Joint press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the President of Poland Andrzej Duda

  • 25 Nov. 2021 -
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  • Last updated: 26 Nov. 2021 11:35

(As delivered)

President Duda, Dear Andrzej,

Welcome back to NATO Headquarters. It is always a pleasure to receive you here.

Poland is a committed NATO Ally, contributing to our shared security in many different ways.

Including with troops for our missions and operations; regular contributions to air and maritime patrols; and with your leading example on defence spending.

There is also a lot of NATO in Poland.

Including a multinational battlegroup as part of our defensive presence in the region.
As well as our Multinational Corps Northeast, and a site for our ballistic missile defence.

So Poland stands with NATO, and NATO stands with Poland.

We just had a very good discussion about current security challenges.

Including Russia’s continued military build-up near Ukraine.
And the situation on the border between Belarus and Poland, Latvia and Lithuania.

All NATO Allies have made clear that they strongly condemn the Lukashenko regime’s exploitation of vulnerable people to pressure neighbouring countries.

This is inhumane and cynical.
And we stand in full solidarity with the Allies affected.

We also addressed the Russian military build-up near Ukraine’s borders.

We see large and unusual concentration of forces combined with aggressive rhetoric and disinformation from Moscow.

So we call on Russia to be transparent, reduce tensions and de-escalate.

NATO remains vigilant.
And we continue to provide Ukraine with political and practical support.

This is not a threat to Russia.
And it helps Ukraine to defend itself from aggression.

NATO Foreign Ministers will meet in Riga next week.
They will assess the security situation.
And meet with their Ukrainian and Georgian counterparts.
Another strong sign of our support. 
So President Duda,
Thank you again for coming today.

I look forward to working with you to strengthen our Alliance as we prepare for the upcoming Summit in Madrid.  So please, welcome.

Oana LUNGESCU (NATO Spokesperson):
The first question goes to the third row first. TVP.

Dominika COSIC (TVP):
Dominica Cosic […] Secretary General and President Duda.
Secretary General: you already mentioned - answering my questions a little bit, because you mentioned - that is a threat of hybrid war, hybrid attacked close to the border of Belarus and Poland, but also sending Russian troops around Ukraine. But there is also blackmail using by Russia. So my question is: is NATO analysing this situation and do you think that it can be related, are those actions made by Russia and Belarus? And what might be the answer of NATO? What can you do to solve the situation.

And the question to President Duda. You're also mentioned that you would like to ask for reinforcement of NATO presence, military presence in Eastern Flank of NATO. So do think that it will be supported by other Alliances, for example, Baltic States, and the do you hope that you will receive positive answer? Thank you.

Jens STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General)
Of course, NATO is concerned about the developments and the situation both on the border between Belarus, Poland, Latvia and Lithuania, but also of course, we are concerned about what we see close to Ukraine with the Russian military build-up.

We are monitoring and following these developments very closely. We are vigilant. And when it comes to Poland and the situation on the border with Belarus, we have condemned the actions by the Lukashenko regime, using vulnerable people, migrants to put political pressure on neighbours. This is inhumane and it is cynical and something that we strongly condemn.

We are also provided some support with experts to Lithuania earlier in this situation, and we stand ready to further support and help Allies, because these are actually the Allies, which are directly affected by the cynical actions of the Lukashenko regime.

We also, of course, monitor closely developments close to Ukraine. This is a second time this year we see a military build-up. We call on Russia to be transparent, to reduce tensions and to de-escalate.

We are, of course, providing support to our close partner Ukraine. This is not a threat to Russia. It's part of our close and well established partnership with Ukraine. And NATO Allies also, of course, stand in solidarity in supporting their territorial integrity and sovereignty.

And we will also meet with the foreign minister of Ukraine at our Foreign Minister Meeting in Riga, together with the foreign minister of Georgia. 

We continue to pursue a dual track approach towards Russia. We need to be firm. We need deterrence and defence. But at the same time we believe in dialogue, meaningful dialogue with Russia.

And especially when times are difficult as now, it is important to talk, to try to reduce tensions and to maintain chance of military lines of communications open to prevent incidents and accidents.

And therefore we regret that Russia has closed NATO's offices in Moscow and that they have suspended their diplomatic mission to NATO.

We are ready to meet with Russia to sit down and NATO -Russia Council to discuss with them also the difficult and sensitive issues related to this situation in and around Ukraine. Because we believe, that's the best way to deal with these issues. And we regret that Russia so far has not responded positively but actually suspended their mission at NATO.

Andrzej DUDA (President of Poland)
Madam. This is a very complex answer to your question. I will try to give an answer anyway. The situation is complex because we can see developing on three different levels: there is a civilian level, a military level and an energy level.

As far as the civilian level is concerned, we are seeing a hybrid attack on the border.
First and foremost, at the border of the European Union, which is guarded by Poland, because it is the border of Poland at the same time. But we have to focus on the fact that this attack started with the attack on the Belarusian-Lithuanian border. Then came the Belarussian- Latvian border and then Belarussian- Polish border.
So generally, we can speak that there is an attack perpetrated against the border of the European Union, and the border of NATO at the same time. However, this attack is of civilian nature. We have got groups of migrants. Of course, so we have been monitoring the situation closely. We know and we have got proofs and that they were supported, or at least they were pushed, unfortunately, to the border by the Belarussian forces, by uniformed Belarussian. So having said that, there is no doubt whatsoever that first of all, they there was a physical impact taken on them. They were supported and quite often they are also equipped with dangerous objects, as I mentioned before in my previous intervention, and therefore we can call it a hybrid attack. But today, this is a civilian nature and the border in Poland is defended by such forces that which are provided there to repel attacks of civilian nature. That is the border guard, Polish police officers, in a situation where there were attacks, riots on the border, then the police officers intervene. And we could follow that on the video footages. You could follow that on international media channels, that attack was repelled precisely by Polish police officers. So this is the civilian part.

So as I mentioned before, one can say that this manner of operation, this hybrid attack, that matter of this hybrid attack has changed so much that, before we had those front attacks, frontal attacks during the day, now this has changed into night attacks, attacks by smaller groups of people. But as I said, unfortunately, there are more aggressive and more dangerously equipped as well. And we're very much concerned about the situation. So this is one side of the coin.

The other side is the military problem. And in this respect, we have been watching for a longer time now the build-up of the Russian forces in our part of Europe.  For many years, there have been this build up going on in the Kaliningrad Oblast. But over the last month, so this year we have seen a clear build up of the Russian forces around Ukraine then we had ZAPAD 2021 manoeuver in the vicinity of the border with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. And we know that part of the Russian forces which participated in those manoeuvers stayed behind in Belarus. So in this respect, we can see speak about another build-up of the Russian forces close to the Eastern Flank of NATO. Recently we have received information that once again, then the Russian forces are being strengthened this time at the Ukrainian border.

So there's a build-up of the military forces of Russia is a fact. It is going on. And one has to be clear and say that if we put these two elements together, we have no doubts that these actions, well, they have to be coordinated. It's hard to assess it otherwise. We assume that they can be coordinated first and foremost politically.

And therefore this cautiousness and vigilance from NATO, who is responsible for the military security of the Allies is necessary.

How should it be demonstrated?

It should be demonstrated through the strengthening of the strategic surveillance of the region. Through strengthening of the air policing mission and I mentioned that in my conversation with Mr. Secretary General. Also strengthening of observation, surveillance and strengthening of the readiness of NATO units along the Eastern flank of the Alliance.

For instance, the Allies from Great Britain, from the UK, declared ready to deploy additional units, additional troops to Poland and generally to the Eastern Flank of NATO. Military support recently has also been declared by our Ally from Slovakia, and a similar declaration was communicated by the Czech Republic.

So we would like this to be considered by the North Atlantic Alliance, by the NATO headquarters, so that such decision both political and military decisions to be considered about. It is also our request that the Readiness of the Alliance be increased, that the strategic cautiousness be increased and especially the monitoring of that situation along the Eastern Flank of NATO.

And a third element is might be most political of all is the issue of energy security, gas security.

It is hard to speak about the first two levels in detachment, separately from Nordstream 2 for instance. Limited gas supplies by Russia.  The fact that the European gas warehouses are not filled to the levels that we would expect them to be. And the prices of gas have been recently growing rapidly on the global markets and on the European market alike.

So given the fact that the certification process of Nordstream 2 gas pipeline, against which we have been protesting all the time, we are against its construction, because we believe it undermines the energy interests of the EU, the energy interests of the European States and first and foremost it undermines the energy security of Ukraine, Poland, Slovakia as well as other countries on the Eastern Flank of NATO, and in the Eastern part of the European Union.

We believe that this gas pipeline should never have been constructed. It is contrary to the interests of the European countries. It does not increase the diversification of gas supplies whatsoever to the European Union. Quite on the contrary.  It limits the diversification. It increases markedly the Russian monopoly, the monopoly of Gazprom. And at the end of the day it is dangerous for Europe. Therefore, we believe that the certification process should be stopped, and that Nordstream 2 gas pipeline should have never been allowed to be used.

And if such question was considered, it should totally be covered by the 3rd energy package of the European Union. And I have no doubts whatsoever in this respect.

So these are the three elements concerning the hybrid attack of civilian nature, military activity by Russia, the negative energy actions taken by Russia. All these elements have to be considered together. And I think that your question goes down to this. Thank you.

Oana LUNGESCU (NATO Spokesperson):
We have questions including online. So I'd like to ask you to keep your questions short. Polsat.

Dorota BAWOLEK (Polsat):
So if the situation on the border is still so bad, there are still so many attempts of the illegal crossing. Did you actually talk about the possibility of using Article 4 and call the former consultations of the Allies? What would have to happen for you to do it? Or are you afraid that Russia will treat it as a provocation? And also the question, did you talk about the humanitarian aspect of the crisis as it is of big concern of many in Europe? Thank you.

Jens STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General)
Well, on Article 4, I can only say that we constantly consulted here at NATO. We have consulted in North Atlantic Council. We have consulted bilaterally with Poland and other Allies directly involved. We have been briefed, and updated. And just the meeting today is also a demonstration that we are consulting closely on these issues with Poland and the other Allies involved. And of course, we appreciate very close contacts between NATO and Poland and Lithuania and Latvia on this very difficult and challenging situation on the border with the Belarus.

On the humanitarian situation. I would just say that I know that this is an important issue for the Polish government and I therefore will leave it to the President of Poland to comment on that.

Andrzej DUDA (President of Poland)
Madam, the question is, the answer is simple here. The situation has not changed from our perspective. The last time that Poland to refer to Article 4 was 2014 when Ukraine was attacked militarily by Russia.  Article 4, which is, by the way, the article of the North Atlantic Treaty of the Washington Treaty, it serves to defend military attacks and it serves to protect in a situation of a military attack.

So let me say the following. Of course, together with Mr. Secretary General and with our NATO Allies, we are thinking about the possibility of using Article 4.  Nevertheless, in order to, we would like to use Article 4, not in a fast way, a rapid way, but when the situation is adequate to Article 4 being invoked. And in our assessment today the situation is inadequate to invoke Article 4. Today we do not have direct military threat. Today we are not seeing any military attack on any of the neighbouring states, where we potentially could expect this kind of strengthening, invocation of Article 4 and increasing security. So having said that, we keep Article 4 in mind all the time. We know that there is such a possibility but as I said, now we are at the stage of consultations. However, we are convinced that today there are no basis no grounds to invoke Article 4. And by the way, I described to you the three different levels on which the situation is developing today. And as you can clearly conclude from what I said, there is absolutely no military attack observed today.

Oana LUNGESCU (NATO Spokesperson):
We take two quick questions online. Teri Schultz from NPR, Deutsche Welle.

Teri SCHULTZ (NPR / Deutsche Welle):
Thank you very much, to both, Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General.

First President Duda. Could you could you just clarify, did you today ask the Secretary General to raise the issue of the enhancements that you mentioned; more policing, potentially more, greater military presence? Did you ask that, or did you just say we should consider it? So just please clarify what the status is of your wishes for that?
And do you feel that until now, NATO's attempts at deterrence have failed on your border and in Ukraine, because neither of the actions which you say is supported by Russia have diminished at all.

And Mr. Secretary General, will you be bringing requests for these kinds of enhancements to the Allies in Riga?
Thank you.

Jens STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General)
Well, what I can say is that we have expressed a strong solidarity to Poland and other Allies directly involved.

We have provided and sent some experts to Lithuania, because they requested that support, and we sent and provided some support and help to them.

And we constantly assess and are in close contact with Poland and other Allies. And we are ready to provide support, if so requested.

But so far, this has been something that Poland has been able to deal with without direct NATO presence. And also some Allies have provided some support bilaterally.

Teri SCHULTZ (NPR / Deutsche Welle):
But that is my point. You have done all these thing and nothing… and the escalation has continued. Sorry, go ahead.

Andrzej DUDA (President of Poland)
Answering your question, let me say that following.
In 2015-2016, when we discussed the presence, or the sending of NATO forces to the Eastern Flank of NATO, I said that after the Russian attack, first against Georgia and then against Ukrainian in 2014, NATO had to show that it was alive. NATO had to demonstrate that it was dynamic. That it responded to the current situation. That it was able to provide an adequate response to the times and to the behaviours from the potential aggressors. And NATO provided that kind of response after consultations with Mr. Secretary General in 2015, when he started, then in 2016, up to the NATO Summit in Warsaw. All the decisions were consulted, and they were taken one by one as an effect of those decisions. Today, we have got NATO presence as part of enhanced forward presence in the Baltic states and in Poland. There is also tailored forward presence stationed in Romania.

So having said that, as you can see, NATO has demonstrated that it is ready NATO has demonstrated that it is alive and that it is responsible.

And speaking about the question about deterrence, I believe that yes, the answer is yes. That North Atlantic missions, the strengthening of the Eastern Flank of NATO has passed the test and today NATO is still present.

But if we are looking at how the situation is developing outside of NATO border, when we are seeing the potentially growing threat, let me stress the word potentially, plus, we are receiving information all the time about the Russian build-up, perhaps an aggressive build-up in the direct neighbourhood of the Ukrainian border.

Well, we should ask ourselves a question whether this is not the right time for the NATO to again show the adequate response by at least temporarily strengthening its readiness, at least temporarily strengthening its presence. 

Be it through the deployment of additional units of NATO to the Eastern Flank of NATO.
Or perhaps through strengthening the air-policing mission.  Or through strengthening other surveillance missions.

And these are well the issues that today I brought up in my conversation with Mr. Secretary General.

These were my proposals resulting from the monitoring of the current situation on the Eastern flank, the one for which Poland today is responsible.

Oana LUNGESCU (NATO Spokesperson):
The final question from Julian Röpcke in Berlin from BILD Zeitung.

Julian Röpcke (BILD):
Yes. Thank you very much. My question goes to Mr. Secretary General and to the President.
You have been talking about defence spending of Poland. And Poland [indistinct]. However, you can see the German new coalition treaty. And my question is to both of you how do you assess that the NATO 2% spending goal disappeared from it and was instead formulated as a “long term 3% investment and international action, including diplomacy development and” NATO commitments? This is my question for you.
Thank you very much.

Jens STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General)
So I warmly welcome the agreement to establish a new government in Germany. I have known the incoming Chancellor Olaf Scholz for many years and I look forward to working with him. I also know that he's a strong supporter of our transatlantic bond, and I'm committed to NATO and I will look forward to working with him and his government.

Then I also welcome the fact that the platform for new government states very clearly that Germany stands by its commitment to NATO. That they are focused on how to make sure that the Bundeswehr has equipment as good, should be equipped as good as possible.

And I also know that the focus on the capabilities and equipping the Bundeswehr is actually very much the same message as what we have agreed in NATO. The 2% is based on requirements, on capability targets, which we expect all Allies to meet. And I'm also confident that Germany will continue to increase defence spending.  Over the last few years, Germany has stepped up, increased defence spending, to make sure that they have the capabilities and that are able to equip Bundeswehr as good as possible. And therefore I also expect, and I'm confident that the incoming German government will live up to these commitments.
Let me also just add that Germany is a highly valued Ally, contributing to NATO missions and operations in many different ways including in the Baltic region. Leading one of the battle groups in the Baltic region in Lithuania, and also supporting NATO's collective defence in many other different ways.

So, I'm looking forward to welcoming and looking forward to work with and welcoming the incoming German government.

Andrzej DUDA (President of Poland)
Sir, if I'm supposed to answer your question, then let me say that following.

We have got very big respect to our Western Allies. Our Western Ally and our big neighbour is Germany.

But if you take the Polish perspective, I can say the following: we are most interested in our own situation. So the question of our own responsibility for the security of not on the Eastern Flank of NATO, but our responsibility for the security of Poland, the Republic of Poland, and its citizens.

So speaking from this perspective, we have no doubts that we have to strengthen our armed forces. We have no doubt that our armed forces need to be modernized. They need to be equipped with modern equipment.

We believe that it should be increased and irrespective of our commitments, resulting from the Alliance the commitments that we took, as Allies where we commit ourselves to spend at least 2% of GDP per year on defence, irrespective of that we are increasing our spending and the spending is much higher than 2% right now. And they will be increased in the next years to come.

Right now we are starting in Poland the discussions on a new law, which is introducing new solutions concerning the construction of the Polish security system, the construction of the Polish defence system. This law is also introducing new solutions concerning the financing of the modernization and procurement for the Polish Armed Forces.

According to this law, the size of the Polish armed forces should be increased through the formation of the Territorial Defence Forces.  In the last years the size of the Polish Armed Forces has been progressively growing. We have got volunteers signing up to the Polish armed forces. So we are going ahead with this.

We believe this is our duty. It is not only our duty as allies of NATO, but first and foremost, this is the duty that results from the necessity to provide security to our citizens, to provide security to Poland as such.

Jens STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General)
Thank you.