Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the first session of the NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs

  • 28 Nov. 2023 -
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  • Last updated: 28 Nov. 2023 18:18

(As delivered)

Good afternoon.

Today, Foreign Ministers discussed NATO’s deterrence and defence, 
our support for Ukraine, 
and our partnerships,
As we look to our Summit in Washington next summer.

Ministers also expressed concern about the war in the Middle East.

I welcome the extension of the pause in hostilities between Israel and Hamas.

This has allowed for much-needed relief to the people in Gaza.
The release of more hostages.
And the provision of more humanitarian aid.

I hope it will be possible to further extend the pause. 
In our meeting today, Allies reiterated determination to support Ukraine on its path to NATO.
And unwavering support as the Ukrainians bravely defend their country.

We have seen major new announcements just in recent days. 

Germany pledged 8 billion euros for next year, and the Netherlands pledged over 2 billion.
Romania has opened an F-16 training centre for Ukrainian pilots.
Allies including the US and Finland are sending more air defences and ammunition.
And 20 Allies have established an air defence coalition for Ukraine.

All of this helps to save Ukrainian lives.
And sends a message to Russia that our support will not falter. 

We also addressed challenges China presents to Euro-Atlantic security. 

China is not our adversary.
And I welcome that Allies are engaging in dialogue with Beijing on issues of mutual concern.
At the same time, we must be clear-eyed about the impact of China’s coercive policies on our security.

NATO will remain a regional Alliance of Europe and North America.
But the challenges we face are global.
So we need to work more closely with partners.
Including in the Indo-Pacific.
To stand up for our values and our interests.

We also discussed challenges emanating from our southern neighbourhood.
I have appointed an independent group of experts to address this in detail.

They will submit recommendations by next spring. 
Focused on what more NATO can do to prevent crises, fight terrorism, and enhance stability.
Ministers also addressed the importance of technological innovation. 
Today, Allies approved NATO’s first-ever quantum strategy. 

Quantum technologies can strengthen our cyber security and capabilities.
But they can also be used to crack it. 

Our new strategy will help us to seize the opportunities presented by quantum technologies.
While preventing competitors from using these technologies against us.

This month, Allies also agreed to upgrade our AWACS fleet with next generation command and control aircraft. 

Production of six new Boeing E-7A Wedgetail aircraft will begin in the coming years.
And the first will be ready for duty by 2031.

This project will be one of NATO’s biggest-ever capability purchases.
And make a key contribution to our integrated air and missile defence in the future.

This shows the strength of transatlantic defence cooperation.
And demonstrates how NATO adds value by pooling resources to deliver major new capabilities for our security.

Later today, Ministers will address the situation in the Western Balkans. 

And tomorrow, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba will join us in the NATO-Ukraine Council. 
For the first ever meeting at this level in the NATO-Ukraine Council. 

With that, I am ready to take your questions. 

Acting NATO Spokesperson Dylan White: Thanks. We'll start with the Wall Street Journal in the third row here in front of me please.

Dan Michaels (Wall Street Journal): Thank you very much, Dan Michaels with the Wall Street Journal. You mentioned that ministers expressed concern about the war in the Middle East. Did it come up anything beyond that? Clearly, it's not NATO territory, but the members are involved more or less and have - many of them have strikingly different positions. For example, the US and Turkey are on pretty much opposite sides of this. So I'm curious how you reconcile that. And curious whether this figures into any of the work of the group of experts on the southern neighbourhood, you know, considering that we've had migrant crises coming out of the Middle East in the past. Thank you very much.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Allies welcome the extension of the pause in those hostilities and welcome the fact that hostages are released and that there is now relief for the people in Gaza and also that more humanitarian aid can be delivered. At the same time, I think it's important to recognize that NATO as an Alliance does not play an active role in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Some Allies are active in different ways. But NATO as an Organisation is not directly involved. We are present in the wider Middle East region. We have a training mission in Iraq to help to fight ISIS. We have a close partnership with many Arabic states in the Gulf, in North Africa, and in the Middle East, including a very close partnership with Jordan, where we do some defence capacity building activities. The King of Jordan just visited NATO. And I also actually in the near future, will also visit the Gulf region to meet with NATO partners there. So, therefore, one of the messages from NATO is that it is important that this conflict does not escalate to a bigger regional conflict. And the message to Iran is that they should not use or seize the instability and the conflict we now see to further escalate and they have to rein in their proxies –Hamas and Hezbollah. So Allies are active in different ways, but NATO as an Alliance is not directly involved in this particular conflict. When it comes to the group of experts, well, it's a bit too early to say exactly what they will conclude. But, of course, part of the instability we see in our southern neighbourhood is also linked to the instability and the conflicts we have seen for decades in the Middle East. So I expect them also to address the challenges and how NATO can play a role also to help to stabilize this region. For instance, by working more closely with our partners, Israel, but also many Arabic countries.

Acting NATO Spokesperson Dylan White: We will go to VG, in the back.

Alf Johnsen (VG): Thank you. Alf Johnsen from VG. One can get the impression that Western countries express their opinion different on Russia’s violation of human rights. And when friendly countries like Israel limits access for civilian in Gaza to the same protection, in your opinion, are there different standards here on friends and adversaries when it comes to criticizing them?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: So my message is that international law, humanitarian law has to be respected in all conflicts and civilian lives has always to be protected. And that has been the message, both on the conflict in Gaza, but also of course, when it comes to other conflicts we see around the world so upholding international law, upholding humanitarian law is important, regardless of the type of conflict then I think it's also important to recognize that the situation in Gaza and the situation in Ukraine is different in many – different in many ways. Ukraine never posed a threat to Russia. Ukraine never attacked Russia. The Russian invasion of Ukraine was an unprovoked invasion, full scale invasion of another country. So of course, Ukraine has the right to self defence against an unprovoked attack and to uphold territorial integrity, and also to support Ukraine's right for self defence is something that all Allies agree on. No least because the right for self defence is enshrined in UN Charter. So international law, humanitarian law applies in all conflicts and we continue to support Ukraine because this is about protecting national law.

Acting NATO Spokesperson Dylan White: Go next to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Latika Bourke (The Sydney Morning Herald): Secretary General, Latika Bourke from the Sydney Morning Herald, just on China, where exactly do you want to land NATO's strategy on China? You raised economic coercion, what's actually in your toolkit to stop or hedge against that? And do you think you'll have your liaison office opened in Tokyo by the time you cease to be SG?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Well, I think we need to realize that NATO has come a long way, when it comes to China because not so many years ago, we didn't address the challenges that China poses to our security at all. It was not mentioned in our previous strategic concept at all [inaudible] with a single word. The first time actually we had some agreed language at NATO was in 2019. And since then, we have developed a common position, a common approach, realizing that, yes, China is in Asia, and China is not –a land border with NATO allies. But what China does matter for our security. We see that China is heavily modernizing their armed forces, we see the way they are coercing neighbours, and other countries, not least around the South China Sea. We see China's disregard for human rights. And of course, all of this matters for our security. And just to recognize that it's actually something which NATO didn't do before but Allies agree on that today.

I also have to underline that NATO will remain an Alliance, regional Alliance of North America and Europe but this region faces global threats and challenges. And one of the challenges we face is the security consequences of China's behaviour. Also that they are working more and more closely together with Russia. So then many of the things we do are relevant for addressing the challenges posed by China without having necessarily China label on that. For instance, over the last years we have started to do much more when it comes to developing technology. We have established a new innovation fund, we have established a network of centres to develop technology and this is also to ensure that we maintain our technological edge as we see China is investing heavily in new disruptive technologies. When we work with our partners in the Indo Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea and actually now have started invite them to our summits. That's also part of what we do to address the challenges that China poses to us and our partners in the Indo Pacific and not least when we now are stepping up what to do on protecting our critical infrastructure. That is also partly because of the challenges we see [inaudible] China poses to us.

Not so many years ago, the issue of 5G was assessed as purely an economic, commercial decision, then actually not least because of the discussions and the work we did here at NATO, Allies realized that who controls the 5G networks is also about our security, and therefore Allies have been much more consensus and much more aware of the security risks related to 5G. So with 5G technology being –working with partners, resilience, and of course, also ensuring that we have credible deterrence and defence. All of this is relevant for NATO's response to China. And I expect that when you meet in Washington, we will further develop this agenda as a united Alliance.

Acting NATO Spokesperson Dylan White: We have time for just one or tomorrow. Go to Bloomberg here, please.

Natalia Drozdiak (Bloomberg): Natalia Drozdiak from Bloomberg, so Finland has now announced that it would seal off its entire eastern border with Russia. What does NATO assess that Russia is trying to achieve by pushing asylum seekers to Finland's border? And what do you think the impact is of a border going up between Europe and Russia here? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Well, I think this is another example of how Russia is using many different tools to put pressure on neighbours, we have seen them using energy, we have seen them using cyber attacks, we have seen them using different kinds of clandestine operations to try to undermine our democracies. I just visited the Balkans where you [inaudible] them being present. And also trying to undermine some of the governments we have in the Western Balkans not least in Montenegro some years ago. So these are the sorts –so the fact that that Russia is now using migration as a tool is yet another example of the attempt to have pressure –put pressure on neighbours, NATO Allies, and they will not succeed because we stand together. We support each other. And I welcome therefore, also the decision by the European Border Agency, Frontex, to actually support and assist Finland.

There has been no request for a NATO increased presence. Border Control is something that Allies do themselves also sometimes with support from EU agencies, and I'm absolutely confident that Finland is capable of dealing with this themselves and therefore I trust they're absolutely made the right decision when it comes to controlling their borders.

Acting NATO Spokesperson Dylan White: Very last question to ANSA here, in the third row.

Mattia Bagnoli (ANSA): Thank you, Secretary General Mattia Bagnoli, ANSA, the national Italian news agency.
Secretary General, in few days there will be a ministerial in Skopje, North Macedonia, a NATO Ally.
Most of the minister present today will travel to Skopje, I say most because for instance the Baltic states and Ukraine. They say that they won’t participate to the ministerial because of the expected presence of Mr. Lavrov. I just wanted to ask you if the issue did come up today in the discussions and if you personally think that is appropriate for Mr. Lavrov, to travel right now in a NATO country. Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Well, it's for the OSCE to organize their meetings. The OSCE has played an important role for many years. NATO Allies are as individual countries are members of the OSCE and it's for the OSCE to organize their meetings. So I don't have any advice to give to another organization. My responsibility is to organize NATO meetings and then the OSCE organize their meetings.

Acting NATO Spokesperson Dylan White: That's all we have time for now. The Secretary General will be back to brief you again tomorrow. Thank you.