Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the meetings of NATO Defence Ministers

  • 15 Feb. 2023 -
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  • Last updated: 15 Feb. 2023 15:22

(As delivered)

Good afternoon.

NATO Defence Ministers have met to address key issues for our security.

This includes stepping up our support for Ukraine; 
strengthening our deterrence and defence, with the right forces, capabilities and stockpiles; 
and protecting our critical infrastructure, by strengthening our military planning and our cooperation with industry. 

It is almost one year since Russia launched its full-fledged invasion of Ukraine. 
The biggest conflict in Europe since World War Two.

And we see no signs that Russia is preparing for peace.
On the contrary, Russia is launching new offensives.

Yesterday, Defence Minister Reznikov updated NATO Ministers on the situation, and Ukraine’s most urgent needs. 

I welcome the new pledges of support made by NATO Allies. 
Including more heavy weapons and military training. 

This is critical.
Ukraine has a window of opportunity to tip the balance. 
And time is of the essence. 

I want to thank Allies for their significant contributions, including to NATO’s Comprehensive Assistance Package. 

This is providing Ukraine with food, fuel, medical supplies, counter drone systems and amphibious bridges. 

Ministers also discussed our commitment to our other partners at risk, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia and Moldova. 
And we agreed to step up tailored support to enhance their defence capabilities, resilience, and interoperability with NATO. 

Today, Allies took steps to further strengthen NATO’s deterrence and defence.

Since our historic Madrid Summit, we have been making good progress. 
Boosting our forward defences. 
And upgrading our readiness and defence plans. 

Allies agreed new guidance for NATO’s defence planning. 
This reflects the reality that we live in a more dangerous world.
With Russia’s aggressive behaviour, the persistent threat of terrorism, and the challenges posed by China.
NATO’s defence planning will drive capability changes for the years to come.
And ensure that our deterrence and defence remain strong and credible.  

Ministers also addressed ways to boost industrial capacity and replenish stockpiles of armaments and munitions. 

NATO Allies are providing unprecedented support to help Ukraine push back against Russia’s aggression. 
At the same time, this is consuming an enormous quantity of Allied ammunition, and depleting our stockpiles. 

Allies agree on the need to work hand-in-hand with the defence industry to ramp up our industrial capacity. 

We are ready and we are reviewing NATO capability targets for munition stockpiles. 
And I welcome the important multinational projects agreed by Allies today.  

These include a project on ammunition warehousing, 
which will support the pre-positioning and stockpiling of Allied ammunition. 
As well as a project on ground-based air defence.

Today, Ministers also addressed the security of critical undersea infrastructure. 
The sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines has reminded us all of the vulnerabilities we face.  
Ministers tasked the NATO military authorities to provide advice on what more we should do.
Including through better coordination and cooperation with the private sector.

And I am standing up a Critical Undersea Infrastructure Coordination Cell here at the NATO Headquarters.
Led by Lieutenant General Hans-Werner Wiermann, a highly respected former German military officer.  

It will facilitate engagement with industry, and bring key military and civilian stakeholders together. 
To share best practices.
Leverage innovative technologies.
And boost the security of our undersea infrastructure.

At our Summit in Vilnius, leaders will take further decisions to ensure that NATO can effectively coordinate between military, civilian and private sector to secure our critical undersea infrastructure.

As we continue to adapt our Alliance, we need to have the right resources. 
So Ministers also discussed the importance of investing in defence.

More countries are now spending at least 2% of their GDP on defence. 
And 2022 was the eighth consecutive year of increased defence spending by European Allies and Canada. 
With an additional investment of 350 billion dollars.

This trend is expected to continue this year. 
But more needs to be done. 

So today, Allies discussed how to build on the defence investment pledge, and future commitments beyond 2024.
NATO leaders will take decisions on this at our next Summit in Vilnius.

With that, I am ready to take your questions.

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

Jonathan Beale, BBC News: Thank you very much, Secretary General. Jonathan Beale, BBC News. You started this meeting and the head of the Contact Group saying that… You make the point that Ukraine is using – and Russia using – huge amounts of ammunition. You repeated that just now. And you warned about NATO's own stockpiles of ammunition, that production needed to be ramped up. First of all, have any countries actually now committed to ramp up their production, apart from the US and France which you mentioned earlier signing a new contract? And the second question is, you know, we get a message from Lloyd Austin, US Defense Secretary, that Ukraine is getting what it needs. But what you're suggesting is that Ukraine might not get what it needs and it will run out of artillery shells, tank shells, for example. So are you worried that Ukraine could run out of ammunition in the coming months? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: So what we see is an enormous expenditure of ammunition, and we have seen that for several months. And that's also the reason why we actually started to address that last fall. We convened meetings with the defence industry, we addressed this issue in different NATO capitals, and now we see that things are actually moving in the right direction. Yes, the United States, France have signed contracts but also other Allies – Germany, Norway – and there are also others who have already signed contracts with the defence industry, meaning that production is now ramping up. And that is making a huge difference. And partly it's possible to increase production from the existing factories, capabilities, but of course, you also need to make investments that will take some more time. But actually, both things are now happening: utilising existing capacity more and investing in new production capacity. So the production of, for instance, artillery shells, the 1.55, is now increasing, and that enables us to both replenish our own stocks, which we have depleted, but also to continue to provide support to Ukraine.

We also do this by working together. Allies are jointly addressing the need to also do joint procurement, to make big orders from the industry, to utilise the economy of scale and to place bigger orders and to give the defence industry the long term demand under long term contracts. So yes, things are happening. But we need to continue, we need to step up even more because there's a big need out there to provide Ukraine with ammunition. This is now becoming a grinding war of attrition and a war of attrition is a war of logistics. And therefore this is so crucial for our ability to ensure that Ukraine wins, is able to retake territory and launch offensives that ensures that it's able to win the war and to prevail as a sovereign independent nation.
Jonathan Beale, BBC: So you’re not worried that Ukraine will run out of ammunition?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: We have seen the big need and that's exactly what we have… why we have reacted several months ago. And now we see that contracts are signed and production is ramping up, and Allies are producing more to be able to continue to support Ukraine.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: TT News Agency, from Sweden.

Wiktor Nummelin, TT News Agency: Wiktor Nummelin, Swedish news agency TT. Following your doorstep yesterday, there's been a lot of speculation if there is a new line on the membership process for Finland and Sweden. So just to clarify, if there would be a ratification for one of the countries, would NATO go through and complete the complete process for membership? Or would you still wait in order to get everything clear with both countries at the same time?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: So Finland and Sweden, they applied together. And all NATO Allies made an historic decision together, all 30, to invite Finland and Sweden at our Summit in Madrid. And then all Allies, all 30 Allies, also Tükiye, signed the two accession protocols together. And I made it clear actually last Fall, when I went to Türkiye in October, that both Finland and Sweden have now fulfilled their obligations in the joint trilateral memorandum they signed with Türkiye in July. So I urge Türkiye to ratify both Finland and Sweden together already last Fall. So that's my position and that position has not changed. But at the same time, we have also seen that there are different assessments in Türkiye about to what extent Finland and Sweden also say - are in the same position to be ratified. And that is a Turkish decision. Türkiye has two documents, one Accession Protocol with Finland and one Accession Protocol with Sweden. So the decisions we need to take as Allies - 30 Allies - have already been taken. 30 Allies invited Sweden and Finland and 30 Allies signed the accession protocols. Now it's for the individual Allies to ratify. 28 Allies have already ratified both protocols. And then, Hungary and Türkiye has not. And therefore this for Türkiye to decide whether they ratify both and I have recommended that or whether they ratify only one or the two documents. That's not a NATO decision. It's a decision by Türkiye. So again, my position is that both Finland and Sweden are ready for membership, both as accession protocols should be ratified by all Allies. But at the end of the day, it is a decision by Türkiye whether they ratify one or both of them. [inaudible]

But then, the process is completed. There is no need for any unanimous decision by NATO. We have made the decision, we have invited both at the same time. So when Türkiye ratifies, then the process is completed. As long as, also of course, Hungary and also Finland, Sweden, do what they are also now in the process of doing. So this idea that there is a need for a new and unanimous decision by NATO is wrong. There are decisions that have to be taken by the individual Allies and two Allies have not yet ratified. And, of course again, I have urged them for many months to ratify both at the same time. And that's still my position; it has never changed. I've been actually pushing hard for Swedish and Finnish membership and I am absolutely confident that both Finland and Sweden will become a member. At the same time, the sequencing is not the most important thing. The most important thing is that both Finland and Sweden soon become members of the Alliance and I –I'll push hard for that. I‘ll also actually travel to Türkiye tomorrow, and that will be one of the issues that I certainly will address.

Ömer Tuğrul Çam, Anadolu: Tuğrul Çam, Turkish news agency. NATO Secretary General, could you please give us the latest information about the relief efforts - NATO's relief efforts - for the victims of the earthquakes in Türkiye?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: All Allies expressed their deepest condolences and support to Türkiye, our Ally, and the deepest condolences for the loss of lives in Türkiye and Syria caused by the terrible earthquake last week. And NATO Allies, partners and NATO have stepped up their support and are providing different types of relief support. And NATO has also decided to deploy shelters to accommodate people, who have been displaced. And the plan is to transport these within a few days to Türkiye. Tomorrow, I will be in Türkiye to meet with President Erdoğan and Minister Çavuşoğlu and express my solidarity, my condolences, and to continue to address with them how NATO and NATO Allies can provide relief support and help alleviate the suffering and the consequences of the terrible earthquake. So, I thank Allies for the support they have provided. Actually, I ended the meeting today to call on Allies to provide even more support. There is urgent need for more strategic airlift. And NATO Allies have provided strategic airlift within more airlift to bring in tents and relief to Ukraine [Türkiye]. We started off the meeting yesterday with a moment of silence in solidarity with the victims of the earthquake.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu:
Going to Kyiv Post.

Oleksii Bobrovnykov, Kyiv Post:
Thank you Oana. Secretary General, Thank you. Oleksii Bobrovnykov, Kyiv Post, Ukraine. Firstly, there's a –there's an ongoing talk of the Open Doors policies of NATO while Ukraine being a spear head spear force of the [inaudible] war happening right now. We still are in a situation with this –there's no news on potential membership to Ukraine. Do you feel like during your stay as a Secretary General, this historical shift may happen through the Membership Action Plan or any other facility ie. this old fashioned ways [inaudible] of NATO's developing its potential and future partners. That's one thing. One question. On the second one, it would be on due diligence of Allied health to Ukraine. Mr. Reznikov has flagged yesterday that this is an ongoing talk, basically, so to say due diligence or checking the situation with how they –the assets were used? What do we stand on that? And what's – we can expect? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:
So first of all, on membership and what I have demonstrated and what NATO Allies have demonstrated over the last years is that NATO’s doors is open. We have two new members, Montenegro and North Macedonia, both time Russia protested heavily but Allies and these individual countries decided their own path and we invited them and they’re now members, then Finland, Sweden are very close to membership. They are now invited to the Alliance, they participate in NATO structures, meetings, they’re at the NATO table. They are more and more integrated into NATO's civilian and military structures including defence planning. So we are very close to also have two more, Finland, Sweden as as full-fledged members. On Ukraine, NATO's position has not changed. We have reiterated many times that Ukraine will become a member of the Alliance, but the focus now is to ensure that Ukraine wins the war because the only way to integrate and to ensure that that Ukraine can move towards the Euro Atlantic cooperation, closer Euro Atlantic cooperation is to ensure that Ukraine prevails as a sovereign independent nation. So the urgent, the main focus on NATO Allies is to ensure that Ukraine gets the weapons, the supplies, ammunition they need to push back the Russian invaders. And we also work on more long term partnership helping Ukraine to move from Soviet era weapons, doctrines, standards to NATO standards to improve interoperability on security and defence reform, and all of that to move Ukraine closer to the NATO Alliance. Then, of course, the best proof that the support works and it's actually helping Ukraine is the progress Ukraine has delivered on the battlefield. And Allies also of course, constantly working with the Ukrainian authorities to ensure that all the money, all the funding ends up where it should. That's –we have very close contact with them. We're working on that all the time to ensure that that that we have the necessary oversight and transparency.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu:

NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg:
That's the way we are ensuring that's happening.

Natalia Drozdiak, Bloomberg:
I’m Natalia Drozdiak from Bloomberg, I wanted to ask on defence spending. You said before that Allies are increasingly seeing 2% of GDP as a floor, not a ceiling. And after the discussions today, do you have any sense of whether that 2% figure could increase when leaders agreed to the new pledge this summer?

NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg:
What we have now was the initial discussion among Allies on what should be the new defence investment pledge, because in 2014, NATO Allies made the pledge to move towards spending 2% of GDP on defense by 2024. So when we meet this summer in July in Vilnius, we need to make a new pledge and that's obvious because the current one is actually running out. This, what we had today was the initial discussion and of course, we didn't conclude, the conclusions are going to be drawn at the summit later on. But what is obvious is that if it was right to commit to spend 2% in 2014, it is even more right now. Because we live in a more dangerous world. There is a full fledged war going on in Ukraine, in Europe, and then we see the persistent threat of terrorism and we see also the challenges that China is posing to our security. So it is obvious that we need to spend more and my –or should I say, thinking around this is that instead of changing the 2% I think we should move from regarding the 2% as a ceiling, to regard the 2% of GDP as a floor and minimum and to have a stronger commitment and not a long term perspective and more towards but actually that we need immediate commitment to spend 2% as a minimum because when we see the needs for ammunition, for air defence, for training, for readiness, for high end capabilities. It's obvious that that 2% defence spending is minimal.

NATO Spokesperson, Oana Lungescu: Thank you very much.