Joint press point

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with the Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Kiril Petkov

  • 17 Dec. 2021 -
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  • Last updated: 17 Dec. 2021 11:46

(As delivered)

Prime Minister Petkov, Kiril, thank you so much for coming to NATO.

I know this is your first visit abroad and congratulations on your appointment as Prime Minister.

I think the fact that you are coming here on your first visit demonstrates the strong commitment of Bulgaria to our Alliance and also the importance for all of us that we work more closely together in a more challenging security environment.

And I am also grateful for Bulgaria's contributions to our shared security in the strategic Black Sea region and that you provide different capabilities including ships to NATO patrols in the region. I also welcome your recent investments in new fighter jets, maritime patrol vessels and armoured vehicles. And I count on Bulgaria to keep investing in defence as we face a more unpredictable world.

I also welcome your constructive approach to fostering good relations in the region. And Bulgaria helps build stability in the Western Balkans by contributing to NATO's peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.

Prime Minister, we discussed Russia’s substantial military build-up in and around Ukraine. This is unprovoked, unjustified and something which creates great concern among Allies.

NATO Allies have made clear that we call on Russia to immediately de-escalate, pursue diplomatic channels and abide by its international commitments on transparency of military activities.

We are seriously assessing the implications for Alliance security of the current situation. We will respond in a determined way to any deterioration of the security environment, including through strengthening our collective defence posture. NATO will take all necessary measures to ensure the security and defence of all NATO Allies.

Any further aggression against Ukraine would have massive consequences, and would carry a high price.

We reiterate our support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. NATO's relationship with Ukraine is a matter only for Ukraine and the 30 NATO Allies.

And at the same time, Allies made clear that we are ready for a meaningful dialogue with Russia, and we reiterate our long-standing invitation to Russia for a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council.

We have received Russia's recent proposals. We are clear that any dialogue with Russia would also need to address NATO's concerns about Russia's actions, be based on the core principles and documents of European security, and take place in consultation with NATO's European partners such as Ukraine. NATO Allies have also made clear that should Russia take concrete steps to reduce tensions, we are prepared to work on strengthening confidence-building measures.

So Mr. Prime Minister, once again, welcome to NATO. It's great to see you and I very much look forward to working with you.

Welcome to NATO.

Oana Lungescu (NATO Spokesperson):
Okay, we'll go to BTV first. Okay, please.

Desislava Apostolova (Bulgarian National TV):
BNT, Bulgarian Public Broadcast. Mr Secretary General. Regarding the new military build-up on the Russian - Ukraine border, do you consider to deploy more NATO forces in the Black Sea region? And to our new Prime Minister.  Welcome to Brussels first of all. What are the plans of the new government? How much of the GDP do you plan to spend on defence Mr. Petkov.  Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg (NATO Secretary General):
So what we now see in and around Ukraine is significant, gradual, ongoing Russian military build-up with armoured units, with artillery, with battle tanks, with electronic warfare systems, with drones, and with tens of thousands of combat ready troops.

And of course, there is no clarity about the exact intention of this military build-up.
But what we know is that Russia has used the military force against Ukraine before.
So of course, we can hope and we should hope for the best, but we need to be prepared for the worst.

And we also see this, more and more aggressive rhetoric from the Russian side. Putting forward … also stating red lines, and conveying a message which adds to the concern of Allies.

So we, from the NATO side, are very closely monitoring what Russia does.  We have increased our intelligence capabilities to follow closely the military build-up. We share intelligence. And, of course, we continue to provide support to Ukraine. With training, with … NATO Allies provide equipment. We have joint exercises. So we work together, and have done that for many years NATO and Ukraine.

Then we have to make sure that we are ready to defend and protect all NATO Allies.
We don't see any imminent threat against any NATO Ally.
But of course we see increased tensions.
And this is of importance, relevance to all NATO Allies, but especially for the Allies in the region. Bulgaria being one NATO Ally in the Black Sea region.

We have… Since Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea, and continued destabilisation of Eastern Ukraine, Donbass, NATO has implemented the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence in a generation. 
With battle groups in the Eastern part of the alliance in the Poland and the Baltic countries. Tripling the size of the NATO Response Force that can quickly reinforce if needed. And also increased our presence in the Black Sea region, in the air, on land, at sea. With Navy patrols, with the air policing, and also with what we call tailored Forward Presence in Romania, but Bulgaria as part of that, you contribute to that tailored Forward Presence.

So we will constantly assess the need to further adjust our posture, our presence, also in the Southeast of the region, because we need to be sure that we can always protect and defend Allies against any threat. And with increased tensions, it's even more important that we are vigilant and adjust our posture as necessary.

Kiril Petkov (Prime Minister of Bulgaria):
In regards to your second question, when we discussed about investment in the military infrastructure, we see that there could be very big synergies between military and civil infrastructure with military grade.
So when we include this part of the infrastructure with military grade ….especially, for example, as you very well know, we have a single bridge over the Danube River, maybe a second one next to the one in Ruse would be very, very interesting and strategic point.
So in that respect, when we include these investments, I think the 2% part of the GDP target is very well achieved.

Oana Lungescu (NATO Spokesperson):
Okay, we'll go to Nova.

Antoinette Nikolova (NOVA TV):
Hi. It is NOVA Bulgarian private television. A question for the Bulgarian Prime Minister. My question is if Bulgaria will support somehow Ukraine with logistic equipment, [to] reassure them - the Ukrainians - that we are reliable partners? And also if you think there is much, Bulgaria could try also to mediate with Moscow somehow, as we are anyway, in a closer relationship with Russia, historically. Thank you.

Kiril Petkov (Prime Minister of Bulgaria):
So as I stated, our position on the Ukraine issue is fully aligned with our NATO partners and with the European Union. So in that respect, I believe that whatever contributions, we can constructively help will be happy to do so.
As well, as I mentioned earlier, that, of course, the diplomatic path to resolving this conflict will be very much the best way.  And we'll be very happy to take a constructive role in that as well.
Of course, this is a coordinated joint strategy that we have to discuss. But in the end of the day, we'll all benefit from a peaceful Black Sea region.  And we will all benefit from the fact that jointly, we're stronger.

Oana Lungescu (NATO Spokesperson):
Okay, we'll go to bTV.

Desislava Mincheva-Raoul (bTV Media Group):
Thank you very much. This is Desislava Mincheva, bTV, Bulgarian Television. Mr. Stoltenberg. Mr. Petkov. How would be Bulgaria useful for NATO in the Black Sea region? Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg (NATO Secretary General):
Well, Bulgaria is a highly valued NATO Ally. And Bulgaria contributes to our shared security, to our collective defence in many different ways. Just the fact that Bulgaria is a litoral state of the Black Sea is important. We have to remember that three NATO Allies are litoral states: Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania. And then we have two very important partners, we have Georgia and Ukraine, NATO partners.

And this is important, because we see the tensions we see the challenges in the Black Sea region, especially with the conflict in Ukraine and the illegal annexation of Crimea. So of course, all of this makes the whole Black Sea region, a region of great strategic importance for a NATO. 

The Bulgaria contributes in many different ways.
You have a naval presence in the Black Sea. We welcome that.
You are, Bulgaria, has invested and made decisions to invest in new aircrafts, fighter aircraft and also in new maritime patrol vessels. And also the fact that you, that Bulgaria, has committed to continue to increase defence spending is something that is of great importance for Bulgaria, but also of course, for NATO. 
Let me also add that Bulgaria also contribute to our mission in Kosovo. It's in the Western Balkans but it is important for the broader region, and therefore also Bulgaria helps to stabilise the Western Balkans, which is important for the whole of NATO.

So we are confident that Bulgaria will continue to step up.
I had a good discussion with the Prime Minister today.

And the message is that yes, we need to work together.
We need to strengthen our military defence.
Invest in defence, but also technology.
And also see the link between the private sector and the public sector.  Private sector and our armed forces.  Both when it comes to technology but also related issues like military mobility, infrastructure, resilience of societies.

So Bulgaria is contributing in many ways. We welcome that, and I look forward to continue to work with the Prime Minister.

Oana Lungescu (NATO Spokesperson):
Thank you very much. This concludes this press point. Thank you, everyone and have a good day. Thank you.