Joint press conference
by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (remote from Brussels) and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany, Annalena Baerbock following the informal meetings of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs
We have just finished our first informal Foreign Ministerial meeting. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend in person due to Covid.
But let me start by thanking you, Annalena, for hosting all the ministers for a free-flowing and constructive political discussion among the ministers.
Germany is a staunch defender of the transatlantic bond, and at this turning point for our security, it is more important than ever that Europe and North America continue to stand united.
Last night, Finland and Sweden updated ministers on their possible applications for NATO membership.
It is up to them to decide if they want to join NATO. We will respect whatever decision they make, because all sovereign nations have the right to choose their own path.
Finland and Sweden are NATO’s closest partners. If they decide to apply, this would be an historic moment.
Their membership in NATO would increase our shared security, demonstrate that NATO’s door is open, and that aggression does not pay.
Today, Allies discussed our strong support for Ukraine, the further strengthening of NATO’s deterrence and defence, and the longer-term implications of the war, including on our future stance towards Russia.
Russia’s war in Ukraine is not going as Moscow had planned.
They failed to take Kyiv. They are pulling back from around Kharkiv, their major offensive in the Donbas has stalled.
Russia is not achieving its strategic objectives.
President Putin wants Ukraine defeated.
NATO down. North America and Europe divided.
But Ukraine stands.
NATO is stronger than ever.
Europe and North America are solidly united.
Ukraine can win this war. Ukrainians are bravely defending their homeland.
To help them do so, Allies have committed and delivered security assistance to Ukraine worth billions of dollars, and over the years, NATO and Allies have trained tens of thousands of Ukrainian forces.
All of this is making a real difference on the battlefield every day.
We must continue to step up and sustain our military support to Ukraine, and build on the work of the Ukraine Support Group which recently met in Ramstein.
Ministers also discussed our upcoming Madrid Summit.
We will make important decisions, to reinforce NATO’s deterrence and defence to reflect the new security reality in Europe, to further support and engage with like-minded partners, near and far, and to adopt our next Strategic Concept, NATO’s blueprint for an age of strategic competition.
Minister Baerbock, dear Annalena, once again thank you for hosting the meeting, and thank you for your strong personal commitment to our Alliance.
Over to you in Berlin before we take some questions.
NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Okay, we have time for three or four questions. We'll start with ZDF. Go ahead, Florian.
Florian Neuhann (ZDF): [Speaks in German]. And the question to you, Mr. Secretary General. Do you expect any retaliation measures from Russia? What could that be and how would NATO react if, for example, Russia attacks, does cyber attacks or violates the airspace, or whatever there could be as a possibility. Thank you.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: First of all, I would just like to highlight that when it comes to Finland and Sweden, of course these are sovereign, independent Swedish and Finnish decisions. They are now in the final stages of their processes. And throughout the process, it has been very important for me, and for NATO, to demonstrate that we respect their decision making processes without trying to interfere or to give them advice.
We respect their decisions regardless of what the conclusions will be.
Then on Turkey. Turkey is an important to Ally. Turkey has expressed some concerns and, as we always do in NATO when there are concerns, when there are questions, we sit down. And I'm confident that we will be able to find common ground and agreement, consensus on how to move on on the membership issue. Because all Allies agree that NATO's door is open. Allies agree that the NATO enlargement process has been a great success over many, many years. And also that Finland and Sweden qualify for a membership. They are by far our closest partners, have worked with NATO for many, many years.
So if Finland and Sweden apply and join NATO then that will be a historic moment for Europe, for Finland, Sweden, for NATO, and for a whole transatlantic bond. It will contribute to strengthen Finland and Sweden, NATO and also strengthen stability across the Euro Atlantic area.
I have been in contact with the Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. He was attending the meeting yesterday evening. And I expect that we will be able to follow up quickly if Finland and Sweden apply for a membership.
When it comes to Russia, of course we are monitoring closely, we are following very closely Russia's behaviour along our borders, in the vicinity of NATO territory. And as a reaction to the war in Ukraine, we have significantly both increased our surveillance, our capacity to monitor, but also our military presence in the eastern part of the Alliance, including in the Baltic region. More than 40,000 troops under direct NATO command backed by significant naval and air power.
So it is clear that we are there, following very closely what Russia is doing. And we are also, of course, ready to follow closely if Russia in any way tries to launch any kind of hybrid, cyber attacks against any NATO allied countries.
Then, let me add that.. we are also aware that that Finland and Sweden are of course concerned about the interim period from when they have applied to the accession, and all the national parliaments have ratified the Accession Protocol.
We will try to speed up that process as much as possible. Many Allies have stated that they will find fast tracks as, for instance, Germany has indicated that this can go quite fast. But anyway, there will be a time period between application and the full membership. It is clear that Finnish and Swedish membership matters for NATO. We will look into ways to provide security assurances including by increasing NATO presence in the region, in the Baltic region, in and around Finland and Sweden, of course in close consultation and…an agreement with Finland and Sweden.
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany Annalena Baerbock: [Speaks in German]
NATO Spokesperson: CNN
Fred Pleitgen (CNN): First of all, I have a question to both the Secretary General and the Foreign Minister. I want to follow up on what the ZDF colleague was saying. You were clearly saying, Secretary General, that right now Turkey's concerns that they have not been fully addressed yet. It's something that you're still talking about. How long do you think that that could hold up the process of ascension of Finland and Sweden to NATO? Because of course, as you say, in that interim process, there is some uncertainty for these countries. And the longer that process takes, the more difficult it is for these countries. You have countries like Germany that want to get this done in a very quick way. But obviously a country like Turkey could hold that back if their concerns are not address.
And then also basically on the same topic, also. Both Sweden and Finland, but especially Finland, is already facing vile threats from the Russian Federation. There's been talking about annihilating Finland. They've already cut off electricity to Finland. What is NATO going to do to make abundantly clear to the Russians that it's not going to allow states that want membership of NATO to be intimidated?
NATO Secretary General: First of all, Turkey has made it clear that their intention is not to block membership. And therefore, I'm confident that we will be able to address the concerns that Turkey has expressed in a way that doesn't delay the membership or the accession process. So my intention is still to have a quick and swift process where we will then sit down with Finland and Sweden if they apply and agree the Accession Protocol. And then hope and work for a very speedy ratification process in the 30 parliaments. That will take some time. There's no way to prevent that. But the plan is to have…, and that's still my intention, as process goes faster than we have seen before.
So when an Ally raises concerns, we have proven over decades in NATO that we are able to sit down and then find consensus, find a way to agree, and then move forward. And that's my intention. That's my plan. I am confident that we will be able to do so also in this case because all Allies realise the historic magnitude of the moment. This is a historic opportunity we need to seize and that has been expressed by Allies and also discussed yesterday evening.
We are ready to sit down with Finland and Sweden also to address their concerns in this interim period. And as I said, this is partly about increasing NATO military presence in the region, on land, at sea, and in the air, of course in close consultations with Finland and Sweden. We already work closely with Finland and Sweden for instance on hybrid threats and cyber threats. We have a Center of Excellence on hybrid threats in Helsinki. So we have already developed very close ways of working together with them to address some of the threats and challenges they are afraid that they will see more of in this interim period. So we will work closely with them to reach and to provide assurances… in the interim period.
NATO Spokesperson: Okay, final question: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
Thomas Gutschker (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung): [Speaks in German]
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany: [Speaks in German]
NATO Spokesperson: […] Thank you very much then. This concludes the press conference. Thank you.