Press conference

with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis at Mihail Kogălniceanu Military Base Romania

  • 11 Feb. 2022 -
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  • Last updated: 11 Feb. 2022 13:19

(As delivered)

President Iohannis,
Dear Klaus,
Thank you so much for receiving me and my team here today.
And thank you for your very warm welcome.

It is a pleasure to be back in Romania, a strong and committed NATO Ally.

And also many thanks for your personal commitment to our transatlantic Alliance. And for our close cooperation over so many years.

Thank you also for your significant contributions to our transatlantic Alliance, including hosting this important air base.

Romania does not stand alone.

Fighter jets from Germany and Italy are here to protect and to defend all Allies.
And to help to keep your skies safe.

And today, Spanish jets will arrive in Bulgaria to reinforce NATO’s air policing mission there. 

As we speak, one thousand US troops are deploying to this base.
Bringing the total number of US service members to almost two thousand at this base.

This is a powerful demonstration of transatlantic unity.
And North America’s ironclad commitment to the defence of Europe.

And from here in the Black Sea region all the way to the Baltic,
Allies are stepping up to reinforce NATO’s presence at this critical time.
With more troops, more capabilities and greater readiness.

And next week, NATO Defence Ministers will meet and discuss how we can further strengthen our presence in the Eastern part of the Alliance, including with new battlegroups.

And I welcome France’s offer to lead a NATO battlegroup here in Romania.

NATO is a defensive Alliance.
Our task is to preserve peace.

We do that today by making sure that there is no room for misunderstanding or miscalculation about our commitment and readiness to protect Romania and all other NATO Allies.

This is even more important in light of Russia’s unjustified military build-up in and around Ukraine, including in the Black Sea region.

The Black Sea is a region of vital strategic importance to NATO.

Three NATO Allies are littoral states, as are our close partners Ukraine and Georgia.
So security in this region is of utmost importance to NATO.

We are committed to dialogue and to find a political solution.

I have reiterated my invitation to Russia to meet again in the NATO-Russia Council as soon as possible.

To address crucial issues for European security, including risk reduction, transparency and arms control.

But NATO will not compromise on core principles.
The right of each nation to choose its own path.
And our ability to protect and defend all Allies. 
There will never be first class and second class members of NATO.
There are only NATO Allies.
United as one.

Mr. President,
Let me once again thank you for hosting me and for your strong commitment to our Alliance.
This is especially important as we face a crucial time for European security.

Thank you so much.  

- - - - - - - - - 

Fred Pleitgen (CNN)
First of all, gentlemen, thank you very much for taking my questions. First of all, to the Secretary General, you've spoken in the past couple of days about how dangerous the situation still is with Russia right now. How big do you see the risk of a further Russian invasion in Ukraine? And then secondly, how important is the deployment - Thank you - how important is the deployment especially of US forces here to show America's commitment to NATO's eastern flank? And to the President the same question also, how important is it for you to have additional American forces here on your base in your country? And then second of all, there's very few countries actually that have become more important in the NATO alliance in such a short time as Romania has. How do you want to further integrating into the alliance and also continuously upgrading your military capabilities?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
There is a real risk because what we see now is that the military build-up in and around Ukraine continues so there is a real risk for a new armed conflict in Europe. The number of Russian troops are going up and the warning time is going down. At the same time, we don't have any certainty and therefore we continue to reach out to Russia to call on them to de-escalate and to engage in good faith in political dialogue with NATO and NATO allies. There is a risk for a full-fledged invasion, but there's also a risk for other types of aggressive actions, including attempts to topple the government in Kiev, hybrid cyber-attacks and many other types of Russian aggression. There’s no certainty, but what we know is that the military build-up continues. We have seen the threatening rhetoric from the Russian side. And we know that there are many in Russian intelligence officers operating inside Ukraine. And then of course, we have the track record of Russia, using force against Ukraine before. So the combination of military build-up, threatening rhetoric, and a track record of using force against neighbours, of course that's the reason for being seriously concerned, and being vigilant and ready also to react if they once again use force against Ukraine. That's exactly why the presence of NATO troops here in Romania is so important. Because that sends unwavering and ironclad message of Alliance unity, that we are here together that we stand united. And of course, the presence of US troops at this base in Romania. sends a very strong message of US North American commitment to European security. So therefore, it was great to meet the US troops today from the Stryker brigade to talk to them. And they are professional, they are committed, and I'm extremely grateful for the service all the US servicemen here in Romania.

President of Romania, Mr. Klaus Iohannis
Thank you for your question. I think the fact that we have all these men and women you see here today in the Mihail Kogălniceanu Base in Romania is extremely important. It's extremely important for Romania, but as I said before, it is extremely important for the entire Alliance. Because one of the strategic objectives of the alliance is to have a strong eastern flank. A strong eastern flank, building up a strong defense and a strong deterrence. This of course, needs a strong entire eastern flank, and it is quite obvious that we had a need to have more troops on this part of the eastern flank, especially with all the evolutions in the Black Sea area. So having these troops these days, arriving here in Romania is extremely important for our security, for Europe’s security, but I strongly believe it is important for the entire Euro Atlantic security. You mentioned the role of Romania and I appreciate this, because fact is Romania underwent a significant transformation over the last years if it comes to its stance in the Alliance, and the way we see the Euro Atlantic security, the way we act in NATO and the way we want to evolve. When Romania became a member of NATO, it had a difficult economic situation. The armed forces have not been in a super condition. And so Romania entered NATO, to get security, to receive security. We changed this ever since I came to office. I started the transformation. Actually, one of the first actions I had when I started was to gather all the political parties, convince them to allocate a significant part of our GDP - 2% of our GDP - for at least 10 years to modernize our armed forces and to increase the level of security for Romanians and to step up inside the Alliance. This is what we did. And we are continuing this way. So Romania that transformed, not only through modernizing its armed forces, its approaches, but we managed through an excellent collaboration with the other allies, with the Secretary General, with Jens together, to transform our status from receiving security into an Ally who is providing regional security and this is what we do. We believe that Romania is an important ally, and we believe that we play an important role on this side of Europe, but we're not going to stop here we are continuing. And so I believe that the role of Romania will increase over the next years, too. Thank you.

Cristina Cileacu (Digi 24)
[Question in Romanian]

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
I think we need to distinguish between the immediate need to increase our presence in the eastern part of the Alliance and we have seen that NATO Allies, the United States, the United Kingdom and other allies have stepped up and deployed more forces to the eastern part. We have seen Italian troops here today and many other countries are doing the same. That has already taken place. And we continue to reinforce our eastern flank with more ships, with more planes, with more troops. And we are also ready to quickly reinforce if needed. We have increased the readiness of the NATO Response Force, and we can deploy more forces on short notice if needed. So that is what we have done already, deployed more troops and increased readiness this so we can reinforce quickly. For instance, the United States has announced that they have allocated, assigned 8500 extra troops to the NATO Response Force so they can easily and quickly deploy them. Then we are… on top of that, we are also assessing whether we should adjust our more longer-term presence in the eastern part of the Alliance and that includes a battle group in Romania but also perhaps battlegroups in other parts of the southeast of the Alliance. This will be discussed and addressed at the upcoming NATO Defense Ministerial meeting next week. And I expect that ministers will agree to further start the planning and to address the scale and the scope and the details about how to deploy a battlegroup, what kind of battlegroup. And then I expect that the final decision will be taken during the spring. So yes, I - we have already increased our presence. We see it here today. More than 2000 US troops, Italian, German and others. We have seen the willingness of France. So I think that on top of the more urgent and current increases, there will mostly be long-term changes including a battle in Romania.

President of Romania, Mr. Klaus Iohannis
[Answer in Romanian]

Isabel Coles (Wall Street Journal)
Isabel Coles from the Wall Street Journal. Could you update us on French plans to send reinforcements and are any other, any other plans by other NATO members to do the same? So and how long do you expect these reinforcements to be here?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
Again, I think we need to distinguish between two things. We have already increased our presence in the eastern part of the alliance with 1000s of troops. United States, United Kingdom, other Allies have deployed - the Netherlands, Denmark, Spain has provided ships and planes. And further deployments are actually going on as we speak with the incoming US Stryker units, which will deploy here within days. So this is something which has taken place and it's an ongoing strengthening of the NATO presence in the eastern part of the Alliance. Then we have also increased the readiness of the NATO Response Force. But these troops are in the home bases - in the United States, in other European countries, in France, in Germany and so on. But they can be quickly deployed anywhere in the Alliance, so to anywhere in the Alliance if needed, if there is a need to have forces quickly deployed somewhere on NATO territory. Then, on top of that, we are considering more longer-term adjustments in our posture, and that includes establishing battlegroups in the south east of the Alliance, meaning Romania but also other countries around the Black Sea region. France has offered that they can lead the battlegroup in Romania, we welcome that offer it's of great importance. But that will take some more time to make the final decisions and of course to deploy the forces. So, so far, it's only France that has specifically offered to lead one specific battlegroup. But many other allies have indicated willingness to either to be part of the French battlegroup in Romania, or to be part of a battlegroup in another NATO allied country. We have already battlegroups in the Baltic region, in the three Baltic countries and Poland. And they have proven very successful, because they integrate with the national forces of these countries, and they send a very strong message of a multi-national commitment to NATO. Because by having a multinational force in these countries, we send a very clear message that an attack on one Ally will trigger the response from the whole Alliance. And that's the purpose of NATO - is to preserve peace, prevent an attack, because it's obvious that an attack on one Ally will trigger the response from all Allies. And therefore, yes, we are working on battlegroups also in this region, but in the meantime, we have increased our presence regardless of whether, or what kind of decisions, are to make later on battlegroups.

[Announcement in Romanian]
The last question goes to Radu Tudor.

Radu Tudor (Antena 3 TV Romania)
Radu Tudor. I have a question for both Secretary General and Romanian President. What is your message to the Romanian people that feel threatened by several mention of Russian Federation that Romania is a threat to Russia based on military presence of NATO in Romania and BMD set in the Deveselu. We are very preoccupied and the Romanian people need the message from you Secretary General and from Romanian President. Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
So NATO is a defensive alliance. NATO is here to preserve peace and NATO is… has proven for more than 70 years that we defend, we protect, but NATO, of course, remains a defensive alliance. And when it comes to the Ballistic Missile Defense site in Romania, that is also a defensive site. And it's about addressing missile threats from the south. So this is not any kind of offensive systems, which are part of the missile defense site in Romania. I think there is no doubt that what we see now is that Russia is the aggressor. Russia has actually invaded and taken a part of a neighbour, Ukraine, illegally annexed Crimea, they continue to de-stabilize eastern Ukraine through the separatists in Donbass, and now they have built up more than 100,000 troops, combat ready troops, in and around Ukraine. And the build-up continues. So there is no doubt that in a way the aggressor we see now is Russia and we have to make sure that we provide support to our close partner Ukraine, that the same time that we prevent any misunderstanding, any miscalculation about NATO's readiness to protect and defend all allies. And by doing that, we are also preventing any attack on any NATO ally country, including of course Romania.

President of Romania, Mr. Klaus Iohannis
[Answer in Romanian]

[Announcement in Romanian] Thank you, your Excellencies. This is the end of the press conference.