Doorstep statement

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the Munich Security Conference

  • 17 Feb. 2023 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 17 Feb. 2023 15:26

(As delivered)

Good morning.

One year ago, President Putin invaded Ukraine.

This was an invasion that NATO Allies warned again, with shared intelligence.
And on this very stage, here in Munich, I called on President Putin one year ago to step back from the brink.

But he decided to carry out his plans.
Since then, we have seen the most brutal war in Europe since the Second World War.

Today, one year after, we can already draw some lessons.

One is that we need to support Ukraine.
NATO Allies have provided unprecedented level of military support to Ukraine.
We need to continue and sustain our support.

Because if President Putin wins in Ukraine, it will be a tragedy for the Ukrainians.
But it will also be dangerous for all of us. 

It will be a message to all authoritarian leaders, all over the world, that when they use military force, they achieve their goals.
And that will make the world more dangerous and us more vulnerable.

So it is in our security interest to support Ukraine.

The other lesson we can learn is the need to invest in our security.

Even if the war ended tomorrow, it has changed our security environment for the long term.

President Putin wants another Europe. He wants a Europe where he controls neighbours. Therefore we need to continue to invest in our security.

And the third lesson we can learn from the war in Ukraine, is that security is about more than armed forces. It is about our resilience, our society, so critical infrastructure of energy supplies.

We have seen the vulnerability caused by the dependence on Russian gas.
And we should make sure that we don't repeat those mistakes with other authoritarian regimes, like China.

But the most important lesson to be learned is the importance of North America and Europe standing together.
There is no security in Europe without NATO.

And the only way to preserve peace, to ensure our security, is to ensure that North America continues to stand together in NATO.

Then, I am ready for your questions.

The main battle tank coalition will not reach its target to send two battalions of Leopard main battle tanks to Ukraine. What's your message to countries like Sweden, Denmark and Spain that have not announced to send main battle tanks at all?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:
At our Defence Ministerial meeting this week in Brussels, the countries that have pledged to deliver main battle tanks met. They are now discussing how to organize and coordinate their efforts. I have called on Allies to do what they can to deliver modern weapons, also armored vehicles and battle tanks. And we are in constant dialogue with Allies on these specific deliveries. So I welcome that Allies have decided to deliver battle tanks, Germany among them, Poland, the United Kingdom, the United States, but I will not go into the specific discussions or consultations we have with the specific Allies.

[Inaudible] to the Ukrainian people almost one year after Russia's invasion and a second question, if I may: are you concerned about Russia and China becoming closer?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:
My main message to the people of Ukraine is that NATO Allies and partners will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes. We have provided unprecedented support. We will continue to support Ukraine and that is the message we are sending to the people of Ukraine, but also to Moscow. Because we cannot allow President Putin to win this war. It will be a tragedy for the Ukrainians, but also dangerous for us. We are following closely the increased and stronger relationship between China and Russia.

We see that they operate more together, they have exercises together, they have naval patrols, air patrols together and the war in Ukraine demonstrates that security is not regional, security is global. Because what happens in Europe matters for Asia and what happens in Asia matters for Europe. We know that Beijing is watching closely the war in Ukraine. Because if President Putin wins there, it will impact the calculations and decisions they will make in Beijing. So when authoritarian powers are coming closer, working more closely together, it’s even more important that all of us that believe in democracy and freedom, that we stand together in NATO and with our partners throughout the world.

Do you think it is possible for Ukraine to win this war on the battlefield? And under which conditions?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:
Yes, that's the reason why we are supporting them. It has been stated again and again from NATO Allies that we support Ukraine to ensure that they win and prevail as a sovereign independent nation. Then this war may end at the negotiating table. But we know that what happens around the negotiating table is totally dependent on the strength on the battlefield. So the only way to ensure lasting, just peace in Ukraine is to give them military support today, so that President Putin understands that he has to sit down and accept the terms for negotiations, which ensures that Ukraine prevails as a sovereign independent nation.

Georgia was the first [inaudible] country of Russia in 2008. What will be your message to Georgian people and how Allies will support our country?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:
Well the message to the people of Georgia is that the war in Ukraine is part of a pattern, a pattern that actually started with the invasion of Georgia. Then we have seen the brutal war in Syria, then we saw the illegal annexation of Crimea, and then we now saw the full-fledged invasion of Ukraine. So we will continue to work closely with partners like Georgia, and that's part of the message now, one year after the war.

Question (Politico):
Mr. Secretary General. We have heard a lot of concerns about Russian air power and the capabilities that the Russian Air Force still has. Are you concerned that Russia could launch an air campaign sometimes soon?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:
Russia has suffered big losses on the ground. Armed vehicles, battle tanks, and also a lot of personnel. They have much less losses when it comes to air power, aircraft missiles and therefore it is extremely important to ensure that Russia doesn’t gain air superiority, control the airspace over Ukraine, and Allies are focused on that, not least by continuing to deliver advanced air-defence systems to Ukraine. This is partly about delivering advanced systems to ensure that Ukraine can defend and protect the skies. But it's also very much about ensuring that all the systems Ukraine has already received can operate as they should.

Meaning there is an enormous need for spare parts, for maintenance, for ammunition, to ensure that the air-defence systems we have delivered, including modern advanced ones can operate as they should and that's one of the messages also from the NATO Defence Ministerial meeting this week, that the war in Ukraine is now becoming more and more a grinding war of attrition, and a war of attrition is a battle of logistics. It is about supplies, ammunitions, including to ensure that the air defence systems are working as they should.

Mr. Stoltenberg, did you receive any assurances or guarantees from Türkiye during your visit yesterday, regarding the accession to NATO from Finland and Sweden and any update on the timetable?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:
I visited Türkiye yesterday to express my solidarity and express my condolences after the terrible earthquake, which is the biggest natural disaster on NATO territory since NATO was founded. And NATO Allies are providing significant support to Türkiye. NATO is helping to setting up temporary housing and also providing strategic airlift to transport different types of support to Türkiye after the earthquake.

In my meetings with President Erdogan and also with the Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu, we also address the issue of Finnish and Swedish membership. I reiterated my position and that is that the time has come to ratify both Sweden and Finland. Finland and Sweden have met their obligations under the trilateral agreement that was negotiated between Türkiye, Finland and Sweden at the NATO Summit in Madrid last July. They have stepped up their efforts to fight terrorism. Sweden has amended the constitution and they have removed any restrictions on arms exports to Türkiye.

So I have made it clear, also in my meetings in Ankara, that the time has come to ratify both countries and make them full-fledged members. Then of course, the main issue is not whether Finland and Sweden join at the same time. The main issue is that Finland and Sweden join as soon as possible. And it is of course a Turkish decision, whether they ratify both protocols, or only one protocol. What matters is that they ratify both as soon as possible. Thank you.