by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the meeting of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs on 6 and 7 April 2022
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: NATO foreign ministers will meet today and tomorrow, we will address the brutal war in Ukraine and we have all seen the atrocities that have been committed in Bucha and other places in Ukraine. This reveals the true nature of President Putin's war, and the targeting and killing of civilians is a war crime and therefore, NATO allies are supporting the international efforts to establish all the facts, to investigate, and to make sure that perpetrators are punished. We are now in a critical phase of the war. We see that Russia is moving forces out of the north to reinforce them, to resupply them, to rearm them and then to move them into the east where we are expecting a major offensive. President Putin's aim is to try to control the whole of Donbas and to establish a land bridge [...]. We have seen no indication that President Putin has changed his ambition to control the whole of Ukraine and also to rewrite the international order. So we need to be prepared for the long haul. We need to support Ukraine, sustain our sanctions, and strengthen our defences and our deterrence, because this can last for a long time and we need to be prepared for that. We will be joined by Foreign Minister Kuleba from Ukraine, and I think it's important that we have this opportunity to engage directly with him. To discuss with him to listen, to hear Minister Kuleba and also to discuss the way forward together. We'll also be joined by other partners, the Foreign Minister of Georgia, Finland, Sweden, the European Union, and also by our partners from the Asia Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea. And these are all highly valued partners.
Tonight, Foreign Ministers will discuss NATO's New Strategic Concept which will address of course the new security reality we are faced with the Strategic Concept will be the roadmap for NATO and how to address a more dangerous world and how to make sure that we continue to protect and defend all NATO Allies. In the Strategic Concept we need to address the security consequences of Russia's aggressive actions, of the shifting global balance of power, the security consequences of a much stronger China, and the challenges Russia and China are posing together to our rules based international order and our democratic values. But of course also in the Strategic Concept, we will sort out the strategy for how to deal with cyber, hybrid, terrorism, and also the security consequences of climate change. So I'm looking forward to the meeting and it will be, an important meeting. Not least facing the grim reality in Ukraine. And with that, I'm ready to take your questions.
Question 1: Mr. Stoltenberg, some allies are already sending heavy equipment to Ukraine. Others are still reluctant, such as Germany, what is your position? Should, in this new phase of a war, Western Allies send heavy weapons, heavy equipment such as tanks, to Ukraine?
NATO Secretary General: NATO allies have supported Ukraine for many years, we have trained 10s of 1000s of Ukrainian troops, who are now on the front, fighting the Russian invaders, and the NATO allies have also provided different kinds of equipment’s over many years. And of course, this combined with the courage, the commitment, of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, is really making a difference every day on the battlefield. Since the invasion, allies have stepped up their support. I also expect that ministers when they meet today, and tomorrow, will discuss how we can further support Ukraine. Allies are providing both anti-tank, anti-air or air defence systems, but also different kinds of advanced weapon systems and also both light and heavier weapon systems to Ukraine. I will not go into all details, so exactly what kind of weapons equipment allies are providing, but I can say that the totality of what Allies are doing is significant. And that includes also some heavier systems combined with lighter systems.
Question 2: Thank you very much. Mr. Secretary General, we want to be sure that the part of the strategic concept which you will discuss, will include open door policy, which is very important for Georgia as an aspirant country, especially now, what can you tell us about this? More about this, and also, you yesterday said that the importance of stepping up support for Georgia, and support the country to prevent future aggression. What do you mean and what threats do you see? Thank you.
NATO Secretary General: I believe that one of the lessons we all should learn from the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, is that it is important that all of those also believe in democracy, the rule of law need to provide support to close and highly valued partners like Georgia. It's better to support them sooner than later. And therefore, one of the issues that will be discussed at the Foreign Ministerial meeting, today and tomorrow, is how can we step up support for other partners which are under Russian pressure and of course, Georgia is one of them. Russia controls part of Georgian territory, and we will look into how we can provide more support both when it comes to everything from cyber to secure communications, capacity building, and other ways to strengthen Georgia in resisting the pressure from Russia. NATO's door remains open. The enlargement of NATO over several decades has been a great success, helped to spread democracy, the rule of law, stability, peace across Europe, and it is for the applicant country, the country aspiring for membership, and for the 30 allies, to decide on membership issues. Russia and no other country has any veto on that issue. It is for the applicant and the 30 allies to decide.
Question 3: This time partner countries such as Japan participates, what they aim for that?
NATO Secretary General: We very much welcome that we have the Japanese Foreign Minister participating at the NATO meeting. It demonstrates the strong partnership between Japan and NATO. Japan has been a long standing partner with NATO for many years. And I think that we all understand that even though Japan and NATO are geographically far apart from each other, we share the same values, we share the same challenges, and therefore we need to work closely together, both to protect our core values, democracy, international rules-based order, but also for instance, to address the challenges posed by a more assertive China. And the fact that China now has the second largest defence budget in the world, it's investing heavily in new modern military equipments. And therefore we need also to work together with our partners in the Asia Pacific. Also to work together on issues like maritime security, cyber, and other areas where we have common interest, Japan and NATO to work together.
Question 4: How quickly does NATO countries need to supply Ukraine with heavy military equipment if it's going to be able to defend itself against the stronger onslaught from Russia in the east and the south? And secondly, what is your comment in Norway expelling three Russian diplomats today?
NATO Secretary General: Ukraine has an urgent need for military support. And that's the reason why it is so important that NATO Allies agree to further support Ukraine with many different types of military equipment, both heavier equipment, but also light weapon systems. And we have seen that this support is actually having an effect every day. We can see just the pictures of all the destroyed Russian armour. This is something which has been done with weapons, anti-tank weapons, so anti-armour equipment delivered by NATO Allies and the US Congress just decided, the United States just decided, to allocate more money for anti-armour systems. Just one of many examples of how allies are stepping up. There is urgent need and therefore I also expect allies to provide further support of many different types of weapon systems. It is of course the Norwegian decision to expel Russian officials from the diplomatic mission or the embassy in Norway, but this is now a pattern where many allies have done that because we see that many of those who say that they are conducting normal diplomatic activity are actually not doing that, they are intelligence officers for Russia and therefore, several allies have expelled several Russian officials from different NATO Ally countries.
Question 5: You mentioned yesterday that if Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership, allies would find ways to address security concerns over the interim period before, between application and ratification. Could you expand on that? What would that entail?
NATO Secretary General: It is for Finland and Sweden to decide whether they would like to apply for membership or not and we will respect that decision. If they, regardless of the conclusion, if they decide to apply, I expect that all allies will welcome them, and that building on the fact that Sweden and Finland are our closest partners. We have worked together for many years, we know that they meet the NATO standards when it comes to interoperability, democratic control over the armed forces. We know that they can easily join this alliance if they decide to apply. Then on the interim period, I'm certain that we will find ways to address concerns they may have regarding the period between the potential application, and the final ratification. Again, I think it's not helpful if I start to speculate in the public exactly how we'll do that. First of all, we need to know whether Finland and Sweden will like to apply. But I'm confident that if they apply we will sit down and we'll find a way to address that issue.
Question 6: Thank you. You said that we may be in this for the long haul, that the war may take a long time, does that require NATO Allies changing their approach, and their strategy, and will you be discussing that?
NATO Secretary General: So first of all, this war must end now. And President Putin can end it by withdrawing his troops and forces and stop attacking independent, sovereign, country Ukraine, and sit down in good faith and to find a political solution. But at the same time, we have to be realistic and realise that this may last for a long time, for many months, for even years. And that's the reason why we need also to be prepared for the long haul. Both when it comes to supporting Ukraine, sustaining sanctions, and strengthening our defences. And I expect the ministers to address the long term perspectives, the need to be prepared for the long haul both when it comes to support to Ukraine, sustaining sanctions, and strengthening our defences. I also believe that regardless of when the war ends, this has long term implications for our security, because we have seen the brutality. We have seen the willingness by President Putin to use military force to reach his objectives. And that has changed the security reality in Europe for many, many years. So therefore, we have started the process in NATO, we have tasked our military commanders to provide options for the political leaders to take decisions on how to reset our deterrence and defence for the long term. This will of course, build on what we have already done. The invasion of Ukraine was a wakeup call. But that happened in 2014. So we have actually since 2014, implemented the biggest reinforcement to our collective defence, increased readiness of forces, tripled the size of the NATO Response Force, reformed the command structure, and started to invest more increased defence spending across the Alliance. So we, NATO, was actually quite well prepared when Russia invaded Ukraine for the second time, and on the day of the invasion, we activated our defence plans, deployed 1000s of additional troops in the eastern part of the Alliance. Now there are 40,000 troops on the NATO command in the eastern part of the Alliance. And there are more US troops in Europe, 100,000 in total, and other Allies have also increased their presence. So, this demonstrates that for years we have been actually adapting to the aggressive actions of Russia. We were well prepared when they invaded Ukraine. But now we need to take a new step, for a more long term strengthening of our deterrence and defence and I expect that NATO, that this will be discussed among the foreign ministers today and tomorrow, but then decisions for the longer term will be made at the summit in Madrid in June when the heads of state and government meet.
Question 7: On a very quick follow up, Secretary General, on Finland and Sweden. The idea of fast track membership should they want to do that, what does that message does that send to other countries who might want to join NATO?
NATO Secretary General: It is for each and every nation in Europe to decide whether they would like to apply. Then, if they apply, we will sit down and assess the need for reforms, the need to ensure interoperability, the need to strengthen their governance, fight corruption, and all of the different types of reforms which different countries need to implement to join NATO and therefore, the time it has taken for different countries to join this alliance has varied significantly, reflecting different starting points. And the only thing I'm saying today is that Finland and Sweden, there is no other countries that are closer to NATO, that have for many, for so many years worked so closely with us on military interoperability, on exercises, training, and also where we know them, you know that they actually also meet the NATO standards, for instance, when it comes to political, democratic, civilian, control over the security institutions and the armed forces. So, that's reason why I believe that an accession process for these countries can be quite smooth, meaning that we know that they are very close to NATO already. But again, this is for Finland and Sweden to decide and then if they apply, we'll sit down and address the old issues related to membership. Thank you.