by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with the US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken
Thank you so much Secretary Blinken, dear Tony,
It’s great to see you again.
And thank you for your strong personal engagement to our transatlantic bond at this pivotal time for our security and this is very much reflected in your frequent visits to Brussels. You are welcome back there again, but now I really appreciate this opportunity to meet with you here in Washington.
The United States is playing an indispensable role in our response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Let me commend the United States for your very significant support to Ukraine,
which is making a difference on the battlefield every day.
I also welcome the latest package of military assistance announced by President Biden this morning.
This is a demonstration of real US leadership.
The strong support provided by NATO and Allies helps ensure that President Putin’s brutal aggression is not rewarded.
And that Ukraine prevails.
At the same time, we must prevent the conflict from escalating.
So we have increased our presence in the eastern part of the Alliance.
To remove any room for miscalculation in Moscow about NATO’s readiness and determination to defend and protect all NATO Allies.
And let me thank the United States for increasing your military presence across Europe.
With over 100,000 troops, backed by significant air and naval power.
European Allies and Canada are also stepping up with more troops, higher readiness, and increased defence spending.
For the seventh consecutive year, defence spending has increased.
And more and more Allies are meeting our guideline of spending 2% of GDP on defence.
President Putin wanted less NATO.
He is getting more NATO.
More troops and more NATO members.
The decisions by Finland and Sweden to apply for NATO membership are historic.
And they will strengthen our Alliance.
We have to address the security concerns of all Allies.
And I am confident that we will find a united way forward.
To this end, I am in close contact with President Erdoğan of Turkey,
and with the leaders of Finland and Sweden.
And I will convene senior officials from all three countries in Brussels in the coming days.
Today, we also discussed the important decisions we will take at the NATO Summit in Madrid later this month.
We will agree NATO’s next Strategic Concept.
Strengthen our deterrence and defence.
And prepare for an age of increased strategic competition with authoritarian powers like Russia and China.
This includes working even more closely with our partners in the Asia-Pacific and other like-minded partners around the world.
We will also review progress on burden-sharing.
We must continue to invest in our defence, and to invest in NATO.
Because only North America and Europe, working together in a strong NATO, can keep our one billion people safe in a more dangerous world.
So Secretary Blinken, dear Tony, once again thank you so much.
Vivian Salama (Wall Street Journal): […] Welcome back, sir. Two questions for you as well. Cracks are appearing in the western front against Moscow, despite the both of you stating that the Alliance is very strong, and we're seeing that there is some disagreement over shipping more powerful weapons to Ukraine. How does NATO as an organisation work to prevent the cooperation from going south at Ukraine's expense? And more specifically, how does Ukraine win, which seems to be a key point in this disagreement? Thank you.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: I could just follow up on that, because what we have seen over the last months is an unprecedented level of unity among NATO Allies and partners in the response to Russia's aggressive war against Ukraine. We have seen that when it comes to the provision of military support, humanitarian support, economic support – but also in the way we have seen NATO Allies, partners, the European Union, implementing heavy economic sanctions, sanctions we have not seen anything similar to imposed on any major country ever before. So actually, what we have seen is some unprecedented level of unity among NATO Allies and partners.
Of course, these are difficult decisions, hard decisions, and therefore there is a need for consultations. And therefore, I would also like to commend the United States for consulting so closely with Allies not only after the invasion on the 24th of February, but actually before. The United States consulted closely, Secretary Blinken consulted closely with NATO Allies throughout the autumn – we warned, we shared intelligence. There is hardly any other military invasion that has been more predicted than this one. And that's obviously because the United States shared so much intelligence with NATO Allies in the months leading up to the invasion in February.
European Allies of course, as the United States, have imposed sanctions. They have a price also for us. They are hosting millions of refugees. But the alternative not to support Ukraine, that will actually enable President Putin to win, that will be dangerous for all of us and the price we have to pay will actually be higher than to now invest in the support for Ukraine.
I’m going to end by saying that President Putin made a strategic mistake. He totally underestimated the strength and the will and the ability of the Ukrainian people, the Ukrainian armed forces to defend themselves, and he underestimated the unity of NATO and NATO Allies and partners to support Ukraine. And again, what we see is US leadership helping this to happen, both on the political diplomatic level, but also when it comes to organising and coordinating the military support through the support group for Ukraine.
On the last question, I will just say that wars are unpredictable. We were able to predict the invasion, but how this war will evolve is very hard to predict. What we do know is that almost all wars end at some stage at the negotiating table. And this has also been clearly stated by President Zelensky that at some stage this will end at the negotiating table. But what happens there at the negotiating table is, of course, totally dependent on the strength, the situation, on the battlefield. And that's what we do, we support them and uphold the right for self defence. And then I have trust and I have confidence in the political leadership in Ukraine that they can make the hard judgments, judgments and decisions on negotiations, on what to agree to, when negotiations at some point will stop.
Tove Bjørgaas (NRK): Thank you. I have one question for each. […] And for Secretary Stoltenberg, we hear about nuclear exercises on the Russian side. What scenarios are you planning for in terms of the nuclear threat from Russia at this point?
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: NATO and NATO Allies are, of course, monitoring very closely what Russia does, including their nuclear exercises. And we have also followed very closely the nuclear rhetoric that President Putin and other Russian leaders have expressed over the last months. This nuclear sabre rattling rhetoric is dangerous and it is something that is only increasing tensions. At the same time, we have not seen any changes in Russia's nuclear posture. And then we also remind Russia on the fact that actually as late as in January, they agreed in the UN a statement where they stated clearly that a nuclear war cannot be won and should not be fought. So Russia knows that any use of nuclear weapons would totally change the nature of a conflict, and therefore, nuclear weapons should not be used.
Kylie Atwood (CNN): […] NATO Secretary General, you mentioned that you're going to convene leaders of Finland, Sweden and Turkey in the coming days. So I'm wondering if you're expecting Sweden and Finland to come to the table with precise actions they are willing to take that could assuage Turkey’s concerns? And I'm also wondering if you're confident that Turkey’s concerns about their membership will be addressed this month before the G7 summit? Thank you.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: On Finland and Sweden, I and my staff, we are in close contact of course with Turkey, an important NATO Ally and the two countries that have applied for NATO membership, Finland and Sweden. We have met with them and I'm going to convene a meeting in a few days with senior officials and then follow up to ensure that we make progress on the applications of Finland and Sweden to join NATO. My intention is to have this in place before the NATO Summit. At the same time I know that to make progress we need 30 Allies to agree. Finland and Sweden have made it clear that they are ready to sit down and to address the concerns expressed by Turkey. And all NATO Allies are of course ready to sit down and address those concerns, including the threats posed to Turkey by PKK. And this is a terrorist threat which, of course, is something we are taking very seriously. We know that no other NATO Ally has had suffered more terrorist attacks than Turkey. And Turkey is an important Ally, not least because of its strategic and geographic location bordering Iraq and Syria. They have been important in our fight against ISIS, and also a Black Sea country close to Russia. So all this makes Turkey an important Ally. When they raise concerns of course we sit down and we look into how we can find the united way forward.
Stefan Åsberg (SVT): […] Secretary Stoltenberg, how confident are you that Turkey will approve Sweden and Finland?
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: I'm confident that we will find a way forward. And I am confident because all Allies agree that NATO enlargement has been a great success, helping to spread democracy, freedom across Europe for decades. And therefore we need to sit down as we always do when there are different views in NATO and find a way to go forward together. So this is not the first time in NATO that some Allies expressed concerns, that there are some differences, some disagreements, but we have a long track record in NATO also to be able to overcome those differences and then agree on how to move forward.