Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the extraordinary Summit of NATO Heads of State and Government

  • 24 Mar. 2022 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 24 Mar. 2022 15:25

(As delivered)

Good afternoon.

We have just finished an extraordinary summit of NATO leaders to address the biggest threat to our security in a generation:
President Putin’s war against Ukraine.

The people of Ukraine are resisting with courage and determination.
Fighting for their freedom and for their future.

We stand with them.

President Zelensky addressed us with an impassioned message. 
Thanking NATO Allies for the significant support we are providing. 
And stressing the vital importance of even more military assistance.

Today, NATO leaders agreed that we must and will provide further support to Ukraine.
We will continue to impose unprecedented costs on Russia.
And we will reinforce Allied deterrence and defence.

Leaders approved our four new NATO battlegroups.
In Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia.

These are in addition to the four already in the Baltic countries and Poland.
So we have eight multinational NATO battlegroups now.
From the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.

Across Europe, there are one hundred thousand US troops supporting NATO efforts.
And European Allies and Canada have also stepped up.
We have 40,000 forces under direct NATO command, mostly in the eastern part of the Alliance.

Backed by major air and naval power.
Including an unprecedented five carrier strike groups from the High North to the Mediterranean.

Today, NATO leaders agreed to reset our deterrence and defence for the longer-term.
To face a new security reality.

On land, we will have substantially more forces in the eastern part of the Alliance, at higher readiness.
With more prepositioned equipment and supplies.

In the air, we will deploy more jets.
And strengthen our integrated air and missile defence.

At sea, we will have carrier strike groups, submarines and significant numbers of combat ships on a persistent basis.

We will also strengthen our cyber defences.
And enhance our exercises, focusing on collective defence and interoperability.

I expect we will decide on the details at our next Summit in Madrid in June.

Today, Allied leaders also agreed to provide further support to Ukraine.
Helping to uphold their fundamental right to self-defence.

Allies are also equipping Ukraine with significant military supplies.
Including anti-tank and air defence systems, and drones.
Which are proving highly effective.

As well as substantial financial and humanitarian aid.

Today, we agreed to do more.
Including cybersecurity assistance.
And equipment to help Ukraine protect against biological, chemical, radiological, and nuclear threats.

This could include detection, protection, and medical supplies, as well as training for decontamination and crisis management.

We are determined to do all we can to support Ukraine.
And I welcome the concrete offers of assistance made by Allies today.

At the same time, we have a responsibility to ensure the conflict does not escalate further. Because this would be even more dangerous and more devastating.
Allies agreed that we must also increase our support for other partners at risk from Russian threats and interference.
Including Georgia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Working together, and with the European Union, we must help them uphold their sovereignty and strengthen their resilience.

We also addressed Beijing’s role in the crisis.

Today, Allied leaders called on China to refrain from supporting Russia’s war effort.

China must not provide economic or military support for the Russian invasion.
Instead, Beijing should use its significant influence on Russia.
And promote an immediate, peaceful resolution.

Allies also agreed that Belarus must stop acting as an accomplice to Putin’s invasion.

At today’s meeting, leaders reaffirmed our strong commitment to NATO’s Open Door policy, under Article 10 of the Washington Treaty.

NATO enlargement has been an historic success.
Spreading democracy, freedom, and prosperity across Europe.

One month since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, NATO’s security environment has fundamentally changed.
For the long haul.

And we are responding.

But security does not come for free. 
And doing more will cost more.

So NATO leaders agreed to redouble efforts to meet the Defence Investment Pledge we made in 2014.
Allies will submit additional plans on how to meet the pledge in time for the Madrid Summit in June.

And I welcome that a number of Allies today announced plans for significant increases in defence spending.

At this dangerous time, transatlantic unity and solidarity are vital.

Europe and North America are standing, and will continue to stand, strong together in NATO.

With that, I am ready to take your questions.

Natasha Bertrand (CNN): Hi, Mr Secretary General, thank you. President Zelensky in his address to NATO accused Russia of deploying phosphorus munitions. I am wondering whether NATO has seen evidence of that and what your response is or would be? And then I am wondering, did you discuss during this meeting a permanent basing of forces in any of these countries such as the Baltics and abandoning the NATO-Russia Founding Act?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: So we are resetting NATO’s deterrence and defence for the long term, with more troops, with more air assets and more maritime capabilities. We have already increased our presence in the east and today we decided on four new battlegroups. The leaders agreed to task our military commanders to provide options for a long-term reset of our presence, of our military posture in the eastern part of the Alliance and across the whole Alliance. Details will be then decided at our summit in June but that comes on top for what we have already done. So this is long term, we are prepared for long haul because we can already today say that the Russian invasion, President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has changed our security environment for the long term. It is a new reality. It is a new normal and NATO is responding for the long term. We have seen very credible reports about the use of use of military force against civilians. Of course, this is a great concern for all NATO Allies.

NBC: Secretary General thank you for taking my question. How do you believe NATO will respond if China begins to support Russia economically and perhaps with military supplies? And also do you believe that there is a role to play for NATO when it comes to alleviating energy costs? And I'm talking about speaking directly to Saudi Arabia and other OPEC producers. Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: So NATO Allies are coordinating their efforts when it comes to also energy security. It was also addressed in the meeting today to step up supplies, to diversify sources of supply and also to reduce dependence on supplies from Russia and later today, I will also participate in the G7 meeting. In different frameworks, G7, working with the EU, there are different formats where NATO Allies address the need to strengthen energy security and reduce dependence on Russian oil and gas. Our message to China is that they should join the rest of the world and clearly condemn the brutal war against Ukraine and not support Russia and neither with economic support or with military support.

Irina Somer (Interfax Ukraine): I would like to ask you if Polish leadership put at the table today for discussion, the proposal to send peacekeeping mission to Ukraine and if yes what kind of discussion it was? And is there some conclusion? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: We discussed a wide range of issues and the message is that we have to stand united and also that we need to provide support to Ukraine. At the same time, we have a responsibility to ensure that this conflict does not become a full-fledged war between NATO and Russia. And that is also the reason why Allies have declared that we will not deploy troops on the ground in in Ukraine because the only way to do that is to be prepared to engage in full conflict with Russian troops.

Henry Foy (Financial Times): Thank you very much, Secretary General. Congratulations on your annual extension. You said in the statement that Allies agree to ‘enhance preparedness and readiness for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats’. Is that based on credible intelligence that those threats could be imminent, and how does the Alliance strengthen its protection against those threats? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: So we are concerned, partly because we see the rhetoric and we see that Russia is trying to create some kind of pretext accusing Ukraine, United States, NATO Allies [of] preparing to use chemical and biological weapons. And we have seen before that this way of accusing others is actually a way to create a pretext for doing the same themselves. And of course, accusations against Ukraine and NATO Allies are absolutely false. Any use of chemical weapons will totally change the nature of the conflict. It will be a blatant violation of international law and it will have widespread consequences and, of course, be extremely dangerous. It will affect the people in Ukraine. But there's also a risk that it will have a direct effect on people living in NATO countries, because we can see contamination, we can see the spread of chemical agents or biological weapons into our countries. We also know that Russia has used chemical agents against its own opposition, and they have used it on NATO territory, in Salisbury, before. And we also know that Russia has facilitated, supported, the Assad regime in Syria when they used chemical weapons against their own population.

So this just highlights the importance of ending this war immediately because this is a dangerous situation and therefore we impose the sanctions, and therefore we support Ukraine. Allies agreed to supply equipment to help Ukraine protect against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats. This could include detection equipment, protection and medical support, as well as training for decontamination and crisis management. We are also enhancing Allies’ preparedness and readiness for chemical and biological and nuclear threats. Our top military commander, General Wolters, has activated NATO's chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defence elements, and Allies are deploying additional chemical and biological and nuclear defences to reinforce our existing and new battlegroups. So we are taking measures both to support Ukraine, and also to defend ourselves.

James Bays (Al Jazeera): President Zelensky, when he addressed… you recall the fact he first spoke to you a month ago, and he says he didn't get clear answers. So this time he asked you specifically for 1% of all your tanks, for 1% of all your aircraft, for multi-launch rocket systems, anti-ship weapons and means of air defence – a very specific list. What is your clear answer?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: We all listened very carefully to President Zelensky. And many of the leaders in the room have had contacts with him over these weeks. I also spoke with him and the Ukrainian defence minister participated in our defence ministerial meeting last week. We listened carefully. And of course, we took note of his very compassionate message to all NATO Allies.

NATO Allies provide significant support to Ukraine. And we provide also lethal weapons, advanced systems, and also systems that help them to shoot down planes and attack battle tanks with anti-tank weapons, and many other types of systems including drones. I will not go into the details of the exact type of systems we are deploying. There is close contact between NATO Allies and Ukraine. But what I can say is that Allies do what they can to support Ukraine with weapons so Ukraine can defend themselves. Self-defence is a right enshrined in the UN Charter.

At the same time, we have a responsibility to prevent this conflict from becoming a full-fledged war in Europe, involving not only Ukraine and Russia, but NATO Allies and Russia. That will be more dangerous and more devastating. And I think we have to be honest about that, and that's exactly what we have been in our meeting today, and also what I say to you in the press conference now.

James Bays (Al Jazeera): So again, no clear answer?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Well, what we do is that we are delivering a lot of equipment, and that is an answer. But I will not go into the details. I don't think that's wise for operational reasons if I listed exactly what and when and how we are delivering essential equipment to Ukraine. NATO Allies have stepped up and it is essential for the progress they have been able to make in the fight against the invading Russian forces.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Thank you very much, colleagues. I know there are many questions. I'm afraid the Secretary General needs to go to the G7 meeting, but there will be other briefings throughout the day. Thank you so much.