Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the first day of the meetings of NATO Defence Ministers

  • 13 Jun. 2024 -
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  • Last updated: 13 Jun. 2024 20:17

(As delivered)

Good evening. Today we convened the NATO-Ukraine Council, where Defence Minister Umerov briefed Allies on the latest battlefield developments, and Ukraine’s most pressing needs.

Delays in our support have had serious consequences, and we must not let that happen again. The good news is that Allies are stepping up. But Ukraine needs predictable support for the long term.

Tomorrow, I expect Ministers will agree the plan for NATO security assistance and training for Ukraine, a key deliverable for the NATO Summit.

More than 99% of all military support to Ukraine is provided by NATO Allies. So, it makes sense that NATO takes on a greater role in these efforts. This will put our support on a firmer footing, provide predictability for Kyiv, and address both immediate and long-term needs.

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion, Allies have provided around 40 billion euros worth of military support each year. I have proposed that we sustain this level of support as a minimum, for as long as it takes. And that Allies share this burden equitably.

The paradox is that the longer we plan, and the longer we commit, the sooner Ukraine can have peace. Because a credible long-term commitment shows Moscow that they cannot wait us out.

We also discussed ongoing initiatives to bring Ukraine ever closer to NATO membership. Such as capacity building to align Ukraine’s defence and security sectors with NATO standards, improve defence procurement, and enhance Ukraine’s defence-industrial base.

Today we have endorsed the first-ever NATO-Ukraine Innovation Cooperation Roadmap. Allies are preparing to endorse a NATO-Ukraine Joint Analysis, Training and Education Centre (JATEC) in Poland.

Tomorrow we will address how to further strengthen our deterrence and defence. Ministers will discuss a new Defence Industrial Pledge to scale up military production, and solidify long-term cooperation with our industry.

This is our last Ministerial Meeting before the Washington Summit in July, so we have a lot to get done.

With that I am ready to take your questions.

NATO Spokesperson Farah Dakhlallah: Okay, we'll go to the fourth row to ANSA first, please.

Mattia Bagnoli (ANSA): Hello there. Mattia Bagnoli, ANSA, National Italian News Agency. Secretary General the G7 has just reached an agreement. Basically, the leaders would provide 50 billion euros and this will be in the credit creative matter, because then it will be used against… the use of the imobilized Russian assets. Do you see this positive development and there is any chance that this package, this money pod would somehow come into the picture of what you are preparing for the financial pledges for Ukraine? Is this part of the picture or two separate things? And secondly, on the pledges, is there a little bit more clarity coming into the Ministerial in terms of how will be calculated you know, we've been talking about GDP as a share, quotas. You know, there is a little bit more clarity on that front? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: First, I welcome the decision by the G7 countries to use the frozen Russian assets, to make it possible for them to provide more economic support to Ukraine. As far as I understand this is a loan and it's not only going to go to military support. Of course, there are other things which is important to support, like funding the Ukrainian government and different types of macroeconomic stability support.

So, what will count against the NATO commitment will be military support and it’s too early to say exactly to what extent this will be covered by that decision. My proposal and that's not yet agreed among Allies, is that we should agree a minimum of 40 billion per year, because that will at least sustain the level of military support we have provided so far. NATO Allies provide 99% of the military support. And then by agreeing this for long term, we will ensure that Ukraine have predictability, that we have more accountability because we have seen some examples that Allies have promised support, but support has not been delivered. And we also have a system where we can have more accountability, meaning that we can agree actually how to account and how to measure, how to evaluate different types of support. To put a price on, for instance, old equipment, so it's easier to compare and therefore easier also to ensure that we have a fair burden sharing.

So, my proposal is about 40 billion minimum per year. It's about using GDP, as the method for burden sharing - you pay according to your GDP. The US GDP is roughly 50% of NATO's total GDP. So, then the US will then be responsible for 50% of that commitment. And then the rest will be divided between European Allies and Canada. So multi-year, GDP as a cost-share and the 40 billion, but this will only then cover military assistance. There are many other types of assistance that have to come in addition, but will be outside the NATO commitment.

I hope and I expect NATO Allies will agree this, because the Ukrainians need predictability. We need to prevent what we saw over the last months with serious delays in the provision of military support. That actually created big problems for Ukrainians on the battlefield. And we need also to convey to President Putin that he cannot wait us out. The more he believes that he can just stay on and then we will give up, then this war will continue. So, the stronger we communicate, and the clearer we demonstrate that we are ready for the long haul, the sooner this war can end because this war can end when President Putin realizes that they will not win on the battlefield.

NATO Spokesperson: Okay, we'll go to Teri.

Teri Schultz (Deutsche Welle): Thank you. Teri Schultz, Deutsche Welle. Secretary General, what makes you think that your plan would encourage Allies to continue donating at the level they are now or to speed it up? Because for example, it's very puzzling why they're just getting air defence together now when we've seen the Ukrainians come here now for almost two years asking for air defence. So why is this just happening now, two years later. Same thing with ammunition, the industry scaled up and you still weren't getting the orders, you aren't getting the orders now that would be potentially produced if they were making these orders. So how will your plan actually maintain or perhaps scale up support to Ukraine if needed?

NATO Secretary General: It will scale up our support because it will be a long-term commitment, and that will give Ukraine, but also the defence industry the predictability they need to plan, to invest, to ramp up production. And, it will also ensure that we deliver more because we have more transparency and more accountability. And we can use the NATO structure, the NATO  institutions to then work with Allies to ensure that they deliver what they have promised. So, Allies have already delivered unprecedented amount of military support to Ukraine, much more than I think most experts believed at the beginning of the war and at least much more than President Putin believed. He underestimated the Ukrainians but also totally underestimated NATO Allies in providing support to Ukraine.

But since we need to do more, we need to ensure that this is for the long term. I strongly believe that we need a stronger framework, institutionalized framework around our support to ensure the predictability, the accountability and the long term - both the industry needs to ramp up production, but also Ukraine needs to ensure that they are actually able to plan for the long haul.

Then on defence spending, no, sorry, on air defence and production. So, production is now increasing. It's obvious that we could have started even earlier, but now we see the result of the efforts by NATO Allies not least by agreeing to do more joint procurement that we buy and ordered things together. The United States just before the war started produced roughly 14,000 155 mm pieces of artillery ammunition per month. That is now 28,000 per month, and the plan is to be at 100,000 per month by the end of next year. And we have seen similar increases in the production of heavy artillery ammunition across Europe. So, things are now starting to happen. New factories are built, investments are made. And that's also the case for air defence. The decision has been taken to build a new factory in Germany to produce Patriot interceptors and production is ramping up and Allies are providing more air defence.

NATO Spokesperson:  Okay, we'll go to TV2 Norway.

Eline Sørsdahl (TV2 Norway):  Eline Sørsdahl from TV2 Norway. Secretary General your successor has not yet been appointed. Outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the Dutch Prime Minister is supported by almost all member states, except from Hungary. Secretary General, did you discuss this matter with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán during your visit in Budapest yesterday?

NATO Secretary General: I have a very good visit to Budapest, yesterday. I met for several hours with the Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. We covered a wide range of issues which are of importance for NATO and that includes also that we were able to find a way forward on Ukraine. Prime Minister Orbán has made it clear that Hungary will not be part of increased efforts by NATO to coordinate and provide security assistance and training for Ukraine and Hungary will not be part of the long-term financial commitment. I said that I recognize that, but I also welcome the fact that Prime Minister Orbán made it clear that Hungary will not block decisions here at NATO to decide a long-term pledge and decide a NATO support, security assistance and training support for Ukraine. So, I think that's a good solution that will enable us to move forward on more support for Ukraine within the NATO framework without Hungary blocking. And that's, again, a solution that works and that was reached in Budapest yesterday. On Mark Rutte, we discussed many different issues during that meeting with the Prime Minister Orbán, but I will not go into all of them in public. This is part of these kinds of consultations that some of them have to be confidential.

NATO Spokesperson:  Okay, over to Dmytro.

Dmytro Shkurko (Ukrinform): Thank you, Dmytro Shkurko, National News Agency of Ukraine. Secretary General just in one day, Switzerland will host the Peace Summit, just to promote the peace formula by President Zelenskyy. Does NATO have some kind of expectations of income of this meeting and how the situation on the battlefield could influence on its results and generally speaking, what kind of principles are acceptable for NATO in peace settlement? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: We welcome the Peace Summit. We strongly support efforts to find a peaceful solution. We welcome that many countries will participate and NATO Allies will be present at the Peace Summit. Then, one of the most important principles or perhaps the main principle for NATO, is that it's for Ukraine to decide what is an acceptable solution, so we will not sit in the NATO Headquarters and decide what is acceptable or not acceptable for Ukraine. Ukraine is a sovereign independent nation. Ukraine has been attacked. Ukraine has the right to self-defence, we support and help Ukraine to uphold that right. And that doesn't make NATO Allies a party to the conflict and at the end of the day, it has to be Ukraine that decides what is acceptable. What we do know is that what happens around the negotiating table is inextricably linked to the situation on the battlefield. So, if you want a negotiated peaceful solution to the conflict in Ukraine that ensures that Ukraine can continue as a democratic, sovereign nation in Europe, the way to get there is to provide military support to Ukraine, and therefore NATO's task is to provide long term military support to Ukraine, to make it obvious, to demonstrate, to show for President Putin that he has to sit down and accept that Ukraine prevails.


NATO Spokesperson: Okay, Yonhap News Agency please.

Binna Chung (Yonhap News Agency): Thank you, Binna from Yonhap News Agency. Secretary General, South Korean officials expected President Putin might visit Pyongyang within days and how worried are you on the deepening relationship between North Korea and Russia? And another question, if I may. You mentioned this morning that NATO is working on the concrete deliverables with the Asia-Pacific partners and could you share some more details about in which field for this to come?

NATO Secretary General: We are concerned about the fact that Russia and North Korea are aligning more and more. We have seen how North Korea has provided substantial amount of ammunition, but also other types of military support to Russia to enable them to conduct a war of aggression against Ukraine. We have seen thousands of containers being loaded on railroad cars in North Korea and then transported directly to Russia to the frontlines in Ukraine. And this is more than 1 million rounds of artillery provided by North Korea to Russia’s war of aggression. In return, Russia is sharing technology, supporting North Korea's missile programs. And we also believe nuclear aspirations or nuclear programs. So of course this is of concern. The visit just demonstrates how authoritarian powers, North Korea and Russia are working together and supporting each other. And that makes it even more important that we stand together and uphold the sovereign rights of nations to choose our own path, support Ukraine, and protect democratic values and freedom. That's also one of the reasons why it is important for NATO to work more closely with our Asia-Pacific partners, including South Korea. It’s too early to announce exactly what the decisions will be but issues related to cyber, technology, maritime security are areas where we have common interests where we believe there's potential for doing more together with South Korea and other partners in the Asia-Pacific region.

NATO Spokesperson: Okay, we'll take one or two more Stuart Lau, POLITICO over there.

Stuart Lau (POLITICO): Thank you Stuart Lau from POLITICO. Secretary General, you have previously talked about the need for Western nations in NATO to allow Ukraine to use their weapons to strike out Russian targets inside Russian territories. Have you seen enough Allies make the move in that approach in allowing Ukraine to do that? If not, are you dissatisfied? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: On some of these issues, it will be wrong to go into all the operational details because some Allies don't want to share that and I fully understand. And it's not obvious that we should give Russia the privilege of having access to all information about how different weapons can be used. So what I can say is that Russia is responsible for a war of aggression, they have invaded Ukraine. That's a blatant violation of international law. According to international law, Ukraine has the right to self-defence and the right of self-defence includes also the right to strike legitimate military targets on the territory of the aggressor, Russia. And this is an important principle, but it's also very important when now Russia has opened a new front in the north. Most of the fighting so far has taken place on deep inside Ukrainian territory. But after Russia opened the front against Kharkiv, then actually the frontline and the borderline is more or less the same. And Russia is launching missile attacks, artillery attacks, air attacks from bases, airfields in Russia directly against Ukrainian territory over the border. And it would really undermine Ukraine's ability to defend itself, to uphold the right to self-defence if it wasn’t possible for them to use weapons to repel those attacks. It will actually be to ask them to defend themselves with one hand tied on the back. So this is the reason why I also welcome that some Allies have eased the restrictions.

NATO Spokesperson: Okay, we’ll give the final question to AFP, Max.

Max Delaney (AFP):  Thanks so much, Secretary General Max Delaney, AFP. Two questions, if I may, on the Washington Summit, so you will give Ukraine no invite for membership. You will give them an unenforceable pledge on funding to carry on doing what you're doing, and you'll give them a greater NATO coordination and delivery with that it's very unclear what added value that will have for Ukraine. Doesn’t this all risk being very underwhelming for a country that's currently at war with Russia? And on a second issue, Russia today said that they were sending unfairly imprisoned journalist Evan Gershkovich for trial on espionage charges. Can we have your reaction to that? Thanks.

NATO Secretary General: The freedom of press is a core principle for NATO and I joined the United States in calling on Russia to release the journalist Evan Gershkovich. He is a journalist, he is conducting his work as journalists for free media and therefore he should be released.

On the Washington Summit, I'm absolutely confident that the Washington Summit will demonstrate NATO's unwavering and strong support to Ukraine. Both when it comes to immediate support but also long-term. When it comes to immediate support, I welcome that just of the last days and weeks, several Allies have made significant new announcements. Belgium just announced that they will donate 30 F-16’s. Sweden made the announcement of more than 1 billion Euros including advanced air surveillance planes and a lot of other military equipment. Spain, other Allies have made a big announcement announcements recently providing more immediate support which is of great importance for Ukraine.

This has enabled Ukrainians to stop the Russian advances. Russia has not succeeded in taking any significant territory in Kharkiv, even though they launched a big offensive there two weeks ago. And this is part of the broader picture where NATO Allies have provided unprecedented support to Ukraine. That has enabled Ukrainians to liberate 50% of the territory that Russia occupied the beginning of the war, enabled Ukrainians to sink a large number of the ships in the Russian Black Sea Fleet, to open the corridor and the Black Sea. At the beginning of the war, I think very few people believed that was possible that but Ukrainians have proven that's possible, not least with support from NATO Allies. And they continue to conduct deep strikes and inflict heavy losses on Russia. The casualty numbers varies but we have seen thousands and even more casualties per day for the Russians in their attempts to take control over more Ukrainian land. And they have not been able to make any more than marginal gains.

So we are building on this effort when we are saying that we will give more and will sustain and will be committed for the long haul. And it's no doubt that if this is part of a NATO decision, a NATO commitment, it's a much stronger commitment than ad-hoc short-term announcements with not always the level of transparency and accountability that we should like to see. But with a NATO commitment and within NATO role in providing the support, we will have more predictability, more transparency and more accountability. That's what NATO can provide. And therefore we also have more and more credible long-term support for Ukraine.

So it's about the immediate support that I expect Allies to provide as they have provided over the last weeks. There are new announcements today. There will be new announcements as we move towards the Summit. It's about the long-term commitment with money and military support. And then it's about clear language. It's too early to say exactly but we're working on language when it comes to membership. So the combination of all is substantial. It's important. And of course we do all this in close connection with Ukraine. I met with the Minister Umerov today, Zelenskyy some weeks ago and we are developing all these deliverables, all these decisions together with Ukrainians.

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

NATO Secretary General: Thanks so much.