Joint press conference
by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Olaf Scholz
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz: [as interpreted] Secretary General, dear Jens, it is good to be able to welcome you to the Chancellor's office. You have been visiting us quite often. You were here yesterday and you're back today. As I said, yesterday evening, we enjoyed a dinner together with the Norwegian Prime Minister and an excellent discussion over dinner. Today, we had a bilateral discussion. The focus of our exchanges, and it won't come as a surprise to you, was the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine and its consequences. It is clear that together with our allies in NATO, in the European Union and beyond, we have supported and continue to support Ukraine and its ability to defend itself and we will continue that support for as long as it takes in political terms, financially, with humanitarian assistance and also by supplying the necessary weapons.
Russia must not and will not win this war. It is equally obvious and clear, and we stand by that, that NATO itself must not become party to the conflict, for this would lead to an escalation with unforeseeable consequences for the planet. The fact that Putin's Russia is trying to shift borders through the use of force, has reminded us once again, of how important the Transatlantic Alliance is. NATO is and remains the central guarantor of our collective security. The NATO Summit in Madrid in summer, was an important milestone on the path towards preparing and positioning the Alliance for present and future threats to our security.
And we're now working to implement these decisions. We are developing the foundations for the NATO force planning for the next few years. We are tackling urgent issues like the holding of stocks, and questions of protecting critical infrastructure. By the time that the next summit of NATO takes place in Vilnius, I hope that we will be able to welcome Finland and Sweden formally too as new Allies, as was decided by all of us in Madrid. It is clear for Germany that our commitment in the Alliance continue to stand without any “if” and “buts”.
We will stand ready to support each other, any Ally, against any threat, and to protect every inch of the Alliance.
Germany is already very active when it comes to protecting the Eastern Flank of NATO by making available roughly 1000 troops in Lithuania. And we have designated a brigade in Germany to the defence of Lithuania. We've made available Eurofighters for the air policing of Baltic states. And we have provided Patriot air defence systems to Slovakia. In addition, the Federal Armed Forces this year earmarked more than 14,000 troops for the NATO Response Force and kept them ready. Next year, the number will have risen to 17,000 and Germany will, in tried and tested cooperation with Norway and the Netherlands, again, take over the lead of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force.
And, dear Jens, the Federal Armed Forces will further enhance its contribution to protect the Alliance territory. Starting 2025, we are planning to make available to NATO 30,000 troops at high readiness. In the speech I gave in Prague a few months ago, I pointed to the need to catch up with regard to air defence in Europe. This is why we developed the European Sky Shield initiative, the purpose of which is to strengthen the European pillar in NATO. And I welcome the fact that as many as 15 allies have already joined that initiative.
The NATO Secretary General and I also discussed the security of critical infrastructure, especially in the North Sea. The North Stream sabotage acts have shown that we have to reassess the risks to our energy infrastructure. And this is especially true for the North Sea where we aim to cooperate with our Allies and partners to protect our critical infrastructure. Today and yesterday, when the Norwegian Prime Minister was with us, we agreed that we have to coordinate this internationally. NATO however, should be the first point of contact, we can benefit from its expertise, its capabilities and its task.
Thus, Germany would welcome the fact if NATO were to take over a stronger coordinating function for the security of critical infrastructure, also on and under the sea. NATO can serve as an important interface here for the coordination of the different relevant actors, can contribute a shared situation picture. And it can also create a framework for the Allies and the riparian countries with their respective military police, Coast Guard and private operating companies of the infrastructure.
We plan to tackle these tasks together as members of the Alliance and I'm thankful and grateful for the excellent cooperation in NATO for which you Jens, embody like no one else.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Chancellor Scholz, dear Olaf, thank you so much for hosting me here, thank you for the dinner yesterday, thank you for an excellent meeting today.
And not least, thank you for your leadership and your personal commitment to our transatlantic bond, to our NATO Alliance.
Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine continues to cause death and misery every day.
As winter sets in, Russia is bombing Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.
Trying to freeze and starve Ukrainians into submission.
Putin is using winter as a weapon.
And we cannot allow him to win.
At this critical moment, our continued support for Ukraine is more important than ever.
NATO is not party to the conflict.
We will not be dragged into Putin’s war.
We stand by Ukraine in its right to self-defence, a right enshrined in the UN charter.
And I commend Germany for its leading role.
Germany is among the Allies providing most military, financial and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
Military equipment provided by Germany protects Ukrainian homes, schools and hospitals from Russian missile attacks.
German arm deliveries save lives.
And NATO Allies are determined to sustain our support, so that Ukraine prevails as a sovereign independent state.
We know that our support for Ukraine comes at a cost.
Rising food and energy bills mean tough times for many.
But we pay the price in money.
While the Ukrainians pay in lives.
And if Putin wins, that would embolden authoritarian leaders to use force again to achieve their goals.
That would make the world more dangerous.
And all of us more vulnerable.
So NATO’s task is to support Ukraine.
And to prevent escalation of the war beyond Ukraine.
We do this by sending a clear message to Moscow that we will defend every Ally.
That is why we have stepped up our presence in the eastern part of the Alliance.
Germany is leading NATO’s battlegroup in Lithuania.
Providing air defences in Slovakia.
And jets to patrol our skies from the Baltic to the Black Sea.
At this defining moment for European security, Germany’s leadership is crucial.
Your speech to the Bundestag in February was historic.
It was truly a turning point.
With the Zeitenwende, Germany has stepped up like never before.
In support of Ukraine.
And in defence of your NATO allies.
I strongly welcome your government’s special 100 billion euro fund to invest in our shared security.
Providing funding for fifth-generation aircraft, new helicopters, new ships and many other critical capabilities.
As you mentioned, we also discussed the protection of undersea infrastructure.
Pipelines and cables on the seabed are arteries for our economies.
Transporting energy and transporting data.
The recent sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines has reminded us all of the vulnerability of this infrastructure.
In response, NATO has doubled the number of ships patrolling the North and the Baltic Seas.
And stepped up sharing of intelligence.
But we need to do more, to help protect this vital infrastructure.
So I welcome the German-Norwegian initiative to establish a NATO Undersea Infrastructure Centre.
Such a Centre would provide Allies with better situational awareness.
Map our vulnerabilities.
And help deter and recover from any disruptive actions against Allied undersea infrastructure.
Chancellor Scholz, dear Olaf.
Thank you once again for your strong support and for your commitment to our Alliance. Thank you so much.
Journalist: [as interpreted] One question concerning the Patriot issue addressed to the Secretary General, first of all. It’s a question regarding the Patriot batteries. You said and argued that the NATO countries themselves have to decide where to use their Patriot systems. The federal government says that this has to be clarified amongst NATO members because the Patriot systems are part of the common air defence. So I would like to be enlightened by you. What did you mean by what you said? Does NATO agree to Patriot systems being deployed in Ukraine?
And Federal Chancellor, you repeatedly stressed that the offer to Poland continues to stand. If the United States were willing to accept this with the federal government, would you be willing to deploy these Patriot batteries also in Ukraine?
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:
So I would like to commend Germany for offering to increase the air defences of Poland. This just shows the leading role and the many contributions Germany is making to the defence of NATO Allies. So this is yet another example of German leadership in our Alliance and of your commitment to strengthening NATO deterrence and defence.
Then there is an ongoing dialogue and also a process in Poland. So I think it's too early to conclude. And I also think it is important to separate the discussion about those three Patriots which are Germany has offered to help to protect Polish airspace, from the issue of more air defence to Ukraine. We all agreed on the urgent need to help Ukraine, including with air defence systems.
Germany has already delivered modern, important, critical air defence systems to Ukraine, not least with the IRIS-T air defence systems. Allies are prepared to step up and provide even more air defence to Ukraine. But I also think it is important to understand that this is not only about delivering new systems, but very much also about ensuring that the systems we have already delivered can operate.
So it is the need for ammunition to existing systems. That is the need for spare parts and maintenance. So I think that we should separate the issue of the three, the offer of supporting Poland with the Patriot batteries to the overall and a much larger issue of ensuring that Allies are providing air defence to Ukraine.
They’ve already done a lot, Germany are among, or is among those nations. And there is a need also to ensure that the systems we have can function with sufficient ammunition and spare parts and maintenance.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz: [as interpreted] Our offer continues to stand, the offer we've made at the address of Poland, to contribute to strengthening the security of Poland by deploying three Patriot systems. And as the Secretary General said, Poland continues discussing that issue, so that discussion has not yet ended.
Journalist: [as interpreted] Mr. Chancellor, the Secretary General said this morning at the Berlin Security Conference, and you repeated it a minute ago, that the systems that are already deployed in Ukraine need ammunition rounds. In Germany, we have a heated debate about the fact that we don't have sufficient ammunition. The Defence Minister, as became known this morning, sent a letter to the finance minister that she needs more funds to be able to purchase more ammunition. He made the point that there was not enough money available. What is the situation like in that regard? What do you expect from Germany concerning ammunition?
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz: [as interpreted] Thank you for your question. To be unmistakably clear, we have not prepared ourselves properly over the last 10 years when it comes to providing sufficient ammunition to the Federal Armed Forces. And we have to admit that that is the case, as we noticed these days. We don't have sufficient ammunition to provide for the provisioning, not only for Ukraine, but also when you look at the absolute figures. And the defence minister is very committed to doing away with that gap.
It's not an easy thing to do. We have to achieve something short term but also with a more long-term perspective. We have to provide sufficient ammunition and ammunition rounds for our weapons systems to function. And she does whatever she can to succeed in that endeavour, and it will succeed.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Ukraine needs more ammunition. And that's obvious and they have stated that many times. Because this is a brutal war of attrition, where there is a huge consumption of ammunition. And that's also the reason why Allies are providing more ammunition to Ukraine. And they have provided a lot, and continue to provide substantial amounts of ammunition to Ukraine.
The way Allies have done this, is by digging into existing stocks, and of course in the long run that cannot continue. So that's the reason why Germany and other Allies have also started to engage with the defence industry to ramp up production of ammunition, partly to replenish existing NATO stocks to meet the requirements for deterrence and defence of NATO territory; but partly also to ensure that we can continue to deliver ammunition to Ukraine.
So I welcome the work of Germany and the efforts of other Allies to ensure that production of ammunition is increased, so we can both ensure NATO deterrence and defence and at the same time, provide ammunition to Ukraine.
Journalist: Thanks a lot. I have a question for Mr. Stoltenberg. NATO Allies yesterday discussed and agreed to, about the security importance of reducing economic dependencies on China, and especially Chinese access to European infrastructure like parts. Would you say that Germany is going into the right direction? The right path following the German decision to allow a state-owned Cosco to purchase a minority stake and one of the terminals in the port of Hamburg? Thank you.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: China is a challenge to our security, to our interests, to our values, but we don't regard China as an adversary. And this is also clearly stated in our Strategic Concept that all Allies agreed in Madrid at the Summit.
Meaning that of course we will continue to trade, NATO Allies will continue to trade with China. We will continue to have economic engagement with China. And we're also engaged politically with China. I met with the Chinese Foreign Minister earlier this fall, and there are different Allies engaging politically and economically with China. At the same time, we need to be aware of potential dependencies, vulnerabilities.
And therefore the message is that we need to, as Allies, to agree guidelines for our resilience, and we need to be aware of dependencies, reduce our vulnerabilities and manage the risks. Then, of course, at the end of the day, each individual Ally has to find the balance between economic engagement with China and at the same time preventing becoming too dependent or vulnerable,.related to economic interaction with China.
And therefore this is a German decision. Obviously, these are decisions of other Allies on the concrete projects.
Moderator: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, this concludes the press conference.