Online press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the second day of the meetings of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs

  • 02 Dec. 2020 -
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  • Last updated: 02 Dec. 2020 20:56

(As delivered)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the press conference following the meetings of the NATO Foreign Ministers via tele-conference

Good evening,  

We have just finished two productive meetings. 

Both of them with valued partners on strategic issues that affect our shared security.

We discussed the shift in the global balance of power and the rise of China with our Asia-Pacific partners – Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. 
As well as Finland and Sweden, and European Union High Representative. 

China is not an adversary to NATO.

It is clear that China’s rise can provide new opportunities.

For instance on trade, and engagement on global issues, such as arms control and climate change.  

But there are also challenges. 

China has the second biggest defence budget in the world and is investing heavily in new capabilities.  
And China does not share our values.

It undermines human rights.

It bullies other countries. 

And is increasingly engaging in a systemic competition with us.

So the community of like-minded democracies must work together.

Because we have a common interest in defending our shared values.

Bolstering the resilience of our societies, economies and institutions.

And upholding the rules-based order.

At this ministerial, we agreed a comprehensive report on China.

It assesses China’s military development, 
its growing activity in our neighbourhood,
and the implications for NATO resilience.  

Including when it comes to emerging technologies and our critical infrastructure.

Today, we also discussed what more NATO can do with our partners. 

Such as sharing information and insights;
promoting common approaches, including in cyberspace; and strengthening global rules and norms, for instance on arms control. 

Over the past year, we have seen a significant shift in our understanding of China.

And an increasing convergence of views, both within NATO, and with our partners. 

The challenge posed to our security by the rise of China is also a major reason why NATO must take a more global approach.

And this is a critical part of my NATO 2030 project to further strengthen our Alliance for the future.

We remain prepared to engage with China, as we are actually already doing.

But, as a rising power, China must respect the international rules based order.  

In our second session today, we were joined by the Foreign Ministers of Georgia and Ukraine. 

We addressed the security situation in the Black Sea region, which is of strategic importance. 

Russia continues to violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia and Ukraine.

It continues its military build-up in Crimea.
And increasingly deploys forces in the Black sea region. 

NATO is responding by strengthening our presence on land, at sea and in the air.

Just last week, NATO aircraft trained together with the US navy destroyer – the USS Donald Cook – in the Black Sea. 

Ministers also discussed developments in Belarus and Nagorno-Karabakh.

Both Minsk and Moscow must respect the right of the people of Belarus to determine their own future.
Through an inclusive political dialogue. 

We welcome the cessation of hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The full resolution of this conflict must be found through political and diplomatic ways. 

Georgia and Ukraine are valued NATO partners.

Who make important contributions to our missions. 

Today, we restated our support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia and Ukraine. 

We discussed their reform programmes.  

And we are stepping up our practical support. 

I am pleased that Allies and Georgia approved the updated Substantial NATO-Georgia Package.

Stepping up our political support.

And Ministers agreed further steps to improve our situational awareness in the region and strengthen our dialogue with both partners.  

With that, I’m ready to take your questions.

OANA LUNGESCU [NATO Spokesperson]: And we’ll start with Ketevan Kardava from Imedi TV in Georgia.

KETEVAN KARDAVA: Good evening, Mr Secretary General, thank you very much for this opportunity. I have two questions. First regarding document 2030. This report sends to Georgia a very strong signal, said the door of this organisation is open and open for aspirant countries. After this report, what is your main message to Georgian people? And the second, you have just mentioned that you have just completed a refresh of the NATO-Georgia Substantive Package, we want to hear from you more about it. Thank you very much and hope to see you very soon. Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: First of all, just the fact that we had now this meeting at ministerial level sends a very clear message of support. It demonstrates the strong political support from all NATO Allies to Georgia, its sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the fact that we provide both political support but also practical support. And we do that also by strengthening the package, which is the foundation for our cooperation, the partnership with Georgia.

As you know, we have the Training Centre out in Georgia, outside Tbilisi. I have visited Tbilisi, Georgia, many times myself, and I’ve seen how trainers from NATO countries have worked together with officers, soldiers, personnel from Georgia. We have also, earlier this year, stepped up our support by agreeing to strengthen our partnership on issues like sharing more air traffic radar data, working jointly to address hybrid threats, as well as conducting joint exercises in the Black Sea Region. And we also have provided some support, for instance, to the Georgian Coast Guard.

So we – and it was expressed clearly by Allies today – that they are looking into how they can further provide practical support in different ways to Georgia. One of the purposes of NATO 2030 is, of course, also to look into how we can further strengthen our partnerships, work with countries like Georgia. So this is the message from the meeting today.

OANA LUNGESCU: And for the next question, we’re going to Lailuma Sadid from Afghan Voice.

LAILUMA SADID [Afghan Voice]: Secretary General, can you comment on the preliminary deal reached by the Afghan government and the Taliban, which lays out the mod—. . . the modalities, sorry, for further peace talk in Doha. Thank you very much.

JENS STOLTENBERG: We welcome the breakthrough in Doha. This is one step towards a lasting, political, peaceful resolution of the conflict, the war in Afghanistan. And all NATO Allies strongly support the peace process. And now we would like to see more progress and we need to see rapid progress, both on establishing a political roadmap, but not least on the important issue of a comprehensive ceasefire.

But, I think the agreement which was announced today demonstrates that the parties who are negotiating, who take part in this intra-Afghan dialogue, intra-Afghan negotiations, they are able to make progress, even on tough and difficult issues. And this is important because Afghans want peace, they deserve peace. And, of course, for all NATO Allies and partners who have been in Afghanistan for nearly two decades, we are very much welcoming any progress towards a peaceful political solution.

It is still a long way to go, many hurdles to be overcome, but this is an important first step and it is encouraging to see that it was possible to make that step today.

OANA LUNGESCU: For the next question, we can go to Deutsche Welle and Iurii Sheiko. 

IURII SHEIKO [Deutsche Welle]: Thank you very much. Secretary General, I have two questions. One question is on your session with the Ukrainian and Georgian ministers. So NATO is talking about increasing its presence in the Black Sea Region already for several years. But there are no cardinal changes, other . . . other than maybe like a couple of more days of NATO ships’ presence? So my question is: is NATO considering a rotational patrol operation for Black Sea? Because, of course, there are legal limits for . . . for how long NATO ships can stay in Black Sea.

So is NATO considering this rotational patrol mission, or can you explain a little bit more what was decided today? And the second question is on Hungary and Ukraine. Minister Szijjarto said that he wants to raise an issue of searches that Ukrainian security service conducted in one of the associate— . . . Hungarian associations in the west of Ukraine. So has Mr Szijjarto raised this question? And what was the . . . what was the reaction from other ministers? I mean, if . . . if NATO wants to introduce some kind of mediation between NATO and Hungary and if not, then maybe NATO wanted to say that Hungary should not transfer bilateral issues to the NATO level. Thank you very much.

JENS STOLTENBERG: So, first of all, NATO has increased its presence in the Black Sea Region over the last years. And we have to remember that not only do we have two valued partners in the Black Sea Region, Georgia and Ukraine, and we work with them, we have, of course, as you said, port visits, we have more training, we have capacity-building, we help them to build their defence institutions. Partly this is within the NATO framework, but we, NATO, also urge Allies to provide bilateral support and several Allies, like, for instance, Canada, the United States and many other Allies provide bilateral support. And when NATO Allies provide bilateral support to countries like Georgia and Ukraine, of course, it matters for these countries and is part of the overall NATO efforts in this region.

But then, in addition, when you speak about the Black Sea Region, there are also three Allies which are littoral states: Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria. And we have high- readiness, we have more forces, there’s air policing. We have a NATO Tailored Presence. in Romania. So there is increased presence in the Black Sea Region, both in the NATO-Allied states, but also working more closely, providing practical support to our two partner countries, Georgia and Ukraine. And today, their message was very clear that Allies are ready to further step up in different areas, providing more practical support.

Then, I will not go into the details of a classified discussion at the NATO ministerial meeting. But what I can say is that it’s well known that there is a bilateral dispute between Hungary and Ukraine. And I hope that the two countries will be able to solve this bilateral dispute.

But I think the meeting today demonstrates that we are able to continue to, of course, strengthen our partnership with Ukraine. We are able to provide more support and we also are able to meet at the ministerial level to discuss issues of common concern.

OANA LUNGESCU: The next question goes to Jacques Hubert-Rodier, from Les Echos.

JACQUES HUBERT-RODIER: Thank you to take my question and good evening. Well, my question is about Australia and it’s not about the wine of Australia, that I suspect is very good, but I was wondering what NATO will do in front of a very aggressive attitude of China toward Australia? And I had the feeling that the fake photo, the fake image, of an Australian soldier in Afghanistan was an indirect attack against all the Allies. What was your reactions to that?

JENS STOLTENBERG: I would like to say that in general, we appreciate very much the close partnership with Australia and just the fact that we had this meeting today is an example of how NATO Allies work more and more closely together with also Asia-Pacific partners. This meeting was, you know, with Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, but also with European partners, Finland and Sweden and the High Representative, Josep Borrell of the European Union.

And I think that for NATO, it is of increasing importance, also when we address the consequences of the rise of China, to work even more closely with a partner like Australia. And they appreciate that, we appreciate that. And I also had the privilege of visiting Australia and we’re looking into how we can do more together.

Then, on the specific issue you mentioned, the issue of Chinese propaganda and disinformation was raised during the meeting. At the same time, we are all aware of these very serious allegations, but I am absolutely confident that the Australian authorities will make sure that those who are responsible will be held accountable.

OANA LUNGESCU:  For the next question, we go to Robert Lupitu from Calea Europeana.

ROBERT LUPITU [Calea Europeana]: Good evening.Thank you so much. Mr Secretary General, two . . . two questions. In the experts’ report, one of the recommendations was to further strengthen NATO’s presence in the Eastern flank and also in the Black Sea, considering Russia’s military build-up in Crimea and so on. So my question to is: would you consider to propose an increase of NATO’s presence in the Black Sea part of the eastern flank? And the second question: Romania has proposed yesterday, or has said its intention to host a NATO Resilience Centre. What would be the role of this . . . of this centre? Thank you so much.

JENS STOLTENBERG: In general I can say that, for NATO, resilience is of great importance. And one of the issues we actually discussed today was the importance of strengthening further, our resilience to protect our critical infrastructure, telecommunications, continuation of government, all the other parts of resilience, because we know that the only way to have strong defence is to also have strong societies. And the importance of resilience has just increased in the light of the fact that we now are addressing the consequences of the rise of China – China investing heavily in our critical infrastructure – and we need to assess the security consequences of that and make sure that we have safe and secure infrastructure and that we are able to uphold the necessary levels of resilience.

So, resilience has been, for a long time, an important issue for NATO. We agreed a resilience pledge at our summit in Warsaw in 2016, but this is something we now are stepping up, doing even more, because we all realise the huge importance of resilience in the light of cyber, hybrid challenges, but also in the light of the rise of China.

NATO has demonstrated the ability to adapt when the world is changing. So after the illegal annexation of Crimea, we decided to increase our military presence in the eastern part of the Alliance, both with Tailored Forward Presence in Romania, air policing; we have a brigade, training brigade there. We have other kinds of presence, but also with the battlegroups deployed in the Baltic region, in the two Baltic countries and Poland, high-readiness, more exercises.

We will constantly assess to further adjust this presence. And one of my objectives with NATO 2030 is to make sure that NATO remains a strong military Alliance in light of new threats and new challenges. And, therefore, I also welcome the fact that the Allies are committed to continue to invest in defence. And I plan to put forward a few strategic-level recommendations for heads of state and government when they meet next year, because I strongly believe that NATO should make sure that we continue to be a strong military Alliance - that will strengthen our Alliance as a political platform and also that we have a more global approach.

OANA LUNGESCU:  And the next question goes to Teri Schultz from NPR/Deutsche Welle.

TERI SCHULTZ [NPR/Deutsche Welle] Hello, thank you very much. I wanted to go back to Afghanistan for a moment. And, Mr Secretary General, I understand that this is a big step getting to today where they can at least start forwarding the agenda for the peace talks. But given how long it’s taken to get to this point, do you feel that the timeline that was laid out initially, where troops could actually be coming . . . be pulled out because there is stability on the ground, is that realistic at all anymore? And would you . . . would you think that it’s possible to . . . to bring NATO troops home, as you expect to decide in February, if the peace talks are ongoing? And certainly if they’re not? And finally, did Secretary Pompeo, was he able to assure Allies that there would not be a move, as long as . . . at least as long as the Trump administration is in power, to bring home this very crucial element of enablers, which allow the rest of the NATO troops to stay there? We heard from some . . . some Allies that this . . . we’re really at the baseline number now; they can manage as it is with the 2,500 American troops, but anything below that would be dangerous for everyone. Thanks.

JENS STOLTENBERG: The US has stated several times, and also Secretary Pompeo has stated, and also Acting Secretary of Defence Miller has stated clearly that the US will, despite the drawdown, continue to provide the enablers for the rest of the NATO mission.

And our military commanders have also assured me that, with those enablers and the clear commitment of the United States, we can continue the Mission. And we will continue the Mission with its current configuration with, for instance, the German-led base, presence, in the north and the Italian-led presence in the west, and, of course, everything we do, for instance, in Kabul and other places.

So we will continue our Train, Assist and Advise Mission in Afghanistan. And as you know, now, more than half of the troops in Afghanistan are coming from European Allies and partner nations, they are non-US troops.

Then we will make an assessment of the conditions of the progress within the peace process by the defence ministerial meeting in February. And then we have to decide. And it’s too early to say how the world will look like, how the situation in Afghanistan and in the peace talks in Doha, where they will be, how far have we been able to get? So that’s exactly why we will not make that decision today. But when we have better information, have seen how things have developed, then we will assess, coordinate and make decisions together at the February defence ministerial meeting.

So, therefore, I think it will not be wise if I started to speculate about the likelihood of different outcomes. What I can say is that the agreement today is . . . you can discuss whether it’s a big or a small step, but the important thing is that it’s the first step. It’s the first time actually Taliban and the Afghan government are able to sign a document agreeing on the framework, the modalities for negotiations, addressing a long-term peaceful solution, how to reach peace in Afghanistan. And also then, of course, as a first step to reach that, to agree on a comprehensive ceasefire.

I’m not underestimating the difficulties and the risks for setbacks and disappointments as we move forward, but I’m absolutely certain that the only way is the ongoing intra-Afghan negotiations. And, therefore, we support them, knowing that it will be difficult, fragile, but it is the only option for all of those who want peace in Afghanistan.

OANA LUNGESCU: And for the last question, as I’m afraid we’re running out of time, we’ll go to Levan Akhalaia from Georgian Public Broadcaster.

LEVAN AKHALAIA [Georgian Public Broadcaster]: Thank you. Secretary General, I want to ask you about the … [inaudible] situation that you mentioned. I want to have more details about this. And one more question about NATO 2030 and especially about the decision-making process. Does it mean that … [inaudible] closer to NATO, when it doesn’t meet . . . when it doesn’t meet the … [inaudible ] of all the members of NATO?

JENS STOLTENBERG: It was a bit hard to understand because of the quality of the sound, all the details. But my understanding is that it was about what more NATO can do for Georgia and also whether the report will change anything, also related to how we make decisions. Consensus is the core of our Alliance. It will continue to be the core of our Alliance. And I think it’s obvious that decisions on enlargement is something that needs the support from all Allies.

Then we are, as I said, stepping up our support. Many Allies confirmed during the meeting today that they are looking into what more they can do, both within the NATO framework, but also bilaterally. And I encourage them to provide more and therefore I also agree that we have agreed on this renewed Substantial Package which is the tool we use to provide practical support for Georgia.

OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you very much, this concludes this press conference. Thank you.