Pre-Summit press conference

by Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the NATO Summit in Vilnius

  • 07 Jul. 2023 -
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  • Last updated: 07 Jul. 2023 21:55

(As delivered)

Good afternoon.

NATO Heads of State and Government will meet in Vilnius next week, at a critical moment for our transatlantic security. 

Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine continues to rage on.

For 500 days, Moscow has brought death and destruction to the heart of Europe, seeking to destroy Ukraine and divide NATO. 

Our Summit will send a clear message.
NATO stands united. 
And Russia’s aggression will not pay.

At the Summit, we will make Ukraine even more stronger, and set out a vision for its future. 
I expect Allied leaders will agree a package with three elements, to bring Ukraine closer to NATO.

First, we will agree a multi-year programme of assistance.
To ensure full interoperability between the Ukrainian armed forces and NATO.

Second, we will upgrade our political ties.
By establishing the NATO-Ukraine Council.

And third, I expect Allied leaders will reaffirm that Ukraine will become a member of NATO.
And unite on how to bring Ukraine closer to its goal.  

Allies have already pledged 500 million euros for critical needs, including fuel, medical supplies, demining equipment and pontoon bridges.

We will also help build Ukraine’s security and defence sector, including with military hospitals. 
And we will help Ukraine transition from Soviet-era to NATO equipment and standards.

President Zelenskyy will join us for the inaugural meeting of the new NATO-Ukraine Council.
This will be a platform for crisis consultation and decision-making.

Where we all sit as equals to address shared security concerns. 

At the Summit, we will take further major steps to strengthen our deterrence and defence.
With three new regional defence plans, 
to counter the two main threats to our Alliance:
Russia, and terrorism.

One plan for the north, the Atlantic and European Arctic;
One for the centre, covering the Baltic region and central Europe;
And a southern plan for the Mediterranean and Black Sea.

To execute these plans, NATO is putting 300,000 troops on higher readiness. 
Including substantial air and naval combat power. 

I expect leaders will endorse a Defence Production Action Plan to aggregate demand, boost capacity, and increase interoperability.

To do all of this, we need to invest more. 

At the Summit, Allies will set a more ambitious defence investment pledge, to invest a minimum of 2% of Gross Domestic Product annually on defence. 

Today, we are releasing new defence spending estimates.

In 2023, there will be a real increase of 8.3% across European Allies and Canada. 
This is the biggest increase in decades. 
And the ninth consecutive year of increases in our defence spending.

So European Allies and Canada will have invested over 450 billion extra US dollars since we agreed our defence investment pledge in 2014.
Then, only three Allies spent 2 % of GDP on defence.
This year, eleven Allies reach – or exceed – the target. 
And we expect this number will rise substantially next year.

At the Summit, we will be joined by the leaders of Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea.
Because our security is not regional, it is global.
So we are working more closely on issues such as cybersecurity, maritime security and new technologies. 

We will also welcome the European Union to Vilnius. 
Our partnership has reached unprecedented levels, and we are committed to doing even more together. 

This will be Finland’s first Summit as a NATO Ally.
And we look forward to Sweden joining as soon as possible. 

Yesterday, I hosted a constructive meeting of senior officials from Türkiye, Sweden and Finland. 
And as the next step, I will meet with President Erdogan and Prime Minister Kristersson in Vilnius on Monday afternoon.

For almost 75 years, NATO has been the strongest Alliance in history. 

The decisions we will take at the Vilnius Summit will ensure we continue to protect our people and our values. 

With that, I’m ready to take your questions.


NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu
Lithuanian TV.

Mindaugas Laukagalis, LRT
Mindaugas Laukagalis from Lithuanian National Radio and Television, thank you for this opportunity. I have two questions. The first one is: Ukraine is calling 2008, Bucharest declaration, a historic mistake. How Vilnius declaration will be different from that, because in 2008, the leaders said that Ukraine will become a NATO member, and it seems that you're going to repeat this in 2023. So what's the difference? And the other question is, have you got heard something from President Zelenskyy? Will he participate in the summit? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
There are many differences. One important difference is, of course, that Ukraine has come much closer to NATO, because NATO Allies have worked closely with Ukraine for many years, especially since 2014. So this has ensured a much higher level of cooperation and interoperability between Ukraine and NATO.

And I expect also that leaders when they meet in Vilnius, they will also agree a package that will have to move Ukraine even closer to NATO. Partly by establishing the NATO Ukraine Council, which is a political platform where we can have crisis consultations and also actually make decisions together and deepen our political cooperation.

The practical support and not least the multi-year program also has a clear political dimension, because by agreeing to stand by Ukraine and also help them for the longer term, and to ensure full interoperability with NATO, we are helping Ukraine to come even closer to NATO and NATO membership. And then finally, I am confident that we'll find the united way also to address the specific issue on membership, but I will not go into the details of exact language now because that is something we will announce when everything is in place by the summit. I look forward to welcoming President Zelenskyy at the summit and, to have him taking part in the first or the inaugural meeting of the NATO Ukraine Council.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu

Florian Neuhann, ZDF
Thank you very much, Fleurian Neuhann from ZDF, German TV. Mr. Stoltenberg, first question would be, the US is actively considering, it says, to send a cluster munitions to Ukraine, which are banned from more than 120 states. From a military point of view, do you think this is a good idea? Does Ukraine need such munitions? And from a political point of view, do you think it's wise to send weapons, munitions, that are banned for good reasons?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
NATO as an Alliance does not have a position on the Convention on Cluster Munitions, because a number of Allies have signed the convention but number of Allies have not signed the convention. And it is for individual Allies to make decisions on the delivery of weapons and military supplies to Ukraine.

So this will be for governments to decide and not for NATO as an Alliance. We are faced with a brutal war and we have to remember that this brutality is also reflected in the fact that we everyday see casualties, and that cluster munitions is used by both sides, or cluster munitions are used by both sides, and Russia use cluster munitions in their brutal war aggression, to invade another country, while Ukraine is using it to defend itself. The best way to end this brutal war is for President Putin and Russia to stop attacking another country. That is also the best way to stop all the suffering, the casualties, and the death we see caused by different types of weapons on the battlefield every day.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu

NTV, Türkiye
Secretary General, Guldener Sonomut from NTV Türkiye. The meeting of yesterday with regard Sweden was rather a kind of icebreaker between the Turkish side and the Swedish side. You said that it was constructive. However, when we see the statement of the Turkish minister of Foreign Affairs and his Swedish counterpart, there is still a gap. So how would you be able to bridge that gap until next Monday? And what kind of pressure, because you also call always on Türkiye, but what kind of pressure you could do on Sweden so that they somehow try to face or at least release the concerns of Türkiye? Thank you very much.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
For me, I think words like constructive and good is better than icebreaker. If I am going to describe the meeting we had yesterday. It was a good meeting. It was a constructive meeting, and we made progress.

And I'm confident that we'll continue to make progress but there are still gaps to be bridged. And that's also the reason why I have invited President Erdogan and Prime Minister's Kristersson to meet on Monday, in a few days in Vilnius. And we will meet together the three of us, with our experts to sit down and look into the details, the concrete issues, and where we see differences between the Swedish position and the position of Türkiye.

And then that's the way to overcome differences when they exist as they now do in the issue related to the final ratification of Swedish accession into NATO. My message is that Sweden has delivered at the same time, on the commitment they made in Madrid, in the joint memorandum. At the same time. I'm also very clear that Türkiye has real security concerns and that's the reason why we are sitting down and addressing them. Because we also know that NATO Allies have serious security concerns related to the fact that they want to have Sweden in us as a full member as soon as possible. And that's not least the case for the Baltic countries, they see the great advantage of having Sweden as a member. So I strongly believe it will be good for Sweden. It will be good for the Baltic region, the Nordic Region, and it will be also good for the whole Alliance including Türkiye to have Sweden as a member as soon as possible.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu
Interfax Ukraine

Iryna Somer, Interfax Ukraine
Thank you Oana. Iryna Somer, Ukrainian News Agency Interfax Ukraine. I have follow up question on Mindaugas, regarding declaration. I do understand you can't comment on the language which will in decleration regarding membership. But can you tell us how far or how close Allies are regarding wording in the declaration regarding a possible membership for Ukraine, which also will be satisfactory for Kyiv? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
So we are, as we always are ahead of NATO Summit, now consulting and working on the exact language. That's the way NATO makes decisions. We are 31 Allies and also, of course, having close contact with Ukraine. But Allies are now consulting on the exact language in the in the communique.

I'm confident that we will find the united way forward, including on how to move Ukraine forward on its goal to become a member of the Alliance. I also expect as I said that there will be decisions on concrete support, practical support, but that has a dimension also when it comes to the political aspects because more interoperability, multi-year program for interoperability between NATO forces and Ukrainian forces, helps of course Ukraine to move towards NATO. And stronger political ties with the NATO Ukraine Council is also a way to move Ukraine and NATO even closer.

So the language, the exact wording will be made public when we have agreed and when the statement is endorsed by all the leaders next week. But I'm confident that we'll have a message which is clear, and also not only clear, but most of all we have to remember that Allies also agree already on a lot of important principles when it comes to Ukraine and membership.

We agree that NATO’s door is open. We agree that Ukraine will become a member which is an important message. And then we agree that it's for the NATO Allies and Ukraine to decide when the time is right and not for Russia to have a veto. And then the most urgent task, and all Allies agree on that, is that we will stand by Ukraine. We will provide support to Ukraine for as long as it takes. Because unless Ukraine wins this war, there's no membership issue to be discussed at all. And that's the reason why Allies are stepping up and providing donations, military support, in an unprecedented way.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu

Natalia Drodziak, Bloomberg
Hi, Natalia Drodziak from Bloomberg. Thank you for the question. We continue to hear pleas from Ukraine for Allies to send more artillery, ammunition. Are you satisfied with what Allies have sent, and the state of their defence production?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
So, NATO Allies are sending – and have sent –unprecedented levels of ammunition, many different types of ammunition, and they're continuing to make new announcements, new donations, and all of this is coordinated in a very good way. And that’s also a reason why the Ukrainians have been able to retake land in the north and east and the south and now, some weeks ago, they were able to launch the offensive. And the offensive is moving forward, they are able to liberate land.

Then, of course, there's a very high rate of consumption of ammunition in the military operations, which are going on now – thousands of shells every day. So there’s an enormous need to resupply, and that's exactly what Allies are doing; they are resupplying constantly Ukraine with more ammunition, spare parts, maintenance for different artillery systems, armoured vehicles, battle tanks, air defences, and so on. And that need will continue to be there, and therefore we need continued support and continued decision-making strength in the NATO Allied countries, to make further decisions on even more support.I think that is what your question was about? No, sorry, on production.

Because on production, well, what we have seen is that since we started to address this issue of the need to increase our production capacity last fall, then things have started to move. So now more and more Allies are actually signing contracts. The thing that can actually increase production is of course, contracts with industry. We engaged with the industry at our latest Defence Ministerial Meeting. We have also worked on a defence production action plan which I expect the Allied leaders to agree on, both how to aggregate demand, how to make sure that we are buying things together.

Joint procurement is a way to get up the numbers, and therefore reduce the cost, to utilise the economy of scale. We have done joint procurement at NATO for many, many years. We have the NATO Support and Procurement Agency, which is now actually facilitating several big projects – also for battle-decisive ammunition. We have increased the guidelines for how much battle-decisive ammunition, which includes, for instance, 155mm ammunition, which is the most commonly used in the war in Ukraine, or by Ukrainians. We have increased the guidelines for how much of this type of ammunition Allies should have, and we are also strengthening our work to standardise, and to ensure that there is full interchangeability.

So, NATO is addressing these issues, the need to ramp up production, in many different ways using existing tools, using our mandate to set standards and guidelines, and the Allies are now implementing and following up, and production is going up.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu
Okay, Greek TV, there. Lady up there. Thank you.

Eirini Zarkadoula, Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation,
Eirini Zarkadoula, with public TV and Athens News Agency. Secretary General, you have mentioned lots of times that the 2% on defence spending is the floor, not the ceiling. Are the Allies closer to reaching a more concrete agreement, a more concrete and obligatory agreement, on this 2%, on this target? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
The answer is yes. We have made good progress on also agreeing a new Defence Investment Pledge, where we regard 2% of GDP for defence not as a ceiling, but the minimum, a floor. But as important is that we are making progress, and [are] close to having all the details in place for new investment pledge, is the fact that, actually, Allies have stepped up.

So this commitment is not only demonstrated in words, but also in deeds. And the new defence investment figures we released today, for defence investments in 2023, are encouraging, they are positive, the biggest increase in decades – 8.3% increased defence spending across Europe and Canada in real terms, adjusted for inflation. That is something we haven't seen across NATO for decades.

And it reflects that NATO Allies are taking this extremely seriously, because to provide support to Ukraine, to sign long-term contracts for defence production with the defence industry, to replenish our own stocks, to invest in more high-end capabilities, there is a need for more money. And now the extra money is coming in, with in total 450 billion since we made the Defence Investment Pledge, and only this year [an] 8.3% increase.

That reflects that is something which is taken extremely seriously by Allies. Of course, still, we have way to go, and therefore I expect [a] further increase next year. We expect this year 11 Allies to meet the 2% guideline, which is significantly more than when we made the guidelines in 2014. That was a decade pledge that will end in 2024 so next year, we expect substantially more Allies to meet the 2% target, and then to move on from there when we agree a new pledge at the Summit in Vilnius.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu
Frankfurter Allgemeine.

Thomas Gutschker, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Thomas Gutschker, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Getting back to support to Ukraine: Two questions, please. The first one on the Comprehensive Action Plan: You said that Allies have pledged 500 million euros. Is that for one year, and are Allies ready to commit to 500 million on a multi-year basis? And the second question, on bringing Ukraine closer to NATO: What would it mean in practical terms if the MAP requirements were dropped? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
We are now finalising the text and decisions on both these issues, so therefore, I’m a bit careful to go into the details. You will see all the details on both the questions you asked within a few days. And I think it will only make my task of leading the process, and to ensure that we end on [a] strong and united position on these issues more difficult if I now, at this press conference, went into the exact details of the language and the wording and the different alternatives which are now addressed.

But I can say that I'm confident that when we finalise these consultations, and have the decisions in place by the Summit, we will see that there is a strong commitment from NATO Allies to provide substantial sustained economic support to Ukraine – both as NATO through the Comprehensive Assistance Package for the different specific purposes, like fuel and the different types of equipment, but also for the multi-year program to ensure that Ukraine transitions from Soviet-era to NATO standards and doctrines, the full interoperability.

And on the Membership Action Plan: I will not go into the details, but the reality is that, with all the different programs, with the NATO-Ukraine Council, with the multi-year programme for interoperability, we will move Ukraine closer to NATO, and that will help us to also move on the issue of sending a positive message also on the membership question.

Mattia Bagnoli, ANSA,
Thank you for the opportunity. Mattia Bagnoli, ANSA. Mr. Secretary General we have been hearing lately warring signals both from Russia and Ukraine on possible provocation at Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant. Would a Chernobyl type accident with radioactive clouds impacting NATO country be considered a possible trigger for Article Five. Has that message being sent to Moscow?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg,
I think that first of all I think it is important to understand that wars are, by nature, dangerous and also unpredictable. And, of course, we are monitoring and following very closely the situation also around Zaporizhzhya and the nuclear power plant there. We also strongly welcome the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency is monitoring closely. They have their experts following the situation. And this is important because Zaporizhzhya power plant is Europe's largest nuclear power plant. The International Atomic Energy Agency have a responsibility. They have a mandate. We support that, when it comes to ensure that regulations and safety standards are fully upheld.

That is of course a big challenge in the war zone. And, therefore, Russia has a particular responsibility. The best and the message from NATO and from the IAEA is that Russia should not launch any attacks from the power plant. They should not, of course, attack the power plant and they should withdraw their forces that will enable the experts to do their work in a better way. They have had access and have made some judgments and some assessments.

They have said that they have seen no visible indication of mines or explosives at this stage. But they've also asked for additional access to verify the safety of the plant. So we continue to call on Russia to withdraw from the facility and ensure the Ukrainian and international experts have full access. We continue to monitor. The International Atomic Energy Agency continued to monitor and we call on Russia to withdraw its forces Ukrainian news agency

National News Agency of Ukraine
National News Agency of Ukraine. Thank you for the floor. I just want to hear just: will security guarantees for a future be on the agenda in the Vilnius Summit? And if I may about the future membership. Both Ukraine and NATO members agreed that issue of membership could be considered after the war is over. Would not it be an incentive for Russia to continue this war endlessly? And don't you think that the best security guarantee for Ukraine is to ensure the NATO membership? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
The most important thing now is to ensure that Ukraine prevails and that President Putin and Russia do not win this war. And therefore, the most urgent task is the military support to Ukraine. Also knowing that the more land Ukraine is able to liberate, the stronger their hand will be eventually to be at the negotiating table, to find a peaceful and during and just end to this war.

When the war ends, then it is important, of course, that we have the frameworks in place to ensure that Russia, President Putin, not only rests his forces, retrains them, reallocates them, rearm them and then re-attack at the later stage. That is actually a lasting and enduring peace. And to ensure that, we need frameworks in place to provide Ukraine with what they need to ensure that Russia is not going to attack again. And that's exactly what Allies are discussing, that’s part of the discussion on the membership issue within NATO.

And as I said, I'm confident that we’ll find a united way forward as NATO Allies on Ukraine's request for membership. We will also, I expect, make some concrete decisions on interoperability and all the things that will help Ukraine to move closer to NATO. Then, it is also publicly known and it has been announced by several Allies that there are bilateral and actually some multilateral consultations with Ukraine on different types of security arrangements. And I welcome also those efforts. We have been briefed about them and it will just complement and underpin the efforts of NATO answer as an Alliance. The message is, of course, that that we take our decisions as sovereign independent nations together with Ukraine. So it's not for Russia, to make any decisions, to have any veto. And again, we help Ukraine to win this war by providing military support and we'll continue to do that.

Andrew Grey, Reuters
Andrew Grey from Reuters. Secretary General, could you tell us some more about the NATO-Ukraine Council and perhaps put it in concrete terms for an ordinary citizen who doesn't follow this stuff super closely? In particular, what kind of powers might it have? Would Ukraine be able to convene a meeting if it wants to do that? And could it be a forum for sharing intelligence for example?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
The NATO-Ukraine Council will be a Council, which is formed by the 31 NATO Allies - hopefully soon 32 Allies with Sweden – but now 31 NATO Allies and Ukraine. And we will be together in the Council as equals. And it we will agree, what you call modalities on how, and how often is this Council will meet, but I expect that we will agree modalities that also then ensure that individual members of the Council - and that includes also, of course, Ukraine - can call a meeting to have a whole crisis consultations.

That is, if they feel threatened in any way and/or they see any need for urgent consultations, then they can invoke this crisis consultation mechanism between the NATO Allies and Ukraine as members of the Council. Then, the Council can also make decisions and it's fundamentally for the Council to decide what decisions they can make. But this opens up for more practical joint activities. It opens also for establishing sub-committees to address specific tasks, issues, be it cyber or be it - I don't know – interoperability, that’s up to the Council to decide.

And, for instance, agree a work program. So the whole idea is that by establishing it, we establish a body, where we actually do things together, decide things together, consult together on issues that matter to our security. And that brings again, Ukraine closer to NATO, and it provides Ukraine and all of us with a tool that we can use to do more together and strengthen the cooperation and the ties between Ukraine and all the NATO Allies. So this will bring Ukraine closer to NATO. It will good for Ukraine and good for NATO and the inaugural meeting will be next week in Vilnius.

Alexandra von Nahmen, Deutsche Welle
Alexandra von Nahmen, Deutsche Welle. Just to follow up on the cluster bombs. Germany has already said that they are opposing sending cluster bombs to Ukraine. We understand that they could help Ukraine advance with their offensive. But if the US indeed decides to send them, is there not a risk that we could see cracks in NATO's unity with regards to that topic? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
As it is for individual Allies to make decisions on what type of weapons, all Allies agree that we should deliver weapons ammunition to Ukraine and Allies are delivering an unprecedented level of military support Ukraine.

And , of course, Germany and many other Allies are delivering different types of ammunition weapons to Ukraine. But when it comes to cluster ammunition, there's a difference between Allies, because some Allies have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions and they don't have a cluster munitions. So, of course, there is no cluster missions to provide to Ukraine.

Other Allies have not signed the Convention. And many of them, at least some of them, have cluster munitions. So it is for these individual Allies to make those decisions. NATO as an Alliance doesn't have a position on the Convention simply because there are different views among Allies on the Convention and then also any possession of cluster munitions. Cluster munitions are only used in the war in Ukraine by both sides.

The difference is that Russia is using cluster munitions to attack, to invade Ukraine. Ukraine is using cluster ammunition to protect itself against an aggressor. And all Allies, regardless of whether they have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, agree that we should provide military support to Ukraine as we do, also Germany. But exactly what type of weapons, what type of ammunition varies between Allies and will continue to vary between Allies.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Okay, I think we have one last question from Georgian TV. Over there, just above you.

Tamara Nutsubidze, Rustavi 2
Georgian TV, Rustavi 2, Tamara Nutsubidze. Can we expect some kind of messages in Vilnius regarding aspirant countries? For Georgia, for example? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
Well, our message has been for a long time – and was reiterated at a previous Summit – that we need to strengthen our partnership with partners that are vulnerable for Russian interference and under pressure. At the Summit, Allies will reiterate our support to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia within its internationally recognised borders. Allies will also, I expect, reaffirm Georgia’s right to decide its own future and foreign policy, free from outside intervention.

Therefore, we call on Russia to withdraw its forces it has in Georgia – without any consent from the Georgian government – and to end its recognition and militarisation, of course, and South Ossetia. And I think, also, we have to recognise, once again, the importance that Georgia plays in also strengthening the partnership between NATO and Georgia, and the commitment to Euro-Atlantic security. So we will address also other partners than Ukraine. Of course, Ukraine will be at the top of the agenda, because there’s a full-fledged war taking place in Ukraine, but we will also address the importance of strengthening our partnership with a country like Georgia.

NATO Spokesperson Lungescu: Thank you very much. On the Council. Okay, Iryna, one last follow up.

Iryna Somer, Interfax Ukraine
Thank you so much, Oana. Just one follow-up on the NATO Ukraine Council: In the past, Hungarians constantly were blocking the NATO-Ukraine Commission. Do you think that Hungary again – or another Ally – will have a right to block such meetings? And do you think it's really a fair upgrade for Ukrainians to have a Council while the NATO-Russia Council still exists?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
So, first of all, the fact that we established the NATO-Ukraine Council demonstrates that all Allies – also Hungary – is in favour of that. Because that's the way we make decisions. Second, we have the modalities that will ensure that we can convene the meeting. When we start to have meetings in the NATO Ukraine Council, I'm absolutely confident we'll continue to have meetings also in the future.

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