Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with the Chancellor of Germany, Olaf Scholz

  • 19 Jun. 2023 -
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  • Last updated: 21 Jun. 2023 22:50

(As delivered)

Chancellor Scholz, dear Olaf,

Thank you so much for hosting me here in Berlin, and also thank you so much for your leadership and for your personal commitment to NATO, to the transatlantic Alliance.

We face the most challenging security environment in a generation.  

Last year, President Putin sent hundreds of thousands of troops into Ukraine, causing death and destruction.

Ukraine has the right to liberate its own land.
And a counteroffensive is now underway.

The more land the Ukrainians are able to liberate, the stronger their hand will eventually be at the negotiating table.

We all want this war to end. But a just peace cannot mean freezing the conflict and accepting a deal dictated by Russia.

NATO is, as you said, no party to the conflict.

We stand by Ukraine in its right to self-defence, enshrined in the UN Charter.

And I commend Germany for its leading role in providing military, financial and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, and the recent decision to deliver another 64 Patriot missiles to Ukraine.

This will save lives.

Today we also discussed our long-term support.

The Vilnius Summit in July will set out a vision for Ukraine’s future as an independent, democratic member of the Euro-Atlantic family.

At the Summit, Allies will address Ukraine’s membership aspirations.

Allies are working on a multi-year package of assistance for Ukraine.

We are also working to establish a new NATO-Ukraine Council to jointly consult on security issues of mutual concern.

The decisions we will take in Vilnius will bring Ukraine closer to NATO.

We also addressed bolstering NATO’s deterrence and defence.
This will be high on the agenda of our Summit.

We are now putting in place new regional plans, with assigned forces and capabilities, and high levels of readiness.

Germany will play a major part in this. You have already allocated thousands of troops to NATO, including through your leadership of our multinational battlegroup in Lithuania.

I welcome Germany's first-ever national security strategy, which confirms your strong commitment to NATO.

I am also thankful for Germany’s leadership in establishing a new NATO Maritime Centre for the Security of Critical Undersea Infrastructure.

This will increase our situational awareness and enhance our maritime presence.

Tomorrow, I will attend exercise Air Defender, the biggest air exercise in NATO’s history.

This is another demonstration of Germany’s capabilities and commitment, and sends a clear message that NATO remains ready to defend every inch of Allied territory.

To keep our people safe, we must continue to invest in our security.

At the NATO Summit in Vilnius, we will agree on a more ambitious defence investment pledge, with 2 percent of GDP as a floor, not a ceiling. And I strongly welcome Germany's historic commitment to reach 2 percent in 2024.

We also discussed the situation in Kosovo.

NATO’s commitment to our United Nations mandate is unwavering.
Our forces, the KFOR, will continue to take all necessary measures to ensure a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all communities in Kosovo.

We call on all parties to stop any further escalatory steps, and to return immediately to the dialogue facilitated by the European Union.   

So Chancellor Scholz, dear Olaf,     
Thank you again for Germany’s leadership in this critical time.


Thank you very much, Secretary General. Ukraine expects at the summit in Vilnius a formal invitation to join NATO. Would you say that after the Defence Ministers meeting this past week, such an invitation is off the table finally, and that we are just talking about pledges below this threshold? And Federal Chancellor, you mentioned time and again the declaration of Bucharest in 2008 when Ukraine was given a prospective for accession, could you think that there is a wording beyond Bucharest in Vilnius?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
At the Vilnius Summit and in the preparations for the Summit, we're not discussing to issue a formal invitation. What we are discussing is how to move Ukraine closer to NATO, and the ongoing consultations. I'm not in a position to preempt the outcome of those consultations.

But what I can say is that Allies actually already agree on a lot. We agree on that NATO's door is open. We have demonstrated that with the invitation of Finland and Sweden. We also agree on what is stated in 2008, that Ukraine will become a member of the Alliance. We also agree that is not for Russia, but for Ukraine and NATO Allies to decide when the time is right to invite Ukraine. Russia does not have a veto over NATO decisions.

But most importantly, we all agree that the most urgent and important task now is to ensure that Ukraine prevails as a sovereign, independent democratic nation in Europe. Because unless we do that, unless Ukraine prevails, there is no issue to be discussed at all related to the membership. So therefore, I am absolutely confident that at the Vilnius Summit, Allies will reiterate their strong support to Ukraine, and the need to – both bilaterally but also to multilateral institutions – provide support Ukraine for as long as it takes.

Olaf Scholz, Chancellor of Germany
I don't have much to add, we have the Bucharest decision. The Bucharest decision remains and we need to focus on the task at hand. We need to support Ukraine to defend its country's integrity and sovereignty. Next question, please.

Federal Chancellor, you [inaudible] this within the national security strategy. You mentioned the 2% goal of NATO. Now there are demands by Estonia, the Ally, to increase the objective, to increase it to 2.5 and to make it this the floor and not the ceiling. Does the federal government agree? The defence budget is not supposed to increase that much next year. And Secretary General, on the 2% goal in the National Security Strategy, which you've commended right now, it reads that Germany wants to achieve this in a multi annual average, meaning that it would be okay if it would be below 2% for one year. Is that enough for you? From a NATO perspective?

Olaf Scholz, Chancellor of Germany
Thank you very much for these questions. We took all the necessary preparations for us to reach the 2% goal. We do this with the federal budget but also by using the special fund that was conceived to actually be able to spend 2%. And in the law, passing this special fund, you see the funding available and you could actually spend [inaudible] spend more than others. But our outlook is 2%.

Our perspective is 2% I assume once all countries in Europe have achieved this and all members in the Transatlantic Alliance, this will lead to a tremendous increase in our defence capabilities. It's a massive increase in defence spending and if you look at many other countries and factor this in, countries that also need to increase their spending for them to reach the 2% objective. Then, if you add all of this up, this will result in a massive increase of defence capabilities for NATO.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
I welcome the very strong commitment of Germany to reach 2%. And not only the commitment, but actually the fact that we have seen German defence spending going up, significantly, and also of course, by the special fund of 100 billion euros and the whole message from the [inaudible] has really sent a very clear message about further increases and the strength and commitment of Germany to contribute to our shared security, to our collective defence in NATO and that's something I welcome.

And we have seen that commitment not only in words but also in deeds. Because Germany has taken important decisions to acquire new modern capabilities including fighter jets, and more air defences and many other types of over defence capabilities which are important for Germany. But also for the whole of NATO.

Then the need to reach 2% reflects the fact that we live in a more dangerous world. And, again, it will be for the leaders when they meet in Vilnius to decide the exact language, but I have argued in favor of regarding 2% as a minimum because when you look at the capability targets, the capabilities we need to strengthen our collective defence in the way we have agreed, for many countries it will require actually more than 2%.

Then of course the reality is that we have a 2% guideline, there will always be fluctuations in GDP. So suddenly you have a pandemic and GDP goes down. And then you may have a very high percentage. So these kinds of regulations will always be the case, but there is a big difference fluctuating around 1% or one and a half percent and fluctuating around 2%.

So the most important thing is that we have a significant increase in defence spending and that we meet the GDP targets which we agreed in NATO.

Let me add one brief thing, and that is that from my own experience as a politician, as Minister of Finance and Prime Minister, I know that it's never easy to increase defence spending. Because if you spend more on defence is something less, there's less for health care for education, for all the important things, but the reality is that when we live in a more dangerous world, we just have to pay the price or invest in more defence.

Because without peace and security, all the other things we are striving for, climate change, prosperity we will not be able to address them if we don't ensure peace and security.

Secretary General, I would like to ask a question pertaining to your own future. Could you say whether you would be available for an extension of your term in office? There are more and more governments proposing this so that you would remain in office until April of next year because people have not agreed on a successor - male or female -. And Federal Chancellor, a question pertaining to another topic - Intel: the company Intel has made tremendous investments in Israel - 25 billion in Israel and Poland. Is the government going to pay 10 billion in subsidies so that Intel will establish a business location in Magdeburg?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
I have nothing new to say about this. I have no intention of seeking extension of my term. My only plan is to be focused on my task as Secretary General and do my job here until my tenure end this fall and I’ve really no other plans.

Olaf Scholz, Chancellor of Germany
Thank you very much. Thank you very much for this question. As you know, I'm going to meet representatives of Intel today. It is was publicly announced, and I will answer your questions at a different press conference.

Federal Chancellor, you talked about the priority of country defence. You reiterated this. Shouldn't this be reflected in the regular defence budget? You're in the final phase of budget deliberations. Are we going to see a higher defense budget? And Secretary General you talked about the 2%, which are not the bottom and not the ceiling. Don't you see a contradiction, a clear contradiction, with regard to the security strategy, which is talking about a multi-annual average that keeps the backdoor open to less and not strives to have more than 2% like you.

Olaf Scholz, Chancellor of Germany
Thank you very much for your question. Let me reiterate: we have proposed an ambitious enhancement of our defence effort. And we assume that with the funding from the budget and the funds that we have from the special fund, that we will be able to achieve the 2% threshold. If you don't insist on copyright, I will reiterate what the Secretary General just said. I will take it over 100% and I will ask the press secretary to say that it was my statement on that of the Secretary General's.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
No problem. First of all, the thing is that the National Security Strategy is a very important document and I welcome that. And it expresses and formulates a very strong commitment of Germany to our collective defence, to our transatlantic bond, to NATO, and also the need to invest more in defence. And as I said, if you look at Europe, on average, the fluctuations have been around a 1.5% more or less. And of course, if the fluctuation ends up around 2%, we are in a very different world, which will be a huge improvement. Second, when I refer to 2% as a minimum, that reflects the reality.

That’s when you look on the NATO capability targets, the forces we have agreed to have on high readiness and under force structure, we need to actually deliver on strengthening our collective defence. Then for many Allies, depending on how much they’ve invested in the past, where they are, this will necessarily mean more than 2% and also fluctuations on levels above 2%. But with uncertainties related to GDP there will always be fluctuations.