Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Minister of Defence of Germany, Boris Pistorius at the Jagel Air Base

  • 20 Jun. 2023 -
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  • Last updated: 20 Jun. 2023 13:32

(As delivered)

Minister Pistorius, dear Boris, Generals.

Thank you so much for hosting me here at Jagel Air Base, to visit Exercise Air Defender.

And to meet all the outstanding personnel which are taking part in this exercise.

This is the biggest air exercise in NATO's history, with around 10,000 personnel and 250 aircraft from 25 different nations. This exercise sends a very clear message.

That NATO is ready to defend every inch of Allied territory and to defend every inch of Allied airspace.

It is a strong display of Germany's commitment and capabilities. And it demonstrates the strong bond between Europe and North America working together in NATO.

Air Defence is important at all times to keep our people safe.

And today Russia’s brutal and indiscriminate attacks on Ukraine and Ukrainian cities show even more clearly the importance of air defence.

NATO is not party to the conflict. We stand by Ukraine in its right to self-defence. A right which is enshrined in the UN Charter.

And I thank Germany for its leading role in providing military, financial and humanitarian aid, including the latest announcement by Germany to provide even more Patriot missiles for Ukraine.

This will save lives. Stepping up our support for Ukraine for the long haul will be a top priority at the NATO Summit in Vilnius next month.

Bolstering NATO's deterrence and defence will also be high on the agenda.

We are now putting in place new regional plans to defend Allied territory. With forces and capabilities and high levels of readiness. And 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, which I look forward to visit together with you, Boris, next week.

Germany also serves as a critical hub for sustainment and deployment of Allied forces throughout Europe. German leadership in our Alliance remains essential for peace and security in the Euro-Atlantic area.

Russia's war against Ukraine has fundamentally changed our security environment. So it is vital that we continue to invest in our defence.

At the NATO summit in Vilnius, we will agree on a more ambitious defence investment pledge. With 2% of GDP as a floor, not the ceiling.

And I welcome Germany's commitment to reach 2% of GDP for defence in 2024. And to invest 100 billion euros more, including for tanks, aircraft and air defences. This demonstrates once again, Germany's leadership in a more dangerous world.

So Boris, once again, thank you for your personal leadership, for your personal commitment to our transatlantic bond.

And once again, thank you for hosting me here in Germany and also at this base today.

Thank you.


Carsten Hoffmann (DPA) [inaudible]


Boris Pistorius, Minister of Defence of Germany [in German] 


NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:
Fundamentally there are two tasks for an exercise like this. The first task is to exercise our ability to work together. To bring 100 planes from the United States and planes from many other countries and exercise them, operating together and conduct many different tasks - everything from close air, closer ground support to air defense and many other tasks which are part of this exercise and then increase our interoperability, our ability to work together as 25 nations. The other task of an exercise like this is to demonstrate our resolve of a commitment to defend every inch of Allied territory and every inch of Allied airspace. And the reason we do that is not to provoke a conflict but to prevent a conflict. Because as long as every potential adversary knows that the whole of NATO is there, and that we can quickly reinforce not least by using air force, there will be no attack. So the purpose of NATO is not to fight the war, the purpose of NATO is to prevent the war, is to prevent conflict, preserve peace. And by standing together in an exercise like this, one for all, all for one. That's the best way to preserve peace. This exercise is one way of preserving peace.


Boris Pistorius, Minister of Defence of Germany [in German]   


Georg Ismar (Sueddeutsche Zeitung) [inaudible on procurement]


Boris Pistorius, Minister of Defence of Germany [in German]   


Question [inaudible]


Boris Pistorius, Minister of Defence of Germany [in German] 


Question [inaudible]


Boris Pistorius, Minister of Defence of Germany:
We won't move away from that deal and we won't buy anything because of tradition or history. We buy that system because it's just very good and the best thing I know. So thank you very much for your question and to give me the opportunity to emphasize that. But anyway we will stay with it. How long I can't give you guarantees for the next two decades. But anyway, as long as we are in responsibility and that means the next years we’ll stay with Arrow because it's very good.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: It's a national decision by each and every Ally exactly what kind of system they decide to invest in. So that's a German decision. But what we do at NATO is that we agree capability targets. So we have agreed that Allies need to invest more in air defence, and therefore I welcome the German initiative. This is important, both the initiative to bring Allies together, the sky shield initiative, but also the fact that Germany has allocated more money for defence, including air defence systems. And the war in Ukraine has demonstrated how important it is to have modern multi-layered air defence systems. What matters for NATO, as pointed out, is that Allies invest quite different capabilities, but also that, when we do that, we ensure that this is fully interoperable with other NATO countries, because we need to work together. We need to protect our airspace together with sensors with interceptors, and be able to link the different air defence systems together. So we should ensure interoperability. And we should also, of course, ensure that we don't create new barriers between NATO Allies, and when we develop new capabilities like for instance air defence systems.

Matthias Gebauer, Der Spiegel [inaudible]

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:
First of all, as you just said, that there are ongoing investigations and therefore I will not draw any final conclusion. what matters is that we know that critical undersea infrastructure, as gas pipelines, as oil pipelines, as not least older internet cables, they are critical for our modern societies and they are vulnerable. So, therefore, based on an initiative from Germany, from Chancellor Scholz and also from Minister Pistorius, together with Norway, NATO has now stepped up what we do and we have agreed at the defence ministerial meeting last week together with the Minister Pistorius, to establish a new maritime center at our maritime command to strengthen the coordination and what we do to protect undersea infrastructure. This is partly about more intelligence sharing, more monitoring, but also exercises where different countries can exercise together but also together with the private sector. So we are stepping up what we do to protect critical infrastructure.

Boris Pistorius, Minister of Defence of Germany [in German] 


Question [inaudible]


Boris Pistorius, Minister of Defence of Germany [in German] 

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:
After exercises like this, there will always be a lessons learned process, and of course there are always things that we can improve, that we can do better. In general, I will say that the reports I have read so far has so far and what I've been told today is that this has been a very successful and a very well conducted exercise, not least because it has been so excellent hosted by Germany. Then, I will add one more thing, and that is of course that it demonstrates the importance of modern air forces. And I welcome now that more and more Allies are now investing in new fifth generation aircraft, which will even more strengthen our air defence capabilities. But maybe the General can add some more about what actually the lessons are learned from the exercise because, with all respect to me, I think he is much more closer to actually what has gone on there.

General Ingo Gerhartz:
Yeah, just to pick one topic, about what we learned and what we have done. In today's modern world of airpower, we all have to have the different capabilities in one network. And we do that by data link. That is really, really complex. And for this exercise, we found out the first day it didn't work with all the assets. The second day it was like 80 or 90% of the assets are in a network. And the third day we got it fixed. So that proves especially you cannot simulate it. You have to do it. Thanks.