Joint press conference

with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, President of Lithuania, Gitanas Nausėda and Prime Minister of Lithuania Ingrida Šimonytė

  • 28 Nov. 2021 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 28 Nov. 2021 13:50

(As delivered)

Joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, President of Lithuania Gitanas Nausėda and Prime Minister of Lithuania Ingrida Šimonytė

President Nausėda, Prime Minister Šimonytė,

It is always a pleasure to be Vilnius. And to be here with you, President Ursula von der Leyen. 

We have just addressed the security challenges on Lithuania's border, and across the wider region.

The Lukashenko regime is exploiting vulnerable people to put pressure on neighbouring countries. This is inhumane and cynical.

No NATO Ally stands alone. All Allies have expressed solidarity with Lithuania. And we have provided practical help.

NATO recently deployed a team of experts to Lithuania to share information, analysis, and experience in countering hybrid threats.
We are also in contact with partner countries that may be used for transit. And I welcome their efforts.

This crisis affects both NATO and the European Union. Lithuania is a member of both organisations. So it is important for President von der Leyen and me to be here together today.

NATO and the EU work together on a range of security issues, including countering hybrid threats. And today we discussed how we could step up our joint work, including through a new Joint Declaration. Because we are stronger and safer when we work together.

We also discussed Russia's unexplained and unjustified military build-up near Ukraine. We call on Russia to be transparent, reduce tensions, and de-escalate. 

NATO remains vigilant.

We stand ready to defend all Allies. And we will continue to provide our partner Ukraine with political and practical support. 

NATO Foreign Ministers will meet in Riga on Tuesday. They will assess the security situation, including with their Ukrainian and Georgian counterparts.
Our support to partners is not a threat to Russia. And it helps them defend themselves against aggression.

NATO's dual-track approach to Russia – defence and dialogue – remains unchanged. The Alliance proposed to hold another meeting of the NATO-Russia Council over 18 months ago. That proposal stands – the ball is in Russia's court.

At the same time, NATO continues to deliver strong deterrence and defence. Our battlegroup in Lithuania, and the others in Estonia, Latvia and Poland help to deter any aggression.

So, President, Prime Minister. Thank you again for Lithuania's valuable contributions to our shared security.

President von der Leyen, I look forward to continuing our work together.

My name is [inaudible]  I would have… I would like to follow up on what the President said about the deterrence. And the question firstly would go to Mr. Secretary General. So more than a week ago, you spoke in NATO conference, and you were talking about the nuclear sharing and you entertained quite an interesting and some might say bold idea about Germany, I quote you:  "Germany can of course decide whether there will be nuclear weapons in your country. But alternative is that we easily end up with nuclear weapons on other countries in Europe, also in the east of Germany". Now, could you elaborate what are those countries? What did you mean by those countries in the east of Germany? Are we standing in one of those? And secondly, NATO and especially you, you stood for not mirroring Russia's actions, aggressive actions. However, some NATO officials have admitted officially that there may be a need for non-nuclear strategic offensive capabilities, long-range weapons deployed in Europe. With recent deployments of us so reactivation of the U.S. 56th Artillery Command in Europe and subsequent deployment hypersonic weapons, do you see that there's a contradiction to what you said about not mirroring actions? Or is this further NATO policy? And if I may just follow what the President said about Ukraine, because the Ukraine crisis is still developing; you said Mr. Secretary General as well that if Russia uses force against Ukraine that will have costs, there will be consequences. Now, the Ukrainians and friends of Ukrainians, and Allies is asking one simple question:  what are those costs? What are those consequences that you have in mind? Have you discussed those today?

NATO Secretary General
First of all, we call on Russia to de-escalate, to be transparent because of the increased Russian presence close to Ukraine's borders is something which is very concerning for many reasons. It is also concerning because it is unprovoked and unexplained. And what we see is a concentration of forces which is unusual. We see heavy weapons, we see armoured units, we see artillery, we see battle tanks, we see drones, we see also electronic warfare systems, and then we see tens of thousands of combat-ready troops. So the message to Russia is that they should de-escalate, reduce tensions, and be transparent. Then we also send the message to Moscow about that, if they decide to use force, then of course, there will be consequences. And we have demonstrated our will and our capability to impose costs and consequences on Russia before. We did that after the illegal annexation of Crimea back in 2014, where NATO Allies, the European Union, since then, have actually imposed heavy economic sanctions, financial sanctions on Russia. And we have also since then implemented, implemented the biggest reinforcements of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War, with battle groups, for instance, in the Baltic region, Germany, and the battle group in Lithuania. Tomorrow I will visit the Canadian-led battle group in Latvia. And we have battle groups in Poland and also Estonia. We have tripled the size of the NATO Response Force, and we have increased our presence in eastern part of the Alliance on land, in the air and at sea with air policing, with increased presence of NATO troops, and also with more naval presence. So we have demonstrated before our resolve to impose costs on Russia when they violate international law, violate the territorial integrity and sovereignty of a close partner of NATO, Ukraine. Then on the question of… No, we will mirror what Russia does. So for instance, we have no intentions of deploying nuclear-capable missiles in Europe. But of course, we need to respond when we see Russia constantly violating arms control agreements that led to the demise of for instance, the INF Treaty that banned all intermediate-range weapon systems, when they test and deploy, new advanced nuclear-capable systems. Then, of course, we need to make sure that we continue to have credible deterrence and defence in a changed security environment. And therefore we are investing more, we are, we have modernized also the NATO command structure, and we have increased the readiness or forces. We are also improving air and missile defence systems. We are looking into also conventional capabilities. And we will continue to also continue to work for arms control because the best thing would be if we could now stop this development where we see more and more new weapon systems being deployed by Russia but also by China, that poses a challenge to NATO allied countries. Then on the nuclear sharing. Well, that was part of a discussion in Germany before the new government presented its platform for the new incoming government in Germany. Now, the new platform has been presented. And in the new platform, it's clearly stated that Germany will continue to be part of nuclear sharing, and therefore this is not in any way an issue anymore. I welcome that decision by the incoming German government.