Joint press point

with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Prime Minister of Latvia, Krišjānis Kariņš

  • 24 May. 2023 -
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  • Last updated: 24 May. 2023 18:32

(As delivered)

Prime Minister Kariņš, 
Dear Krišjānis, 

It is great to see you here at the NATO Headquarters and thank you for your leadership and your personal commitment to NATO, to our transatlantic bond.
And thank you for a very good and productive meeting.

Latvia is a highly valued NATO Ally.
You contribute to our maritime operations and missions in Kosovo and Iraq.

You lead by example.
Already spending more than 2 percent of GDP on defence.
And committing to 2.5 percent for defence from 2025.

And you host our Canadian-led battlegroup,
which I visited in Ādaži last year,
with Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau and Spanish Prime Minister Sanchez, together with you, NATO solidarity, in action. 

Latvia also provides substantial political and military support to Ukraine and we are extremely grateful for the strong support that you are providing, including through NATO’s comprehensive assistance package and by training thousands of Ukrainian soldiers in Latvia together with Canada. 

NATO can count on Latvia.
And Latvia can count on NATO.

Allied jets keep your skies safe. 
NATO has increased our presence from the Baltic to the Black Sea.
And Finland’s – and soon Sweden’s – membership are a game-changer for Baltic-Nordic security.

Today we discussed President Putin’s brutal war of aggression against Ukraine. 

NATO Allies have provided unprecedented support to Ukraine since the start of Russia’s illegal war.
And we will send a strong signal of support to Ukraine at the Vilnius Summit.

Ukraine has demonstrated its ability to retake territory.
And I am confident that they have the capabilities they need to retake more land.

I welcome the significant announcements by Allies to provide cruise missiles and train Ukrainian pilots to use western fighter jets.    

It is vital that we step up and sustain our support.
To ensure Ukraine prevails as a free and sovereign nation.

In Vilnius we will also continue to strengthen our own deterrence and defence. 
With new regional defence plans.
A new force model.
And strengthened command structure.

And I expect we will agree an ambitious new defence investment pledge in Vilnius.
With 2 percent of GDP as a floor, not a ceiling.

So Prime Minister,
Thank you again.
I look forward to continuing working with you.
Please, you have the floor.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Thank you. We have time for a couple of questions. Politico.

Politico: Thank you very much. I have two questions. First of all, for the Secretary General: We've heard from several NATO Allies that they have agreed to train Ukrainians in flying F-16s, but do you think that Allies should speed up and make the actual decision to deliver F-16s to Ukraine soon?

And for the Prime Minister: Are you concerned that continued delays to Sweden's accession to the Alliance could negatively impact the cohesion of NATO's defence planning in the north? Is that something that worries you? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: First of all, on the training of Ukrainian pilots: I think it demonstrates, actually, that over the last months, we have really made important steps in strengthening and stepping up our support. Because over the last months, we have delivered a lot of heavy armour, not least modern battle tanks, the Leopards, the Abrams and the Challenges. Then in the last weeks we have seen how the United Kingdom is delivering advanced long-range cruise missiles which are already making an important difference on the battlefield. And then in the last days, we had the announcement that several Allies are going to start the training of Ukrainian pilots.

Of course, that is only meaningful because at some stage then we have the option to also deliver planes. But when that will happen and how and so on, that remains to be decided. The wise thing to do is to do this step-wise, and to start the training. And then, depending on how the war evolves, and how the situation on the ground evolves, then the final decisions will be made on the issue of delivering planes.

Let me add one more thing on the planes: That this is relevant and it demonstrates the long-term commitment. Because when the war ends, it is important to ensure that Ukraine has the capabilities, the military strength, to deter against further aggression. We need to prevent history from repeating itself, we need to prevent President Putin from being able to continue to chip away at European security. To strengthen the Ukrainian Armed Forces – including their air forces – will be an important part of that. And then fourth-generation, NATO-standard aircraft can be a part of that. When this will happen, it’s too early to say. If it happens in the war, it will help them in their war efforts. If it happens later, depending, of course, on when the war ends, it will be useful regardless.

Prime Minister of Latvia Krišjānis Kariņš: Thank you very much. Regarding your question: I am absolutely confident that Sweden will become the thirty-second NATO member state, and the open question is exactly when that final decision with the ratification will occur. But I don't feel that this in any way would hamper – or is hampering – NATO’s plans. NATO is making plans. NATO knows that Sweden will be a member, and I'm confident that this will happen.

NATO Spokesperson Lungescu: Channel 24 Ukraine.

Channel 24 Ukraine: the Polish President Andrzej Duda said that NATO is considering signing a security guarantee for Ukraine based on the Israel model during the Vilnius Summit. Could you comment on this?

NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg: Well, when the war ends, we need to find ways to ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself. Because we all know that this war didn't start in February last year, it started actually in 2014 when Russia illegally annexed Crimea, and then some few months later went into eastern Donbas, and then the full-fledged invasion last year. And this is all part of a broader pattern, where we see how Russia has been responsible for aggressive actions against other neighbours – including Georgia in 2008.

Wars are by nature unpredictable, and no-one can tell today when and how this war ends. But what is important is that when it ends, we ensure that it stops and is not only a pause before a new aggressive war by Russia against Ukraine. And therefore, there is the need to strengthen Ukraine's own deterrence and defence. And, of course, different capabilities – some of them we already discussed – can be part of that long-term commitment. And also what NATO does when it comes to helping the transition from Soviet-era [standards, doctrines and equipment] to NATO standards and doctrines can be part of strengthening Ukraine's ability to defend themselves.

I also expect at the Vilnius Summit that Allies will agree on a multi-year package to enable this transition and full interoperability with NATO, which will then help to provide the security Ukraine needs to prevent further aggression. And, for instance, the Kyiv Security Compact is focusing very much on how to build Ukraine's own defence and security, that's part of that.

Then, in addition to what we do to support Ukrainians, enabling them to defend themselves, there will also be a discussion about frameworks for Ukraine. I think it's a bit early to [conclude upon] security frameworks for Ukraine. It's too early to conclude. Of course, these issues will be discussed at the Summit, but I don't expect any final conclusions in the midst of a war.

NATO Spokesperson Lungescu: Thank you very much. This concludes this press conference. Thank you.