Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the first session of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Bucharest, Romania

  • 29 Nov. 2022 -
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  • Last updated: 29 Nov. 2022 20:47

(As delivered)

Good evening,

NATO Foreign Ministers just concluded a substantive discussion on Russia’s brutal war of aggression.
And our support for Ukraine.

The Ukrainian armed forces have made significant progress.
Liberating their lands and pushing back Russian forces.  

At the same time, large parts of Ukraine remain occupied. And the Russian military retains strong capabilities and a large number of troops. 

Russia is using brutal missile and drone attacks to leave Ukraine cold and dark this winter.

President Putin is trying to weaponise winter.
To force Ukrainians to freeze or flee.
He is trying to break the will of the brave Ukrainian people.
And to divide all of us who support them.

But our meeting here in Bucharest is sending a strong message of NATO unity and of sustained support for Ukraine.

NATO is not a party to the war.
But we will continue to support Ukraine, for as long as it takes.
We will not back down.

NATO Allies are providing unprecedented support.
And today, Allies made additional pledges to NATO’s Comprehensive Assistance Package for Ukraine.
This will fund urgent non-lethal support, including fuel and generators.
Helping Ukraine to address the consequences of Russia’s strikes against their power grid.

I was also glad to take part in the G7 foreign ministerial meeting just now.
To secure commitments for the emergency infrastructure coordination mechanism to assist Ukraine.

NATO’s practical and political support will continue.
Now and for the longer-term.
And I look forward to discussing our support with Foreign Minister Kuleba later tonight.

In our meeting, we also addressed Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations.
Foreign Ministers reaffirmed NATO’s support for Ukraine’s right to choose its own path.
And we recognise and respect Ukraine’s aspirations for membership.
However, our focus now is on providing immediate support as Ukraine defends itself against Russian aggression.
And we will also work even more closely with our other partners.
So I look forward to our meeting tomorrow with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia and Moldova.

Finally, let me welcome Norway’s offer to host an informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers next year in Norway.

With that, I am ready to take your questions.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: We’ll start with BBC second row.

Jonathan Beale (BBC): [inaudible] and you set out that you're going to supply help with Ukraine's energy infrastructure. But you've mentioned nothing about weapons. Specifically, Ukraine's Foreign Minister says he wants air defence systems. Now I know you've provided some but he mentioned specifically Patriot air defence systems. NATO Allies have put Patriot systems in other countries – meant NATO member countries -, they haven't given one to Ukraine. Do you think it's time that that is addressed and what is the reason you can’t give – or NATO Allies can't give Ukraine Patriot air defence systems, which he wants?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: So first of all, one of the main reasons it is important to have Minister Kuleba here, is that then we can sit down as we'll do later tonight,  we also we had the bilateral in earlier today,  to address and to discuss the urgent needs and the different concrete requirements that Ukraine is presenting to NATO Allies. And this dialogue has actually enabled us to increase the support from NATO Allies to unprecedented levels, both the military support, the types of weapons, and also the amount of support. And therefore, it is important that we continue to meet and to go through the concrete lists.

We do this in NATO. We also do that in what we call the Ramstein format that we meet regularly, NATO Allies, partners, led by the United States. This is partly about providing new systems, like for instance, the Patriots, and there is an ongoing discussion about that now. But it's also very much about ensuring that the systems we have ordered to deliver are functioning, are effective. And to do so, we need to ensure that we provide spare parts and enable them to do maintenance of the systems. And also ammunition, because one of the huge challenges we face now, is that some of the advanced systems like the NASAMS that NATO Allies have provided already – advanced, NATO standard air defence systems -, or the German IRIS-T, which are advanced air defence systems, that we are not only providing those systems, but that we're also ensuring that we provide the necessary ammunition and spare parts to secure that these systems are operating effectively.

So yes, we are addressing a wide range of additional systems. At the same time, we are urgently addressing the need to ensure that existing systems are working as expected.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Okay, we’ll take Politico.

Lili Bayer (Politico): Thank you very much, Lili from Politico. During the political discussion regarding the future of Ukraine and Ukraine's membership aspirations, did Allies discuss at all any potential steps that the Alliance or Ukraine could take to come closer together and to help Ukraine prepare their membership application? Or is any such framework or concrete steps, are those off the table? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: We are discussing how to further strengthen our partnership with Ukraine and also help them move towards NATO membership. NATO Allies have reiterated their decision taken here in Bucharest about NATO membership in 2008. And we have also demonstrated that NATO’s door is open. We have demonstrated that over the last years by inviting North Macedonia and Montenegro to join, they already joined, and also by inviting Finland and Sweden. Already 28 out of 30 Allies have ratified their accession protocols.

On Ukraine, of course, the main focus now is on providing urgent needed support, both to help them defend themselves, but also to repair the destroyed energy infrastructure and many other types of support. But on Ukraine, we are discussing how can we strengthen further the political partnership, short of membership, and there are different ways of doing that just by meeting more frequently, having more substantive discussions, and looking into different ways of expanding, deepening our political partnership.

Second, we are now stepping up the practical support. And of course the practical support is important because we provide them with fuel generators, winter clothing, drones, jammers, and many other things, but the political support and the practical support goes hand-in-hand because by expanding the practical support, we also are engaging more closely with Ukraine. And we're also looking into how we can further strengthen that when it comes to, for instance, capacity building, helping Ukraine to transition from Soviet-era equipment, to standards and doctrines, to NATO standards and doctrines, and become more interoperable with NATO forces. So the practical cooperation and the political cooperation goes hand-in-hand and it's helping to move Ukraine towards NATO.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: We’ll go to the lady in grey there from NV Ukraine, just behind you.

Natalia Rop ( Natalia Rop Ukraine. At the G20 Summit in Bali, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy presented a ten-step peace plan. Would NATO be ready to support it? And what do you think can guarantee in Ukraine a lasting peace? In Ukraine until our country becomes a NATO member, as promised last time in Bucharest?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Foreign Minister Kuleba referred to that peace plan, the initiative taken by President Zelenskyy, when I met him earlier today. And I expect also that that will be an issue when Minister Kuleba meets all the other NATO ministers later on tonight. I think the main message is that a lasting peace can only be a just peace – peace will not be lasting, peace will not prevail if autocracy and oppression prevails over democracy and freedom. And if the authoritarian powers win, we will not have a lasting peace. And that's also the reason why, of course, everyone is in favour of peace.

But you also have to realize that the only way to achieve peace is to ensure that the aggressor doesn't win. Because we have to remember what this is. This is a war of aggression, is one country Russia invading another country, violating their sovereignty, their territorial integrity. And not only that, but we see attacks on civilians again and again. We see that there's hardly any electricity, gas, available for most Ukrainians. And this is really, really hurting not only the Ukrainian Armed Forces, but almost all civilians in Ukraine. So this type of warfare, weaponizing winter is a brutal warfare that has enormous consequences for innocent civilians in Ukraine. What we do know is that most wars end at the negotiating table. Most likely this war will also end at the negotiating table.

But what we also know is that what happens around that table is absolutely linked to the situation on the battlefield. So it may sound like a paradox, but the reality is that the best way to achieve a lasting, durable peace in Ukraine is to provide military support to Ukraine. Because that's the way that Russia will learn, President Putin will understand that he cannot achieve his goals on the battlefield. He has to sit down and negotiate in good faith and actually make some serious concessions to have a lasting peace. So yes, we support efforts, but we also know that the way to achieve durable peace is to provide military support to Ukraine.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Ok. Wall Street Journal

Dan Michaels, Wall Street Journal: Thank you very much. Dan Michaels Wall Street Journal. Today's statement mentioned the Black Sea security, as did the Strategic Concept in Madrid, both of which were pushed by Romania. The Romanian President and Foreign Minister were very proud of getting this in there. But according to several members, another NATO Black Sea country, Türkiye, has pushed back against this, not wanting NATO too much involved in Black Sea security. How problematic is this for NATO, that something as critical as Black Sea security is so controversial within the Alliance? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Well, all Allies have agreed, and not only agreed, but actually implemented a significant increase of NATO's presence in the Black Sea region. This started back in 2014. After Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea we have implemented a stronger enforcement of collective defence, especially in the eastern part of the Alliance and that includes the Black Sea region, including in Romania. With more presence on the ground and also supported by airpower and a lot of advanced capabilities. We have now what we call enhanced vigilance activities, that are helping Allies to monitor and to be present in the Black Sea region.

Then, when we realized that that Russia was planning a full-fledged invasion of Ukraine last fall, we further added to our presence in the Black Sea region. I was myself in something called the MK base here in Romania. I think it was early February this year. And I saw how the US, but also other Allies deployed more troops. France is now leading a battlegroup here. We have doubled the number of battlegroups from four to eight, including one in Bulgaria and one in Romania, to increase our military presence.

So before and after the invasion, we have significantly increased our presence. With many different types of capabilities. We also made important decisions, all Allies, in Madrid, to further increase presence, to have more earmarked troops, higher readiness, more prepositioned equipment, and the combination of more forward presence, more prepositioned equipment with earmarked troops that can be deployed to specific areas is the way also to increase our presence in the Black Sea region. So we're working on the details of many of these decisions, but a lot has already happened, just by the measures we have taken.

One more thing, and that is that since we were so prepared for the invasion, on the morning of the invasion, we activated our defence plans. And that means that SACEUR, our Supreme Allied Commander, gets more authorities to move forces. So he can on his own authority move forces into this region, when needed. A lot has been moved into the region already, but he can when he deem it necessary, add additional forces, land, sea and other capabilities when needed.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Thomas Gutschker, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: Thomas Gutschker, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Secretary General, coming out of these meetings, can you quantify the pledge that Allies made today regarding the restoration or repair of Ukrainian energy infrastructure, and how quickly will Allies be able to deliver on their pledges? And maybe in the more long term support: Do you see a specific role for NATO in training Ukrainian soldiers, something which is now done by the UK or by the EU, but not by the Alliance as such? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: First of all, I cannot quantify that because I left the meeting where they made the pledges, and they were making pledges as I left. So I think it will be very wrong if I now start to summarize those numbers. But there's a meeting going on. I gave my intervention, I told them how NATO can support these efforts with our comprehensive assistance package. And then they're going around the table and there will be more pledges for certain. Then of course some Allies may have to go back to the capitals to make some decisions.

But I'm absolutely certain that Allies will sustain their support. And that will include also support to Ukraine to address the devastating consequences of the attacks on the power grid. Let me add that of course we need to support them to repair and to replace what has been damaged. But we also need to support them to defend. To shoot down incoming drones and missiles. That's the best way to protect the Ukrainians against these attacks. And to ensure that President Putin does not succeed in trying to weaponize winter. But the concrete numbers you have to wait until Allies have made the pledges.

Then on training, well, so NATO Allies have, as you alluded to, trained Ukrainian troops for many years. I remember very well I went to Yavoriv, just outside Lviv, back in 2015. And there I saw how the UK, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, trained Ukrainian forces, and NATO has been there for many years, helped to build capacity and modernize their armed forces. And of course, we can absolutely also do that in the future. Exactly what kind of framework that will be done in, that doesn't matter so much for me.

What matters is that NATO Allies in different formats are training Ukrainian troops. I recently visited the United Kingdom, where countries, of course the United Kingdom, Canada, but Finland, Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, and many more Allies are training thousands of Ukrainian troops. And I also welcome the initiative by the European Union that will also be many NATO Allies that will provide training. So training will take place in many formats. NATO provides different types of capacity building, also education. And then all together this makes a huge difference for the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Anadolu.

Mustafa Öztürk, Anadolu: Mustafa Öztürk, Anadolu Agency. First of all, thank you very much for the opportunity. I have two questions. Mr. General Secretary: Sweden says that the country is taking necessary measures to eliminate Türkiye’s concern. However, we are still seeing the rallies of PKK terrorist groups across the country and they are reflecting terror materials to a Turkish embassy building. Do you think Sweden is trying hard to eliminate Türkiye's concerns? Also, my second question is about increasing security concerns in Western Balkan countries, especially in Bosnia Herzegovina and Kosovo since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. How can NATO to address these concerns? Thank you very much.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:  So first of all, on Finland and Sweden joining NATO and to what extent they deliver on what they have promised, if I understood the question right. Then, first, all Allies including Türkiye, made an historic decision in June to invite Finland and Sweden. All Allies have signed the Accession Protocol.  And already 28 out of 30 Allies have ratified the Accession Protocols. This is a very quick accession process. We welcome that. And we do that not least because we know that membership of Finland and Sweden in the Alliance will strengthen NATO, strengthen the transatlantic bond, will make us all more safe and secure.

In Madrid, at the NATO Summit, Finland and Sweden and Türkiye agreed on the joint memorandum. I will say we supported and facilitated those negotiations. I know they were difficult negotiations, but they agreed. And Finland and Sweden are now implementing, they have delivered.  Meaning that Sweden, for instance, has changed its constitution. Sweden has tightened and strengthened the laws on terrorism. We see that there has been expulsions and also that Sweden has lifted any restrictions on arms exports to Türkiye.

On top of that, we have established that they have established a mechanism to ensure that this will continue. That there will be a permanent effort by Finland and Sweden to work together with Türkiye in addressing terrorist threats. This is of course important for Türkiye, but it is important for all Allies. And sometimes there are also very close links between terrorist groups and organized crime in other NATO Allied countries, including in Sweden, and other NATO and other European countries. So, but let me add one more thing. When it comes to individual decisions, on expulsions or extraditions, that is for the Swedish courts to make.  This is the rule of law. So what politicians do, they decide the laws and they have tightened the laws. 

But at the end of the day, you need proof that will stand in the court if you want a specific person extradited from Sweden. And that's how it works in democratic states with the rule of law and an independent judiciary. Then briefly, on the Western Balkans, of course we are concerned. We have members, we have partners in the Western Balkans. We have the NATO KFOR mission in Kosovo close to 4000 troops, helping to ensure peace and stability. And we also have our headquarters and our presence in Sarajevo and of course we work also very closely with the European Union to help to stabilize the region.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: We’ll go to Romanian Television, the lady there.

Ilinca Nazarie, TVR Romania:  Hello, Secretary General, last night President Klaus Iohannis said that we need concrete plans to know where and who, who sends troops. So I was wondering if, were the logistics discussed? Were there any concrete plans after the discussions today? Do they involve Romania in the eastern flank? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: We have plans in place. NATO has plans in place to protect and defend all Allies.  And also that's the plans we activated when Russia invaded Ukraine. And we activated the same morning. And that has led to more NATO presence,  now 40,000 troops under NATO command in the eastern part of the Alliance, all backed by significant air and naval forces.  And SACEUR, our Supreme Allied Commander has then been provided the authority to add even more forces, if he deems that necessary. So we have plans. Then, of course we are constantly assessing those plans, developing those plans.

And at Madrid, at the Summit in Madrid we made decisions to further strengthen our force structure, based on many different measures, but the key elements will be more presence, especially in the eastern part of the Alliance, higher readiness forces, a pool of several 100,000 forces that can be quickly deployed; and then more prepositioned equipment. And to a larger extent, also more earmarked forces.

For instance, we have seen that Germany has already followed up, because Germany is the lead nation for the battle group in Lithuania. And they are now developing a brigade that can be earmarked or will be earmarked for deployment in Lithuania. With some equipment, they will know the terrain they will know the home defence forces and this concept of more and more troops will further strengthen NATO’s ability to protect and defend all Allies.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu:  ARD.

Markus Preiss, ARD: Secretary General, Marcus Preiss with ARD,  German TV.  I have a question. Everybody's saying Putin is weaponizing the cold and the winter. I am a bit surprised that you're talking about this on the 29th of November right now. Have you been late to addressing that kind of weapon? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Well, we have addressed this issue for a long time, not least by providing air defence systems. I think that the most effective thing NATO Allies do, is to help the Ukrainians to shoot down incoming missiles and drones from Russia. And we also know, and this was also shared by Minister Kuleba, that actually a quite high proportion of the incoming Russian drones and missiles are shut down. So without that significant and modern air defence systems that the Allies have provided, we would have seen much more devastating attacks and much more damage including on the gas, the energy the power grid.

Then, of course, what we see now is a very deliberate attack on this critical infrastructure. For me, it's obvious that that actually reflects that President Putin is failing on the battlefield. Because since they're not able to resist the fact that Ukraine has liberated local territory, the way they can respond is by attacking civilian targets and of course there are thousands of cities, there are hundreds of energy facilities. And of course, there's no way all of them can be defended at the same time. But that's also the reason why we are stepping up and urging Allies to provide even more. And then try to mitigate with both generators, fuel, spare parts. This is about defending, it's about repairing and it’s about replacing their energy infrastructure and we are doing all things at the same time.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Okay, we'll take one last question. Journal TV, lady in pink, from Moldova.

Iulia Sarivan, Journal TV, Republic of Moldova: Thank you, Journal TV, Republic of Moldova. So the latest security incidents caused by Russian missiles launched against Ukraine and which closed the airspace of Republic of Moldova, and the one of which fell in Moldovan territory, have brought back into the public discussion the vulnerability of the Moldovan defence system. How could Allied countries support Moldova in this regard? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Well, Moldova is a partner of NATO. Moldova has a very close relationship with the European Union and many Allies also provide different types of bilateral support to Moldova. I recently met the President of Moldova, Maia Sandu, and we had a very extensive discussion on the ways we can try to expand our partnership, of course respecting the fact that Moldova is not aspiring for NATO membership,  Moldova is a neutral country.

And we are looking into how we can work more closely with Moldova in different areas, but also welcome the fact that NATO Allies and the European Union are also providing economic support to Moldova to help them mitigate the consequences that they are seeing, and because of the war in Ukraine. Moldova being so close to the war, has suffered a lot. And the only and the best way to really end this, is for President Putin to end the war. This brutal war of aggression is really bad for the Ukrainians, but it also has ramifications all over all over the world with increased energy prices, increased food prices, and power shortages in a country like Moldova. So the lasting way to end these problems is for President Putin to end this senseless war.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Thank you very much. This concludes this press conference. We'll see you tomorrow. Thank you.