Pre-ministerial press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the meetings of NATO Foreign Ministers in Bucharest

  • 25 Nov. 2022 -
  • |
  • Mis à jour le: 25 Nov. 2022 14:31

(As delivered)

Good morning. 

NATO Foreign Ministers will meet next week in Bucharest.

We will address Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine, which continues to threaten Euro-Atlantic peace and security. 

President Putin is failing in Ukraine.
And he is responding with more brutality.

Waves of deliberate missile attacks on cities and civilian infrastructure.
Depriving Ukrainians of heat, light, and food.
This is a horrific start to the winter for Ukraine.

These are also tough times for the rest of Europe, and around the world.
With rising energy and food prices.
Yes, we are all paying a price for Russia’s war against Ukraine.
But the price we pay is in money.
While the price Ukrainians pay is in blood.

And if we let Putin win, all of us will pay a much higher price, for many years to come.

If Putin and other authoritarian leaders see that force is rewarded,
they will use force again to achieve their goals.

That would make our world more dangerous.
And all of us more vulnerable. 
So it is in our security interest to support Ukraine. 

We need to remember what this war is about.

Russia is the aggressor.
Ukraine is the victim of aggression.
And of course, Ukraine has a right to defend itself.
We help Ukraine uphold that right.

There will be no lasting peace if the aggressor wins.
If oppression and autocracy prevail over freedom and democracy.

Most wars end with negotiations.
But what happens at the negotiating table depends on what happens on the battlefield.   
Therefore, the best way to increase the chances for a peaceful solution is to support Ukraine.

So NATO will continue to stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes.
We will not back down.

Allies are providing unprecedented military support.
And I expect foreign ministers will also agree to step up non-lethal support.

Through our Comprehensive Assistance Package, NATO has been delivering fuel, medical supplies, winter equipment, as well as drone jammers.

I thank all Allies for their contributions.
And at our meeting in Bucharest, I will call for more. 

Over the longer term we will help Ukraine transition from Soviet era equipment to modern NATO standards, doctrine and training.

We will meet with Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba to discuss Ukraine’s most urgent needs and our long-term support.

We will also meet with the foreign ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia and Moldova.
Our three partners are facing Russian pressure in many different ways.
So at our meeting we will take further steps to help them protect their independence, and strengthen their ability to defend themselves. 

NATO foreign ministers will also address ways to strengthen our resilience and the challenges posed by China.
China is not an adversary.
But it is stepping up military modernisation.
Increasing its presence from the Arctic to the Western Balkans,
From space to cyber space.
And seeking to control the critical infrastructure of NATO Allies.

The war in Ukraine has demonstrated our dangerous dependency on Russian gas.
So we must assess our dependencies on other authoritarian regimes, not least China.

We must manage the risks.
Reduce our vulnerabilities.
And increase our resilience.

The foreign ministers of Finland and Sweden will join us for all the discussions in Bucharest. 
It is time to finalise their accession process and welcome them as full-fledged members of our Alliance.
This will make them safer, NATO stronger and the Euro-Atlantic area more secure.

With that, I am ready to take your questions.

Oana Lungescu (NATO Spokesperson) - Okay, we'll go to TVN Poland.

TVN - Thank you, Maciej Sokołowski, TVN. Thank you, Secretary General. Last week after the missile hit Eastern Poland, Germany offered its Patriot system to the Poland. But Poland came up with a different idea to position the system in Ukraine. So I'd like to ask you were there any consultations before? Because according to Germany, it's not possible to position the Patriot system in Ukraine at all, without consultations with NATO allies. Were there any consultations before? Is it possible to place the Patriot system in Ukraine? And what's your opinion where's the best place to locate the system? Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General - I welcome the German offer to strengthen the air defences of Poland by offering to deploy Patriot batteries to Poland after the tragic incident in Poland last week, where two people lost their lives. Over the years, NATO has increased its presence in the eastern part of the Alliance. And in particular since the invasion in February, we have stepped up our presence with increasing the number of battle groups, increasing the number of troops on the ground, but also backed by significant air and naval capabilities. And this includes also significant air defence systems with fighter aircrafts, ground based air defence systems like the Patriots and of course, also Naval Air Defence Systems, so naval based air defence systems. So in total, we have increased our presence including with air defence systems significantly in the eastern part of the Alliance. In addition, our Supreme Allied Commander SACEUR, General Cavoli, has the authorities to quickly reinforce and to further strengthen our presence and augment further our air defences in the eastern part of the Alliance.  In parallel with that, we have also provided significant air defence systems to Ukraine, including with modern systems.  Germany has provided modern air defence systems to Ukraine. And at the Foreign Ministerial meeting next week, I will urge allies to further step up the support, not least with air defence to Ukraine, but decisions on specific capabilities, that remains national decisions.

Oana Lungescu (NATO Spokesperson) -   We will go to Politico.

Politico - Thank you. I had a question on China and the reports that ministers are expected to adopt. Do you see this report as a strong first step in implementing the China language that was adopted in the Strategic Concept and what do you see as the next steps for making the language of the Strategic Concept on China a reality so in the implementation, thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General - Foreign Ministers will when they meet in Bucharest  follow up on the decisions heads of state and government made in Madrid in June, when they agreed the Strategic Concept, where we addressed China in a way we had never done before in any Strategic Concept of NATO.  We stated clearly that of course, we need to continue to engage with China. China's not an adversary. But at the same time, we see the significant ongoing military modernization of China, including with advanced weapons systems, long-range missiles, new nuclear weapons. We see how China and Russia are working more and more closely together. We see how China tries to control critical infrastructure in Europe. We saw it with the discussions about 5G networks.  And we see also how China doesn't share our values, violating human rights in China.  And how they crack down on democratic protest, journalists. Not least in Hong Kong. So all of this makes it necessary for Allies to address this together. And that's exactly what we will do, when we meet in Bucharest to discuss how to follow up these political decisions. This is about resilience. It's about learning from what we have seen after the Ukraine war, or the war of aggression against Ukraine by Russia and the way Russia has used our dependency on gas. And based on that we need to also assess over-dependencies or dependencies on commodities from other authoritarian regimes. And that includes China, for instance, rare earth minerals, supply chains and other aspects where there are potential vulnerabilities for NATO Allies.
So resilience is part of the way we address the challenge that China is posing to us. We need also to work with our Asia Pacific partners, Japan and South Korea, New Zealand and Australia. And of course, everything we do on technology  is also related to ensuring that we keep the technological edge and we have established a new fund for technology to ensure that we maintain the technological edge, knowing that China is investing heavily in new, technologically advanced systems. So there are many things we need to do. But I look forward to the discussions with Foreign Ministers next week to chart the way forward.

Oana Lungescu (NATO Spokesperson) - Bloomberg

Bloomberg - Thank you, Natalia Drozdiak from Bloomberg. I want to ask about Ukraine's application to join NATO.  I understand why allies won’t want to push forward with a fast track application right now, given the war. But I'm wondering why won't allies consider a more concrete roadmap to give Ukraine a trajectory to eventually join the Alliance one day. Thanks.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General -  NATO's door is open.  And we have demonstrated that, not only in words, but also in deeds. Over the last years we have welcomed North Macedonia and Montenegro as new members of this Alliance. And just this year, we made the decision to invite Finland and Sweden and we have signed accession protocols for Finland and Sweden, joining the Alliance. On all these decisions, Russia has been heavily against. They have tried to stop the accession process of North Macedonia and Montenegro. And they have tried to of course also to stop the accession of Finland and Sweden. Demonstrating that NATO’s door is open and demonstrating that Russia doesn't have a veto on NATO enlargement, so we have demonstrated that NATO's door is open and that it is for NATO allies and aspirant countries to decide on membership. This is also the message to Ukraine. And we have reiterated the decision we made back in 2008, in Bucharest, at the Summit there.  That Ukraine will become a NATO member. Then, of course, the way to help to move Ukraine towards membership is to work with them, both on the political partnership and on the practical support. And that's exactly what we do. Not least when we are stepping up our practical cooperation with Ukraine, both the immediate need for support with winter clothing, fuel generators, to be able to manage the difficulties throughout this coming winter.  But also the more long-term cooperation, where we are looking into how we can step up what to do when it comes to institutional building, reforms. And not least the fundamental transition from Soviet era equipment to modern at NATO standards, doctrines, equipment that will also increase interoperability between Ukraine and NATO and help Ukraine to move towards Euro-Atlantic integration. The most urgent and an immediate task and the focus now is of course, to provide support to Ukraine. Make sure that our Allies are providing military support and NATO's providing support to ensure that the President Putin doesn't win in Ukraine. But that Ukraine is able to liberate territory and achieve a piece that ensures that Ukraine prevails as a sovereign independent nation.

Oana Lungescu (NATO Spokesperson) - Interfax, Ukraine

Interfax Ukraine - Thank you, Oana. Iryna Somer, news agency Interfax, Ukraine.  Secretary General, recently during a NATO Ukraine Commission, the head of presidential office Mr. Yermak said that Ukraine can be a part of NATO air defence system. What is your opinion on this? Do you think it's possible it's in an upcoming future, or only when Ukraine will be a member of NATO? Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General - So NATO allies are and have delivered significant amounts of NATO air defence systems to Ukraine. With recently NASAMS batteries, which has proven extremely effective.  Germany has provided the Iris-T system, which is a modern NATO standard system. I was in Spain this week and Spain has offered additional Hawk batteries.  So NATO Allies have already delivered and have promised to continue to deliver NATO standard air defence systems, but also of course, training, maintenance, spare parts and also ammunition to these systems. So in that way, we already see how Ukraine is able to operate NATO systems and this is good for Ukraine. It's helping them to defend against the horrific missile and air attacks against Ukrainian cities and Ukrainian infrastructure. And it's also of course, increasing, improving interoperability between Ukrainian forces and NATO forces. And before the war, Ukraine also participated in different NATO operations. Ukraine was part of our mission in Afghanistan. Ukraine has been for many years in our mission in Kosovo. We have conducted training together. So there are many ways that we are working more closely together as NATO and as Ukraine, with equipment, training and procedures. But again, the focus now is on helping Ukraine to fight back the Russian invasion. And then we have more long-term cooperation as outlined on institution building, and strengthening further interoperability.

Oana Lungescu (NATO Spokesperson) - Imedi, Georgia.

Imedi, Georgia - Thank you Oana and good morning, Mr. Secretary General. I have a question about Georgia. The meeting in Bucharest is highly symbolic and emotional for Georgia because in 2008, leaders promised NATO membership in Bucharest. What should we expect now? Any specific decisions and the general steps to strengthen security to defend our country? And also we'd like to hear your comment on the decision made in the European Parliament this week to declare Russia its state, which sponsors terrorism. Thank you so much.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General: First, on Georgia, as we will meet with Georgia together with the Foreign Ministers from Moldova and Bosnia and Herzegovina. I think just the fact that we meet as Foreign Ministers in Bucharest demonstrates our strong political commitment, our support to these highly valued partners. Georgia is a highly valued partner. I mean, we know that these partners are a subject of Russian interference. Georgia has seen Russian military aggression back in 2008. And still significant parts of Georgia is controlled by Russian-backed forces. So that just makes it even more important to work with Georgia, to strengthen our cooperation with them, to help them to strengthen their resilience, and to help Georgia to defend itself. And for Georgia, we could also increase our support by building on the substantial NATO-Georgia package and continue both our political and practical cooperation.

Then, on the decision by the European Parliament, I would like to say that what we have seen over now several months are horrific attacks against civilians, residential areas, critical civilian infrastructure, and also against schools and hospitals. With a high number of civilian casualties. Intentional targeting of civilian infrastructure and civilians is a war crime. And therefore, it is so extremely important that investigations are conducted, that all the facts are established, and NATO Allies are also helping and supporting the ongoing efforts by Ukraine with forensic support and legal support, to be able to establish the facts and to ensure accountability that those responsible for this horrific attacks are held accountable. Deliberate attacks on civilians are war crimes and those responsible must be held accountable.

Oana Lungescu (NATO Spokesperson) - NPR

NPR - Thank you. For months now you've been discussing with your armaments directors, how you're going to practically and speedily improve the supply chain of weapons and we're heading into winter. You've just had another meeting with armaments directors. What practical steps have you taken? What can you show for these meetings? Because I read the press release and it sounded exactly like the one from months ago. The language doesn't seem to change much. And just, if I could clarify one of your statements earlier, you said that sending a patriot system into Ukraine would be a national decision for Germany. But obviously, this would have huge implications for NATO. I mean, isn't that a no go for an ally? To send a patriot system into Ukraine would involve all of NATO  wouldn’t it? It would risk an Article Five declaration if such a system were attacked. Sorry, because Germany insists that its technicians would have to be there. I mean, I know this is very hypothetical, but..

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General: NATO Allies have been able to deliver different types of advanced air defence systems and also other advanced systems like the HIMARS to Ukraine already. And the way this has been done is that when there is a need for specialists to operate these systems, be it air defence systems or other advanced artillery systems, the Ukrainians have received training in a NATO country. So for instance, on the NASAMS, which is also an advanced defence systems, the training has been conducted in Allied countries by NATO personnel, but NATO personnel has not conducted any work inside Ukraine. And again, this highlights that NATO is not party to the conflict. We don't have forces or troops on the ground, but NATO Allies support Ukraine's right for self-defence, and we have that right to help them to uphold that right and we do that by providing different types of advanced systems, but also by training them. Just a couple of weeks ago, I went to the United Kingdom. I visited one of the training facilities there, where the United Kingdom but also Canada, Denmark, Netherlands, Lithuania, and also actually partners like Australia and New Zealand are providing training to Ukrainian soldiers and personnel in different ways. So, there are ways for us to ensure that they can operate also modern advanced systems without deploying NATO personnel inside Ukraine. But again, the specific decisions on the specific systems are national decisions. Sometimes there are end-users agreements and other things so they need to consult with other allies. But at the end of the day, it has to be taken by the national governments.

NPR: on stockpiles?

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General: Well, what we have seen is that production has increased. And partly, we have been able to increase, our NATO allies have been able to increase production of Soviet era equipment and Soviet era ammunition, which is extremely urgent and needed because Ukraine still has a lot of Soviet artillery or Soviet era artillery, and they need ammunition, they need spare parts. And some of our members in the eastern part of the Alliance, they have those production facilities and they have ramped up production. I met with many industry leaders last week, and we discussed in detail how they can ramp up production. Of course, some of these increases can happen quickly, some has already taken place. Other will require more time. Partly, you can increase production by having more shifts, by utilizing existing production lines more. But, of course, sometimes there is a need for new production lines, new facilities, and that will require investments. And that, by nature, will take some more time but production has already increased. But we need also to do even more to also ensure more long-term investments in additional production lines.

Oana Lungescu (NATO Spokesperson) -  We’ll go to TV2.

TV2 Norway: Good morning, Mr. Secretary General. Elin Sørsdahl from TV2 Norway. I have two questions. I want to elaborate a little bit about what the EU Parliament said this week. Do you agree that what Russia does in Ukraine is state-sponsored terrorism? And second, yesterday we heard that Hungary is ready to approve the entry of Finland and Sweden in NATO in early 2023. Do you have some news from Türkiye?

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General: on Finland and Sweden, all Allies made an historic decision, including Türkiye, to invite Finland Sweden to join this alliance. We did that in June. And then a few days later, all Allies signed the Accession Protocol for Finland and Sweden. Already 28 Allies have ratified in the national parliaments. So, so far, this has been the quickest accession process in NATO's modern history. Then, of course, I urge also the two remaining Allies to ratify as soon as possible. I welcome the announcement from Hungary that it will happen soon. And I also of course, have conveyed the message to Türkiye. I visited Istanbul, I met with President Erdogan, with the foreign and defence ministers, and we discussed a wide range of issues. But, of course, one of the issues we discussed was also accession of Finland, Sweden into NATO or the ratification. And my message has been that Finland and Sweden are delivering on the trilateral memorandum they agreed with Türkiye in June. Sweden has strengthened their legislation on terrorism, changed the constitution, and also made it clear that there are no restrictions on arms exports to Türkiye. And both Finland and Sweden are also committed to a long-term cooperation with Türkiye on these issues. I'm confident that all Allies will ratify. I will not speculate about exactly when, but the sooner the better. Because we know that Finnish and Swedish membership will strengthen NATO. It will strengthen transatlantic security. They are partners of NATO for many years, and they have significant capabilities that will help to strengthen the whole Alliance.  Let me also add that Finland and Sweden are in a very different place now than before they applied because since they applied in May, what you have seen is that NATO has increased in its presence in the region. Several NATO Allies have issued security assurances, including the United States, the United Kingdom, European Allies, to Finland and Sweden. And 28 Allies have ratified the accession protocols. And the fact that they participate in almost all NATO activities, civilian and military, makes it absolutely clear that if there was any attack or aggressive action against Finland or Sweden, it is inconceivable that NATO will not react. So yes, I would like to see the final ratifications, but we have come a very long way in a very short time on when it comes to accession of Finland and Sweden.

Oana Lungescu (NATO Spokesperson) - Thank you very much, colleagues. This concludes this press conference. We'll see in Bucharest. Thank you so much.