Press conference

by NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană, President of Lithuania Gitanas Nausėda and the Chair of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Rob Bauer

  • 09 Feb. 2022 -
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  • Last updated: 11 Feb. 2022 09:18

(As delivered)

MODERATOR: [Translated] [inaudible] Now we're going to start the joint Press Conference by NATO's Deputy Secretary General, Mircea Geoană, Admiral Rob Bauer, Chair of NATO's Military Committee and President of Lithuania, Gitanas Nausėda.  The language is English but the questions can be put forward in both languages, Lithuanian and English, and we will have translation into English, simultaneous translation.  So, [inaudible].

GITANAS NAUSĖDA [President of Lithuania]: I’m glad to know that, since 2017, then the dislocation of the NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battalion Battlegroup started, around 15,000 troops from nine NATO countries have been exercising in Lithuania.  Lithuania appreciates this significant contribution to the Baltic security by all our Allies who deployed their troops during that five year period.  The Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Croatia, Luxembourg, Iceland, and especially Germany for its leadership and commitment to be the framework nation to the eFP in Lithuania.  Germany's recent decision to deploy additional 350 troops in Lithuania shows their continued commitment to the eFP mission.  The security environment around Ukraine is very worrying, so it's in the Baltic region. Unity and solidarity of Allied nations is important as never before.  Russia continues to escalate tension in the region, by increasing its military build up next to Ukraine's borders and in Belarus.  Russia's ultimatums to the West have clearly demonstrated Russia's ambition to revise European security architecture.  Now is more important than ever to mobilise and defend the values that are an essential element, uniting western Allies, which has guaranteed peace and stability, and has made it possible to achieve collective security that our countries enjoy today.  The Alliance has to be ready to act quickly and decisively in the region.  Allied military presence in our region remains key element of credible deterrence.  Lithuania is ready to provide the best host nation support to all troops deployed to Lithuania and invest in infrastructure as required.  We remain fully committed to at least 2% of GDP defence spending goal, with an ambition to increase it up to 2.5% in 2030.  Thank you very much.

MODERATOR: NATO Deputy Secretary General, Mircea Geoană.

MIRCEA GEOANĂ [NATO Deputy Secretary General]:

Thank you so much,

Dear President Nausėda,

Dear Admiral Bauer,

It is a pleasure to be here today.

And to celebrate together the fifth anniversary of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence.

And I said in my speech, to show our gratitude to the men and women of our armed forces. 

Across Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, soldiers from North America and Europe are standing together to protect our Alliance.

And our multinational troops we see here today have shown that they are capable and combat ready.

Here in Rukla, forces from Germany, Belgium, Czech Republic, Iceland, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Norway serve side-by-side with the armed forces of Lithuania. And I have to say that I’m impressed by the quality, the dedication and the sense of camaraderie, and common purpose that I have seen with our troops. We are deeply grateful for them.

Also, I would like to commend the Republic of Lithuania, President Nausėda, the government, the people of Lithuania for being such admirable host nation for this battlegroup.

And our forces send a powerful message to anyone who would want to do us harm:

An attack on one Ally is an attack on all.

NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence also shows that our Alliance can adapt to meet any challenge, at any time.

And this is more important today.

Because we see Russia’s continued military build-up in and around Ukraine, and movement of forces into Belarus.

So the risk of conflict remains real.

And NATO continues to call on Russia to de-escalate.

We are a defensive Alliance, committed to finding a political solution to the crisis. And we commend the diplomatic efforts underway.

We also be always ready if necessary to protect and defend all Allies from all directions and from all threats.

So I welcome the recent offers by Allies to enhance NATO’s deterrence and defence.

Including in the Baltic region.

The many announcements. Germany supplementing their presence here.

France has offered to be the framework nation for a new battlegroup to be established in Romania on the Black Sea.

We’ve seen many announcements from our American, from our British, from our Danish friends to resend reinforcements. As we speak, we see the air force of Portugal air policing in Iceland. As we speak, we see the fighter jets from Spain and Italy air policing in Bulgaria, in the Black Sea. This is solidarity of NATO at work. And it is something that we will want to send a message of appreciation to all Allies here from Rukla from Lithuania.

And also let me tell you that Allies are stepping up our presence in the region. That’s a strength and unity message that we send. And it is clear that under the wise and strong leadership of President Nausėda, Lithuania is a valued Ally, is a trusted Ally. Lithuania can count on NATO and we know that NATO can count on Lithuania.

Thank you so much, Mister President.

MODERATOR: [Translated] Thank you, Mr Deputy Secretary General.  And now, Admiral Rob Bauer, Chair of NATO's Military Committee.

ADMIRAL ROB BAUER [NATO Chair of Military Committee]: Mr President of Lithuania. Dear Deputy Secretary General. All of you. Good afternoon.  It is a pleasure to be here in Rukla as we celebrate the fifth anniversary of NATO's enhanced Forward Presence.  Today's ceremony symbolises NATO's resolve and unity.  Back in 2016, NATO nations agreed to set up the eFP battlegroups at the summit in Warsaw.  This was in response to a changed security environment, which challenges the Alliance from both the east and the south.  Today, these battlegroups remain a clear and persistent demonstration of NATO's response to a deteriorating security environment, and they will stay in place for as long as they are needed.  While being part of NATO's broader deterrence and defence posture, they send an unmistakable message to any potential aggressor; an attack on one Ally will be seen as an attack on all Allies.  For over 70 years now, we have stood by this pledge.  No Ally in our Alliance stands alone, be they large or small.  As an Alliance, we will continue to take all necessary vigilance, measures to defend and protect all Allies, including through strengthening our collective defence. And I can only say that the Alliance’s unity in this crucial time is stronger than ever.  And the eFP battlegroup in Lithuania is a very good example of this.  Last but not least, I would like to thank both the Secretary General and the Deputy Secretary General for their strong leadership in these difficult times.  That is essential.  Thank you.

MODERATOR: [Translated] Thank you for your statements and comments.  Questions from the media; please identify the media outlet and address specifically whom the question is meant for.

QUESTION: [Translated] We would like to ask the President, despite the 350 troops that Germany will send then, what else do you expect from Germany?

GITANAS NAUSĖDA [President of Lithuania]: [Translated] [inaudible] today and I will meet with the German Chancellor and also with the German President, and we will discuss these [inaudible] at the present moment that Germany is doing is... it very effectively, adequately and timely response to the changing environment.  Very little time has passed since we have raised the question of threats to [inaudible] with an adequate... as the responsible Allies. Some of the things Germany performs very carefully and responsibly, like investment into infrastructure, preparing for joint exercises, and we are happy that we can take over German [inaudible], also [inaudible] and I believe this factor is an excellent example for other nations who have a [inaudible] system.  And speaking on a larger scale, we will also be speaking with the United States, a very important partner of NATO, about their presence in Lithuania.  And I believe that the presence of NATO troops in Lithuania is the best deterring factor.  It provides security not only to Lithuania but also to the whole of the region.

QUESTION: [Translated] [inaudible] Poland.  Question to Admiral Bauer and Deputy Secretary General.

MIRCEA GEOANĂ [NATO Deputy Secretary General]: For NATO, our political leaders, us the political leadership and our military leaders in NATO, are taking all necessary measures of vigilance and prudence.  And Admiral Bauer will speak in more detail about that in a second.  So, what we are doing now is to take additional measures of vigilance, proportionate, non escalatory, but sending a very strong signal of deterrence and defence for all Allied territory.  And we are here in Lithuania, we recognise the specific geography and the specific situation of a country that has hundreds of kilometres of border with Belarus, and we know what's going on in Belarus, and also other hundreds of kilometres border with Russia in Kaliningrad.  We are fully aware of that.  But as we said, in terms of additional vigilance, I want to thank our American Allies for supplementing with 8500 additional troops, the NATO Response Force, our Allied Commander, Supreme Allied Commander SACEUR, has shortened the time of response.  As we speak, US - to give the example of US - is sending initial troops to Europe, to Germany, where the President will visit, but also to Poland and to Romania.  So, I want to send a very clear message to Lithuanian Allies and to the public opinion, and we understand the concerns, that we are here to do whatever it takes to protect all Allies, and you can stay assured that we'll do this in the future.  Next week, we'll have the Defence Ministers meeting in NATO.  That'll be an important meeting, in a way preparing the Madrid NATO Summit in late June.  It’s to be no surprise that in some of the sessions next week we invite the Defence Ministers of Sweden and Finland, two very important countries here, partners of NATO, and also inviting the Defence Ministers of Ukraine and Georgia, because we want to send also to our partners this message of reinforcement and common approach.  So, I want to send a message of reassurance.  We are doing whatever it takes to protect all Allies from all geographies, against any threat, from any direction.  Admiral Bauer I think has more things to add to this.

ADMIRAL ROB BAUER [NATO Chair of Military Committee]: I think it's very important to explain maybe that the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Walters, on a daily basis looks at the whole Alliance, from the Arctic to the Mediterranean, from the Atlantic Ocean to the eastern part of the Alliance.  And he looks at all possible threats to the Alliance, whether it is on land, maritime, air, cyber or space.  That is a continuous process, day in, day out.  And with all the forces in the Alliance, he has to make sure that the Alliance has the right posture to deter and defend ourselves.  That is his job that has been given to him by the nations and by the Alliance.  So, the discussion on where the troops are is based on that threat.  And as a result of what is happening in Ukraine, there is changes in our troop movements, in the exercises, and the way we collect intelligence, and all that.  And we call that enhanced vigilance activities.  And as a result of those activities, there is now a discussion on more troops, like Germany is sending to Lithuania, US is sending to Germany, Poland and Romania.  From the ministerial, most likely the military authorities will get a task to look at the posture for a longer time.  So, where should we position troops on a more permanent basis in the Alliances, given the development of all the threats?  And that task will be then taken by us.  And so there is a difference in terms of the troop contributions of the nations now, those are on a bilateral basis, and NATO will take a little bit more time because we have to look at not only sending once the troops, but how does it work on a longer time?  Can you then sustain all that?  Can you make sure that the logistics is there?  So, those two processes are not opposite of one another, they are actually basically the same.  But the bilateral agreement to send troops goes faster and the Alliance as a whole will take a little bit more time, based on that task from the ministers to look at where the troops are going to be.  So, this is the prelude, basically what is happening now, to this change of posture that will be decided upon later on.

MODERATOR: [Translated] Thank you very much.  Any more questions?

QUESTION: Lithuania would need not only increase of NATO forces on its soil but also sequential strengthening of air defence and rapid reaction force, supply of additional ammunition and regular military exercises [of ILS] in the region.  Is it something that the Baltics and Lithuania could expect from NATO?  And also, are there any discussions around maritime policing in the Black Sea?

MIRCEA GEOANĂ [NATO Deputy Secretary General]: I'll take this one, Mr President.  I come from Oslo here in Lithuania, and we talked to our Norwegian Allies and they will be hosting, at the end of March/beginning of April, an important exercise.  It's called Cold Response.  And in that exercise, which is transparent, announced in advance, and to which Norwegian Allies have invited Russian observers to be there, as the international rules and the Vienna documents are asking all of us to do.  So, Cold Response will be an exercise where 28 NATO nations and partners, with more than 35,000 troops, will exercise together.  This is also a signal of reinforcement and deterrence and defence for the whole region.  So, I understand, and we understand, the desire of each individual NATO Ally, to ask for more reinforcement and for vigilance and defence.  But as Admiral Bauer has said, we are looking in a comprehensive way and we are doing this in a way that will make us credible, and able and willing to defend each and every single Ally.  I see Ambassador Matulionis here, who is your Ambassador, excellent Ambassador to NATO.  You can imagine what he's doing, asking the same question every single day, as he should.  But I'm saying that we are ready to take all measures, from any geography, from the High North to the Mediterranean, from the Baltic to the Black Sea, from cyberspace to space, this is the job of NATO. And I want you to stay assured that we'll take all measures necessary, in vigilance, in prudence, in a non escalatory way, to send the right signal of deterrence and defence. For Lithuania and for the Baltic region which is exposed for many reasons, but to the whole of the Alliance.

ADMIRAL ROB BAUER [NATO Chair of Military Committee]: And if I may add... oh, sorry Sir.

GITANAS NAUSĖDA [President of Lithuania]: I pretty much share your views because I repeated many times, I stressed many times that there is no individual security of Lithuania, Latvia or some other country.  We can be effective as a whole, as a whole, as an organisation, as NATO, just to implementing the principles of collective deterrence and collective defence.  And I think NATO, in this regard, is a very trustful organisation and, most important, it’s a very effective organisation.  Proved it many times.  So, I think this is the main issue I would like to stress.

ADMIRAL ROB BAUER [NATO Chair of Military Committee]: And if I may add to both the President and Deputy Secretary General. The process of these changes is not something that is happening only now.  Since 2014, the Alliance has looked at our posture, has looked at where we should focus for exercises.  There's more maritime presence in the Black Sea over the last couple of years.  There's more maritime presence in the Baltic region.  There's exercises, as the Deputy Secretary General talked about, large exercises in Norway, to show how ready we are, that we can move troops, that we can cooperate in every climate, in every region.  The Russian Federation has the same issue, they cannot be everywhere at the same time.  The same is for the Alliance.  So, you have to look, with the troops you have, to basically make sure - and that's one of the big projects in NATO - to make sure that we are more ready, that we are able to move the troops to the positions where they are necessary, in time.  And that is something all the nations work on and, as an Alliance, we work on.  So, it is a combination always of a posture where - like EFP battlegroups now in the north east of the Alliance - and focus with exercises and other activities in the Alliance, to make sure that the adversaries understand we can actually respond to every possible threat, at any given time.

MODERATOR: [Translated] [inaudible] … the last question.

QUESTION: Question to Mr President about single benefits due to inflation.

GITANAS NAUSĖDA [President of Lithuania]: Well, first of all, we should look at the reasons for inflation.  At the present moment, we're experiencing an inflation that has been created [inaudible] energy [inaudible].  And we have to understand very clearly the primary reason for this inflation.  Let me remind you about the [inaudible] when we also decided to pay single payments, it did not create any change in inflation for [inaudible] reasons because inflation isn't affected by small single payments.  So, in this respect, I would like to urge my colleagues and partners not to search for reasons why we should not be helping people.  My aim is to assess the situation because the situation affects the financial situation of the people.  And let's not be looking for reasons, artificial reasons, for not making people live a better life now, and we are ready to do such action today.  And if somebody does not want these decisions to be implemented, they should…

QUESTION: How do you, Mr President, how do you assess the decision of the Constitutional Court to cancel the COVID pass?

GITANAS NAUSĖDA [President of Lithuania]: Well, I cannot assess or evaluate the decision made by the Constitutional Court.  So, the COVID pass has been cancelled by the government and we will see if it will not be renewed in the future, then we will be making our next step.  [inaudible] … should be interested to know, very clearly the legal environment and legal consequences of the COVID pass.  And we should know whether this COVID pass is with the Constitution or does not align with it.  Thank you very much for attending this press conference.