Press conference

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

  • 04 Apr. 2024 -
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  • Last updated: 05 Apr. 2024 12:01

(As delivered)

Good afternoon.

Today marks 75 years since NATO’s founding.
Since 1949, we have been the strongest and most successful Alliance in history.

This morning we marked the anniversary at NATO headquarters, and, in July, Allies will celebrate this milestone at our Summit in Washington.

Earlier today, I chaired a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council.

Minister Kuleba updated Allies on Ukraine’s short and long-term needs, and on the progress of its reforms.

The situation on the battlefield remains serious.
Ukraine needs more air defences, more ammunition, and more aid.

I welcome that Allies continue to step up with major new announcements.
In recent days, this includes nearly 600 million euros from Germany for the Czech-led artillery initiative.
As well as 10,000 drones from the United Kingdom.
More missiles and armoured vehicles from France.
And just yesterday, a new package of aid from Finland worth 188 million euros.

But we need to do even more.
And we need to put our support on an even firmer and more enduring basis.

Yesterday, Allies agreed to move forward with planning for a greater NATO role in coordinating necessary security assistance and training for Ukraine.
This work will continue in the weeks ahead.

Today I also chaired a meeting of Foreign Ministers with our Indo-Pacific partners Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as the European Union.

We discussed the global implications of Russia’s war against Ukraine, including the support for Russia from China, North Korea and Iran.

As authoritarian powers increasingly align,
NATO and its partners must stand united to defend a global order governed by law, not by force.

We also discussed how to enhance our cooperation in responding to cyber and hybrid threats, as well as new technologies, and defence industrial production.

With that, I am ready to take your questions.

NATO Spokesperson Farah Dakhlallah: Thank you. We'll go to Andrew Gray from Reuters. Second row.

Andrew Gray (Reuters): Thank you. Secretary General, you mentioned Ukraine's urgent need for air defence. Minister Kuleba said there had been some agreement among Allies to take some steps. Can you tell us concretely what Allies are going to do in order to provide more air defence, particularly patriots, for Ukraine? And has any tasking been given, has any deadline been set? How quickly can they expect to see more units and how many?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Allies understand the urgency and therefore I welcome also the announcements I just listed from several Allies to provide more ammunition and more types of systems to Ukraine. They also understand the urgency of stepping up when it comes to air defence in particular. And therefore Allies will now go back and look into their inventories, look into if there are any ways they can provide more systems, in particular Patriots. But also, of course, ensure that the systems which are already there have the ammunition but also the spare parts so they can all function as they should. So this is partly a question of systems, batteries, but also very much a question of delivering the interceptors to the systems which are already there. And several Allies promised that they should make a new effort to find what they can… to look into what more they can deliver. I will not be specific before they are able to conclude, but I just listed several Allies that have just over the last days made new announcements of additional support.

NATO Spokesperson: Thank you. Over to Dan Michaels of The Wall Street Journal, fourth row.

Dan Michaels (The Wall Street Journal): Thank you very much. Two questions, one on the efforts for, preparations for, Washington and the discussions. Can you give any more detail on money and other efforts that you're trying to do there? And you say that the situation on the battlefield remains serious. In Russian social media there is some discussion that there might be some kind of push in spring. Are Allies able to help Ukraine any more in preparing for a Russian offensive if that were to come, especially the US, given the logjam in Congress? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: So fundamentally, NATO Allies have to do two things. First, we need to mobilise more support in the coming days and weeks. That's an urgent need, and Allies have already stepped up. We had the announcement from Germany, from UK – 10,000 drones from the United Kingdom – additional support from Finland, hundreds of millions of euros from Germany. So things are happening as we speak, and Allies will see what more they can do in the coming days and weeks. That's the urgent need, to provide air defence, missiles, ammunition. But then we also have to do another thing, and that is to ensure that we are able to establish a stronger and more robust and more predictable framework for the long term support, so this can continue on a predictable basis, be less dependent on ad hoc voluntary short term announcements, more dependent on long term agreed predictable commitments. So it's not either/or: we need immediate urgent support, and then we need to work on the more long term structures.

We agreed yesterday to start the planning. SACEUR, our Supreme Allied Commander, has now been tasked to put up a proposal for a framework. That will then be some kind of structure which will then enable us to have more transparency and more predictability. And then of course, this structure should be underpinned with some kind of financial commitment. That's fundamentally in a way two elements of the same task: have the structure and have the funding. So I'm not able now to go into more details, because we have now started the planning, we have agreed what we call a NAC Initiating Directive to start this planning. And then when we have the advice from SACEUR, we will be able to make more precise decisions. But it's not… When we do this work, when SACEUR is conducting this planning, doesn't mean that we pause. We will continue to mobilise support. And we have of course the bilateral support, we have the Ramstein, the US-led Ramstein format, we have EU, we have many… We have the Multilateral Capability Coalition. So there are many ways we can provide support while we are waiting for a more robust, predictable NATO structure to further strengthen our support.

NATO Spokesperson: Thank you. Over to Ukrainian news agency, Dmytro Shkurko, third row. Thank you.

Dmytro Shkurko (National News Agency of Ukraine, Ukrinform): Thank you so much for the floor. Dmytro Shkurko, National News Agency of Ukraine. Just to follow up, some Western media gave a quite gloomy picture of future Russian advances and also about the Ukrainian ability to resist. From your point of view, what is the real situation on the battlefield now and what can we expect in the nearest future? And the follow up, if I may. We have a few already incidents that Russian missiles blown against Ukraine but crossing the Allies’ borders. Is there discussed the idea to create some kind of security belt along the Ukrainian borders to protect Allied countries? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: The situation on the battlefield is difficult and we have seen how Russia is now pushing along the frontline and how Russia is mobilising more troops but also how they are willing to sacrifice men and materiel for marginal gains. But of course this is serious. And that's exactly why there is an urgency when it comes to mobilising more support for Ukraine. Fundamentally, there are two possible scenarios. One is that NATO Allies are able to mobilise more support, and that Ukraine is able to regain more territory. And the other scenario is that we are not able to do so. And then there is a real risk that Russia will capture even more territory and that we will be in an even more dangerous position. And the thing is that the only way to reach a just and lasting peace in Ukraine is to have a strong Ukrainian armed forces, because that's the only way to convince President Putin that he will not win on the battlefield. And that's the only way to then convince him that he has to sit down and negotiate some kind of acceptable solution where Ukraine prevails as a sovereign independent nation. I strongly believe that's possible. Because the Ukrainians have demonstrated that they are extremely capable. They are capable of using the materiel, the equipment, provided by NATO Allies. Because we have to remember again where this war started. It started with… that most experts believed that Russia was going to take control of Ukraine within weeks and Kyiv within days. That didn't happen. The Ukrainians have liberated 50% of the territory that Russia occupied in the beginning of the war. They have been able to have successful deep strikes against different military targets behind the Russian lines, and they have been able to actually open up a corridor in the Black Sea by sinking many of the Russian ships. These are significant military achievements made by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, supported by NATO Allies with equipment and ammunition. So if NATO Allies deliver what we should, then I’ll actually be confident that the Ukrainians will be able to make new gains. And that's the reason why we must deliver more, why Allies need to dig deeper and provide more military support faster, and why we also need stronger and more robust structures for the long haul.

Dmytro Shkurko (National News Agency of Ukraine, Ukrinform): [inaudible]

NATO Secretary General: Well, we have already increased. The first thing… The day of the invasion on the 24th of February 2022 we met here at the NATO Headquarters. We did two things. First of all, we decided to step up our support for Ukraine and Allies have provided unprecedented support for Ukraine. The other thing we did was to actually activate NATO's defence plans by giving SACEUR, our Supreme Allied Commander, more authorities to move more forces. And since then, we have added more military presence, increased our military presence, especially in the eastern part of the Alliance, with land forces but also of course with more air forces, and with more what we call enhanced vigilance activities, meaning more surveillance and also more air policing. So we have already increased, we are vigilant, we are present, and of course, we are there to protect NATO territory.

NATO Spokesperson: Thank you. We'll take a question from IMEDI TV, Ketevan.

Ketevan Kardava (IMEDI TV): Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Ketevan Kardava. A question about Georgia and resubmitted draft law in the Georgian parliament on transparency and foreign influence. Ruling party members and government representatives said that it's all about transparency and accountability to the public. Can you tell us more and explain it for us? Why is a bill according [to] which organisations should submit their financial reports annually is a matter of concern in NATO? Thank you so much.

NATO Secretary General: I oppose any attempt by the Georgian government to reintroduce the draft legislation on foreign agents or foreign influence, because this will actually contradict the whole effort of strengthening the democratic institutions in Georgia. And Georgia should work on reforms to move closer to NATO and to move closer to the European Union. And therefore also the European Union has been very clear on this. I visited Georgia, Tbilisi, just a few weeks ago. And, of course, one of my main messages was the importance of reforms, of strengthening democratic institutions. And the Georgian people have also made it clear that they want a democratic prosperous future within the European and Euro-Atlantic family. So any law that introduced this idea of foreign agent, that I'm also afraid will actually have an impact for a lot of media outlets, operating also internationally but also then in Georgia, will undermine the whole idea of making Georgia a stronger democratic society. Thank you.

NATO Spokesperson: We’ll take a question from Yonhap News Agency, South Korea, Binna.

Binna Chung (Yonhap News Agency): Thank you, Binna from Yonhap News Agency. Secretary General, I have two questions. First one, can you share some more about what was discussed with the Indo-Pacific partners regarding the North Korea and Russia relationship? And secondly, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister today told journalists that he thinks that now it's time for South Korea to actually support Ukraine with lethal weapons. Do you agree with them? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: We had a very good meeting with our Indo-Pacific partners, South Korea, Japan and New Zealand and Australia. Of course, the background is that our security is interlinked. What happens in the Indo-Pacific matters for Europe and what happens in Europe matters for the Indo-Pacific. The war in Ukraine demonstrates that very clearly. Because we see how China is propping up the Russian war economy, delivering dual-capable equipment which is also used in the Russian military industry. In return, Moscow is mortgaging its future to Beijing. And then we see how Iran and North Korea are delivering ammunition, missiles, drones to Russia. And then in return, Russia is delivering technology for missile and nuclear programmes of these countries.

So the idea that we have one kind of security in Europe and another security in Asia doesn't work. Our security is not regional security. Our security is global. And as also it has been stated from leaders in the region, what happens in Ukraine today, it can happen in the South China Sea tomorrow. So, this interlinked security is the reason why it's important that we work together and this is partly about practical cooperation. We're looking into what more we can do both in providing support to Ukraine. But also on cyber, hybrid and on other areas where we hope that we can agree some new projects at the Summit in Washington to build on what we already do together with our Indo-Pacific partners. But also about sending a very clear message to Moscow and to Beijing that actually we see what they do and we see how authoritarian powers are now more and more aligned. And that makes it just more important that democratic like-minded states, nations are working together.

Let me highlight, this is not about making NATO a global Alliance. NATO will remain an Alliance of North America and Europe. But our security is interlinked with the security in the Asia-Pacific region and therefore we need to work with our partners in that region to address those global security challenges. When it comes to exactly what kind of specific support the different Indo-Pacific partners are able to provide to Ukraine, I will not be too specific. I'll just say that any support is welcome. Many of those partners have already provided a lot of support to NATO's Comprehensive Assistance Package. Australia has delivered some armoured vehicles, and they also have some surveillance planes in Poland. And other partners have delivered others types of support. It's for the individual partners to decide exactly what type of support.

NATO Spokesperson: Thank you, two more questions. One to RAI and then to Euracitv. Over to you Marilu.

Marilu Lucrezio (RAI): Thank you. The Kremlin Spokeperson Peskov said the NATO countries are involved now in Ukraine. And they are expanding their military infrastructure to our borders, he said and so now the situation is that the level slipped between Russia and NATO to a level of direct confrontation. How do you answer to this?

NATO Secretary General: NATO is not party to the conflict and NATO will not be party to the conflict. But NATO is providing support to Ukraine to help them defend themselves. And we just have to remember again and again what this is. This is one country, Russia, attacking another, invading another country, moving forces battle tanks, planes, missiles across the border to take control over Ukraine. And that's a blatant violation of international law. It's a full-scale invasion. That's what happened on the 24th of February. And of course, Ukraine is defending their land, defending their territory. And it is enshrined in international law. It's enshrined the UN charter that self defence is legal. You have the right to defend yourself. And that's exactly what Ukraine does. And we have the right to support Ukraine in defending themselves and that’s what NATO Allies are doing. We don't have any plans of having any NATO combat troops inside Ukraine. There have been no requests for that. But the Ukrainians are asking, for equipmen,t for ammunition, for weapons. And we are providing that to Ukraine. That doesn't make NATO Allies party to the conflict but we support Ukraine in upholding their right for self defence.

NATO Spokesperson: And the final question to Olivia, Euractiv.

Olivia Gyapong (Euractiv): Hi, thank you earlier as mentioned, you were discussing the southern neighbourhood with NATO Allies addressing instability and shared security. You also received a report from experts on the situation in southern neighbourhood. What was the foreign ministers feedback on the group's report? What recommendations were made? And what will be discussed by members going forward regarding NATO's relationship with and strategy in the MENA region?

NATO Secretary General: Well, last October I established a group of independent experts to provide advice to NATO on how we, in an even better way, can address both the challenges we see in our southern neighbourhood but also the opportunities. This is about terrorism. It's about instability. But it's also about the value and the opportunities in working with partners in our southern neighbourhood with North Africa or the Middle East.

And we have just received the report. I expect that the group will make the report public. There are different proposals there about how we can work more closely with partners in in the Mediterranean region. We have close partnerships with countries like Jordan, with Tunisia, with Mauritania. We also have, of course, some presence in the Middle East. We have a mission in Iraq. So we speak about very different countries, different challenges, different opportunities. But of course, that matters for the Alliance. And therefore, I'm looking forward to the discussion that will now take place based on the report and then hopefully to see some ambitious conclusions being made by the heads of state and government when they meet in Washington in July.

NATO Spokesperson: Thank you. It’s a wrap.