by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the meeting of the NATO-Russia Council
It's a pleasure to be in Brest, and I'm looking forward to meet EU Defence Ministers.
NATO-EU cooperation is as strong as ever, and this is important, to have the close cooperation between NATO and the EU, when we face critical times for European security as we do now.
I'm coming straight from the NATO-Russia Council meeting in Brussels, where 30 NATO Allies met with Russia. And I will brief the EU ministers on those discussions. We had difficult discussions with Russia, but that's exactly why the discussions with Russia today were so important. Because NATO Allies are ready to engage in dialogue with Russia. But at the same time, we are not ready to compromise on core principles: the right for every nation to choose their own path. And of course also for NATO Allies to protect and defend all Allies, including Allies in the eastern part of our Alliance.
But we made it clear in the meeting with Russia today that we are ready to engage in good faith in dialogue with them on arms control, on measures for more transparency on military activities, risk reduction. And therefore we proposed many topics where we believe there is room for actually some real talks, dialogue between NATO and Russia. And also a series of meetings where Russia and NATO can continue to sit down and work together.
I think also what we have seen today is that NATO is a unique platform bringing North America and Europe together. Around the table today we had 30 Allies, 28 of them are European NATO Allies, sitting at the table, discussing directly with Russia on issues that are of great importance for European security.
We are ready for dialogue, but we are clear-eyed about the prospects, also the risks of renewed armed conflict in Europe. Because we see the Russian military build-up, with tens of thousands of combat-ready troops. We see the threatening rhetoric. And then we also know the track record of Russia, willing to use force against neighbours, including Ukraine.
So we sent a clear message to Russia that if they once again decide to use force against Ukraine, it will have severe consequences for Russia. It will be a big strategic mistake of Russia. And NATO Allies, EU, and many others have declared clearly that they will impose severe sanctions on Russia. And NATO continues to stand in solidarity with all our Allies, of course, but we also continue to provide support to Ukraine, political and practical support.
SECRETARY GENERAL: I believe we need many different formats when we discuss with Russia. Therefore I welcome the fact that we have the bilateral talks, US-Russia, in Geneva. The United States has consulted very closely with all European Allies, before the meetings, after meetings. Deputy Secretary Wendy Sherman attended the meetings in Geneva on behalf of the United States; she was also present at the NATO meetings in Brussels today. She has consulted also the EU. So the United States is consulting closely with all European Allies and partners.
We had the NATO-Russia Council, which is important also because it brings to the table 28 European Allies. And therefore Europe is at the table. European Allies were at the table today, 21 of them are actually also EU members, meeting Russia, sitting around the NATO-Russia Council meeting table, and discussing directly with Russia - for four hours - all the aspects of great importance for European security.
I believe in the OSCE format, that will be tomorrow, where actually all European countries are present and also the United States and Canada. And then I believe for instance in the Normandy format. So Europe is at the table, Europe was at the table today, but we need many different formats. And I'd like to commend France and Germany for their strong efforts, using the Normandy format to try to ensure a peaceful solution to the conflict in Ukraine.
QUESTION: EU-NATO declaration that is coming up… [inaudible]
SECRETARY GENERAL: First of all, I very much appreciate this opportunity to engage once again with European defence ministers. And I have very close contacts with the EU leadership. I met President Ursula von der Leyen this weekend. I travelled with her to the Baltic countries recently, and I'm also in contact with President Charles Michel, and different European leaders. So NATO-EU cooperation is closer and stronger than ever. I'm now working with President Charles Michel, with President Ursula von der Leyen on a new joint declaration. I have agreed two previous ones with President Juncker and President Donald Tusk, so it will be great to then have a third one with the current presidents of the European Commission and the European Council. So we will continue to engage with the European Union, and I also welcome the very strong commitment from France to strengthen NATO-EU cooperation.