Doorstep statement

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the Munich Security Conference

  • 16 Feb. 2024 -
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  • Last updated: 16 Feb. 2024 14:48

(As delivered)

I am deeply saddened and concerned about reports coming from Russia that Alexei Navalny is dead. All the facts have to be established and Russia has serious questions to answer. 

Alexei Navalny has been a strong voice for freedom, for democracy for many years, and NATO and NATO Allies have called for his immediate release for a long time. 

And today my thoughts go to his family and his loved ones. And we remain committed to support everyone that believes in democracy and freedom as Alexei Navalny has done for so many years. 


Question: [inaudible] …regarding the causes of the death of Navalny?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: We don't have any information now. That's the reason why it is important to have all facts established, and why Russia has some very serious questions to answer. What we have seen is that Russia has become a more and more authoritarian power, that they have used oppression against opposition for many years. And of course, he was in jail, he was a prisoner. And that makes it extremely important that Russia now answer all the questions that will be asked about the cause of the death.

Question: Mr Stoltenberg, we are only weeks away from the Russian presidential election. Could there be any connection to his passing now?

NATO Secretary General: I will not speculate today. I will just continue to call on Russia to make sure that all facts are established, that they answer all the questions that now will be asked. And then based on that we will be able to say more.

Question: [inaudible]... waiting for President Zelenskyy to attend the conference here. What kind of message can he take home especially when we consider that the US aid is stalled and that the Europeans are also struggling? Critics in Ukraine would say Europe failed us once when Crimea was annexed, is Europe gonna fail us again?

NATO Secretary General: Our task is to ensure that we continue to support Ukraine, because this is in our security interest to do so. And the situation is difficult. The fact that the United States has not made a decision has impacted the situation on the battlefield. At the same time, I continue to expect that the United States will make a decision to continue to provide support.

And it's also important to actually recognise that even though the situation on the battlefield is difficult, we should not overestimate Russia and underestimate Ukraine. Just this week, the Ukrainians have demonstrated once again, their skill and their competence when it comes to deep strikes by sinking one of the Russian ships in the Black Sea. We have also seen new announcements of more support for Ukraine. At the NATO Defence Ministerial meeting this week, Allies announced more support for the F16s, more air defence. And several Allies also went together and promised to deliver 1 million drones to Ukraine.

And then of course, Ukraine is coming closer to NATO. We agreed to establish a new centre to help train and build capacity in Ukraine to learn lessons. And today also France and Germany are signing security assurances with Ukraine. I welcome these assurances; they're not an alternative to NATO membership, but they help Ukraine to move closer to membership. So therefore, we need to continue to support Ukraine and ensure that Ukraine will become a member of the Alliance.

Question: On Navalny, what does it tell us about the nature of Putin’s regime, that the opposition leader has died in prison?

NATO Secretary General: Today my message is that we need to establish all the facts, and Russia needs to answer all the questions – and many serious questions – about the causes of his death. I'm deeply saddened and very concerned. And of course, Alexei Navalny was a very strong voice for freedom, for democracy. And therefore also NATO and NATO Allies called for his immediate release for a long time. And my main message today is to express my condolences and my thoughts are with his loved ones and his family. And then we need to come back to all the rest when we know more about the circumstances.

Question: What kind of support would you like to have from Latin American countries, Mr. Stoltenberg?

NATO Secretary General: I would like countries all over the world who believe in freedom and democracy to support Ukraine. Because it will not only be a tragedy for Ukraine if President Putin wins, but it will make the whole world more dangerous. Because then the message to authoritarian leaders all over the world will be that when they use military force, they get what they want. And then we all will become more vulnerable. And therefore it is extremely important that also countries in Latin America who believe in freedom, support Ukraine and stand up against the war of aggression against Ukraine. Thank you so much.