Joint press point

with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Angela Merkel

  • 19 Nov. 2021 -
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  • Last updated: 20 Nov. 2021 19:17

(As delivered)

Chancellor Merkel, liebe Angela,

It is always great to meet with you.
And thank you for seeing me here in Berlin once again. And thank you for your leadership.
Germany is a key NATO Ally. You play a crucial role in the transatlantic relationship.
From protecting Baltic air space, with your air policing mission, to maritime deployments in the Aegean.
And from NATO’s deterrent force in Lithuania, led by Germany, to our peacekeeping mission in Kosovo where Germany provides significant force contributions.
NATO needs a strong Germany, both politically and militarily.

That also means a Bundeswehr that has the full range of capabilities needed to keep our countries safe.
We have lots to discuss today.
You mentioned some of the key issues.
The situation at the border of Belarus with Poland, but also Lithuania and Latvia is deeply concerning.
The Lukashenko regime’s use of vulnerable people as means to put pressure on other countries is cynical and inhumane.
NATO stands in full solidarity with all affected Allies.
We remain vigilant, and stand ready to further help our Allies.
We also see large and unusual concentration of Russian forces close to Ukraine’s borders. It is urgent that Russia shows transparency about its military build up, de-escalate and reduce tensions.

NATO is monitoring the situation closely.
And we continue to provide political and practical support to Ukraine.

Russia’s actions are only one of the challenges we are facing.
We also see cohesive behaviour by China.
And we see sophisticated cyber-attacks,
persistent terrorist threats, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the security implications of climate change.
These challenges are very different.
But they have one thing in common.
The best way to tackle them is by standing united. North America and Europe together in NATO, in strategic solidarity.

Dear Angela,

You have been a pillar of our transatlantic family for so many years.
It has been a real privilege to work with you.
We met, you may not remember, but we met for the first time in the 1990’s, when you were minister for the environment and I was minister of energy and then in 2005 I started my second term as Prime Minister of Norway and you became the Chancellor of Germany.
And since then, we’ve worked closely together addressing a wide range of issues: the financial crisis, climate change,
Implementint the United Nations Development Goals, and of course over the last seven years, NATO defence and security. 

And every time, I’ve been deeply impressed by your ability to go straight to the point, to find solutions, and to move the agenda forward.

You have made the world a better place. Thank you.
We have participated together in 11 NATO Summits.
And I knew that in difficult situations, I could always count on you, your wisdom, your experience, and your ability to help us build consensus.
So thank you once again.
Thank you for everything you have done for NATO, and for keeping the bond between Europe and North America strong.

Vielen Dank, liebe Angela!

DR. JANA PUGLIERIN [Moderator]: Thank you very, very much on behalf of everybody here and also our audience. Unfortunately, we need to say goodbye to Mr. [Christian] Schmidt who has now to leave for more important tasks. 

JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]:  So this is not important?!

DR. JANA PUGLIERIN [Moderator]: Yeah, I’m not a diplomat – equally important tasks. But, I’m very happy that you agreed to take some questions by the audience, by me, by our audience in front of the screens and also by leading journalists of Germany. And maybe we start with what you started your talk with: the question of Russia and also you talked about the Belarussian border with Poland, with Lithuania, with Latvia. 

And looking at this, it seems that the situation is more and more kind of on the brink of an outright escalation. The Americans are very worried, Mr Lincoln has stated that he fears that 2014 will repeat itself, looking at Ukraine. And the Poles have just suggested to activate NATO’s Article 4, for political consultations. 

So how do you watch this situation, when you look at Russia – not only in Ukraine, but Russia’s involvement more broadly – and also the question of NATO’s role in all this, and NATO’s role when it comes to the border question with Belarus and Poland, is there one for NATO?

JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: We are deeply concerned about what we see, both close to the borders of Ukraine with the Russian military build-up, and the difficult situation on the border between Poland and Belarus. But also, actually, we have seen similar situations – not perhaps the same scale – but similar situations on the border between two other NATO-Allied countries, Lithuania and Latvia and Belarus. And when it comes to that situation on the border with Belarus, of course what we see is the Lukashenko regime is using vulnerable people as a tool to put pressure on other countries and that is inhuman, it’s cynical and it’s something that is really a proof, a demonstration of what we mean by hybrid tactics. 

This is serious. We stand in full solidarity with Poland and the other Allies that are directly affected. 

This has been addressed several times at NATO. We agreed a strong statement a few days ago condemning this behaviour of the Lukashenko regime. 

We have also welcomed the efforts by, not least, Germany and Chancellor Merkel. 

I think it’s important that we also send a clear message that NATO Allies and Poland and the others will not be coerced into changing their behaviour. This is a tactic that should not succeed. 

The situation is serious but we have seen a few steps in the right direction. We have seen that, for instance, close NATO partners as Iraq are now helping and cooperating, partly to help to stop the flights that are bringing people out of Iraq and to the border of Belarus and Poland. 

And we’ve also seen some of those people who went to Belarus actually returning. 

So it remains a serious and difficult situation, but I think we need to work together to try to find a political solution, also working with partners. When it comes to . . . and then, of course, we have consulted and also NATO has actually deployed teams of experts, also some experts to Lithuania. We did that earlier this fall to help them deal with the difficult situation. 

Then, when it comes to Ukraine, what we see is once again a significant Russian military build-up. We see an unusual concentration of forces. We see them close to Ukraine’s borders, but we also see them in Crimea – occupied Ukrainian territory – and therefore we call on Russia to be transparent on what they do. We call on Russia to deescalate, to prevent escalation and to reduce tensions. 

This is actually part of a pattern we have seen over several years, especially since 2014. What we have seen is a significant Russian military build-up and we also see that Russia has, not only the capabilities, but also the will to use force against neighbours. Against Ukraine, against Crimea as part of Ukraine, against Georgia. And they still have military forces in Moldova against the will of the government. So this is part of a pattern. 

And NATO has responded, partly by providing support to Ukraine: political support, military support, training, capacity-building, and Allies are also stepping up. 

Second, we are, of course, monitoring closely what is going on there. 

And not least, we have implemented the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War as a direct response to Russia’s aggressive actions against Ukraine. With battlegroups in the Eastern part of the Alliance, with high readiness of our forces, tripled the size of the NATO Response Force to 45,000 troops and also by increased defence spending, air policing and many other measures. 

So this is a clear message to Russia and any other potential adversary that we are there to defend and protect all NATO Allies.