by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union with Defence Ministers
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Good morning. I'm looking forward to meet the EU Defence Ministers. The topic of this breakfast will be critical undersea infrastructure. And we saw the incident last month in the Baltic Sea where a gas pipeline and internet cables were damaged and that has reminded us of the vulnerability but also the importance of this type of infrastructure.
And NATO has been addressing these threats for many years but after the incident, or the damage, first against the North Stream pipelines and now also the Baltic connector, we have significantly stepped up with more naval patrols with more naval patrol aircrafts, and also with drones to increase our presence in the Baltic and the North Sea. We have also established, or we're in the process of establishing, a new centre at our maritime command in the United Kingdom, to better coordinate efforts of Allies, to work with partners, to work with the European Union, but also to work with the private sector to better share information and to ramp up what to do to protect the critical undersea infrastructure.
And earlier this year, NATO established a task force together with the European Commission on resilience, including critical undersea infrastructure. The task force has delivered support, so now we are working on the implementation the follow up all those recommendations. Critical infrastructure is important and it's an area where we once again see the relevance and importance of cooperation between NATO and the European Union.
Then I expect that in the meeting, we will also address the situation in Ukraine. Intense fighting continues. The situation on the battlefield is difficult. And that just makes it even more important that we sustain and step up our support for Ukraine because we cannot allow President Putin to win. Ukraine must prevail as a sovereign independent nation in Europe and it's in our interest to support Ukraine.
Journalist: Secretary General, rumour has it that some of Ukraine’s Allied partners would like them to start talking to the Russians. Do you think that Ukraine should seek negotiations with the Kremlin?
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: It is for Ukraine to decide on what are acceptable conditions for negotiations and, even more important, what are acceptable conditions for any agreement. The responsibility of the NATO Allies is to support Ukraine to defend itself because this is also in our interest to show that we are standing up for the rule of law and international law and that we're helping Ukraine to fight back against a war of aggression. Wars are unpredictable, no one can say how and when this war ends. What we can say is that the likelihood for an acceptable negotiated outcome increases with the more military support we provide to Ukraine.
Because, so far, we have seen no real will from President Putin to negotiate an acceptable solution for Ukraine. So the only way to get there is to convince President Putin that they will not win on the battlefield. And the only way to achieve that is by strengthening the military capacity of Ukraine, by providing support. So if you want a negotiated solution, the way to reach that, to get there, is maintain support to Ukraine.
Journalist: While the EU countries are still trying to figure out how to reach the 1 billion target that they promised for March 2024, Russia is actually being delivered enough ammunition from North Korea immediately. What does it mean for the situation on the ground? What does it mean for Ukrainians?
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Well, NATO Allies are stepping up also when it comes to production. This is something we started to address last summer and Allies from the United States to the United Kingdom, but also EU Allies, Germany and many others, are now increasing production. I just visited Germany over the weekend, and I'm encouraged by the messages that they are producing more but also investing in increased production capacity. And of course, the biggest Ally is the United States, which has already made big investments in increased capacity.
What we are doing from the NATO side is that we are working with the industry. We had the NATO Industry Forum last month, in Stockholm. We are also joining forces among NATO Allies: we have something called “joint procurement”, which is organized by the NATO Support and Procurement Agency [NSPA]. They have all in place for what we call framework contracts for 2.4 billion and out of them, 1 billion all day in firm contracts. So NATO Allies are delivering support, are ramping up production in many different ways. But we push this also from the NATO side. And during my visit to Germany, this weekend, they announced a significant increase support to Ukraine. So it shows that Allies are actually stepping up.
Journalist: Secretary General, when did you hear first the name Roman Chervinsky and from whom?
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Which name?
Journalist: It’s the Ukrainian intelligence officer who could be involved in the Nord Stream attack, Roman Chervinsky. When did you hear first the name?
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Well, there are ongoing investigations, national investigations, and I will not comment on them.
Journalist: Secretary General, how do you estimate the intention of Russia to relocate a navy military base to occupied Abkhazia? Also, you know that one of our citizens was killed. So, how do you estimate the situation?
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: We strongly support the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia. And of course, we don't accept that these breakaway territories can be used by Russia to establish military bases. This just once again violates the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia and it demonstrates how far Russia is willing to go to achieve their military goals in Ukraine, but also that, actually, they have been pushed on the defensive because the Ukrainians have actually been successful in attacking naval facilities in Crimea and, therefore, Russia is looking into alternatives, demonstrating actually the achievements that the Ukrainians have made in attacking the Russian Navy. Thank you, thank you.