by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen and the President of the European Council, Charles Michel
President von der Leyen,
It is great to see you here. Welcome to the NATO headquarters.
We have just discussed Russia’s brutal, unprovoked, ongoing attack on Ukraine.
This is barbaric and we condemn it without reservation.
We are at a grave moment for the security of Europe.
Russia is attempting to turn back the clock by force.
To re-establish a sphere of influence.
And to undermine the global rules that have kept Europe safe for decades.
We have all made tireless efforts to engage Russia in diplomacy.
But Moscow has refused dialogue, and chosen aggression.
NATO and the EU stand with the brave people of Ukraine.
We support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
And we support their right of self-defence.
There must be no misunderstanding or miscalculation by Russia.
NATO will do whatever it takes to protect and defend all Allies.
In response to Russia’s massive military build-up over the last months,
we have already strengthened our collective defence.
With more troops, jets and ships from the United States and many other Allies.
And our collective defence commitment Article 5 is ironclad.
NATO and the EU stand united.
We condemn Russia’s grave violation of international law,
And of the principles on which European security is built.
I welcome the coordinated actions announced by the European Union, NATO Allies and partners.
This sends a strong message of unity.
And it demonstrates how alone and isolated Russia is.
I will convene a virtual NATO summit tomorrow to address the consequences of Russia’s actions.
And I invited both President Von der Leyen and President Michel to attend, together with the leaders of our valued partners Finland and Sweden.
And in a few minutes, we will take all part in a meeting of the G7.
NATO and the European Union are united. To defend our values:
freedom, democracy, and each country’s right to choose its own path.
So thank you again both of your for coming, and thank you for the fact that the European Union and NATO are standing so strong together.
So please, Ursula.
NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: We will go to Thomas Gutschker from Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
Thomas Gutschker (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung): Thanks a lot. I have got two questions. The first one to the Commission President. Which are the next practical steps that you can take to help Ukraine cope with internally displaced people? And what are the next steps that could be taken to also help the neighboring countries that are probably seeing an influx of refugees in the next days and weeks? And the question to President Michel, when you called the special meeting yesterday, that was certainly before the attack. Did you have any indications, yesterday afternoon when you took the decision to assemble the leaders? Thank you.
President von der Leyen: Indeed, we have worked for weeks to be prepared for the worst to come, hoping for the best but being prepared for the worst. And this was concerning strengthening our resilience in the cyber field, making sure that we can be independent of any kind of pressure from Russian gas supplies. We have reached that stage, and indeed to prepare for potential refugees. We have now, with all the frontline member states, explicit contingency plans to welcome and host immediately those refugees from Ukraine. When internally displaced people are concerned, we have a lot of support through ECHO, humanitarian aid, shelter and all the necessities which people who are internally displaced immediately need. On top, there will be financial support increased for Ukraine, on top of the 1.2 billion macro financial assistance, which is available right now. So the preparedness is fully alerted, and we hope that there will be as little as possible refugees, but we are fully prepared for them and they are welcome.
President Charles Michel: Indeed, there were indications that the situation has dramatically deteriorated on the ground but we didn't know that such an aggression, a full scale military invasion, would take place last night.
Teri Schultz (NPR/Deutsche Welle): Thank you very much. To all three of you, Ukraine is now under attack because it wanted to come closer to your institutions. This is why it was attacked, first Maidanand then over its wish to join NATO. And yet all of your appeals for dialogue have fallen on deaf ears. We saw the build-up happened, nothing you did worked. What more could you have done and how do you feel today when you are sitting here saying that innocent lives are going to be lost? These are people whose only crime even in the words of the Kremlin are that they wanted to be closer to Europe. Thanks.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: I think it is very important to remember that there is one that is the aggressor, one State that is responsible for what is happening now in Ukraine, and that is Russia. Russia is the country which is responsible for theloss of lives and aggressive actions against Ukraine. We have reached out to Russia for many years, and especially during the last months, to engage in political dialogue to try to prevent this conflict, but the same time, as Ursula von der Leyen said, we have also been absolutely prepared for the worst and that is what is happening now. So we have to remember that there is one aggressor that is Russia and Russia is responsible for what we see evolving in Ukraine now.
President von der Leyen: There is a process to join the European Union, and since many years we are working with Ukraine and we have gone far. Ukraine has reached quite a substantial progress if you compare it to two years ago to really have the closeness to the European Union at our eyes. We have a free trade agreement with Ukraine. This is a privileged access to the European single market and increasing integration of the Ukrainian market into the European single market. We are strongly supporting financially, in the case of reforms that are necessary without any doubt in Ukraine, but also strategic investments in Ukraine in a broad set of fields. We are very intensively working on the energy security of Ukraine. Over the last years we have basically been able to guarantee the energy security of Ukraine through reverse flow, for example of gas, but also investing massively in building up a renewable sector. Right now, Ukraine is decoupling its electricity grid from the Russian electricity grid and we stand ready to support them in case there are any kind of difficulties. This is not easy. This is not trivial. This is much earlier than we had planned. But this shows that there's an enormous amount of support for our friends in Ukraine.
NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: We will go to Interfax Ukraine.
Iryna Somer (Interfax Ukraine): Thank you Oana. Secretary General, don't you think that if in Bucharest, Ukraine got invitation to join NATO, nothing will happen like what we have today? And the question for you leadership, when we are talking about political support can we talk about perspective of membership? At least a political decision? Thank you.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Again, we have to remember who is responsible. What we made clear in Bucharest in 2008 and what NATO Allies make clear again and again, is that every nation has the right to choose its own path. As we support Ukraine in their aspirations to further integrate with Euro-Atlantic community and also aspirations for membership. Then it is for Ukraine to decide whether they would like to belong to NATO, and then it is for the 30 Allies to decide on the question of membership when Ukraine is ready to join. That is our right to decide. Russia has not the right to attack, to use violence, use their armed forces to invade an independent sovereign nation regardless of what they think about NATO membership, because that is not an excuse whatsoever, to use military force against a neighbor. That is just not the world we like to live in, where big powers as Russia uses military force to try to coerce other countries and if they don't act as they want, they actually invade them and that is what we are seeing now.
President Charles Michel: We recognize the EU aspiration of Ukraine and you know, this is a decision that needs to be taken by the member states but it is very clear that the last years we have worked a lot. It was described by the panel of the commission, in order to strengthen all the ties with Ukraine. We have encouraged Ukraine to implement reforms. They made a lot of progress, more economic relationships, more acclimatized in different fields. And it will be the occasion tonight at the level of European Council to have a debate about the way we will support Ukraine in different fields, the political field included.
NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Thank you very much. This concludes this press conference.