Pre-ministerial press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the meetings of NATO Ministers of Defence in Brussels

  • 12 Jun. 2024 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 13 Jun. 2024 12:43

(As delivered)

Good evening.

Over the next two days, the NATO Defence Ministers from across the Alliance will gather here to prepare for the NATO Summit in Washington.

We will convene a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council.

And Allies will discuss how to ensure predictable support to Ukraine for the long haul.


We come together at a critical time for Ukraine and our own security.

As we have seen in recent months, delays in the provision of military aid to Ukraine have had consequences on the battlefield.

But once again Allies are stepping up their support.

I welcome the 60-billion-dollar package by the United States,

And significant commitments by other Allies.


In recent weeks, Sweden, Spain and Belgium have each pledged more than 1 billion euros in new support,

Including 30 F-16 jets and early warning airplanes.

Following Germany’s offer of an additional Patriot battery,
Italy has pledged another SAMP/T.

And I expect more to be announced in the coming days and weeks.


At this meeting,
I expect that Ministers will approve a plan for NATO to lead the coordination of security assistance and training to Ukraine.
This is a key element for our package for Ukraine at the Washington Summit, along with a long-term financial commitment.

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022, Allies have provided 40 billion euros in military support to Ukraine each year.

We must maintain this level of support as a minimum, and for as long as it takes.

To hasten the conclusion in Moscow, that Russia cannot wait us out.

We are also looking at our own deterrence and defence, as we should.

Since 2014, NATO has implemented the largest reinforcement of our collective defence in a generation.

We have put in place the most comprehensive defence plans since the end of the Cold War.

And defence spending is on an upward trajectory across the Alliance.


At this Ministerial, we will make progress on a new Defence Industrial Pledge,
for leaders to approve at the Summit in Washington.

This will enable us to scale up military production. 
And send a signal of long-term demand to industry.

In addition, we will take decisions to ensure that we have the capabilities to meet the requirements of our own new defence plans.


Ministers will also discuss Russia’s intensifying campaign of hostile acts across NATO countries.

The hallmarks of which are sabotage, acts of violence, cyber-attacks and disinformation.

Allies are taking decisive measures – making arrests and launching legal proceedings.

Collectively, we are stepping up the protection of critical infrastructure, as well as the exchange of information and intelligence.

Russia’s actions will not stop us from supporting Ukraine.

This Ministerial will also include a meeting of the Nuclear Planning Group,
Where Allies will discuss the ongoing adaptation of nuclear capabilities to the current security environment.

We have made significant progress in this adaptation:

In June, the first F-35 fighter jets were declared ready by the Netherlands for NATO’s nuclear mission.
And the US is modernising its nuclear weapons in Europe.

As the challenges evolve, NATO’s nuclear mission remains the same: to preserve peace, prevent coercion, and deter aggression.


So to conclude,

At this Defence Ministerial,

We will bolster our support to Ukraine,
We will strengthen our defences,
And we will send a strong message of deterrence to our adversaries.

And with that I am ready to take your questions.

- - - - - - - 

NATO Spokesperson: Thank you, Secretary General. We’ll start with Interfax.

Iryna Somer (Interfax-Ukraine): Thank you, Farah. News agency Interfax Ukraine, Iryna Somer. Secretary General, we do understand that during the summit in Washington, Ukraine cannot expect for the invitation and become a member, but what can the Alliance offer to Ukrainians instead, especially to Ukrainians on the frontlines that they will understand and to see that this is irreversible. I mean, membership. Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: Well, I expect that the Allies will agree a comprehensive package for Ukraine. That's an agreement on NATO having a leading role in providing and coordinating military support security assistance and training for Ukraine.

This is important partly because it helps Ukraine to address the immediate needs to defend itself, but also to ensure that NATO is there to help to build a future force to ensure full interoperability, and therefore to help Ukraine to move towards full NATO membership, so that the NATO role in coordinating and providing security assistance and training to Ukraine is both about the immediate needs to defend against the Russian aggression, but also help to integrate and to make fully interoperable the Ukrainian forces. 

Second, I expect the financial pledge to be agreed. This is now something we are addressing here at NATO as we prepare for the upcoming summit in July. And that will also be a long term commitment. 

Thirdly, I expect the Allies to agree strong language on membership. It's not for me to go into the details on the exact wording but I expect that that language will be even clearer in our commitment that Ukraine will become a member of the alliance.

Then, of course, I also expect that Allies will actually make important announcements between now and the summit and also at the summit for more military equipment, Air Defence, artillery missiles, which is urgently needed to ensure that Ukraine prevails as a sovereign independent nation. And without that, of course, there is no membership issue to be discussed. We need to ensure that Ukraine prevail that's an absolute minimum for Ukraine to become a member of the alliance.

NATO Spokesperson: Okay, we'll go to Reuters and then Wall Street Journal. 

Sabine Siebold (Reuters): Thank you so much, Secretary General. You're really showcasing NATO's nuclear capabilities, like you just did. What kind of message are you sending to Moscow by that.

NATO Secretary General: NATO's nuclear deterrent is our ultimate security guarantee and our ultimate deterrence and this is something which is developed over many years to nuclear sharing arrangements, where the United States has nuclear weapons in Europe, but where Allies are providing the planes, the storage, the command and control, the support to make this an effective and secure part of NATO's total deterrence and defence.

What we have seen over the last years or months is a dangerous nuclear rhetoric from the Russian side. We have seen that Russia has announced that they have deployed nuclear weapons to Belarus and we have also seen some more exercises, nuclear exercises from the Russian side.

We also have to bear in mind that we don't only face nuclear challenges from Russia, but also from China, which is now heavily modernizing their nuclear capabilities. And we should expect to have large number of nuclear missiles, much higher than today, within a few years, and most of many of these missiles are of course, intercontinental – they can reach NATO territory. And then we have the nuclear program of North Korea and the efforts by Iran. So for all these reasons, we have to be able to clearly communicate that our nuclear deterrent is effective, secure and reliable, and that's what we are making clear, by modernizing, by exercising, and communicating what we do.

Dan Michaels (WSJ): Thank you, Dan Michaels, Wall Street Journal. Two questions about the summit. If I may, you mentioned the defence investment pledge. Can you talk a bit more about that because defence contractors have wanted signed contracts so that they can increase their production, you know, is a pledge something that they can use to do what everyone's been discussing? And then second question, you just mentioned China. Do you expect new language about China in the summit communication? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: The pledge is, of course, an important political document where Allies agree how we should work together to strengthen our defence industry. And of course, NATO has an important and key role to play, partly to set the capability targets for what Allies have to produce, partly to decide how much we're going to invent in the defence investment pledge, spending at least 2% of the GDP. But NATO of course also plays a key role when it comes to setting the standards to ensure that the weapons, the ammunition, is fully interoperable, and meet the NATO standards.

Then it is also important for NATO to ensure that we are reducing barriers for trade and for procurement of defence material, because you need to mobilize the whole base, the strength of our defence industry, and you're right that of course at the end of the day, what really matters are signed contracts. We see more of those. The US has announced that they have doubled, for instance, the production over 155 millimeter ammunition standard ammunition from 14 to 28,000 per month, and that will further increase 200,000 in the near future. This is a significant increase per month, and we'll see similar numbers from European Allies. 

So this reflects that we're actually doing more together because NATO is also an important framework to ensure that we have joint procurement, that we are buying things together that will increase the scale. Utilize the economies of scale will reduce the unit cost and the fact that Allies are signing contracts together is a way to also then use the NATO as a platform to ramp up production. So we have more and more examples of defence industry scaling and production based on political decisions in NATO and Allied countries. And also that we are doing more together and that firm contracts are signed on the fence investment pledge is where to ensure that we facilitate and strengthen that that message.

NATO Spokesperson: Thank you, BBC. 

NATO Secretary General: There was one more. Well, I would careful going into them. details of exactly what we are going to say in in the communique or the declaration from the summit, but of course China is important. We see also how China is now playing a key role in upholding or propping up Russia's war in Ukraine: 90% of the microelectronics that Russia imported last year came from China and these are items, electronic equipment, which is key to produce missiles, bombs, battle tanks, which are then used in Russia's war aggression against Ukraine. 

So China is propping up, China is enabling Russia to conduct its war of aggression in in Ukraine or against Ukraine. And therefore, of course, what we see now very clearly in Ukraine is how our security is interlinked. What happens in Europe matters for Asia, what happens in Asia matters for Europe, especially if you then also add on the supplies that North Korea and Iran are delivering to Russia.

NATO Spokesperson: Okay, we'll go to BBC Russia in the second row

Pavel Aksenov (BBC Russia): Back to the nuclear weapons if you please. We are talking about tactical nuclear weapons. Yes, not the strategic ones. Will there be any changes in policy about the tactical nuclear weapons, will they be more transparent or any more visually can be seen? and is there any plans in NATO to conduct the exercises with nuclear forces? Not nuclear weapons maybe but its forces?

NATO Secretary General: Well, we are speaking about NATO's nuclear sharing arrangements which have been well known for many, many years. There is not a new policy. This is a well-established procedure, where the US has nuclear bombs deployed in Europe, and where some allies take part in what we call a cold nuclear sharing, having planes that can deliver these weapons. 

We are transparent about this. It has been there for decades. We have tried and tested procedures, doctrines and command structures and I have actually participated, visited, exercises and been very public about those exercises. So this is not new. This is something that has been there for many, many years. 

And now more and more as also moving from F16 to F35 as the platform to deliver these weapons. So we are very predictable, predictable, we are very transparent. But of course we're also very clear on that this is the ultimate deterrence. We have. The purpose of NATO is of course not to wage war, but the purpose of NATO is to prevent war to preserve peace. And we do that by having credible deterrence and we have been able to prevent any armed attack against a NATO ally for 75 years. Then, as I said, we are modernizing some of these capabilities, including by introducing our F35, the fifth generation aircraft and Netherlands have declared that their planes are now operational for this task.

NATO Spokesperson: Okay, we'll take one from Thomas, FAZ. And then one more after that.

Thomas Gutschker (FAZ): Thanks a lot, Thomas Gutschker, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. For dogma and insight on Secretary General roughly two weeks ago Prime Minister Orbán said on Hungarian state radio, and I quote, “It is absurd that NATO instead of protecting us, is dragging us as a member state into a world war. He also compared this to Hitler chorusing then Hungary leader Horthy, into World War Two. Did you have a chance to discuss these remarks this morning, when you met him in Budapest, and what does it mean for NATO as an Alliance based on common values to have an Ally making such claims?

NATO Secretary General: I had a good meeting with the Prime Minister Orbán. This morning in Budapest, we went through a long range of issues and Orbán reaffirmed that Hungary will remain a loyal and dedicated NATO Ally. Adhering to all its commitments as a NATO Ally and that includes also of course, article Five our collective defence clause.

And I also stated clearly that NATO's purpose is peace. NATO is there to prevent war, to prevent conflict, but we do that by ensuring that we have credible deterrence and by making sure that there is no room for miscalculation, by Moscow or any other adversary about our ability to defend all Allies, and by doing so, we are preserving peace, preventing war. 

And that's the core task and therefore we all agree on the need to ensure that NATO continues to preserve peace. I also am absolutely confident that Hungary will agree to the statements that we'll make at the NATO summit, reflecting the core values and the core purposes of NATO, including that NATO is there as a defensive alliance protecting Allies, preserving peace. 

Then there is one particular issue where there's been different views. And that is on the mission, no sorry, the framework for supporting Ukraine, where NATO will have a lead role in coordinating security assistance and training for Ukraine and also the financial pledge. Viktor Orbán, Prime Minister Orbán has made it clear that Hungary will not participate in these NATO efforts. I have stated that I accept that position.

But I'm also glad that Prime Minister Orbán and I today agreed the modalities for how Hungary should not participate in the support efforts for Ukraine, which includes that Hungary will not send the personnel to these activities and not contribute to the NATO pledge providing any elite in support for Ukraine. 

At the same time, Prime Minister Orbán made it clear that of course they will adhere to older NATO obligations and also continue to finance the NATO common budget according to the agreed cost shares. And also he also agreed that that Hungary will not block any decision by other NATO Allies on taking on the lead of the provision of training and security assistance and not block and a decision on a financial pledge for other Allies that is okay. 

NATO Spokesperson: Washington Post in the back please.

Emily Rauhala (Washington Post): Secretary General, I'm wondering if you can tell us a little bit more about this NATO support and training for Ukraine. What functions of the Ukraine defence contact group will be subsumed under this new structure, and which functions will not; what will be excluded? And then relatedly: this is talked about within the Alliance as Trump-proofing or future-proofing, I'm wondering if you can explain how moving these functions into NATO would prevent a withdrawal of support from a future US president or any other Ally, for that matter.

NATO Secretary General: First, let me say that on Friday, I think we will be able to give you more details. Because this is a pre-ministerial press conference. I hope that we'll be able to agree the plan for NATO security assistance and training for Ukraine on Friday and after that decision I will expect that I will be able to give you more details. 

What I can say today is that we now have very broad agreement in NATO and also the fact that we have found a way to accommodate the concerns expressed by Hungary to ensure that NATO takes a leading role in the coordination of security assistance and training. And also, hopefully before the Summit, agree a financial pledge. 

One of the things we are now looking into is for instance, what is taking place under something called SAG-U, Security Assistance Group for Ukraine, which is mainly based in Wiesbaden, which is actually a quite big organisation helping to put together capability packages, different types of weapons or ammunition, with the associated spare parts, maintenance, sustainment and also coordinate a lot of the training. This is now led by General Cavoli in his capacity as the US Commander in Europe. In the future, it will also be led by General Cavoli, but then in his capacity as the NATO Commander in Europe, the SACEUR. But of course the difference is that then it will be a joint effort by NATO Allies. Where we also will use in the NATO Command Structure, NATO common funding to organise and to facilitate this. 

And I think this is one example of how we, by using NATO, can have a more robust, more predictable framework, and especially combined with a commitment of spending at least 40 billion euros per year. This will ensure that we have a more long term, more predictable support for Ukraine. We welcome of course ad hoc voluntary contributions, they have made a huge difference. But the longer this war lasts, the more important it is that we have more predictability, more accountability, and also a fair burden sharing. 

And I think by insuring NATO a bigger role in this, we can achieve this because we have, for instance, seen that Allies have made announcements, but it has not been delivered. And if we have a NATO role in ensuring more transparency and accountability, we can assume that actually more Allies will deliver. We of course appreciate what the United States and other Allies have done. It's unprecedented. At the same time we saw that the United States spent six months agreeing a supplemental for Ukraine. We also have seen that some of the promises that European Allies have made have not been delivered. And if we turn this into not voluntary contributions, but NATO commitments, of course it will become more robust, it will become more reliable. And for all these reasons, I believe that a stronger NATO role will help Ukraine to get the predictability it needs. 

Then just to finally say that the purpose of this is to make it possible to end the war. Because the paradox, again is that now President Putin believes that they can wait us out and therefore the war continues. When we are able to communicate very clearly and strongly that we are prepared for long haul, for many years, then the likelihood that he will understand that he will not win on the battlefield but has to sit down and agree a lasting peace, just peace for Ukraine will increase. So the longer we are ready to commit, the sooner this war can end.

NATO Spokesperson: Okay, we will take one final question from TV for Sweden and read from ITV for Sweden. You mentioned earlier that Russia has been increasing sabotage against NATO countries.

Ritva Rönnberg (TV4): You mentioned earlier that Russia has been increasing sabotage against NATO countries. Can you be a little more specific? What does it mean and how is the sabotage countered? What kind of sabotage are we talking about?

NATO Secretary General: Well, we have seen a pattern we have seen many incidents across the Alliance. We have seen arson attacks, we have seen sabotage against critical infrastructure. We have seen cyber-attacks and we have seen more of those over the last weeks and months that we have seen before. And in many cases these are very public and very well-known instances because there have been arrests. In Britain, people have been arrested for trying to put on fire a building there. We have similar cases in Germany, in Poland, in some of the Baltic countries. So these are well-known cases where actually people have been arrested and now there are legal processes going on.

What is important from NATO is that we are helping to make Allies aware of that this is not an isolated instance, this is actually a result of Russian intelligence being more active across the Alliance. And therefore, NATO is increasing awareness, we are sharing information, we are sharing intelligence. Some of these arrests have been made based on intelligence shared by other Allies. And we are also of course, stepping up the protection of critical infrastructure. In particular, we have done a lot now to increase the protection of undersea infrastructure. So we do something collectively, as NATO, but of course, what Allies do individually is also of critical importance. 

And we have seen police and National Security Services arresting and starting legal processes in several NATO Allies as a result of these attempts to sabotage, put on fire, also cyberattacks across the Alliance.

NATO Spokesperson: Okay. Thank you all for your time. Thank you, Secretary General. We'll see you tomorrow at the doorstep.

NATO Secretary General: Thank you.