Press Conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the meetings of NATO Defence Ministers

  • 16 Jun. 2022 -
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  • Last updated: 21 Jun. 2022 15:05

(As delivered)

Good afternoon.
Defence Ministers have just concluded preparations for the NATO Summit in Madrid, in two weeks from now.

Russia’s war against Ukraine poses the biggest threat to our security in decades.
So we must set out NATO’s response for the longer term.
At the Summit, we will take decisions to make NATO even stronger and more agile, in a world that is more dangerous and more competitive.
I am confident that the Madrid Summit will be a transformative summit.
With important decisions, not least in five key areas.

Significantly stronger deterrence and defence.

Sustained support for Ukraine and other partners at risk -
and I am pleased that President Zelensky will participate in our summit.  

We will also decide on a new NATO Strategic Concept, setting out our position on Russia, on emerging challenges, and for the first time, on China.
And in this context, I welcome that the leaders of our Asia-Pacific partners will take part in our summit for the first time.  

Last but not least, better burden-sharing and resourcing of our Alliance.
And the historic applications for membership by Finland and Sweden.

At this ministerial in Brussels yesterday and today, we have made progress on many of these areas.

Last night, we met with Ukrainian Defence Minister Reznikov.
We addressed the imperative need for our continued support,
as Russia conducts a relentless war of attrition against Ukraine.

NATO Allies and partners have been providing Ukraine unprecedented support. So that it can defend itself against Moscow’s aggression.
Allies have now announced additional assistance, including much needed heavy weapons and long-range systems.

We also discussed plans to support the country for the longer term.
We are putting together a NATO comprehensive assistance package for Ukraine.
Helping Ukraine improve interoperability with NATO,
transition from Soviet-era to modern NATO equipment,
and further strengthening security institutions.

Yesterday, over 40 nations – NATO Allies and partners - took part in the meeting of the Ukraine Support Contact Group, led by the United States.
And committed to continue to uphold Ukraine’s right to self-defence.

Georgia, Finland, Sweden, and the European Union also joined the meeting of NATO defence ministers.
We made clear that all countries have the right to choose their own path, without outside interference.

Russia’s aggression is a game-changer.
So NATO must maintain credible deterrence and strong defence.

Today, ministers addressed the scale and design of our future posture.
And how we can step up across all domains.
With substantial strengthening of our presence, capabilities, and readiness.

This will mean more NATO forward deployed combat formations,
to strengthen our battlegroups in the Eastern part of our Alliance.
More air, sea and cyber defences, as well as pre-positioned equipment and weapon stockpiles.
And a new force model, with more forces at higher readiness, and specific forces pre-assigned to the defence of specific Allies,
to enable much faster reinforcement.

A number of Allies have committed to contribute to our stronger presence in the eastern part of our Alliance.
But we still have some work to do as we look to the Summit,
where I expect further announcements.

The substantial strengthening of our deterrence and defence is necessary for our security.
But it does not come for free.
So ministers also discussed the importance of resourcing our decisions.

We have seen seven consecutive years of rising defence investment across Europe and Canada.
Allies are also contributing to NATO deployments and exercises.
And investing in more high-end capabilities, including fifth-generation aircraft and emerging technologies.

Now is the time to keep up the momentum.
So that we can continue to preserve peace, prevent conflict, and protect our people.

With that, I am ready to take your questions.

Thomas Gutschker, (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung): Thanks a lot. Secretary General, Thomas Gutschker, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Secretary General. The Pope has made a few remarks on NATO's possible contribution to the war in Ukraine. He said that we don't know the whole drama unfolding behind this war, which was and I quote him somehow either provoked or not prevented. We all know the Pope can claim infallibility for his remarks. Maybe not for this one, but I'd be keen to hear your reply. Thanks.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: So NATO is a defensive alliance and the war in Ukraine is President Putin's war. This is a war that he has decided to conduct against an independent sovereign nation. And what NATO has been doing for many years is to support the sovereign independent nation in Europe, Ukraine, train, assist, advise, and equip the Ukrainian Armed Forces. That is what NATO Allies and NATO have done for many years. This is not a threat to anyone. This is not a provocation. And that is what we continue to do. So, it is President Putin and Moscow that is responsible for this brutal aggression against the independent country Ukraine.

Dmytro Shkurko, (National News Agency of Ukraine): Thank you so much for the question, Dmytro Shkurko, National News Agency of Ukraine. Now there are a lot of expectations in Ukraine because of a big pre-visiting of Ukraine, I mean leaders of France, Germany, and Italy. I just curious if they consulted NATO before coming to Kyiv from the security and military point of view, and how that visit could be influencing the future cooperation in military field between the NATO and Ukraine. And short follow up, if I may, if Ukraine now is fighting for NATO values using the NATO weaponry, is it the right time to raise a question or consider the future membership of Ukraine in NATO? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: I welcome that leaders of NATO Allied countries go to Kyiv and visit Ukraine and meet with the political leadership, meet with President Zelenskyy and also see the atrocities, the result of the brutal aggression by Moscow and President Putin in Ukraine. I think that is important to demonstrate solidarity, to convey a clear political message, and also, of course, to have that opportunity to consult with the political leadership in Kyiv. We are also of course, consulting with the political leadership in Kyiv here in Brussels, in different NATO capitals. We had the Defence Minister Reznikov participating in the meeting yesterday. And of course, we also consult among ourselves between NATO Allies, as we also did yesterday, in the dinner where we had the European Union, Finland and Sweden, together with Minister Reznikov and all 30 NATO Allies discussing their way forward in our support to Ukraine. And also we had the meeting of the US led support group here at NATO yesterday, more than 40 NATO Allies and partners participated in in that meeting, consulting, discussing, how to sustain an unprecedented level of support to Ukraine, and also in that context, welcomed the announcement by the United States yesterday to further increase support, 1 Billion US extra for military aid, including artillery and also long range fires. So, this is part of an ongoing process where Allies are consulting and working together in many different ways to provide support to Ukraine. Our focus now is on support to Ukraine to provide military support, lethal, non-lethal support, from Allies and from NATO. And also, on capacity building and this helped to modernise more for the longer term, the defence and security institutions of Ukraine. Let me add one more thing, and that is that NATO Allies have provided support Ukraine since 2014, training 10s of 1000s of Ukrainian soldiers, and also helped to equip and strengthen the Ukrainian Armed Forces. It's first and foremost the bravery, the courage of the Ukrainian Armed Forces that are now able to fight back against the invading Russian forces. But NATO’s support for many years is also making a huge difference on the battleground every day

Lili Bayer (POLITICO): Thank you very much, Lili Bayer from POLITICO, I have two questions. The first is on the new model, which you described on pre-assigned forces. Did any new countries offer troops today for the eastern flank under this new model? And if so, how many and for which frontline countries? And my second question is have you made any progress today on the tricky question of more common funding for the Alliance? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: First on the new force model, we made significant progress both on agreeing the exact modalities, elements, of the new force model, but also we heard several Allies indicating that they will provide new national announcements to contribute to the new force model. I think it's a bit wrong if I now start to announce on behalf of those Allies. I'm certain that they will make the announcements well ahead of the NATO summit in two weeks’ time. But we know that already Germany has been out there announcing readiness to provide the extra support and also specific pre-assigned forces for Lithuania. And we’ve also seen announcements earlier from the United Kingdom. And then of course, we also see other allies like France, playing a leading role in Romania. Leading the battle group there. And also France participating in many other ways, for instance, also with some more presence in Estonia and air policing. So by the summit, I'm confident that we have both agreed the force model, which is the framework, but also that we have more forces, pre-assigned and delivered by NATO allies to underpin this new force model. Then, on common funding, well, that's part of what we are preparing for the summit. We made a decision at the summit last year, to invest more together. We have received requirements from our military commanders and now we're working on that. And again, I'm confident that within two weeks, we're by the summit we will have more concrete decisions.

Ketevan Kardeva (Imedi TV): [Inaudible] about tailored support document, and about the meeting you had with the Georgian minister and also about Madrid Summit. Georgia is expecting that Madrid summit will make some concrete steps and messages for Georgia with regard to the open door policy. So what is your main aim and what should Georgia expect? Thank you so much.

NATO Secretary General: Well, I met with the Georgian Defence Minister yesterday and he also participated in the meeting yesterday evening and we stressed and Allies and I myself, underlined the importance of stepping up support both political support and practical support. For Allies that are vulnerable for Russian interference. And of course, Georgia is very much among them because Georgia has already suffered the consequences of a military intervention from Moscow. They did so in 2008. And therefore, we are now working on how we can provide more support and how we can further strengthen our partnership with Georgia. And it was a very constructive and good meeting with the Georgian Defence Minister and Allies also expressed the need to further step up the cooperation with our close partner Georgia.

Ketevan Kardeva (Imedi TV): Open Door Policy?

NATO Secretary General Well as again, it's for the Summit to make final decisions by I expect that when leaders meet, they will recommit to our open door policy. And also re-state what we have said before since the Bucharest summit on Georgia and NATO membership.

Teri Schultz (NPR / Deutche Welle): Thank you very much Oana, Mr. Secretary General, some of the Baltic States in particular have expressed some discomfort with this new model. The fact that the troops wouldn't actually be stationed on their own territory. They're asking for the persistent presence, boots on the ground, on their territory. So if, if the frontline states don't feel that this makes them more secure, or they're not confident, is that really fulfilling the purpose of this new model? And secondly, on the question of grain getting out of Ukraine, are you already putting time into forecasting when and whether there will be new conflicts arising over food insecurity that perhaps NATO may have to respond to in the maybe not so distant future? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: So first of all, on the new force a model I'm confident that within two weeks at the summit, we will agree a force model. Not only model but also that Allies are ready to provide the necessary forces to fill that model with content, with strength, with forces that will reassure all Allies that we are delivering across the whole Alliance not only the east, on strengthening our deterrence and defence in a more dangerous and competitive world. The new force model also consists of many different elements, but when it comes to the land component, and especially in eastern part of the Alliance, we speak about mainly three pillars.

One is increased forward presence with more combat readiness, and we all have already actually increased our presence. Just over the last months, we have doubled the number of battlegroups in the East from four to eight from the Baltic countries down to the Black Sea. And for instance, France is then in lead of the battle group in in Romania and other Allies have also stepped up. Second, Allies are ready to increase further the number of combat troops, combat formations, forward deployed, including with more command and control, which is essential to be able to organize, facilitate reinforcements. The other main, so this is partly more forward presence. The second element is more forward pre-positioned equipment, because what often takes time is to move heavy stuff. Is to move the armoured vehicles, is to move the ammunition, is to move the supplies. So if there is more that is pre-supplied or pre-stocked as forward deployments, pre-positioned, then of course, it's much easier and faster to reinforce when needed. And then, the third element is then pre-assigned troops. Forces that will train in that specific territory where they have a responsibility. So there are in that way three elements, more forward presence, more forward pre-positioned equipment, and pre-assigned forces with the responsibility for a specific territory.

So not all of the troops or forces will be deployed forward but parts of them will be forward deployed and parts of them will be in the home country but ready to move quickly if needed. So this is the thinking and then of course, there are many other elements on cyber, on air, naval, air defences enablers, and many other common components. But altogether, this will mean a significant strengthening of our deterrence and defence posture across the whole Alliance.

Teri Schultz (NPR / Deutche Welle): Food insecurity?

NATO Secretary General: Well, that's a serious concern. And of course, it just demonstrates the brutality of the Russian war against Ukraine because this has global consequences, global ramifications, not least on food prices. And of course, we need to follow very close the security consequences of that, but first and foremost it will be, cause even more suffering from people for people all around the world, and especially in the developing world and in Africa and other places.

So this is just adds to the concern. It adds to the need to end this war and that Putin stops this senseless fighting. And I also welcome efforts by Allies to try to find ways to get grain out of Ukraine in different ways. And I also spoke with President Erdoğan yesterday and I commend actually the efforts by Türkiye and President Erdoğan to try to find a solution to get grain out of Ukraine and to do something with the serious increase in food prices we see taking place as a result of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.


Alf Bjarne Johnsen (VG): Thank you. As you mentioned, you talked to President Erdogan yesterday and after that you stated that the talks was about, quote, “make progress in the accession process for Sweden and Finland”. But after that we heard their foreign minister saying that Türkiye’s expectations were not met in documents from Sweden. So what can you say now about the status of this accession process?

NATO Secretary General: That we are working hard and actively to find a solution. I welcome the historic applications by Finland and Sweden. Many Allies also expressed their support for this historic decision by Finland and Sweden. But at the same time, of course, I and Allies take seriously when Türkiye, an important Ally, expressed concerns on specific issues, not least related to terrorism. And therefore we address those concerns, we look into how we can address them in a way that enables Türkiye to say yes, and to accept Finland and Sweden as new members of our Alliance. And I think it's important to underline that Türkiye is also in favour of NATO's Open Door policy and all Allies see the value of the NATO enlargement that has taken place over now many years. But there are some specific issues and we have been consulting with Ankara, our close Ally, with Finland and Sweden. I went to Finland and Sweden on Sunday and Monday and met with the President of Finland, the Prime Minister of Sweden, and also I'm in regular contact with President Erdogan and my staff is also engaging in these issues. My Chief of Staff is working hard together with many others to try to find a solution. So this is something we are working hard on, actively on, and my aim is to find a solution as soon as possible.

Henry Foy (Financial Times): Thank you. Henry Foy, Financial Times. Secretary General, on the Türkiye point – how much are you worried that the longer this drags on, the more it's fantastic propaganda fuel for Russia who know there are other countries that want to enter NATO, know that there are other countries that seek NATO protection, but at the moment, you guys can't get your house in order to allow Finland and Sweden to come in, even though the briefings just a month ago were that this would happen in a matter of weeks. I mean, is there a reputational issue here for NATO?

NATO Secretary General: NATO is an Alliance of 30 different Allies and with different parties in government, with different views on many things, and then often we don't agree on all issues at the start of a process. So then we have to do, as we always do when there are differences and that is to consult, to discuss, to look for ways to reconcile different views. That sometimes takes some time, but that's also the strength of NATO, that we make decisions by consensus. Of course, by nature, that is a decision making process that sometimes requires some time, some consultations, some meetings, some hard work. But at the end of the day, those decisions are extremely strong, because they're taken by all NATO Allies. And the impressive thing with NATO is that despite the fact that every decision has to be taken by consensus, we are actually able to make a lot of decisions, also on difficult issues. And I'm confident that also we will be able to make a decision on this. I cannot say or tell you exactly how many or how much time we will need, but my ambition is to have a decision soon. And then that's what we're working for. And then of course, when several Allies have to agree and also now agree with two applicant nations, nations applying for membership, I cannot tell you when we are able to find the agreement, but we continue to work hard to try to find an agreement. So on the NATO reputation, I think that the reputation of NATO is that actually we are able to make decisions, also when it requires consensus, which is the way we make decisions in our Alliance.

Mattia Bagnoli (ANSA): Thank you for the floor. Let me go back for a second on the visit of the three leaders in Kyiv today, because this is the core of the European Union and it is also the core of NATO in Europe, at least continental Europe. Those leaders never travelled to Ukraine before and the visit takes place today, the day with the ministerial here in Brussels. So is it just a coincidence or we can read into it a new resolve, so to speak, of the European leg of the Alliance towards Ukraine? And secondly, the Kiel Institute today has published a report in which says that basically the gap of some countries between the pledges of all the arms to Ukraine and the actual delivery is significant. And I wonder if you can say something about that too. Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: On the last question, we have… Our military… There is very substantive work of military commanders of all Allies and partners involved to get equipment over to Ukraine as fast as possible. That's a huge logistical undertaking, and we were, for instance, briefed by Todd Wolters who is the US commander in Europe, but he's also the NATO commander, the SACEUR, and he briefed us on these efforts and how EUCOM, or the US command in Europe, is working with other countries to ensure that we get the support over as quickly as possible. There is no doubt – and that was also confirmed and clearly stated by Minister Reznikov – that an enormous amount of equipment, ammunition, weapons have already arrived in Ukraine. But of course, there are bottlenecks, there are challenges. And there also are some requirements for instance, for training, for spare parts to be delivered together with the specific weapons. So we are addressing these challenges as at 24/7. And there is an impressive effort by Allies on making sure not only to make the right decisions and announcements, but actually turn those announcements into reality on the ground. And we have seen a lot already but we are working hard to get even more over as soon, as quickly as possible. And I would like to commend all those people working hard to make that happen.

Then I… Of course I welcome that President Macron and Chancellor Scholz and also Prime Minister Draghi are in Kyiv. That's a message of solidarity. But in many ways, of course, this message has already been sent by these countries because all of these countries are, and have provided for a long time, significant support to Ukraine. And I also have to commend the European Union for the decisions they have made on sanctions, on financing delivery of weapons, and I think this really demonstrates how the European Union, how NATO are working in tandem, how we support each other's efforts, and how NATO Allies and partners are really making an effort to provide support to Ukraine and this visit is part of that message.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Thank you very much. That's unfortunately all we have time for, but hopefully see many of you in Madrid in a couple of weeks from now. Thank you.