Pre-ministerial press conference
by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the meetings of NATO Defence Ministers
Tomorrow NATO Defence Ministers will meet to address the most serious security crisis we have faced in Europe for decades.
There are signs from Moscow that diplomacy should continue.
This gives grounds for cautious optimism.
But so far we have not seen any sign of de-escalation on the ground.
Russia has amassed a fighting force in and around Ukraine, unprecedented since the Cold War.
Everything is now in place for a new attack.
But Russia still has time to step back from the brink.
Stop preparing for war.
And start working for a peaceful solution.
NATO Allies have been very clear that any further Russian aggression against Ukraine would come at a high price.
We have systematically exposed Russia’s actions, plans and disinformation.
To lay bare to the world what Russia is doing and to make it harder for Russia to conduct aggressive actions.
At the same time, NATO Allies remain ready to engage with Russia.
On the 26th of January, I invited Russia to a series of meetings in the NATO-Russia Council.
We sent concrete proposals for a substantive agenda.
To listen to the Russian concerns,
and look for common ground.
We are ready to discuss NATO-Russia relations, European security including the situation in and around Ukraine and risk reduction, transparency and arms control.
But we will not compromise on our core principles.
Every nation has the right to choose its own path.
And there will never be first class and second class members of NATO.
We are all NATO Allies.
We have stepped up deterrence and defence across the Alliance.
To remove any room for misunderstanding or miscalculation.
We have deployed more troops, planes, and ships to the eastern part of the Alliance.
Increased the readiness of our NATO Response Force.
And boosted our battlegroups in the Baltic region.
Just last week I was in Romania to meet additional US troops deploying together with other Allies.
A strong demonstration of US commitment to the defence of Europe.
From the Black Sea to the Baltic.
NATO Defence ministers will address the need to further increase our defensive posture.
And I welcome the offer by France to lead a new NATO battlegroup in Romania.
Tomorrow, I will also chair a regular meeting of the Nuclear Planning Group.
Ensuring that our nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure, and effective.
Defence ministers will meet our colleagues from Ukraine and Georgia.
To discuss the worsening security situation in the Black Sea region.
And NATO Allies will reaffirm our strong support for both countries’ sovereignty and territorial integrity.
We will also meet with our partners Finland, Sweden and the European Union.
To continue our close consultations and further strengthen NATO-EU cooperation.
The current crisis has shown once again how important it is to invest in our defence.
So ministers will review burden-sharing across the Alliance.
I welcome that our latest figures show seven consecutive years of increased defence spending across Europe and Canada with 270 billion extra since 2014.
And I encourage Allies to continue to invest in our shared security.
Finally, we will also discuss NATO’s next Strategic Concept.
which will be adopted at the Madrid Summit in June.
I am confident that Allies will recommit to our core values and to the importance of Europe and North America standing together.
With that, I am ready to take your questions.