Joint press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with the Prime Minister of Sweden, Ulf Kristersson

  • 24 Oct. 2023 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 24 Oct. 2023 15:00

(As delivered)

Prime Minister Kristersson,
kjære [dear] Ulf.

Let me begin by expressing my condolences to the people of Sweden, and the loved ones of the victims, following last week’s terrorist attack in Brussels.

NATO stands in solidarity with you.
Terrorism must never prevail.

Today, we discussed finalising Sweden’s NATO accession.

I spoke with President Erdogan over the weekend.
And I welcome that he yesterday sent the accession protocol to the Grand National Assembly.

This is in line with the agreement at the Vilnius summit in July.

Sweden has fulfilled its commitments.

Sweden has:
Amended its constitution, changed its laws,
expanded counter-terrorism cooperation, and resumed arms exports to Türkiye.

NATO has recommitted to the fight against terrorism.
Including by updating our action plan.

And I have appointed an Assistant Secretary General to serve as my Special Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism.

Ensuring our response remains strong, effective and coherent.

No other Ally has suffered more terrorist attacks than Türkiye.

And I am glad we have been able to address Türkiye’s legitimate security concerns in a way that enables Sweden’s membership to move forward.

I look forward to welcoming Sweden as a full NATO Ally in the very near future.

Sweden has highly capable forces and years of experience operating with NATO.

You are already integrating even more deeply into the Alliance.

Just in the last few days:

The British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth visited Gothenburg.

US bombers exercised with Swedish jets.

And Allied and Swedish Special Forces trained on the Baltic Sea.

Sweden’s membership will make NATO stronger.
Sweden is fully ready to join NATO.
The time has come.

And following the submission of the ratification documents, I now count on a speedy ratification by the Turkish parliament.

Tomorrow I will attend the NATO-Industry Forum.

Let me thank you for hosting the event here in Stockholm.

This is yet another sign of how close Sweden is to NATO.

Our security relies on our technological edge and our defence industry.

So it is important that major companies from across the Alliance and beyond will be present.

Russia’s war against Ukraine has depleted Allied stocks.

Ramping up production is essential to meet Ukraine’s needs and to ensure our own defences.

Speed and volume matters.

As Russia prepares again to use winter as a weapon of war.

So let me thank Sweden for its major financial, humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine.

Including your latest 200 million dollar support package for ammunition and equipment to Ukraine.

Today, we also addressed recent damage to critical undersea infrastructure in the Baltic Sea.

Allies and Sweden are working together to establish the facts.

And NATO is strengthening our presence in the region.

This includes more surveillance and reconnaissance.
As well as more ships under NATO command.
NATO will always do this, and we will do what is necessary to protect and defend our Allies.

Finally, we discussed the situation in the Middle East, and Israel’s response to the horrific terrorist attack launched by Hamas.

Israel has the right to defend itself in line with international law.

The protection of civilians is essential,
and I welcome efforts to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches Gaza.

Iran and Hezbollah should not take advantage of the conflict.
It is important that this situation does not escalate further.

So once again Prime Minister Kristersson, dear Ulf, it is great to be hear and thank you so much for your warm welcome.


Moderator: So we start to open up the floor for some questions. We’ll start with Swedish Television.

Question: [speaks in Swedish]

Prime Minister of Sweden Ulf Kristersson: [answers in Swedish]

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: [answers in Norwegian]

Moderator: Deutsch Welle, please.

Teri Schultz (DW): Hi, Teri Schultz, Deutsch Welle. Could you just recap first of all, what you said about Hungary, but in particular – and I understand that you just said you don't think that there will be… there's not an exact timeline – but that's not my real question. I really want to know about the cable.

The Swedish government has now said that it believes that there was purposeful damage to the telecommunications cable, and we've heard also out of Finland that they seem to be able to target a Chinese ship. We've had all our eyes on the Russian ships in the previous damage to Nord Stream and other cables. So has NATO, perhaps not been as vigilant, not been as suspicious of Chinese ships, and does this just completely open up the need to cast a wider glass? What can you do to prevent this kind of damage? Because your vigilance was already up after Nord Stream and yet this still happened. Thanks.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: So as we have stated again, and again, we have tens of thousands of kilometres of internet cables over gas pipelines, over power cables, over oil pipelines, crossing the Baltic Sea, the North Sea, the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and of course, these types of undersea critical infrastructure is vulnerable. That's also the reason why NATO for many, many years have addressed the challenges and why we, after the North Stream instance, stepped up.

We are establishing a centre at our maritime command in Northland and the aim, and what we are doing, is to ensure that we have better exchange of information intelligence between Allies, we have presence and also that we are working more closely with the private sector because most of these critical infrastructure is owned by private companies, operated by private companies, and they also collect a lot of information, so the combination of presence, of intelligence, of shared practices and working with the private sector, with the private companies, at least increases the threshold for attacks, for intentional sabotage of these types of critical infrastructure.

There will be never any 100% guarantee. But we will have to increase the threshold for damage to these types of critical infrastructure as we are now doing, and again, with Sweden in NATO that will be even easier to do because then we can work even more closely with Sweden. On this specific instance, we are sharing information we haven't any final conclusion or assessment about exactly who is behind or whether it was intentional or not, but NATO, together with Finland, Estonia and Sweden, is working to establish the facts before they are established. No, I'm not going into any details about exactly who or what may have caused this damage.

On Hungary. Just repeat that in English. So Hungary has stated several times that they will not be the last to ratify. And since there are only two countries that have not yet ratified I think that demonstrates that Hungary will not delay this process.

Prime Minister of Sweden Ulf Kristersson: Well, think I don’t have too much to add to that. I mean, obviously we draw the conclusion from the diving that a purposeful damage. We will not be more precise than that, as of today at least. We will conclude the investigation physically and we'll come back with our conclusions.

I think there is an important lesson to be learned in terms of private infrastructure being nowadays extremely important also to national security, not least in cyber related matters. So, I think that is that's a lesson learned from us that we need to cooperate much closer between private operators, private companies and national security agencies.

Question: [speaks in Swedish]

Prime Minister of Sweden Ulf Kristersson: [answers in Swedish]

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: [answers in Norwegian]

Moderator: Sir, in the back, please.

Question: [speaks in Swedish]

Prime Minister of Sweden Ulf Kristersson: [answers in Swedish]

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: [answers in Norwegian]

Moderator: That's all for today. Thank you for joining us.