Joint press statements

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

  • 11 Mar. 2024 -
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  • Last updated: 11 Mar. 2024 15:59

(As delivered)

Prime Minister Kristersson, dear Ulf. It is an honour to welcome you to today to the NATO Headquarters because this is truly an historic day.

In a few moments, we will raise the Swedish flag here at the NATO Headquarters, and all over the Alliance, and welcome your country as the thirty-second member of NATO. 

Sweden has taken its rightful place at NATO’s table under the shield of Article 5 protection - the ultimate guarantee of our freedom and security. All for one and one for all.

Joining NATO is good for Sweden, good for stability in the North and good for the security of our whole Alliance.

Sweden has long been a partner. Now you are an Ally with all the benefits and responsibilities that this brings.

Sweden has cutting-edge capabilities, first-class armed forces and defence industry, and spends more than 2 percent of GDP on defence.

As we speak, Swedish troops are taking part in Steadfast Defender - NATO’s biggest military exercise since the Cold War. A demonstration of our unity and our resolve. 

In response to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, NATO has substantially increased our presence across the Alliance and Sweden’s membership enhances this even further.

When President Putin launched his full-scale invasion two years ago, he wanted less NATO and more control over his neighbours.  He wanted to destroy Ukraine as a sovereign state. But he failed.

NATO is bigger and stronger. Ukraine is closer to NATO membership than ever before and as the brave Ukrainians continue to fight for their freedom, we stand by their side.

Allies continue to announce billions of dollars in new aid including Sweden’s largest package yet – covering ammunition, air defences, and combat boats. 

Our support to Ukraine saves lives and it must continue.

President Putin started this war and he could end it today but Ukraine does not have this option. Surrender is not peace.

We must continue to strengthen Ukraine to show President Putin that he will not get what he wants on the battlefield but must sit down and negotiate a solution where Ukraine is recognised and prevails as a sovereign, independent nation.

So Prime Minister Kristersson, thank you for your personal leadership.

Broad support across the political spectrum in Sweden has made this day possible.

After more than 200 years of neutrality, you are joining the strongest and most successful military alliance in history.

So welcome to NATO, it’s great to have you here.

Acting NATO Spokesperson Dylan White: We have time for some questions. We'll start with Swedish Radio, here in the middle please.

Swedish Radio: You have said over and over again that this has been a quick process but still, it's taken more time and been more difficult than most people expected. So I would like to ask you to be a bit more personal maybe, if you could share your emotions. How does it really feel now to finally see the Swedish flag here at NATO Headquarters?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: This is a great day and an historic day. It's important for Sweden, it's important for NATO, but it's also important for me personally. Because the Prime Minister is right that Sweden is special for me – partly because Sweden for so many years have been such a close partner, but also because as a Norwegian of course I'm a neighbour, and I've followed Sweden closely for many, many years. And when I started as Secretary General of NATO back in 2014, I was aware that some countries in Europe were applying for membership, countries like Montenegro and North Macedonia. And I'm very honoured to be the Secretary General that has facilitated the membership for these two countries. But I didn't expect at all that Finland and Sweden was going to be a member during my tenure as Secretary General of NATO. And then of course, this changed totally with the full scale invasion of Ukraine. And since then, things really moved very quickly. I also remember I talked with Ulf Kristersson, he was then in opposition, at the Folk och Försvar conference, and I started to talk to other Nordic, Swedish and Finnish, politicians about the possibility of applying for membership. And then the decisions were taken, and we had very broad support from the whole political spectrum, both in Finland and Sweden, that made this possible. And this is of course great. And it demonstrates also that NATO's door is open. It's for NATO Allies and the applicant country to decide, it's not for Russia to decide which path different European countries want to choose. And now Sweden and Finland has chosen to be a member of NATO and I very much welcome that.

Acting NATO Spokesperson: We’ll go to DPA. Here, please.

Ansgar Haase (DPA): Ansgar Haase, German Press Agency, DPA. Prime Minister, is Sweden open to participating in NATO's nuclear sharing arrangements and if not, why is Sweden not ready to do it? And a question to the Sec Gen, are there already plans to have NATO bases, perhaps a NATO headquarters, in Sweden? Thank you.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson: Well, first of all, Sweden, when we become members today or a few days ago, we embrace NATO in its whole, its whole capabilities. I think you normally use ‘a 360 degree perspective’, in a NATO way of putting it. So we don't have any hesitations when it comes to that. We fully understand the need for all of NATO's defence capabilities, including the nuclear strategy. On the other hand, we say clearly that we see no need for Sweden to host permanent bases or nuclear weapons on Swedish soil in peacetime. That is a Swedish decision that I find fully… being fully respected.

Secretary General: It is, as the Prime Minister said, it's a Swedish decision. There are no plans to expand the number of countries, NATO Allies, with nuclear weapons. Then, of course, we are constantly assessing our posture when it comes to conventional forces. But are no plans for, for instance, a battlegroup in Sweden as we have in the Baltic countries. I think what we need to realise is that the fact that now Sweden and Finland are full members of the Alliance is good for the whole of NATO, but it's in particular good and important for the Nordic region and the Baltic region. Because we have for a long time been focused on the vulnerabilities and the challenges, to reinforce our presence in the Baltic region and the Baltic countries. But of course, with both Finland and Sweden into the Alliance, the geography really changes because we now have two important Allies, then also on the west side of the Baltic Sea. And we are exercising, we are preparing, we will have plans, of course, to protect Finland and Sweden, but also to help even in a more efficient and stronger way to protect all the Baltic regions. But there are no plans for any permanent bases. And anyway, this is a Swedish decision to be taken if that's something they will consider in the future.

Acting NATO Spokesperson: We'll go to the TT News Agency of Sweden, here.

Swedish TT News Agency: A question to both of you. Russia has for many years promised to react whenever Sweden… if ever Sweden becomes a member of NATO. How worried should we now be for cyber attacks, hybrid threats, etc? And then maybe a word in Scandinavian [speaks in Swedish].

Prime Minister Kristersson: Well, concerning Russia, I think we should stay alert. Stay exactly as alert as we are. They are doing all the things you mentioned. I am quite sure they will continue doing that. We should not be naive and I think we are more aware of the risks that they pose to us now than we have ever been before. So simply still stay alert. When it comes to your second question, [speaks in Swedish].

Secretary General: Of course NATO Allies always have to be prepared and we have to be vigilant when it comes to potential Russian cyber attacks, hybrid attacks, attempts to coerce countries in Europe. But we have seen that against both NATO Allies and non-NATO allies. So there is for instance… cyber attacks against Sweden is nothing new. That has been a permanent risk for years, also when Sweden was outside NATO. We don't see any imminent military threat against any NATO Ally, partly because Russia is so preoccupied with the war of aggression against Ukraine. But also of course, because NATO is there. NATO is there to make it absolutely sure that any potential adversary understands that an attack on one Ally will trigger a response from the whole Alliance. And the purpose of that is to not provoke a conflict but to prevent war, to preserve peace. And NATO has done that successfully for 75 years, even during the coldest periods of the Cold War, prevent or preserve peace by removing any room for miscalculation or misunderstanding in Moscow about our readiness to protect and defend all Allies. So Sweden is safer inside NATO than outside NATO. NATO is stronger with Sweden in as a full Ally than Sweden as a close partner. So this is a good day for Sweden, a good day for NATO and a good day for security and stability across Europe. Then just briefly on the last question. So first of all, [speaks in Norwegian].

Acting NATO Spokesperson: Dagens Nyheter in front of me here, please.

Dagens Nyheter: For Mr Stoltenberg. Norway’s closest neighbour joining NATO. Can you be more specific? What do you expect from Sweden as member of the Alliance?

Secretary General: So I expect that Sweden will be a very committed NATO Ally and I already have reason to believe that Sweden will be a committed NATO Ally because Sweden has demonstrated in so many different international organisations throughout its history that Sweden is committed to multilateral international cooperation. Sweden believes in the idea of Allies and countries working together in the UN, in the EU and now also in NATO. I also believe that Sweden will contribute to our collective defence, partly because Sweden has high-end first class military capabilities. I've had the honour of meeting Swedish soldiers training in Sweden, I've seen the Swedish navy and we know also the high quality of the Swedish defence industry. All of this is something that Sweden then brings to the Alliance and we welcome that. Let me also say that I welcome the fact that Sweden has over the last years significantly increased defence spending. So now Sweden spends more than 2% of GDP on defence. This is what we need in a more dangerous world because Sweden, as Norway, as most NATO Allies, reduced significantly defence spending after the end of the Cold War, because then tensions went down. But now when tensions are going up, we need to invest again and that's exactly what NATO Allies are doing and Sweden is now part of that and I welcome increased Swedish defence spending.

Acting NATO Spokesperson: Final question to NZZ on my far left here, please.

Daniel Steinvorth (NZZ): Yes, thank you. Secretary General, on Ukraine, will Ukraine as the potential 33rd member state receive an invitation at the July Summit, invitation for accession negotiations? And secondly, on Taurus missiles. If we can all agree that Taurus missiles can well change the situation at the front, do you agree that Germany should transfer them as soon as possible? Thank you.

Secretary General: So Ukraine will become a NATO Ally. The question is not if, but when. And Ukraine is now closer to membership than ever before. And this also demonstrates the big strategic mistake President Putin made when he invaded Ukraine, because as you remember his purpose was to deny Ukraine to move towards NATO and EU. But also he demanded that NATO should make a declaration, actually sign a treaty with Russia, that there should be no further NATO enlargement with any country in Europe. And now he has gotten... he has received the exact opposite. He wanted less NATO, he is getting more NATO, more NATO military presence in the eastern part of our Alliance. Finland and Sweden are full members, and Ukraine is closer to NATO membership than ever before. And we are continuing to move Ukraine closer to NATO membership by ensuring that their forces are fully interoperable with NATO, by deepening our political cooperation in something called the NATO-Ukraine Council and I welcome the strong efforts by NATO Allies to help Ukraine to come even closer to NATO membership.

Then on the Taurus missiles. What I can say is, first of all, that Germany has been one of the NATO Allies that has provided the most support to Ukraine, significant substantial military support from Germany to Ukraine: advanced air defence systems, IRIS-T, patriots and others, battle tanks, the Leopard battle tanks, significant amounts of ammunition and also a lot of maintenance and repair facilities to help Ukraine develop their own defence industry. So Germany is really a lead nation when it comes to military support to Ukraine. Then I also welcome that several Allies are now also delivering long range systems. UK has been delivering the Storm Shadow, the cruise missiles, France, similar cruise missiles, SCALP, and many Allies are now together in coalition helping Ukraine to train pilots preparing them for receiving F-16s. So Allies are delivering also long range systems to help Ukraine defend themselves. You have to remember what this is: this is a war of aggression by Russia against Ukraine and Ukraine has, enshrined in the UN Charter, the right to defend themselves and we have the right to help them to uphold the right for self defence. But I will not go into specific systems for specific Allies. I just welcome that Allies are doing more, including that Germany is providing significant support to Ukraine.

Acting NATO Spokesperson: That's all we have time for. Thank you very much.

Secretary General: Thank you.