by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the meetings of NATO Defence Ministers in Brussels
NATO Defence Ministers meet today and tomorrow at a pivotal moment for our security. Over the last weeks, we have seen the most serious escalation of the war since the invasion in February.
Russia is mobilising tens of thousands of new troops.
They are trying to illegally annex new Ukrainian lands and we have seen the indiscriminate strikes against Ukrainian cities. And then of course, we also have heard the veiled nuclear threats coming from Moscow. All of this makes this the most serious escalation since February.
Today we will meet with the Ukrainian Defence Minister, Minister Reznikov, and the message from the NATO Allies will be that we are steadfast in our support to Ukraine, that we are prepared for the long haul and that we will support them for as long as it takes.
There will be a meeting with Minister Reznikov in the US-led Contact Group for Ukraine and also dinner with NATO Ministers later on today, where we will address how to ramp up support for Ukraine. The top priority will be more air defence for Ukraine.
We will also address our deterrence and defence and how to replenish our stocks, because Allies have provided support to Ukraine by reducing NATO stocks, or ammunition, or weapons. This has been the right thing to do, but of course, we need to address how to refill those stocks. Therefore, I expect that the Ministers will agree to review our guidelines for stocks and also to engage more with industry.
NATO is a unique platform. We have the NATO Defence Planning Process; we have the capability targets; we have the work on standardisation and interoperability. All these are unique NATO tools that enable us to engage with industry and provide industry with the long-term demand they need to invest more in production capacity, so we can produce more weapons, more ammunition, more of the capabilities we need, both to ensure our own deterrence and defence, but also to continue to provide support to Ukraine.
Resilience will also be an issue that will be addressed.
The resilience of critical infrastructure, the importance of that has been demonstrated by the sabotage against the pipelines in the Baltic Sea. And then we will also have a meeting of the NATO Defence Ministers on a session where we will address our missions and operations, from Iraq to Kosovo.
There will be a meeting of NATO's Nuclear Planning Group. This is a routine, long-planned meeting, where we will address how to continue to ensure that NATO’s deterrent remains safe, secure and effective.
And with that, I am ready to take questions.
Volodymyr Runets (ICTV): What is NATO’s response in case of a Russian nuclear strike anywhere?
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: NATO is a defensive Alliance. NATO is there to prevent a conflict, to prevent a war. And therefore, we have strengthened our deterrence to send a very clear message to Russia that we are there to protect and defend all Allies.
We have seen of course the speculations about the use of low-yield nuclear weapon in Ukraine and we have conveyed clearly to Russia that this will have severe consequences for Russia.
Russia knows that a nuclear war can not be won, it must never be fought. And we are of course also closely monitoring the Russian nuclear posture. We have not seen any changes in the nuclear posture of Russia but we will remain vigilant, we will continue to monitor closely because the nuclear threats, the nuclear rhetoric and the veiled threats from Russia are dangerous and reckless.
Alf Bjarne Johnsen (VG): Good morning Secretary General. There are still a small number of countries that have not reached the 2% target from eight years back and haven't presented a plan to reach the target. What is your message to them? And does this difference in spending on military material affect the solidarity within the Alliance?
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: So we welcome, I welcome that all NATO Allies since 2014 have increased defence spending and this is necessary in the more dangerous world to invest more in our security. And that's exactly what NATO Allies do.
Since 2014, NATO Allies have added more than 350 billion extra dollars for defence across Europe and Canada. We welcome that. Then I welcome also that more and more Allies meet the 2% guideline. And of course, I will continue to work for and urge those Allies who are not meeting the guidelines or don't have plans in place to meet them, to do so.
Julia Rech (ZDF): So what changed now that member states are ready to provide air defence and what does that mean for the follow up of this member state?
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: I welcome that NATO Allies are providing air defence systems. That is extremely important and I welcome the recent announcement by Germany and also the delivery of German air defence systems to Ukraine. I think we all have seen why this is so important. The horrific indiscriminate attacks against Ukrainian cities, civilians killed, civilian critical infrastructure destroyed and not least the attacks on the the energy system, the energy infrastructure, is serious as we approach winter. So all of this demonstrates the urgent need for more air defence for Ukraine. Allies have provided air defence but we need even more. We need different types of air defence: short range, long range, air defence systems to take ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, drones, different systems for different tasks and then of course, Ukraine is a big country, many cities, so we need to scale up to be able to help Ukraine defend even more cities and more territory against the horrific Russian attacks against their civilian populations.
Siarhei Pelesa (BELSAT TV): According to NATO, what is the role of Lukashenko regime, an ally of Vladimir Putin, in this war?
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Well, I expect that the Lukashenko regime stops being complicit to this war. We have seen how Belorussia has been used as a staging area for missile launches, air attacks against Ukraine and President Lukashenka should stop helping and supporting the Russian war efforts.
Marko Ivas (TANJUG): How do you see the situation in the Western Balkans bearing in mind the war in Ukraine?
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Western Balkans is important for NATO, we have a history there. We have been there for many years. We helped to end the two brutal wars in the 1990s. We have our KFOR mission in Kosovo helping to secure stability, the free movement of all communities in Kosovo, we have the headquarters in Sarajevo and we're also working closely with the European Union. The NATO troops in Kosovo helps to support the diplomatic efforts of the European Union and the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. And we also work together with EU in Bosnia Herzegovina. And of course, we have also members in the Western Balkans. The two newest members of the Alliance are actually countries in the Western Balkans, North Macedonia and Montenegro. So Western Balkans is important for NATO and therefore, we continue to focus on that region.
Thank you very much. Thank you