Joint press point
by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Prime Minister of Ukraine, Denys Shmyhal
Prime Minister Shmyhal, Denys,
Welcome to NATO Headquarters. It’s great to see you here.
Great to welcome you here at these Headquarters which are actually quite new.
And where we have been able to now, today, conduct a very constructive meeting discussing how we can further strengthen the partnership between NATO and Ukraine.
Ukraine is already today one of NATO’s closest and most important partners.
You have provided troops to NATO missions and operations.
Including in Afghanistan and Kosovo, as well as for the NATO Response Force.
We value these contributions, which demonstrate Ukraine’s commitment to Euro-Atlantic security.
That is why Ukraine is now an Enhanced Opportunities Partner for NATO.
This status will further allow us to deepen our cooperation.
One example is that we have supported each other throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
NATO’s disaster relief centre has coordinated the delivery of medical aid to Ukraine.
And Allies have chartered Ukrainian aircraft to airlift equipment to counter the pandemic.
Our Pandemic Response Trust Fund
will be used to deliver critical medical supplies.
Including portable oxygen concentrators, mobile X-ray units, personal protective equipment – and next week, a large quantity of disinfectant.
In our meeting today we discussed the security situation in Ukraine and the Black Sea region.
NATO Allies are united in their condemnation of Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, and its aggressive actions in eastern Ukraine.
We call on Russia to end its support for militants in eastern Ukraine and withdraw its forces from your territory.
I commend Ukraine’s efforts in working towards a peaceful solution to the conflict.
NATO also continues to provide strong practical support to Ukraine.
This includes more exercises, port visits, and information sharing on the Black Sea region.
Just some days ago, the US Navy destroyer USS Porter trained with Ukrainian ships in the Black Sea.
And Spanish aircraft are currently conducting NATO air policing in the region.
NATO’s support for Ukraine also covers areas such as command and control, countering explosive devices and medical rehabilitation of service members.
Including with a pledge of more than 40 million euros to different Trust Funds.
We also continue to support your reform programme.
I welcome Ukraine’s efforts to implement major reforms, which support its Euro-Atlantic aspirations.
It is vital that the work to strengthen democratic governance and fight against corruption continues.
And that reforms of the security and defence sector continue. To build security and development for all Ukrainians.
So, Prime Minister Shmyhal,
Welcome once again.
And thank you for your strong commitment to the partnership between NATO and Ukraine. Please.
NATO Spokesperson, Oana Lungescu: Thank you. We have time for several questions remotely. And we'll start with Dmytro Shkruko from the National News Agency of Ukraine
Dmytro Shkruko: Thank you so much for the question, Dmytro Shkruko, National News Agency of Ukraine I have two questions if possible. First the Prime Minister does the Ukranian government, consider some kind of modernization of the Ukranian ports in Azov Sea; Berdyansk, Mariupol. And what is the practical way to unblock and to restore the freedom of navigation through the Kerch Strait. And in that regard, additional question, what is the plan of Ukranian government in real terms to create some kind of Ukrainian base of a Navy in Azov Sea.
And if possible question to the Secretary General, what actions now NATO undertake to prevent Russian efforts to overturn the entire Black Sea area, let me say so, into their exclusive area of influence and, in particular, what is the NATO reaction on a double increase of Russian military presence in occupied Crimea. Thank you so much.
Prime Minister of Ukraine, Denys Shmyhal: […] start. Well, as the President of Ukraine has declared in his statement to the Parliament, which he does every year, Ukraine will start building two naval bases, one in the Black Sea one, in the Azov Sea, we will do it as part of our budget, which was allocated for this purposes. 5.93 from GDP - so far the biggest allocations for Defence and Security, in the last years. And this will be done as part of our cooperation with Britain, with UK, that are also helping us financially so this programme is being launched
NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg: I think we have to understand that the Black Sea is of strategic importance for NATO and the NATO allies, our littoral states, Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania, and then we have two close and highly valued partners in the region; Ukraine and Georgia. At the same time, we have seen a significant Russian buildup in the Black Sea, not least with the illegal annexation of Crimea, and also with more naval presence in the year.
NATO has increased its presence in the Black Sea region with more naval presence, just over the last few weeks we had actually three US naval ships deployed in the Black Sea, and also some of them exercising and training with the Ukrainian Navy.
We have more air policing presence in the air, and also on land with more NATO troops, training, and being active in the region. So, NATO has increased its military presence in the Black Sea region, because we recognise the great strategic importance of this region for all NATO allies but also of course for our close partner, Ukraine.
We have a Romanian led Multinational Brigade, based in Craiova, in Romania. And we are also stepping up our support for our partners, Ukraine and the Georgia, including with some support, help to their different maritime forces, including the coast guards and the last time I visited the Ukraine, we went to Odessa, we saw the Naval Academy in Odessa where actually NATO provides support to Ukraine by helping to train personnel for their Navy.
So, NATO is present in the Black Sea region. We work with Ukraine. And we are constantly looking into the need to adjust our presence there and because we need to make sure that there is no doubt that the Black Sea is something which is not dominated by one country, Russia, but actually, where we see freedom of navigation, and international law applies.
NATO Spokesperson, Oana Lungescu: For the next question, we go to Gregory Shygalov from RFE/RL
Gregory Shygalov: [inaudible] …addressing the President of the United States said the following and I quote, Mr President, why are we still not in NATO, end of quote. And so the question to Mr Secretary General, how far Ukraine now is on its path for joining NATO and in the end of last year, there were a number of signals that Georgia is very close to getting a membership action plan. What steps are crucial for Ukraine now together as well. Thanks.
NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg: NATO's door remains open. We have in a very successful way, step by step, invited new countries to join the Alliance and just over the last couple of years. NATO has been enlarged with Montenegro, and North Macedonia and NATO made a decision, back in 2008, about the membership of Ukraine.
We stand by that decision and all subsequent decisions following that Summit. I was actually present at that Summit back in 2008, and as I said, NATO has reiterated the decision.
Then I think that the focus now should be on the reforms, and I welcome the clear message from the Prime Minister on the need to continue to reform, to make sure that we have, or Ukraine has, democratic political control over its defence institutions and armed forces, that continued efforts to fight corruption and to strengthen democratic institutions of Ukraine.
This is good for Ukraine, regardless of NATO. But in addition, the more successful Ukraine is in implementing reforms, the closer Ukraine hopes to meet NATO standards, and the closer you can come to the NATO membership. I cannot give you a specific date. I will only tell you that we will continue to support Ukraine on their Euro Atlantic aspiration, we will support Ukraine, as you can move towards NATO membership. And the best way of doing that is to focus on reforms and to continue to modernise and strengthen the democratic institutions of Ukraine.
NATO Spokesperson, Oana Lungescu: The next question goes to Iryna Somer from Interfax Ukraine
Iryna Somer: I have a question for both. Secretary General, don't you think it's already time and necessity to revise and renew the NATO enlargement policy which already became a subject of Russian propaganda, and the Prime Minister, if it's so what you would like to see in it for Ukraine. Thank you.
NATO Secretary General: The NATO enlargement policy has been a great success. It has helped to spread our values, throughout Europe, the rule of law, individual freedom, democracy. And since the end of the Cold War, until now we have almost doubled the number of members of NATO.
At the beginning of the 1990s we were 16 members, now we are 30 members and we added two members just over the last few years. So the NATO enlargement policy has been a great success simply because it has invited more and more countries of millions of people, into the family, into our collective defence institutions and the cooperation we have in NATO. And as I said, NATO's door remains open, and we work with countries like Ukraine.
Ukraine is recognised as a candidate for NATO membership. NATO allies help and support Ukrainian efforts to join the Alliance.
I feel certain that as part of the future project we have launched in NATO, NATO 2030, which is about the future NATO to make sure that NATO adapts, and respond to new security challenges, and the enlargement policy will be part of that. And also when NATO leaders meet in Brussels later this year, enlargement and NATO's open door policy will be discussed, and addressed.
So that is on the NATO agenda. It's on the agenda of the NATO leaders, it's part of the NATO 2030 project and NATO enlargement open door policy has been, and continues to be a great success.
Prime Minister of Ukraine: I would like to add also with my answer. Well first of all, when we talk about the future the perspective and the aspirations of Ukraine, of course the NATO membership for Ukraine is a key priority, it is reflected in our Constitution. And we discussed it with the Secretary General, and we are absolutely ready.
And we are indeed doing our homework very well, we have passed a number of legislations ,we are reforming our armed forces, we are moving towards NATO standards, we are conducting joint manoeuvres and exercises and work together in the peacekeeping operations in the name of the NATO contingent. We have got quite a number of achievements, which now give us hope that we can implement our homework quite quickly. And, as Secretary General stated today, the achievement of the standards of NATO in the sector of security and defence of Ukraine will indeed be a precondition leading us to the NATO membership.
Indeed, our short term strategy at the moment is indeed the aspiration to receive the MAP, and of course, we want to catch up with Georgia and receive the MAP, but we are working actively over this and we feel that our meeting today is quite a positive and symbolic signal, which gives us positive charge, and positive hope. Thank you.
NATO Spokesperson: We can go to Paul Shinkman from US News & World Report.
Paul Shinkman: Yes, thank you for taking my question.
Two questions please, Mr. Prime Minister, the US has enacted a series of sanctions in recent months, against Ukrainian officials including at least one parliamentarian for coordinating with Russia to interfere in the 2020 election in the US. How confident are you that your government has identified all of these Ukrainian officials who have been coordinating with Russia. And what are you doing to repair relations between Kiev, and the Biden administration.
And Secretary General, do you believe Vladimir Putin's security services have the ability and the capacity to quell the domestic unrest in Russia as a result of the Navalny’s sentencing earlier this month? And do you have any concerns about new Russian overseas adventures to distract from the protests at home, as we've seen in Ukraine and elsewhere in the past. Thank you
Prime Minister Ukraine: […inaudible] of sanctions against Ukrainians. And we are absolutely sure that United States made this in correct and legal way, so, every person have possibility to go to the court and to protect themselves against this sanction but now they are under this sanctions and Ukraine, as a country as a state, take this, and we are just agreed with these sanctions, but later this physical or this persons should go and protect them in court, as it should be in all civilised worlds.
But as you know, now Ukraine is under hybrid aggression of Russia, and we have many cases when propaganda channels, when propaganda through the internet, is going into Ukrainian media space so this propaganda in this hybrid technology, these cyber attacks, also are implemented on the other countries and I'm sure that the United States are also under this pressure of cyber attacks and propaganda as Ukraine, so it’s my answer.
NATO Secretary General: On the Russian security services, and not only, I think what we see now is how the Russian security services tried to quell the clear and strong voice for democracy, the freedom of peaceful demonstration, the freedom of free speech and fundamental democratic rights. And I strongly condemn the violent suppression and the arbitrary detention of thousands of peaceful protestors and journalists across Russia. Freedom of speech and freedom of peaceful protest must be respected. I also condemn the politically motivated arrest and detention of Alexey Navalny, and join the calls made by many Allies for his immediate and unconditional release. Navalny’s detention is a perversion of justice, targeting the victim of an attempted killing, assassination using a banned chemical agent to try to take his life, while the attackers remain at large. So I think what we need to do is to continue to call on Russia to respect its international obligations, including obligations which commit Russia to respect human rights and for instance, the freedom of speech and the freedom of peaceful protest. NATO has also clearly condemned the attempt to take the life of Alexei Navalny by using a chemical agent, which is a clear violation of the ban on all chemical weapons. So we continue to call on Russia to bring those responsible to justice and fully cooperate with the Organisation for the Prohibition on Chemical Weapons on an impartial investigation.
On the issue of any other military overseas actions by Russia, I will not speculate. But what I will say is that we have seen a significant Russian military buildup, over the last years, we have seen aggressive military actions by Russia against Georgia, against Ukraine, illegally annexing Crimea. And we have seen a build up all the way from the Barents Sea, The Baltic Sea, the Black Sea, down to the Mediterranean. And, of course, this is a military buildup we very closely monitor and follow up at NATO.
It has also triggered, the largest and strongest reinforcement of NATO’s collective defence since the end of the Cold War, with the deployment of battle groups in eastern part of the Alliance in the Baltic countries, and in Poland, increased presence also in the Black Sea region, high readiness of armed forces, and also of the years of reducing defence spending, all NATO allies are now investing more in defence.
So I think we have seen a very firm reaction from NATO, both when it comes to the way Russia has used military force against neighbours, Ukraine, but also in the way Russian security services are using violence to suppress legitimate democratic voices in Russia.
NATO Spokesperson: Thank you very much. This concludes this press point. Thank you.