Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg during the meetings of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Brussels

  • 03 Apr. 2024 -
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  • Last updated: 03 Apr. 2024 18:14

(As delivered)

Good afternoon.

We have just concluded a meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers –
The first ever with Sweden as a full member of the Alliance.

Together, we addressed preparations for the Washington Summit in July.
Starting with Ukraine.
This is a critical moment.

The people of Ukraine continue to defend their country with skill and bravery.
The Ukrainians have shown – time and time again – that they are capable.

Ukraine has recaptured half of the territory that Russia initially seized.
In the Black Sea, Ukraine has pushed back the Russian fleet, enabling the continued export of grain to world markets.

The Ukrainians are not running out of courage, they are running out of ammunition.
We need to step up now to ensure our support is built to last.

So in our meeting today, we discussed how to put our support on a firmer and more enduring basis for the future. 

All Allies agree on the need to support Ukraine in this critical moment.
There is a unity of purpose.

Today Allies have agreed to move forward with planning for a greater NATO role in coordinating security assistance and training.

The details will take shape in the weeks to come.
But make no mistake.
Ukraine can rely on NATO support now, and for a long haul.

Tomorrow we will meet with Minister Kuleba in the NATO-Ukraine Council.
Together we will discuss Ukraine’s current and longer-term needs. 

Today, Ministers also addressed security challenges in our Southern neigbourhood.
Including the enduring threat of terrorism.

Last October, I appointed an independent Group of Experts to review NATO’s approach to our Southern neighbours.
Ministers have discussed the Group’s findings. And Heads of State and Government will consider concrete proposals at the Summit in Washington.

Tomorrow I will chair a meeting of Foreign Ministers with our Indo-Pacific partners Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, and New Zealand, together with the European Union.

We will discuss how to enhance our practical cooperation, as well as the global implications of the war against Ukraine.

Russia is receiving support for its war of aggression from China, North Korea and Iran.

As authoritarian powers increasingly align, it is important that like-minded nations around the world stand together.
To defend a global order ruled by law, not by force.

Tomorrow marks NATO’s 75th anniversary.
As we face a more dangerous world, the bond between Europe and North America has never been more important.

As we prepare for an historic Summit in Washington,
NATO will continue to support Ukraine.
We will continue to strengthen our Alliance. And we will continue to work with our partners across the globe for peace and security.

With that, I am ready to take your questions.


NATO Spokesperson Farah Dakhlallah: We'll start with Radio Free Europe, please.

Olena Abramovych (Radio Free Europe): Olena Abramovych, Radio Free Europe. Thank you for giving the floor, Ukrainian Service and Current Time TV. I have a question regarding this proposal of long term support for Ukraine, especially this 100 billion dollars for five years. Have you discussed it already with the partners and what was their reaction? And do you think that this amount of 100 billion is the one you're going to reach? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: I cannot go into the details of the proposals. I have seen that you have been extensively briefed, but not by me. And I will not share the details because we are now in the process of developing a more robust and enduring, institutionalised framework for support to Ukraine. What I can say is that of course yes, we have discussed it with Ukraine. I have discussed it with President Zelenskyy, I've discussed it recently with Minister Kuleba, and we will also discuss it tomorrow. There are different ways of ensuring that our support is less dependent on voluntary short term offers and more on long term NATO commitments, and that we have a stronger organisation that creates a more robust framework for our support. And this includes security assistance but also training, and also financing. So yes, we are in dialogue with Ukraine on this because this is actually something that we should do together. It matters for Ukraine’s security, it matters for our security. Economic support to Ukraine is not charity, it's an investment in our own security. And then, today we didn't take any final decisions exactly on what format we will establish. But we agreed to initiate planning. And that's the way we do things in NATO: we ask for the military authorities to provide the plans, the details, and then we will take the final decisions made based on those proposals and plans that the military authorities will now start to develop for us.

NATO Spokesperson: Thank you. Over to the BBC, Jonathan Beale.

Jonathan Beale (BBC): Thanks very much. Secretary General, I know your focus has been on Ukraine but I do want to ask you about the Middle East. I know David Cameron, Lord Cameron, wanted to raise what's happened in Gaza. I mean, can you give us your reaction to the killing of a number of aid workers in what appears to be an Israeli air strike, the humanitarian crisis that exists there? And are you worried that a NATO member seems willing and able to provide ammunition and weapons to Israel, but seems unable to do the same for Ukraine? Do you think America has its priorities right? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: So what we see now in Gaza is a humanitarian catastrophe. We see suffering, we see that civilians are killed, and we also saw the strike against aid workers. And I condemn the strike. I also welcome the fact that Israel has made clear that they will investigate what happened. It demonstrates that the war which is now going on has very serious consequences for innocent people: the people living in Gaza, but also aid workers. And therefore I welcome the efforts by the United Kingdom, by the United States and by many other Allies to facilitate some kind of ceasefire and a political solution to this conflict. NATO as an Alliance does not play a direct role, but I welcome the efforts of NATO Allies.

Every day of delay in the decision in the United States on providing more support to Ukraine has consequences on the battlefield. That's one of the reasons why the Ukrainians now have to ration ammunition and why they are struggling to keep up with the Russians who are now able to outgun them with more weapons and more ammunition than the Ukrainians have. So we have a responsibility as NATO Allies to take the decisions and to ensure that the Ukrainians get the ammunition they must have to be able to continue to push back the Russian invaders. So it is urgent that the United States make a decision and that the US Congress actually is able to turn the majority in the US public, but also in the US Congress, into a concrete decision. Because every time I meet representatives from the US Congress, I met many of them over the last weeks, they assured me that there is a majority in the US and also in the US Congress for support. But so far they haven't been able to turn that majority into a decision and that's exactly what we all now are waiting for, and it is urgent.

NATO Spokesperson: Thank you. Thomas from FAZ.

Thomas Gutschker (FAZ): Thanks a lot. Thomas Gutschker, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Secretary General, on the ammunition question. We heard from the Czech Foreign Minister today that they still lack funding for their initiative to provide Ukraine on a short term basis with 1.55 artillery ammunition. Have there been any signals today in the room that Allies are willing to step up their short term commitments or have there been concrete commitments towards that? And the second question, President Zelenskyy last week has warned that if they don't get US support, they might have to retreat. How big do you assess the risk of a Russian breakthrough in the next months? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: Support from NATO Allies and support from the United States to Ukraine is something which benefits our own security interests. It is therefore in the security interests of the United States to make a decision and provide Ukraine with ammunition. Because by allocating a fraction of our defence budgets we have enabled the Ukrainians to destroy significant parts of the Russian combat capability without putting any NATO soldier, any US soldier, in harm’s way. So this is really something that is in our interest to continue to do. And not only continue to do, but to do more, to step up, and to ensure that we do it in a predictable, robust way for the long haul. That's exactly also why we are now discussing how can we establish a more robust and institutional NATO framework around this support to make it more predictable, more long term and also to ensure fair burden sharing. But while we are of course discussing this as NATO – and I expect a decision by the Summit, I welcome the fact that we have now agreed to start planning – of course, we need also immediate support. And therefore I urge Allies to continue and to step up to make national contributions. And recently we have had the German announcement of 576 million euros to support the Czech initiative for more ammunition. Sweden, our newest Ally, have just announced support to the Czech initiative to deliver 800,000 extra artillery shells. And also other Allies have announced more support for the Czech initiative. So there are constant new announcements by different NATO Allies.

NATO Spokesperson: Thank you. Over to Iryna, Interfax Ukraine.

Iryna Somer (Interfax Ukraine): Thank you, Farah. Secretary General, news agency Interfax Ukraine, Iryna Somer. Talking about expectation from upcoming summit in Washington. Ukrainian side speaks about some kind of invitation, like in the case of the European Union, where Ukraine is a candidate country but not a member yet. Is it possible in the case of NATO? Can actually NATO invite Ukraine and then over the time when all criteria will be met and Ukraine will be a member of NATO? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: All Allies agree that Ukraine will become a member. All Allies agree that we need to continue to move Ukraine closer to NATO membership. We made important decisions last year, we are implementing those now with the removal of the Membership Action Plan, we should not introduce something that is similar to a kind of second or two step process. I think it's very important to maintain the one step process for Ukraine to become a member removing the requirement for Membership Action Plan and then ensuring that when an invitation is issued then that's the same as becoming a member as it is in NATO. That's the difference between NATO and the European Union. In the European Union, of course, when you're invited, it can take years from an invitation to membership. While in NATO, when you're invited, it's something that happens soon after. So we should just avoid creating again, a kind of two step process towards membership. But regardless of the technicalities, there is a clear commitment for Ukraine to become a member. There's a clear commitment to help to move Ukraine closer to membership. And I think we also need to realise that when this war ends, and everyone realises that there has to be some kind of guarantees that this is really the end, that there's not only a pause, where Russia reconstitutes its forces, rests and then regroup and then attack again. Because we saw a similar pattern back in 2014. They annexed Crimea. We all condemned that. And then after a few months, they went into Eastern Ukraine, or Eastern Donbas, and then we had Minsk I, that was violated, they pushed the line further west. We’ve had Minsk II, a new ceasefire, and then they waited for almost eight years, and then they had the full-fledged invasion. So of course, when this war ends, we have to be absolutely sure that this is really the end, that it stops here. And therefore, we need to help Ukraine build their own defences to deter any further Russian aggression. But there will always be a need for security guarantees and of course, the ultimate security guarantee will be Article Five and NATO membership.

NATO Spokesperson: Thank you. We'll give a final question to Radio Kordon, Vladyslav.

Vladyslav Chikin (Radio Kordon): Thank you. Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó has publicly said that Hungary will not support any initiative, that quote, “would transform it into an offensive Alliance”. He was talking about NATO engaging more in coordination of military support for Ukraine. What's your take on that? And do you think your proposals will eventually be adopted at the Washington Summit? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: NATO is and will remain a defensive Alliance. And NATO is, and will remain, not a party to the conflict in Ukraine. We need to remember what this is. This is war or aggression by Russia invading another country, violating international law. And then Ukraine has the right, according to international law, to defend itself. And we as friends of Ukraine, we have the right to support Ukraine in upholding the right for self-defence, also based on international law. That doesn't make us party to the conflict. And a more robust NATO framework to coordinate security assistance training will not to change that. NATO Allies will fundamentally do the same as they do today on a more bilateral basis or in other frameworks, the EU, the Ramstein format and through the multilateral capability coalitions. So by creating a stronger NATO framework, what we will ensure is more transparency, more burden sharing, and more predictability and a more robust commitment, which is important to help the Ukrainians to plan, but also sends a message to President Putin that he cannot outwait us on the battlefield. He has to sit down and negotiate some kind of agreement where Ukraine prevails as a sovereign, independent nation. So the paradox is that if you want a peace, if you want an end to this war, the best way of achieving that is to ensure that Ukraine has the military strength to convince Putin that he cannot win on the battlefield. He has to sit down and negotiate. Then what we are discussing is not a NATO combat presence in Ukraine, we are discussing how we can coordinate and deliver support from outside Ukraine to Ukraine, as NATO Allies do. So I have good dialogue with Péter Szijjártó. I also have spoken with the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán twice over the last week. And now when we initiate planning, I'm certain that we can also address the concerns that Hungary has raised and find a way where we can then have consensus within weeks.

NATO Spokesperson: Thank you, everyone. That's all we have time for. Thank you. Thank you, Secretary General.

NATO Secretary General: Thank you.