Joint press point
by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and President of the Republic of Lithuania Gitanas Nauseda
Welcome to the NATO headquarters. It’s really a privilege and honour to meet you here. Because Lithuania is such a staunch and committed NATO ally. And therefore I appreciate this opportunity to also discuss a wide range of issues which are on the NATO agenda, with you.
It is 70 years since NATO was founded. And 15 years since Lithuania joined the Alliance.
Over those years, Lithuania has shown time and again it is a committed Ally.
Your troops have helped to build security in Afghanistan. You host a multinational NATO battlegroup in Rukla, boosting our defence and deterrence.
And you share expertise on energy security through the NATO Centre of Excellence in Vilnius.
Lithuania also leads by example on defence spending. Investing in major equipment. And committing to spend 2% of GDP on defence.
NATO can rely on Lithuania. And Lithuania can rely on NATO.
Allied jets keep your skies safe. Allied ships patrol the Baltic Sea. And NATO’s battlegroups are in the region helping to prevent conflict and preserve peace.
NATO Allies also conduct regular training and exercises in Lithuania. We are now working to increase our levels of readiness. So that our reinforcements provide even more effective deterrence. This shows the strength and the unity of our Alliance.
So Mr President, we have just discussed the current security situation. Including Russia’s responsibility for the demise of the INF Treaty. NATO will respond in a measured and responsible way to the threat posed by Russia’s SSC-8 system. Allies remain firmly committed to the preservation of effective international arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation. NATO does not want a new arms race. And we have no intention to deploy new land-based nuclear missiles in Europe.
But NATO must and will maintain credible and effective deterrence and defence. That is at the core of our mission.
So President, thank you for your strong personal commitment to NATO.
Last Month, Lithuania celebrated the anniversary of the Baltic Way.
30 years ago, nearly 2 million people formed a 600 km human chain through Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. They were united in their drive for freedom and independence. Today, their dream is a reality. Lithuania is in NATO, and NATO is in Lithuania.
NATO safeguards your independence and your security. As it does for every Ally.
So once again, welcome. It’s a great pleasure to have you here and I’m pleased to give you the floor.
GITANAS NAUSEDA [President of the Republic of Lithuania]: Thank you. I am very pleased, Secretary General, to have this early engagement with you and visit this truly impressive new headquarters, NATO headquarters. I appreciate your leadership in strengthening and adapting NATO when our security and truth-based international order are heavily changed . . . challenged. Russia’s attitude and model of behaviour unfortunately do not change. Russia’s violations of key treaties continue, as well as aggressive activities against our democracies. NATO has always been the . . . the backbone of Lithuania’s defence and security. It will be the top priority on my . . . of my agenda as well. Mr Secretary General, allow me to thank all the Alliance who contribute to the security of my country, and the Baltic region too, especially through Enhanced Forward Presence, which Lithuania is very happy to host, Baltic air policing and assurance measures. We discussed the preparations for the NATO Leaders’ Meeting in London, it will be a great occasion to mark the 70th anniversary of our enduring Alliance, united in our commitment to the Washington Treaty, and the effective transatlantic bond. I can assure you today that Lithuania will put every effort to guarantee a lasting political commitment to the defence spending. We already have spent 2 per cent of GDP of defence. And it is not the end. As I told you today our agreement, national agreement between political parties foresees the gradual increase of defence spending up to 2 and 5 per cent, until to 2030. We also discussed the threats and challenges in our region and beyond. We must accelerate our work and fully implement all decisions taken on NATO adoption and development. We have to . . . we have to be ready to protect and defend our countries and people. We also have to assist and help our trusted partners and friends like Georgia and Ukraine in the path of Euro-Atlantic reforms and integration. Understanding the security challenges faced by Alliance and other regions, Lithuania will continue contributing to the Alliance missions and operations, strengthening global security and stability. I am looking forward to closely working with you, Secretary General, and all the Alliance in the run up to the Leaders’ Meeting in December and beyond. And let me repeat my invitation, personal invitation, to Lithuania, because of very serious reason: you are awarded Order of Vytautas the Great, it’s the Grand Duke of Lithuania, is waiting for you and please visit us as soon as possible and as your agenda allows to do that. Thank you very much.
OANA LUNGESCU [NATO spokesperson]: Okay we’ll start with the Baltic News Agency, gentlemen with the beard over there.
[Baltic News Service]: Good afternoon, I’m a journalist from news agency Baltic News Service. I have a question for both Mr President and Secretary General. Russia and Belarus will conduct exercise Union Shield later . . . in later this September. Do you have any information whether the . . . Russia and Belarus are planning to rehearse military actions against the Baltic Sea region in this exercise? Also, Mr President, I would like to ask you what kind of additional measures did you ask to strengthen Baltic State security? And Mr Stoltenberg, is NATO planning to provide these measures? Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: Well, what I can say is that every nation has the right to exercise their forces. What we have highlighted many times in NATO is that the exercises should live up to the standards agreed in OSCE when it comes to transparency, notification and so on. And we know that very often Russia doesn’t live up to those requirements, providing the necessary transparency and notifications of their exercises. So exercises, it’s part of what every nation does. But it has to be in a way which is in accordance with the agreed guidelines, the agreed agreements we have made in the OSCE, when it comes to how to notify and inform about exercises. When it comes to security measures for the Baltic countries and for Lithuania, NATO has significantly stepped up and we have done a lot. We have to remember that before 2016 we had no NATO presence or combat ready presence in the Baltic states. After the Warsaw summit in 2016, where we agreed to deploy for the first time in our history combat ready troops to the eastern part of the Alliance. We now have four battlegroups in the three Baltic countries and in Poland. The strength of these battlegroups is that they are combat-ready, well-equipped, well-trained, but perhaps even more importantly, they are multinational, they are NATO. So they send a very clear signal that, to any potential adversary, that any aggression against any Baltic state will trigger the response from the whole Alliance. So NATO has already done a lot and we are then also, of course, constantly looking into the need for doing more.
GITANAS NAUSEDA: Okay, we have two words: deterrence and defence, and we had a discussion about that we have already quite high level of deterrence, but we still need much more to be done in the area of defence. And we are very happy to host the Enhanced Forward Presence in Lithuania, but it’s not enough. And so I think it’s . . . it’s a matter of concern, having in mind especially that there is a concentration of military forces in Kaliningrad. And we see that this strand is really big threat for the security of Lithuania. As regards Belarus, yes, we fully understand that this country is not fully independent, especially in the area of defence and in military area. But we must be aware of this and we have to be prepared for possible . . . possible actions made by those countries. We mentioned many times during our discussion the word ‘dialogue’. Dialogue is not needed not only with Russia, the dialogue is needed also towards Belarus. And I am the man who wants to have the dialogue with Belarus. No matter that Belarus is building their nuclear power plant, which is really not fulfilling all the standards and the quality criteria. But we still want to have better understanding of each other. So I will continue my efforts to rebuild the dialogue with the . . . with our neighbour and to try to solve all these problem issues.
OANA LUNGESCU: ELTA, the lady over there.
[ELTA]: Hello Lithuanian News Agency, ELTA. The question is also both of you, and it starts that the relationship of Belarus and the West is hard to define. On one hand,. . . Belarus is a non-democratic regime and the country is also tightly bound with Russia. However, there is a sign that Lukashenko is not always agree with Russia. So what should be NATO’s position on Belarus, and could we speak about there any clear strategy? Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG: So, Belarus is a neighbour of NATO and we believe in dialogue, we believe that it will benefit both NATO, NATO Allies and Belarus to have dialogue with Belarus. And that’s exactly why we are having dialogue with Belarus. Also, as the president mentioned, we need dialogue and cooperation, because Belarus is a neighbour. We respect every nation’s sovereign right to decide its own path. So we have neighbours who are working for joining NATO. We sit down with them and . . . and we work with them. North Macedonia is now in the process of becoming the 30th member of NATO and in 2017 Montenegro joined. And some, some years ago Lithuania joined, based on the same idea that every nation has the right to decide it all . . . its own path. That also includes . . . that right is also to decide not to aspire for membership to NATO, and we respect that. So the thing is that Belarus should have the sovereign right, and must have the sovereign right, to decide exactly its own path. And . . . and we will respect that. We believe that it is important to have dialogue with Belarus on security-related issues, on risk reduction, transparency and also on issues related to arms control. For instance, we are working with Belarus on issues related to non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and other areas where we see a need to continue with a dialogue with Russia . . . with Belarus.
GITANAS NAUSEDA I would say that we have quite short border with Russia and we have very long border with Belarus. I would like that this border remains the border with Belarus, not the border with Russia. So, meaning that we will support all the efforts of Belarus to stay independent state. So this is the reason why I think that dialogue is much better than confrontation. And we will try to collaborate, to cooperate in many issues: economy, cultural issues. We already have a lot of trade relations with Belarus, I would like to continue and develop those relations. We have investment, I would like to see more. And what I like most, exchange of the people, moving the people across the border, in order to know each other . . . each other better and to know more about their neighbouring country, because it’s not normal to know . . . to don’t know anything about the neighbour. It’s not normal situation. And I think this is the reason why we have to . . . to continue our efforts to re-establish good connection with Belarus. But it doesn’t mean that the special law which precludes, or which does not allow to buy the energy, electricity for this unsafe nuclear power plant will be changed. It will be in place and we will respect our laws.
OANA LUNGESCU: Very last question, DPA German news agency.
[DPA]: German news agency, DPA. Secretary General, you said yesterday that NATO supports the US efforts to achieve peace in Afghanistan. Do you think it could be necessary to reduce troop levels for the RSM, Resolute Support Mission, to support these efforts? Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG: So, we welcome the talks which are going on and we welcome the efforts by the United States to reach an agreement with the Taliban. I think I will be very careful about speculating when such an agreement will be reached, but we strongly support the efforts to have a political settlement, a political solution. And we have to remember that the reason why NATO is in Afghanistan, our military presence in Afghanistan, is to create the conditions for a political solution. We are there to prevent Afghanistan from ever again becoming a safe haven for international terrorists. But the only way we think we can achieve that in the long term is to create a political solution. Our military presence is there to create the conditions for a political solution. Taliban has to understand that they will never win on the battlefield so they have to sit down at the negotiating table. And that’s exactly what is happening now. And hopefully there will be a solution that . . . that can then bring stability to Afghanistan and also secure that we prevent Afghanistan from ever again becoming a safe haven for international terrorists. We went into Afghanistan together, United States and NATO Allies. Roughly half of the troops are non-US troops, so troops from Germany, from . . . from other NATO Allied countries and partners. We will make decisions of our future presence together. And, when the time is right, we’ll also leave together. We will not leave too early but . . . but our aim is not to stay in Afghanistan forever. Our aim is to make sure that Afghanistan never again creates the platform for threats, from planning for organising, for . . . for funding terrorist attacks against our countries. We are very closely consulting with . . . with Ambassador Khalilzad, the chief negotiator. I also have discussed this issue several times with Secretary Pompeo, Secretary Esper and also President Trump. And Khalilzad the chief negotiator has been several times here at NATO. So we are closely coordinated with the US on these efforts and we will make decisions together and we will reduce our presence together, when the time is right and given that there is an agreement. So to answer your question: we will . . . we will only do things which are in accordance with an agreement. And that’s exactly why we now have continued to commit our support and we continue to support the Afghan security forces, both with training, advice and assistance and also with funding. And then any reduction will happen as a result of an agreement.
OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you very much. This concludes this press point. Thank you.
GITANAS NAUSEDA: Thank you
JENS STOLTENBERG: Thank you so much.