Joint press conference
by the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the President of the Republic of Lithuania Gitanas Nausėda
President Nausėda, dear Gitanas,
Thank you so much for the warm welcome.
Let me also thank the government of Lithuania and people of Lithuania for hosting the upcoming Summit here in Vilnius.
This week at the NATO Summit, we will strengthen our deterrence and defence, including with more investment.
We will step up our support for Ukraine, and move Ukraine closer to NATO.
And we will work even more closely with partners to support the rules-based international order.
I was last here in Lithuania just two weeks ago.
Together, we met Lithuanian and German troops participating in Exercise Griffin Storm.
Demonstrating our ability to reinforce our presence in Lithuania to brigade size.
At the Summit, we will take further major steps to strengthen our deterrence and defence.
Including three new regional plans.
Backed by 300,000 troops on high readiness.
And major capabilities across all domains.
This sends a clear message that we will defend every inch of Lithuania.
And every inch of Allied territory.
We will also take decisions on Ukraine.
This includes a multi-year package of assistance.
To transition from Soviet-era to NATO equipment and standards, making Ukraine’s forces fully interoperable with Allies.
And covering critical needs like demining equipment, fuel, and medical supplies.
We will also upgrade our political ties.
President Zelenskyy will join us for the inaugural meeting of the new NATO-Ukraine Council.
And tomorrow, Allies will address Ukraine’s path towards NATO membership.
To continue supporting Ukraine and strengthening our own forces, we need to invest more in defence.
So Allies will set a more ambitious defence investment pledge.
Building on nine consecutive years of increased defence spending across European Allies and Canada.
This includes a rise of 8.3% in real terms this year – the biggest increase in defence spending in decades.
We will also meet with our close partners in Vilnius, the European Union.
And the leaders of Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea.
This will be Finland’s first Summit as a NATO Ally.
And we look forward to Sweden joining as soon as possible.
I will meet with President Erdogan and Prime Minister Kristersson later today as the next step in this process.
So, President Nausėda,
Thank you again for your hospitality and Lithuania’s many contributions to NATO.
NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Okay, we'll start with Politico, lady in green.
Lili Bayer (Politico): Thank you very much. I have a question both for the Secretary General and the president. Ukraine's Minister Kuleba tweeted earlier today that NATO Allies have reached consensus on removing MAP. But he also added that it is the best moment to offer clarity on the invitation to Ukraine to become a member. So I was wondering if you could both update us on where those discussions are and what concretely the Alliance can offer Ukraine at this stage when it comes to the prospect of membership. Thank you.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: So consultations are going on and there will be all the meetings taking place today. But I'm confident that all Allies will agree on the very clear message also when it comes to Ukraine. No final decision has been made. But at the Summit, I'm absolutely certain that we will have a unity and a strong message on Ukraine.
I put forward a package in Oslo at the informal foreign ministerial there and that included three elements: One was to have a program of practical support to ensure full interoperability between Ukrainian forces and NATO forces. This will move Ukraine closer to NATO.
The other element was to establish the NATO-Ukraine Council. This will be platform to consult and also to take decisions together.
And the third element was to remove the requirements for the Membership Action Plan. Turning the membership process for Ukraine, moving it from a two-step process to a one-step process.
And now we are discussing these elements and this package and also finalizing the discussions and the negotiations on the precise language. So I will not go into the details about what Allies are in the process of agreeing. But I welcome the fact that we are now building on the package that was launched in Oslo and I'm confident that we have a good and strong and a positive message when the Leaders meet.
Question 2 (BNS): In general, what is specifically preventing NATO from committing to accept Kyiv into the [inaudible] and to the president, how Lithuania is ready to press on NATO Allies to accept [inaudible].
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Well, all Allies agree that Ukraine will become a member of the Alliance and I'm confident that the Summit will make decisions which will be strong and positive on Ukraine. And we are now discussing this package that was launched in Oslo of practical support to enable full interoperability between Ukrainian forces and NATO forces, stronger political ties with the NATO-Ukraine Council and then the removal of the Membership Action Plan. And of course, this is about moving Ukraine closer to membership. But again, the final decisions will be taken when every Ally, when we all agree and the Leaders meet tomorrow. So it's too early to announce exactly their specific decisions and the specific language.
I think also, it is important to communicate that all Allies agree that Ukraine will become a member of the Alliance, but we also agree that NATO still remains open. And we have demonstrated that by inviting Finland and Sweden to become members. And Finland is already a full member. And we have also reiterated again and again that of course it is for the Allies and Ukraine to decide when the time is right to invite Ukraine to be a full member. The most urgent task now is to ensure that Ukraine prevails as a sovereign and independent nation in Europe because unless Ukraine prevails, then there is no membership issue to be discussed at all. So I think it's extremely important that we continue to ensure that Allies are providing weapons, ammunition, training, spare parts to Ukraine. So they are able to liberate more land but also to deter Russia from further aggression.
NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Front row here.
Question 3 (TV 2 Denmark): Yes, hello from TV 2 Denmark. Question to both. Both of you, both the Secretary General and the President. We hear now reports from Turkey that Erdogan is actually connecting future EU membership for Turkey with Sweden's accession to NATO. What do you think about that? And if Sweden doesn't get a yes from Erdogan at this Summit, do you then fear that this can drag on for a very long time?
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: I support Türkiye’s ambitions to become a member of the European Union. At the same time, we need to remember that what we agreed in Madrid was a specific list of conditions that Sweden has to meet to be a full member of the Alliance. And Sweden has met these conditions and that's about removing restrictions on arms exports. That has happened. Then it's about strengthening the cooperation between Türkiye and Sweden on fighting terrorism. That's taking place. And Sweden has also amended its constitution and strengthened the counterterrorism laws and Sweden is following up to address legitimate security concerns by Türkiye.
And it is important that we stand together in the fight against terrorism. But at the same time, it's also important that we address the legitimate security concerns of all Allies that want to see Sweden as a member of the Alliance as soon as possible, because this will strengthen NATO and it will strengthen our ability to defend and protect not least the Baltic region. If you just look at the map to have Sweden as a full member, in addition to Finland, really changes the geography, the NATO presence in this region.
So we are working hard to get a Sweden as a member as soon as possible. I met with President Erdogan a few weeks ago, we had constructive and good talks. We agreed at that meeting to convene the Permanent [Joint] Mechanism, the mechanism that was established by Sweden, Finland, NATO and Türkiye. They met a few days ago in Brussels, also they were able to make some progress. And then I'm looking forward to meeting President Erdogan and Prime Minister Kristersson later on today. And it's still possible to have a positive decision on Swedish membership here in Vilnius. We don't have any certainty. We don't have any guarantees. But of course, now we have the momentum of the Summit with the Leaders here and we will use that momentum to ensure as much progress as possible.
Question 4 (LRT): A question for Secretary General and the President about brigades in the NATO eastern flank, Germany promised a brigade in Lithuania, Canada promised [one] in Latvia. Do you see the need of more formal agreements or declarations for establishment of these plans in a NATO format?
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: So NATO has already increased its presence in the Baltic region we established some years ago the four battlegroups. Then after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, we doubled the number of battle groups in the eastern part of the Alliance and we also made the decision at the Madrid Summit that these battle groups should be scalable up to brigade size levels. Meaning we need dedicated forces with dedicated responsibilities and also exercises and pre-positioned equipment and the infrastructure in place to quickly be scaled up to [brigade] size and that's exactly what I saw myself at the exercise here in Lithuania two weeks ago, the ability of NATO Allies, in this case Germany, to scale up to brigade-size level. Then I, of course also welcome the announcement by Germany that they are ready to have one brigade for Lithuania deployed, and I welcomed that when it was announced two weeks ago.
In NATO, we will, at this Summit, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, we will agree new defence plans, we will agree a new force model, a new force structure and the force structure requirements to execute and to meet the needs to protect and defend all Allies. So the details related to our posture, or presence, will be described there but, we welcome the other day the increased presence that has been announced in the Baltic region.
NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Dear colleagues, that’s all we have time for. We’ll see you later as the Summit gets underway. Thank you.