessary.
Allies and Russia hold fundamentally different views.
But we are committed to continuing our dialogue.
Without dialogue, we cannot solve our differences.
And with that, I’m ready to take you questions.
Oana Lungescu [NATO spokesperson]: Okay, I’d like you to put up your hands and introduce yourselves and your outlet. We’ll start in the centre with NPR/ Deutsche Welle.
Teri Schulz [NPR/Deutsche Welle]: Hi, Teri Schultz. Is NATO now considering upgrading its own missile defence capabilities with the new concerns that the Russian missiles that violate the INF could possibly be deployed? I guess this has always been a threat, since you’ve known for five years, at least, that the violation was happening, but what steps are you taking at this very moment? Thanks.
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: What we discussed in the meeting today was the importance of saving the INF Treaty and there is still time to save the treaty. And the treaty can be saved if Russia returns to compliance. And there are still four weeks to go before the deadline, the 2nd of August. So the clear message from all the NATO Allies in that room was about the importance of saving the INF Treaty, because the INF Treaty is a cornerstone for our security. Then, at the Defence Ministerial Meeting of the NATO ministers, not so long time ago, we discussed how NATO will respond. And, of course, if the treaty is not saved, if Russia doesn’t come back into compliance, then NATO will respond.
We will respond in a united way, coordinated, defensive and we have also stated that we are not planning, we don’t have any intentions to deploy nuclear missiles in Europe. We will not mirror what Russia does. I will not today go into the different elements of what NATO is considering. Our focus now is to save the INF Treaty. If Russia doesn’t come back into compliance, then we will respond and we will do that in a defensive way. When it comes to the ballistic missile defence, it is not directed against Russia. It is not capable of shooting down Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles. So this is a system which is directed against threats from outside the Euro-Atlantic area and that’s still the case.
Oana Lungescu: Okay, we’ll go to the lady over here. Please don’t forget to introduce yourself.
Daria Grigorova [Russian national television]: Daria Grigorova with Russian national television. You now mentioned that Russia has chance to save the treaty. But is there any steps for the United States to take to save the treaty, because it’s the country who withdrew there first? Is there any compromise possible? Thank you.
Jens Stoltenberg: The reason why this treaty is now in jeopardy is the Russian violation. There are no new US missiles in Europe, but there are many new Russian missiles in Europe. And that’s the reason why this treaty now is in danger. And Russia has violated the treaty over many years. And our concerns, the US concerns and NATO concerns about the new Russian missiles have been raised with Russia over several years. Actually, it was the Obama administration that first raised their concerns about the Russian violation. And we also stated clearly that, in the long run, there is no way arms control will function, will make us safer if it’s only honoured by one side.
So there is only one reason why this treaty is now in jeopardy and that is the ongoing Russian violation of the treaty. And since the treaty is not functioning, if it is only respected by one side, all Allies have clearly stated that Russia has to come back into compliance, that Russia is violating the treaty and all Allies also support the US decision to start the withdrawal process. But by doing so, we also gave Russia the last chance to come back into compliance. And Russia still has the possibility to come back into compliance, because the timeline ends on the 2nd of August. So there is only one way to save the treaty, and that is by Russia coming back into compliance.
Oana Lungescu: Okay, Associated Press?
Lorne Cook [Associated Press]: Lorne Cook from Associated Press. You said in the beginning that you’ve seen no sign, and I just want to be very clear about that: in this meeting Russia gave absolutely no signal whatsoever that it’s ready to come into compliance. Did it perhaps offer any other way of resolving the standoff here?
Jens Stoltenberg: No, we didn’t see any sign of Russia being, willing to come back into compliance with the INF Treaty. And, and again the facts on the ground, that’s the problem. The problem is that there are new missiles, nuclear-capable intermediate range missiles in clear violation of the INF Treaty, which has been developed, fielded, deployed by Russia over the last years and they have shown no sign, declared no intention, of withdrawing or destroying these missiles. It is possible to do that within a very short period of time. Where, back in 1987, Russia was able to destroy cruise missiles, intermediate range cruise missiles within a few weeks. So it is possible if they will, they can start now to comply with the treaty and then also save the treaty, and it is possible to do it in a few weeks, because that has happened before.
Oana Lungescu: Okay, Europa Press, just behind the cameras.
Question [Europa Press]: Secretary General, do you . . . I mean, it seems that the treaty will not be saved, by what you’re just saying. So how do you expect for the 2nd of August, will there be an extra NAC meeting from the Allies, maybe to see if it’s possible to take some of the measures forward? And what would you see as the first priorities? And I also would like to ask you, I mean, what does this mean in reality for arms control? I mean . . . and especially for the prospects of being able to renovate the new START treaty? I mean, are we not de facto going down a new arms race? Thank you.
Jens Stoltenberg: This is very serious for arms control, partly because the INF Treaty is a cornerstone, is a landmark treaty. So the INF Treaty, in itself, is of great importance. And the fact that this treaty is now is in jeopardy and that time is running out for saving the treaty, of course, it’s extremely serious for arms control. Because the INF Treaty didn’t only reduce the number of missiles, but actually it banned a whole category of missiles, all the intermediate range missiles. So that is serious. But it is also serious because, of course, it undermines the credibility of other treaties. And that is also one of the reasons why the United States and NATO has to react, because if we accept that the INF Treaty is violated with impunity, with zero consequences, then we undermine the trust and the, and the credibility of all other arms control agreements. So the Russian violation of the INF Treaty is not only a problem for the INF Treaty, but it is also a problem undermining the trust of the other agreements we have with Russia on arms control. So that’s also the reason why it is important to react, because to uphold the credibility of arms control, we need to react when treaties, arms control is violated. Well, our focus is still on saving the treaty.
Of course, I admit that the likelihood of saving the treaty is going down, day by day, as we approach the 2nd of August timeline, deadline. But until the 2nd of August our focus will be on calling on Russia to return to compliance, because that’s the only way to save the treaty. To adhere to the treaty is the only way to save the treaty. We have already discussed potential measures and, of course, we have different measures we can take if Russia doesn’t come back into compliance. That was one of the main topics at the latest Defence Ministerial Meeting, just a week ago, last week. Some of them can be implemented quite quickly, others will take more time. But of course, we have to react, partly to send a clear message to Russia that they cannot violate arms control without cost. It has a consequence when they break a treaty. And second, we have to make sure that we continue to deliver credible deterrence and defence, also in a world without the INF Treaty and with more Russian missiles that can reach European cities within minutes, that reduce the threshold of any potential use of nuclear weapons in a conflict, and which are dual-capable, hard to detect and mobile, so therefore they are of great concern for all European NATO Allies.
Oana Lungescu: Okay we have Georgian TV, over there?
Question [Georgian TV]: Mr Secretary General, you have not mentioned when you were listing the topics, and still want to ask you: have you discussed with the Russian side topic of Georgia, ongoing situation, violation of ceasefire agreement? Next month, in August, there is 11 years already after Russian-Georgian war, and this week there was Geneva talks, and after the talks Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin again said that they don’t want to see Georgia in NATO? Thank you.
Jens Stoltenberg: It was raised during the meeting the issue that Russia has deployed troops in neighbouring countries without the consent of the country. We see that, of course, in Ukraine, with the illegally annexed Crimea and there is still direct Russian support to the separatists in eastern Ukraine. We see it in Transnistria and, of course, we see it in parts of Georgia. And NATO has many times expressed our strong support to Georgia, the territorial integrity of Georgia within its international recognised borders. And, of course, the presence of Russian troops in parts of Georgia is a clear violation of the territorial integrity of Georgia. We support all efforts to try to find a political negotiated solution to the crisis. When it comes to Georgia’s right to become a NATO member, NATO Allies have reiterated their position many times that, of course, Georgia has that right, because it is a fundamental right for any nation to choose its own path. And it’s only Georgia and the 29 Allies of NATO that decides when Georgia is ready to join the Alliance. No other country has the right to try to veto or to intervene in such a process.
Oana Lungescu: Thank you very much. This concludes this press point, thank you.