Press conference

with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine

  • 29 Apr. 2024 -
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  • Last updated: 29 Apr. 2024 16:01

(As delivered)

President Zelenskyy,
My dear friend Volodymyr,
Thank you for your warm welcome.
Thank you for receiving me and my delegation here in Kyiv.

And as you said this is my third visit after the full scale invasion.
But I also had the privilege of meeting you here in Kyiv, in Brussels,
And several other places several times, also before the full scale invasion.

So let me start by thanking you for the cooperation and the friendship we have developed over all these years,
Both before but not least after the full scale invasion by Russia against Ukraine.

Your leadership is a powerful example to us all.
The bravery of your people and armed forces continues to inspire the whole world.

But leadership and bravery alone cannot repel the Russian forces.
You also need arms and ammunition.

Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion, NATO Allies have provided Ukraine with unprecedented support – including 99 percent of all military aid.

At the same time, I know that serious delays in support have meant serious consequences on the battlefield.

For months, the U.S. was unable to agree a package.
And European Allies have been unable to deliver ammunition at the scale we promised.

Ukraine has been outgunned for months – forced to ration its ammunition.
This means that fewer Russian missiles and drones have been shot down.
And Russia has been able to push forward along the front line.

But it is not too late for Ukraine to prevail.
More support is on the way.

So Mister President, you addressed NATO Defence Ministers in the NATO-Ukraine Council I chaired just a few days ago.
Allies heard your clear appeal.
And they agreed to step up our support.

I welcome that the United States has now approved a major new package.
It provides over 60 billion US dollars’ worth of aid, including critical air defence and artillery ammunition.

The U.K. has just announced its largest delivery yet – including dozens of combat boats, hundreds of vehicles, thousands of missiles, and millions of rounds of ammunition.
Germany will deliver an additional Patriot system.
The Netherlands is contributing an additional 4 billion euros.
Other Allies are looking into what more they can do.
And I expect new announcements soon.

So we are working hard to meet Ukraine’s urgent needs.
And I have been clear that if Allies face a choice between meeting NATO capability targets or support to Ukraine,
They should support Ukraine.
And put plans in place to refill their stockpiles.

Stocks can and will be replenished.
Lives lost can never be regained.

To replenish our stocks, we need to produce more.
So I welcome that Allies are stepping up defence production,
And also working to produce together with Ukraine.

Today, we discussed the preparations for the NATO Summit in July.
So Mister President, I look forward to welcoming you to Washington for that meeting.

Allies have already agreed to plan for a greater NATO role in coordinating security assistance and training for Ukraine.
I believe we also need a major, multi-year financial commitment to sustain our support.
To demonstrate that our support to Ukraine is not short term and ad hoc, but long term and predictable.

Moscow must understand: they cannot win.
And they cannot wait us out.

Ukraine’s rightful place is in NATO.
Ukraine will become a member of NATO.
The work we are undertaking now puts you on an irreversible path towards NATO membership.
So that when the time is right,
Ukraine can become a NATO member straightaway.

I very much look forward to the day that the Ukrainian flag will fly high at the NATO Headquarters.

So President Zelenskyy,
Dear Volodymyr,
NATO stands with Ukraine.
For your security, and for ours.
Thank you once again.

President Zelenskyy: [interpreted from Ukrainian] Dear journalists, your questions are welcome. We'll start with My-Ukraina TV channel.

Question (My-Ukraina): [interpreted from Ukrainian] Mr. Secretary General, what do you think Ukraine deserves to hear at the Anniversary Summit in Washington? Is there a political will to offer this invitation? If not, then what can we expect? What are the discussions going on? And another question to the President. Many promises were made in the past. We heard about some brigades that were left without ammunitions. Of the promises made, how much ends up at the front? Can we expect that all the deliverables will be carried out? There are nine security agreements that Ukraine has made. Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: Well, I really believe that Ukraine's rightful place is in NATO. And therefore, I'm working hard to ensure that Ukraine will become a member of this Alliance. To have that decision we need all Allies to agree, we need consensus, we need not the majority but actually 32 Allies to agree. And I don't expect that we will have that agreement by the Summit in July. But I really hope that we can demonstrate that we are moving Ukraine closer to membership, and that they will arrive as soon as possible for us to have Ukraine as a full member. In the meantime, we should ensure that Ukraine becomes as interoperable as possible, that Ukraine is fully up to all NATO standards, so when the political conditions are in place, that Ukraine can become a member straightaway. Therefore, I also believe that what we now do when it comes to military support is partly about ensuring the urgent needs for Ukraine, and we discussed how we can step up more military support for Ukraine. But it's also about how to ensure that we deliver the capabilities and help to build the Ukrainian future force that enables Ukraine to become a member of this Alliance. So rest assured, we are working hard. We made some important decisions in Vilnius where we removed what we call the requirement for a Membership Action Plan, turning the path to membership from a two-step process to a one-step process. We agreed to establish a NATO-Ukraine Council. And we also agreed a big programme for interoperability, ensuring that when the political conditions are met, that Ukraine can become a member straightaway.

President Zelenskyy: [interpreted from Ukrainian] Thank you very much for your question. The voting at the US Congress was very important. Some deliveries have already been done. I won't tell more. I will only say that we haven't gotten all we need to equip our brigades. As far as the security agreements and assurances are concerned, they were very timely and important than the time that we have been waiting for the decision in US. You know that air defence costs a lot and the systems or replaceables that were delivered to Ukraine in the past several months were mentioned in some of those security agreements we made. Reuters.

Andrew Gray (Reuters): Andrew Gray from Reuters. A question specifically on air defence. Secretary General, you mentioned after the NATO-Ukraine Council that you expected announcements soon. Since then, we haven't heard of any more announcements of donations of Patriot batteries or other systems to Ukraine. So what makes you optimistic that you will now get those announcements? And also President Zelenskyy, the Secretary General mentioned that NATO members have not lived up to their promises in recent months in terms of what they promised to deliver. Do you feel personally let down by your allies? And do you feel you can still rely on them?

NATO Secretary General: Well, we are working in NATO to ensure that Allies are delivering more air defence to Ukraine. We have updated our overview of different air defence capabilities. And of course we welcome the decision by Germany to deliver a full new Patriot battery to Ukraine. And since our defence ministerial meeting in the NATO-Ukraine Council format with President Zelenskyy we have had Spain announcing that they will deliver Patriot [missiles]. We also have, of course, the major announcement by the United States and the United Kingdom, that also includes different air defence systems. And just today, Australia has announced that they will provide money for air defence systems, short range air defence systems as well as MANPADS. So there are big and small announcements which are coming and have already been announced. But we need more. We are focusing on Patriots, also the need to refurbish existing systems, to replenish and ensure that systems which are already delivered work as they should, that there are enough ammunition. Because if you don't have ammunition to the batteries, it's not much worth to have the batteries. And also, of course, it is important to remember that Patriots are important but so are also other systems – NASAMS, IRIS-T and many other systems, we need a layered air defence. And therefore we focus on a wide range of different systems and continue to work with Allies to make sure that they deliver and turn their commitments and announcements into real delivery of weapons and systems as soon as possible.

President Zelenskyy: [interpreted from Ukrainian] Thank you for your question regarding additional packages and quantity of missiles to do the Patriots. We are looking forward to positive developments. We'll be waiting for the deliveries to come. We were assured that there won't be any intermissions as regards additional Patriot batteries. It's hard to say that we have heard anything specific, but some initial steps have already been made. We discussed those with Mr. Secretary General. We are continuing our analytical work. We know what other partners can offer. So we're working on those additional Patriot batteries. As soon as they are in Ukraine, we'll all feel that, we'll know that. It's important to see that they work to defend our skies. And the last question from BBC.

Jonathan Beale (BBC): Thank you very much. Jonathan Beale from BBC. First of all, President Zelenskyy, can I ask you about what's happening in the east, the situation in the east. Your forces seem to be retreating at the moment. Is there a danger that retreat could become a route – in other words, your lines could collapse with Russian advances? You mentioned the expectation of the ammunition, the promises, that the US has made and now delivered on in terms of getting the vote through, but when will that ammunition start arriving on the front line? Will it make enough of a difference to stop the Russians? And how long will it be to take effect, do you think? And then I would like to ask the Secretary General: also how worried are you about the situation in the east at the moment? Do you think the pledges that NATO countries, including the US and the UK which you mentioned, are going to be enough to reverse the trends we're seeing, which is Russian advances? How soon will that ammunition arrive, do you think? And also you've mentioned there about the need for… I think you've been honest and said that NATO has not delivered what it’s promised. And you have talked… You know, I've listened to you for the past year talking about ramping up ammunition in the West, in European countries – and glaciers have melted faster. It's taking a long, long time. I just wonder if you've apologised to President Zelenskyy that NATO countries have not delivered what they promised? Thank you.

President Zelenskyy: [interpreted from Ukrainian] Thank you. Stabilisation and the battlefield. The capabilities of our armed forces, taking initiative, deploying counter-offense – all these things [are] dependent [on] three main, well, conditions, items. First, the vote to provide financial support at the bilateral level and of course, the United States support, this is number one. Second, timely deliveries of weapons and what will be delivered to Ukraine in the long run. The first of those conditions has now been met, though it was difficult. There is a package, there is financial support coming so we can count on this money. Second, timely, timely support of the armed forces. Well, I am yet to see significant positive developments. Deliveries have started, but this process needs to be sped up. And the number three, one thing is to have funds. Well, that's important and once again, we sincerely appreciate that decision, but it is as important to see what we can get with these funds. I'm not even talking about the issue of how these weapons can be used. So we do thank our partners, but there are two more conditions to be met. Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: NATO Allies have not delivered what they promised. The United States spent months not agreeing a package for Ukraine, and European Allies have not delivered the amount of ammunition they promised. And this has had serious consequences on the battlefield. The lack of ammunition has enabled the Russians to push forward along the frontline. Lack of air defence has made it possible for more Russian missiles to hit their targets, and then lack of deep-strike capabilities has made it possible for the Russians to concentrate more forces. And we see the consequences of that now.

Therefore, it is extremely important that over the last couple of weeks, we have seen some very important changes. The big US announcement of 61 billion dollars really is significant. The United Kingdom has announced its biggest-ever package, including air defences and millions of rounds of ammunition. And then you have many other Allies stepping up with different types of announcements. So now our responsibility is to ensure that these announcements are turned into real deliveries, physical deliveries, of weapons and ammunition, as soon as possible. And this logistic work, the practical implementation of delivery of ammunition and weapons to Ukraine, is chaired by, or… General Cavoli, the US top commander in Europe, is responsible for that effort. I’m in regular contact with him, and he's very much aware of the urgency. So they do whatever they can to make sure that announcements are turned into deliveries as quickly as possible, because time matters. Every day matters. General Cavoli is also the NATO Supreme Commander in Europe. So of course, this is something we then also coordinate closely and work closely with all NATO Allies to ensure that this happens. I'm also personally working with and engaging with different leaders across the Alliance. And we had a very important meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council where President Zelenskyy addressed us 10 days ago, in a way to sound the alarm bells and to make it absolutely clear that there is an urgent need for more, and Allies understood the message. And since then, we have seen new announcements and political decisions. And there will be new announcements in the near future.

But again, announcements are not enough, we need to see the delivery of the weapons. So I've stated this clearly, not only in my meeting with President Zelenskyy, but also publicly. Because I think we need to be aware that we have to be honest, and we have to realise that when we don't deliver, when we delay supplies, it's about life and death. It has real consequences. This war is not a kind of theoretical thing. If something's going on 24/7, and when we are not delivering as we should, then Ukrainians are paying the price. But it's also us, also all NATO Allies, because of course it has a cost to ensure that Ukraine prevails. And there's always a risk when you are engaged in conflict, like Ukraine is now. But the biggest risk is if President Putin prevails, and if President Putin wins. And the biggest cost is if Russia wins in Ukraine, because then we speak about enormously much bigger amounts of money, a much bigger amount of money that NATO Allies have to invest in our security. So supporting Ukraine is the best way to ensure our own security and that's the message to NATO Allies.

President Zelenskyy: [interpreted from Ukrainian] Thank you. With this, this press conference is over.