by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at Ramstein Air Base prior to the Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting

  • 21 Apr. 2023 -
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  • Last updated: 21 Apr. 2023 11:25

(As delivered)

Good morning, I look forward to meet with NATO defence ministers and ministers from partner countries at the Ukraine Contact Group led by United States, and we will discuss how to sustain and step up our support for Ukraine.

I just came back from Kyiv yesterday night and I met with President Zelenskyy, and his message was that he really appreciate and welcomes the strong support NATO Allies and partners have provided for Ukraine, but also counts on us to continue to support Ukraine in the future.

My message to him was that NATO has stood by Ukraine for a long time.
We continue to stand by Ukraine as they continue to repel the Russian aggression against their country.
And we will stand by Ukraine in the future to help to build a better and brighter future for the Ukrainian people.

President Zelenskyy and I also discussed the preparations for the upcoming NATO Summit in Vilnius in July.
I have invited him to attend the meeting and I'm glad that he has accepted the invitation and will attend the NATO Summit in Vilnius.

We discussed the preparations and I highlighted that there are at least two issues that will be important for Ukraine.

One is that I expect NATO Allies at the Summit to recommit to support Ukraine for as long as it takes with substantial military support to ensure that Ukraine prevails as a sovereign, independent nation in Europe, and I also expect NATO Allies to agree a multi-year program to help Ukraine transition from Soviet-era equipment, standards, doctrines, to NATO standards and doctrines, and to ensure full interoperability between Ukrainian forces and NATO forces.

So I'm looking forward to the meeting now, and I'm ready to answer your questions.

Question: [inaudible]  give a good roadmap of succession because a lot of Ukrainian officials, they said that one condition of participation of Zelenskyy is a roadmap.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: I said in Kyiv yesterday that Ukraine's future is in the Euro-Atlantic family, and all NATO Allies have agreed that that Ukraine will become a NATO member. But the main focus now is of course on how to ensure that Ukraine prevails. What we do know, is that our support helps Ukraine move toward the Euro-Atlantic integration and our help and our support to help them to make this possible. But the main focus now, is on ensuring that President Putin does not win the war, that Ukraine prevails, because without a sovereign, independent Ukraine, there is no meaning in discussing membership.

Question: What weapons did he say he needed most?

NATO Secretary General: Well, he went to different types of weapons, including everything from air defence to heavy armoured jets. I'll leave it to Minister Reznikov and the Ukrainians, to describe exactly what kind of needs they have. But that's the reason why it is important to meet here in Ramstein. To sit down with Ukrainians and to discuss in detail, what are the needs, what are the gaps, and how can NATO Allies and partners in the US-led Contact Group ensure that we are providing them the support they need as soon as possible.

Then, in my discussions with President Zelenskyy, I of course, recognise the importance of discussing new capabilities, and the support for Ukraine has evolved as the war has evolved. In the beginning, the focus was on like anti-tank weapons like the Javelins and the NLAWS, then the focus was on artillery. Then, for a long time, the main focus was on air defence and modern air defence systems like PATRIOT systems and NASAMS and I welcome the fact that now there are PATRIOTS in place - German and US PATRIOTS in place in Ukraine. And over the last two weeks we have a lot of focus on armour, on battle tanks, and battle tanks are now coming into to Ukraine. And we need to continue to discuss and jets are also been delivered by Allies to Ukraine. We need to continue to discuss specific platforms.

But as important as discussing new platforms, it is extremely important to ensure that all the platforms which are already in Ukraine work and function as they should, meaning that we need ammunition, we need spare parts, we need fuel, we need maintenance, we need repair, we need all the sustainment to ensure that all the systems which are already, there are delivering the effect that they should. So therefore, not only discuss new systems, but also discuss how to ensure that existing systems function.

Question: Does NATO have a timetable when Ukraine could enter NATO?

NATO Secretary General: All NATO Allies have agreed that Ukraine will become a member. President Zelenskyy has a very clear expectation, we discussed this. Both the issue of membership but also security guarantees and of course Ukraine needs security. Because no one can tell when and how this war ends. But what we do know is that when the war ends, we need to ensure that history doesn't repeat itself.

That Russia is not able to continue to attack and to wage war again against Ukraine and to continue to chip away at European security. So we need the discussion about security framework. There will be a discussion about this, ongoing discussion about membership, but my message was:

First Ukraine’s rightful place is in NATO, as Allies have agreed. But also that the main focus now, is to ensure that Ukraine perseveres because if Ukraine doesn't prevail as a sovereign, independent nation in Europe, there is no meaning in discussing membership. We need to preserve the unity in supporting Ukraine and that's the main focus also of the meeting today.

Question: [inaudible] military aids. It means that the military [inaudible] won’t be enough and that we have to get prepared to maybe many years?

NATO Secretary General: Wars are by nature unpredictable. So no one can tell today, when this war ends. Hopefully, the Ukrainians are able to make a lot of progress and you can have a just and an enduring peace soon. But no one can say that with certainty. So we need to be prepared for the long haul.

And that's reason why NATO Allies have stated again and again, that we will stand by Ukraine for as long as it takes. But the other reason why we need a kind of long-term perspective is that also, after the war ends, we need to support Ukraine. Because we need to ensure that Ukraine has the military strength, the capabilities, the deterrence to prevent new attacks, because you have to remember that the war didn't start in February last year. The war started in 2014, when Russia illegally annexed Crimea, and when Russia for the first time moved into eastern Donbas. And then we had the full scale invasion in in February. So, when the war ends, we need to ensure that it really ends and that it is an enduring peace.

And to ensure that we also need a long-term engagement, a relationship with Ukraine and that's the reason why we also look at the multi-year-program package from NATO to help to ensure full interoperability with Ukrainian forces.

Question: Wondering about … they say that today there is a meeting for the tanks groups or something like this, today, and all the information that we got is that the tanks are fourteen, seven, something like this, is that enough for Ukraine to win this war? And the other question is, do you think Ukraine can win this war alone? I mean, just [inaudible]?

NATO Secretary General:  Yes, I absolutely believe that and not least because we have seen the courage, the skills the determination of Ukrainian Armed Forces. President Putin made several big mistakes, strategic mistakes, when he invaded Ukraine. The first was to totally underestimate the strength of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

He thought that he was going to control Ukraine within weeks, and take Kiev within days. Then he totally underestimated NATO Allies, and our partners in our resolve to support Ukraine. And therefore, he has now been in Ukraine for more than a year and he does in no way control the country as he planned.

Ukrainians have been able to push back the Russian forces around Kiev. I was in Bucha yesterday. And of course, that was a city that was controlled by Russian forces in the beginning of the war, liberated by the Ukrainian Armed Forces after a month. The Ukrainian forces pushed back the Russian forces in the east around Kharkiv and then in the south around Kherson.

And we are now helping them to liberate more land by providing more advanced systems. On the battle tanks: Well, first of all, I think you need to understand that we speak about, many types of battle tanks, but also older ones. But now Allies are delivering a significant number of advanced modern NATO standard battle tanks. Like the Leopard 2, like the Challenger from the United Kingdom, the Abrams. But in addition to the advanced modern NATO standard battle tanks, Allies are also delivering infantry fighting vehicles, armed personnel carriers, a lot of armour and ammunition and equipment to these. So all of this is really advanced high-end capabilities that can enable the Ukrainians to push through the Russian lines.

Question: Could you please elaborate a little bit more what are your exact expectations for the outcome of today's meeting, also in terms of jets?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:  So first of all, I would like to commend the United States for leading and convening this group. The Defence Contact Group for Ukraine. And also Germany, for hosting it and to Minister Pistorius.

I expect that at this meeting, NATO Allies, partners, will announce additional support and again, not only new platforms, but also to sustain the existing platforms. Just to have the battle tanks you need enormous amount of ammunition, fuel. Trailers to be able to move heavy equipment like battle tanks, recovery vehicles. So I think sometimes we underestimate all the logistics that have to be in place just to have operational battle tanks capabilities.

So maybe it sounds a bit more boring, but the logistics is extremely important. This is now a battle of attrition and a battle of attrition becomes a war of logistics. So, therefore, I welcome all the announcements, I expect, that will come later today.

We already had some announcements: Netherlands and Denmark have announced that they will deliver fourteen more Leopard battle tanks, the US announced more missiles ammunition for HIMARS, more than three hundred million extra US dollars, announced yesterday and all, other Allies and partners are announcing more. On jets: well Allies have delivered. Poland, Slovakia has delivered MiG-29s. There is an ongoing discussion about also other types of jets. I will leave that to the meeting here, and also the ongoing discussion among our Allies and partners. We need to constantly assess, constantly consult. But again, not only about new platforms, but also sustaining all the platforms we have. Thank you so much.