Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on board the US Navy Aircraft Carrier USS George H.W. Bush

  • 25 Oct. 2022 -
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  • Last updated: 26 Oct. 2022 10:44

(As delivered)

Good afternoon, 

It is a great pleasure to be on board the USS George H.W. Bush. 

Admiral Munsch, 
Vice Admiral Ishee, 
Rear Admiral Velez, 
Captain Pollard, 

It is great to see you all here and to be on this impressive aircraft carrier. 

Thanks to all of you, and to the crew, for hosting us today.

This is an impressive vessel.
And it leads an impressive carrier strike group, currently under NATO command.
A demonstration of U.S. capability and commitment to the Alliance. 

This carrier sends a powerful message of Allied deterrence every day. 
She keeps our sea-lanes open and secure. 
And contributes to NATO’s increased vigilance from the Baltic to the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.  
In recent years, she has also been part of our critical fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. 

This carrier now leads Neptune Strike 2022.

This NATO deployment includes: 
Over 80 aircraft, 
14 ships,  
And around 6,000 personnel. 
From 24 NATO Allies and partners, including Finland and Sweden. 

Neptune Strike tests our readiness to deter and defend across the Euro-Atlantic area. 

Just a few days ago, US Navy F-18s flew from this carrier to Lithuania. 
Working alongside our Allies France, Latvia and Hungary along the way. 

And last week, your F-18s joined Canadian fighter aircraft for patrols over Romania. 
Refueled in the air by a Dutch tanker aircraft. 

So this exercise is a perfect example of the transatlantic bond.
Europe and North America working together in NATO. 

It demonstrates our ability to rapidly reinforce our Allies.
And project power across the Alliance.

NATO is a defensive alliance.
Our deterrence prevents conflict and preserves peace.

Our strength helps to prevent any miscalculation by sending a clear message:
NATO will protect and defend every inch of Allied territory.

Turning to Ukraine, Russia’s brutal war and illegal war is at a pivotal moment.
President Putin is responding to his failures on the battlefield with more aggression. 
Strikes on civilians, on civilian energy infrastructure. 
And drone and missile attacks on residential areas. 

Russia now falsely claims Ukraine is preparing to use a radiological “dirty bomb” on its own territory. 
NATO Allies reject this transparently false allegation.

Russia often accuses others of what they intend to do themselves.
We have seen this pattern before. 
From Syria to Ukraine. 

Russia must not use false pretexts for further escalation.
The world is watching closely. 

In recent days, we have also seen Iran provide military support to the Russian war effort.
This is unacceptable. 
No country should be helping the aggressor in an illegal war. 
So I welcome that Allies and the European Union are implementing strong sanctions on Tehran.

NATO is not party to the war in Ukraine.
But we will continue to support their fundamental right to self-defence.
For as long as it takes. 

Let me close by thanking the remarkable women and men of the George H. W. Bush Carrier Strike Group.

As the motto of this ship says, you are all “freedom at work”.
Working alongside many others from across North America and Europe to keep us all safe.

Standing together in NATO, we will continue to defend our freedom and our way of life. 
Against threats from any direction.

Thank you very much again. 

NATO Acting Deputy Spokesperson Dylan White: We will take a few questions, please raise your hand. Let’s go with CBS.

Christopher Livesay (CBS News): How concerned are you that Russia will follow through on these threats of a nuclear attack? And how is NATO preparing? 

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: President Putin's nuclear rhetoric is dangerous and it is reckless and irresponsible. Any use of a nuclear weapon in Ukraine would fundamentally change the nature of the conflict. President Putin, Russia, knows that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. And they also know that there will be severe consequences. So far we have not seen any changes in Russia's nuclear posture, but of course we monitor it very closely and we are vigilant and ready to act if necessary. But the most important thing now is to convey a clear message or show that that they should, of course, not use a nuclear weapon in Ukraine. 

NATO Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Sky, please.

Deborah Haynes (Sky News): Thank you, Deborah from Sky News. Obviously this is an exercise going on here, but at the same time NATO is conducting its annual nuclear exercises. Can you talk about that? Has Russia been monitoring it? There was concerns that it could be escalatory. Has that concern borne out? Or are you glad that you are conducting these exercises? 

NATO Secretary General: Our exercise Steadfast Noon is a long-planned exercise. It's a routine exercise. It's an exercise we conduct regularly, and I think it would have sent an absolutely wrong signal if then suddenly we cancelled that exercise. We have also been transparent about the fact that we are conducting these exercises, and it was planned long before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The purpose of the exercise is to keep our deterrent safe, secure and effective. There will be no live…. It's not a live exercise or live fires. We will train our dual capable aircrafts, the crews and the planes, but no, no of course live fire as part of the exercise. And it also takes place far from the border with Russia, so this is a routine way of ensuring that our deterrent is safe and secure and effective. And deterrence is a way to prevent conflict. As long as Russia knows that NATO is there to respond, they also know that all Allies will protect and defend if one Ally is attacked. One for all, all for one. And for more than 70 years, NATO's credible deterrence has preserved peace. And that's exactly the reason why we continue to ensure that we have credible deterrence 24/7 every day throughout every year to continue to preserve that no NATO Ally is attacked by Russia. 

Guillermo Pascual (Antena3): I'm Guillermo Pascual from the Spanish television Antena3. Secretary General, given the current level of threat and the nuclear rhetoric by the Kremlin, it is necessary or convenient to convene a Heads of State NATO Summit?

NATO Secretary General: So we are constantly consulting within the Alliance, we just had a defence ministerial meeting a few days ago. We speak on the phone, we consult almost daily at the NATO Headquarters. And we had a successful Summit in Madrid in June, where the NATO Allies, the leaders, the Heads of State, agreed to further strengthen our collective defence, increase our presence in the eastern part of the Alliance, and to also respond by increasing the readiness of our forces so we can quickly reinforce if there is a need. Let me also add that we also then agreed to step up our support for Ukraine. NATO is not party to the conflict in Ukraine, but we support Ukraine in their right for self-defence, in defending themselves. So we will assess the need for additional meetings at different levels, but we have many ways of consulting, many ways for making decisions and we will also next month actually have a foreign ministerial meeting, and we meet when when we see there is a need to meet. But we can actually also make decisions without having physical meetings because we are consulting at the NATO Headquarters and making decisions there when needed. 

NATO Acting Deputy Spokesperson: We have time for one more? If not, then thank you very much. 

NATO Secretary General: Thank you.