Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Prime Minister of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Luc Frieden

  • 07 Dec. 2023 -
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  • Last updated: 07 Dec. 2023 16:58

(As delivered)

Prime Minister Frieden,
Dear Luc,
Welcome to NATO. It’s great to see you here and congratulations on your appointment as Prime Minister.

Luxembourg is a highly valued Ally. Luxembourg was a founding member of NATO almost 75 years ago.
Today you continue to make many important contributions to our shared security.

You participate in NATO’s multinational battlegroup in Romania.
Helping to strengthen our deterrence and defence along the Alliance’s eastern flank.

Luxembourg is also at the forefront of NATO’s technological and innovation agenda.
Driving our work on space surveillance and critical satellite capabilities.

You participate in NATO’s Innovation Fund, which will help cutting-edge start-ups to address critical security challenges.

Luxembourg is also investing in NATO’s high-end capabilities.
Including the next generation of our AWACS early warning and surveillance aircraft. 
This is one of NATO’s biggest-ever joint capability purchases.
I also welcome Luxembourg’s commitment to modernise your own capabilities.
And step up defence spending.
Thank you, Prime Minister for your commitment to have a concrete plan to reach 2% by the Washington Summit.
This is key for a fair burden-sharing on both sides of the Atlantic.

I also want to thank you for Luxembourg's contributions to Ukraine, including through NATO's Comprehensive Assistance Package.
You are also participate in an air defence coalition with 19 other Allies.
Helping to protect Ukrainian skies and save Ukrainian lives.

The situation on the battlefield remains difficult.
And Russia continues to launch waves of drones at Ukrainian cities and critical infrastructure.
So we must step up and sustain our support.
This is critical to help the Ukrainians weather the difficult winter ahead.
And to ensure Ukraine prevails as a sovereign independent nation.

This is the right thing to do.
It is also in our own security interest.

At our Washington Summit next year, we will continue to adapt our Alliance for the future.
Bolstering our deterrence and defence.
Responding to strategic competition.
And working even more closely with partners.

So thank you again, Prime Minister for your personal commitment to our Alliance.
I look forward to working with you as we prepare for the Washington Summit.
So once again, thank you.


Prime Minister of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg Luc Frieden:

Thank you very much. Dear Secretary General, thank you for the warm welcome.

And I would say my presence here today is the message. Because as I said to the Luxembourg Parliament when I started leading this new coalition two weeks ago, my first trip will be to the European Union and to NATO. Explicitly mentioned NAT because I believe not only since I became Prime Minister, but also in many of my previous functions, that NATO is the key Alliance to make sure that we have freedom, democracy, individual liberty, the rule of law, actually all these key words that are enshrined in the preamble of the treaty that created NATO 74 years ago.

That is why I believe especially for a small nation, that is extremely important that we have Allies who help us make sure that we remain a free and independent country, together with our partners in Europe and our transatlantic friends: United States and Canada. That was true in the past, where not everybody believed that, but I always stood for that, including when years ago we bought the A400M, we Luxembourg, which at the time was not in everybody's mind that we needed to build up capacity with and for our international partners who help us ensuring our stability and our peace.

And that's even more true today, where we see that the principle of sovereignty, of independence, of rule of law are violated in this terrible war in Ukraine after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We Luxembourgers know what it means if a bigger country invades a smaller one. Actually, our parents and our grandparents know it. And we were fortunate not to know it, my generation.

So therefore, we believe that we have a duty towards our friends towards those principles we strongly believe in. And that's why I came here today to tell the Secretary General of NATO that despite our small size, despite the fact that we do not have a huge army, that we arefully committed to get to the 2% that is foreseen in formal commitments of NATO Allies to spend enough to make sure that this collective defence but also this collective ambition to preserve peace stability, can be achieved. Together with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Defence, and of course, you need the Minister of Finance, but we both were Minister of Finance at some time in the past, we will come up for the Washington Summit next year with a plan to achieve this 2% of GNI expenditure for defence in the next decade. And we will present those plans at the Washington Summit.

Defence is a much broader issue than just military. The Secretary General alluded a little bit to it. And I think it's also true for NATO in itself. It has dimensions of terrorism, of cybercrime, of many other issues where it is important that our countries are well-equipped to prevent our council being attacked from the outside.

So in all those dimensions, together with my colleagues in government as the new Prime Minister, I will work hard to make sure that we remain a committed and reliable Ally of NATO, as we have been in the past, but we have to adapt that to the current circumstances.

On Ukraine, I fully support what the Secretary General just said. And obviously, he knows much more on the situation on the ground than many others. For us and for me personally, it's also again, a matter of principle. Ukraine is not just the country, far away from us, by the way, it's not that far away. But it is about fundamental principles. Whether we accept that one country can attack another one with the aim of destroying it or taking away its independence and sovereignty.

So the war that is for them, also the huge expenditures and support that we are giving also Luxembourg 16% of our defence expenditure goes to Ukraine, is there to make sure that lessons are learned for the future, that we on the side of those who fight for democracy, who fight for sovereignty, who fight for independence, as we fought or our predecessors fought in a World War II and before. That is the purpose of the war in Ukraine from our perspective, and that's why the new Luxembourg government will continue to support Ukraine as long as it takes and we will of course do that with our Allies and partners because alone, obviously we are too small to do that. We are part of the international community. And that's why we are happy to be part of NATO. We are fully committed to NATO. And it is with that spirit that together with my colleagues in government, especially the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I will go to the summit next year in Washington. Thank you.


NATO Deputy Spokesperson: We have some time for questions. Lady in the front row from Luxembourger radio, please?

Daniele Weber (Luxembourger Public Radio): Yes, thank you very much. Daniele Weber from the Luxembourgish Public Radio. Luxembourg reached an agreement in July. It's for the Secretary General. And also one question for the Prime Minister . Luxembourg reached an agreement with NATO in July to count the Luxembourgish defence expenditure a bit differently, based on national gross revenue instead of GDP. Which makes a difference but which still leaves Luxembourg with more than a billion to spend per year on defence. So my question is, why did NATO make this exception with Luxembourg? And do you think it actually makes sense for a country with an army with less than 1,000 soldiers to spend that amount of money on defence? That will be my question for the Secretary General. Should I ask the other one right away? Okay. So, Prime Minister it’s still a long way to go to reach the 2% I think at the moment we are at 0.71. So your government, as you just mentioned, promised to set up a plan to reach the 2%. Could you maybe explain a little bit where the priority would be in this plan? Where do you want to spend more money? And when do you think that this 2% would actually be reached? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Well, it matters what all NATO Allies , big or small, because we are an Alliance of 31 Allies. We stand together and we have actually promised to protect each other. To say that an attack on one will be regardless attack on all. One for all and all for one. It's hard to imagine any kind of deeper solidarity than the commitment to protect and defend each other in the case of a war. And therefore it matters what each and every Ally does, and, of course, it also matters what Luxembourg is doing as a NATO Ally. And that's also why I welcome the fact that Luxembourg, over the last years, has started to increase defence spending. Yes, from low levels, but at least it goes - it has moved upwards. And even more why I welcome the commitment to - and what the Prime Minister said -  of meeting the 2% guideline, because it is a message that we all take our part of the burden, that we have a fair burden-sharing within the Alliance. Then, of course, you all understand that small countries with smaller economies - of course 2% of a small cake is smaller than 2% of the big cake. But that's the whole point of using percentage because it reflects the size of the economy. So it ensures a fair burden-sharing. Then you're right that before the summit in Vilnius, I agreed that we should measure the defence spending in Luxembourg against the gross national income. This reflects that the economy in Luxembourg is different or special in the way that you have a huge amount of people who actually work and contribute to GDP in Luxembourg, but they receive the salaries and spend their income in neighbouring countries because they move in and work out again. This is a special, to some extent a technical issue. The important thing is that you are ready to spend 2% of your income for defence and that is an important message and something that I welcome very much. Then, of course, it makes sense because Luxembourg is investing in important capabilities for NATO. The Prime Minister mentioned the transport aircraft, which is important for the whole Alliance to protect the whole Alliance including Luxembourg. Luxembourg is also investing in the new AWACS plane or  the new surveillance plane, which we now are buying together many NATO Allies. And Luxembourg has deployed forces to Romania, to Lithuania. I, myself, come from a small country, Norway. And of course, it's always possible to say that what a small country does doesn't matter, but it matters because it's part of this collective defence - one for all and all for one. So I welcome the messages from the Prime Minister. I welcome the increased defence spending and I welcome the capabilities that Luxembourg is investing in and also the capabilities you will invest in in the future.

Prime Minister Luc Frieden of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg: Secretary General, seen from Luxembourg, Norway is a large country. On your specific question, I think the important thing is that we are clear on where we want to go. Every investment that we do there will be an investment for our collective security. So, we obviously need to invest some of this money in Luxembourg. Some of it will be in infrastructure or instruments that will be put at the disposal of others. I have some ideas in mind, but I'm only in function for two weeks as you know, so obviously I want to discuss those in detail with my colleagues in government. But the road to Washington, if I may call it like that, is clear. We will not absorb all that, as I said before, in pure equipment for the Luxembourger army. But today security is much more than that. As I said before, cyber security is one aspect; space, including what we already do today, for the security again, instruments put at the disposal of our Allies, are areas in which we probably can do more, because we have the know-how already today and we can increase that. So I think it will be a mixture of things that, over a timespan of I would say five to ten years, will allow us to reach that goal and that is something that we will work hard in the coming weeks. And I can assure you that I will have more than one meeting with the relevant ministers to achieve that in due time. But I say again, if today we are in an Alliance of 31 - tomorrow 32 members - because I hope on behalf of Luxembourg also that Sweden can join soon. That is very important for us. These are our friends and Allies, the other part of Europe that is today more at risk than it ever was. So if 32 countries commit to 2% they do not that only do that for themselves but for all of us. If today already around 20 countries go to 2%, it is our duty to pay our part of that solidarity effort. It's not a Luxembourg dream to spend more money. But it's our collective obligation to show solidarity and to work for peace stability, and therefore for our free societies in which we so strongly believe.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Let me just add that if the problem is that it's hard to spend 2% I can help you, because we have a lot of good purposes in NATO. We have a big assistance for Ukraine, the comprehensive assistance, which actually we can - if you have some surplus money - I can put it in there and provide meaningful support to Ukraine. We help Iraq to fight the terrorists with the NATO funds. So the problem is not to be able to spend money. The problem is that Allies so far have spent too little on defence, but now Allies are moving in the right direction.

NATO Deputy Spokesperson: Thank you. We have a question from the Luxemburger Wort also in the front row. Yes. Thank you.

Diego Velazquez (Radio 110,7): Diego Velazquez from the Luxemburger Wort. A question for the SecGen and one for the Prime Minister, which go in a similar direction. Since it's not an unlikely scenario that Donald Trump or a Republican with similar isolationist views might get into the White House soon. To the SecGen: is the Alliance prepared to survive such a scenario in such a critical moment for European security? And to the Prime Minister of Luxembourg: wouldn't this be a good moment to think about European security maybe outside of NATO – or parallel to NATO at the European level? Would you be open to such discussions at the level of European leaders for example? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: If I can start I would just say that NATO is the most successful Alliance in history fundamentally for two reasons. First, because we have been able to adapt and change and the world has changed since the end of the Cold War. We changed after 9/11. And we changed again after the illegal annexation of Crimea. So we adapt when the world is changing. The other reason why NATO is the most successful Alliance in history is that we are able to unite despite our differences. There are different political leaders in NATO. There are different history, culture on both sides of the Atlantic. We are soon 32 different nations with different perspectives on many things. And this is not the first time we have differences. So the Suez crisis in 56, or when NATO had to leave Paris in 67, or the Iraq war, or other examples of differences within the Alliance. But we have always been able to overcome these differences by realizing that we are safer together than alone. And I'm confident that that will also be the case after the presidential elections in United States next fall, regardless of who wins those elections. Because this is in the national security interest of the United States, to have a strong NATO. A strong NATO is important for Europe but it's also important for the United States. No other major power has more than 30 friends and Allies as United States has in NATO. We have been together with the United States in everything from the Korea war to Afghanistan and in all other missions and an operations. So it makes the United States safer. And especially since they are concerned about the size of China, their economy, their armed forces, their technology, then it is a great advantage for the United States to have European Allies and Canada. Because together if you put all NATO Allies together, we have 50% of the world's GDP, 50% of the world's military might, and that's a huge advantage for the United States. And that's also why I believe that, since it is in the US security interest to preserve NATO, NATO will remain a strong Alliance and also with the different political leaders in place on both sides of the Atlantic.

Prime Minister Luc Frieden of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg: The new Luxembourg government strongly believes in the transatlantic relationship and strongly believes in the added value of NATO in this context of security and stability. So, as much as I think that Europe needs to step up its efforts on security issues, I don't think that we should build that up independently of NATO. And by the way, I said that in my declaration to Parliament when the new government called the vote of confidence of the Parliament two weeks ago. We strongly believe that NATO is important for us. NATO with all its 32 Members, I already add Sweden, I think that is extremely important for us. Our security is better ensured if we have all those people around the table, with all the capacities, with all the spirit that lies within this treaty. And what the Secretary General just said about the United States is also true for small country like Luxembourg. We have 31 friends in NATO, who help us if things go wrong, and that is extremely important. And so, if as much as we need to do more at the European level in terms of external security, domestic security, terrorism, that should not be independent of what we need to do with our friends in NATO. Thank you.

NATO Deputy Spokesperson: Thank you, that's all we have time for. This concludes this press conference.