Press conference

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

  • 14 Jun. 2024 -
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  • Last updated: 14 Jun. 2024 15:19

(As delivered)

Good afternoon.

Today we have concluded our last meeting of ministers before the NATO Summit in Washington next month. Our key agenda items were support for Ukraine and deterrence and defence of the Alliance. We have made significant progress on both fronts.

On Ukraine,

We have agreed a plan that sets out how NATO will lead the coordination of security assistance and training. This will allow NATO Leaders to launch this effort at the Washington Summit in July. Putting our support to Ukraine on a firmer footing for years to come. 

It will consist of a NATO command, located at a U.S. facility in Wiesbaden, and at Logistical nodes in the Eastern part of the Alliance under a 3-Star General reporting to Supreme Allied Commander Europe, SACEUR. Across the Alliance, this effort is expected to involve nearly 700 personnel from NATO and partner countries.

NATO will oversee training of Ukrainian armed forces at training facilities in Allied countries, support Ukraine through the planning and coordination of donations; manage transfer and repair of equipment, provide support to the long-term development of Ukraine’s Armed Forces.

These efforts do not make NATO a party to the conflict, but they will enhance our support to Ukraine to uphold its right to self-defence.

NATO Security Assistance and Support for Ukraine is a key Summit deliverable. Alongside a long-term financial pledge, and further steps on Ukraine’s path to NATO membership.

Ministers also addressed the ongoing campaign of hostile acts that Russia is conducting against Allies.

In recent weeks, we have seen a surge of sabotage, cyber-attacks, instrumentalized migration and other hostile actions by Russia.

We will be calm and measured in how we respond to Russian provocations. At the same time, we will call out Russia’s actions and impose costs.

Today, Ministers agreed a set of response options on which Allies will draw individually and collectively.

This includes increased intelligence exchange, enhanced protection of critical infrastructure, including undersea and in cyber space, and further restrictions on Russian intelligence operatives.

Russia’s campaign will not deter us from supporting Ukraine. And we will continue to protect our territories and populations against hostile actions. 

On deterrence and defence,
At the Vilnius Summit, Allies agreed the most comprehensive defence plans since the Cold War, detailing how NATO will deter and defend against global threats, including Russia.

Our military planners are translating those plans into concrete requirements, identifying the forces and capabilities needed to defend us.

Allies are offering forces to NATO’s command at a scale not seen in decades. 

Today we haves 500,000 troops at high readiness across all domains, significantly more than the goal that was set at the 2022 Madrid Summit.

NATO has also doubled the number of battle groups on the Eastern flank. Allies are also taking on larger, more demanding exercises to test our abilities.

This year, Steadfast Defender included some 90,000 troops across Europe.

The growing threats we face demand significantly increased capability requirements from Allies. In areas such as weapons and ammunition, air and missile defence, logistics and long-range weapons.

As an example, over the next five years, NATO Allies across Europe and Canada plan to acquire thousands of air defence and artillery systems, 850 modern aircraft, mostly 5th generation F-35s and also a lot of high-end capabilities.

We also continue to invest in innovation, including more than 1 billion dollars in the NATO Innovation Fund,

At the Summit in July, Allies are expected to endorse a new Defence Industrial Pledge to send a signal of sustainable demand to industry.

This will allow us to scale up production and to develop a defence-industrial base that is fit-for-purpose. We also discussed the ongoing adaptation of our nuclear capabilities.

We are a nuclear Alliance — committed to being responsible and transparent. But clear in our resolve to preserve peace, prevent coercion, and deter aggression.

With the progress made at this Ministerial we are ready to move on to our Summit in Washington which will be an important summit for the Alliance.

With that, I'm ready to take your questions.

Farah Dakhlallah, NATO Spokesperson: Okay. I will start in the third row with Lara.

Lara Jakes, The New York Times: Sorry. Good afternoon, Mr. Secretary General. Yesterday at the G7, President Biden said there are commitments to give Ukraine five additional Patriot batteries or other air defence systems, this week at this DMM, you have talked about the SAMP/T from Italy. You've talked about the third battery that Germany has given. You've talked about the Patriot puzzle initiative that's being led by the Netherlands. What's your understanding of where the other two batteries are coming from? Are they coming from the Alliance? And could you talk a little bit more about the Netherlands-led initiative to gather pieces of a battery from Allies? Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General: NATO Allies are delivering advanced air defence systems to Ukraine. And that includes the Patriots and the SAMP/Ts you have referred to already. Then I'm confident that also other Allies will step up. But I will not announce the specific countries now. We are in close contact with several Allies on this issue. That what the Netherlands is trying to do is to put together a package because a Patriot battery consists of many elements, a command element, different firing stations, radars, and also other elements that all together also establish or consist of a full Patriot battery. So what they are trying to do is to find other countries that have other elements and then put these together as a full-fledge Patriot battery, of course, at NATO we support those efforts, we will work closely with Allies to ensure the delivery of more advanced air defence systems to Ukraine.

Lara Jakes, The New York Times: Could you be more specific on who’s giving what?

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General: No, I know exactly which countries you’re talking about. But I think it will only make my –once I say consultations with either Allies more difficulty if I started to name them. We are working on these issues. We are talking with Allies. And as soon as they make decisions they will be announced.

Lara Jakes, The New York Times: Can you at least say what timeline for delivery [inaudible].

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General: As soon as possible. And we have been working on this for some weeks, some Allies have made the announcements, some others are working on concrete things like the Netherlands, and then we are still consulting with other Allies.

Farah Dakhlallah, NATO Spokesperson: Okay, thank you. We'll go to Dan.

Dan Michaels, The Wall Street Journal: Thank you, Dan Michaels with the Wall Street Journal. Two questions, if I may. First, this weekend in Switzerland, there is a peace summit if it can be called that, that Ukraine has pushed to organise but some major governments including China, Saudi Arabia, India are not there. Do you have any expectations of what can be achieved there? What do you see in terms of efforts off the battlefield to achieve peace? And separately, you mentioned Russian aggression in Europe, there's a push within the European Union to limit the movement of Russian diplomats in Europe, to not give them the benefit of the Schengen treaty and keep them in the countries that they're assigned to. Do you have an opinion on the wisdom or lack thereof for that suggestion? Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General: First of all, I welcome the peace summit in Switzerland. I think that's an important platform to address how to find a lasting, just peace for Ukraine, and the different elements which are in the peace plan proposed by President Zelenskyy are all important for a lasting peace. The territorial integrity of Ukraine, compensation and also the return of people who have been forced to move from their homes and there are many other elements which are important element –parts of his peace plan and I think it's important that countries from all over the world will convene in Switzerland and to address this way forward. Then, of course, I regret that some big powers are not present. That's their decision but it continues to be an important summit and an important effort which I and NATO support. Then, of course, what we all know is that to have a lasting and just peace. Russia needs to understand that they have to stop their aggression against Ukraine. And I strongly believe that the stronger our military support to Ukraine is and the more committed we are for long term, the sooner President Putin will understand that and the sooner we can have a lasting peace. So therefore, there is a connection between the peace summit, the peace efforts, and NATO's military support to Ukraine. The military support that NATO, NATO Allies are providing and also the plan that we have agreed today and which I expect then NATO leaders to launch at the NATO Summit in July, to solidify our military support from NATO Allies to Ukraine. That's actually a way to help to support efforts to try to find a negotiated lasting, just peace then when it comes to Russian intelligence operatives, many Allies and also NATO has, have already expelled a large number. This has happened in the past, this is something we constantly consider as a necessary action to counter the hostile actions that Russia is responsible for. And there is a pattern now, there is an intensified campaign by Russia to conduct hostile actions, sabotage, arson, cyberattacks against NATO Allies. There have been several arrests across the Alliance, in United Kingdom, in Poland, in Germany and in other –in the Baltic countries, all people that are accused of working with Russian intelligence services, to conduct sabotage against infrastructure, and other facilities in our countries, then to restrict the movement of these Russian intelligence officers is actually something which has already been imposed. But we are welcoming further actions by Allies to further restrict the movement of Russian intelligence officers.

Farah Dakhlallah, NATO Spokesperson: Okay, we'll go to RAI in the third row. Thank you.

Marilu Lucrezio, RAI: Thank you, Secretary General and Italy's asking since a long time, the implementation of defence plans in the Southern neighbourhood, how the discussion is evolving. And what do you think there will be any news in the NATO Summit in July about this? Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General: So first of all, the South is of course important for NATO. Our Southern neighbourhood is important for NATO. NATO has the capabilities, the resolve to act in any direction if needed. And that's also reason why I have asked for an established –a group of experts that presented their report on how NATO can both utilise the opportunities in our Southern neighbourhood, but also address the challenges we face in our Southern neighbourhood and not least in Africa. This report is now part of what we are addressing at NATO and I'm certain that it will lead to decisions, conclusions by Allies to further strengthen our approach to the challenges we see in our Southern neighbourhood. NATO has some presence, we have a training mission in Iraq. We have close partnerships with countries like Jordan, like Mauritania, with Tunisia and others, but of course we can do more, then I think it's important to remember that when we now are ramping up the readiness of NATO forces when we are investing in new military capabilities, that's also relevant for the South. I just announced the number, 500,000 NATO troops on high readiness and of course they can be used in any direction if needed. It is not as if they are earmarked for the East they are available for NATO when needed, if needed. So when Allies are investing in more aid on a 50 –new advanced aircraft, including a lot of fifth generation aircraft, of course that's relevant for the South. So that the –kind of in general, strengthening our deterrence and defence, investment in high end capabilities is also relevant for the south and it will be part of our response to any threats emanating from the south.


Farah Dakhlallah, NATO Spokesperson: Max. Second row, please. Thank you.

Max Delaney, AFP: Thank you very much. Max Delaney from AFP. Two questions. On the first one, the Italian defence minister came out of the meeting and said that, and I quote, of your proposal about 40 billion commitment per year. There are no 40 billion, Italy's said it doesn't agree with a commitment of 40 billion. Is your proposal to get a pledge of around that amount each year off the table now? And then a second question on NATO's defence plans. How far off is NATO being able to execute the plan, you agreed then in Vilnius because we've heard a lot about capability gaps, it seems that on critical things like air defence, these aren't just gaps, they're yawning chasms. So how far –how will you fill these? Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General: I’m going to start with the last one. NATO is able today to defend and protect all Allies. We are by far the strongest military force in the world. We represent 50% of the world's military might and of course, we have the capabilities to defend all Allies today. We have demonstrated that to our large exercises, the largest exercises since the end of the Cold War, not least with Steadfast Defender. We had just some few months ago. So and that includes of course, also, for instance, a lot of advanced air defence, both ground based but you have to realise that for instance, our advanced aircraft F-35s are also very capable of doing air defence, we have sea-based air defence systems, as we have more and more land-based air defence systems. And now 500,000 troops on high readiness and of course, with different types of capabilities. I say this because yes, of course, there are some work to do to meet all the requirements in the new defence plans. We agreed a year ago, very, very ambitious defence plans. And of course, to fill all those requirements will take some time. But that doesn't mean that we start from scratch we start on a very solid basis, then we look into the future, we see that we need even stronger collective defence. And then we agree defence plans and then we translate those defence plans into concrete requirements including specific capability targets for each and every Ally. And of course, some of these things will take years. That's unavoidable it has to be like that. But that doesn't mean that in the meantime, we don't have capabilities. We have lots of capabilities. We set even higher targets and of course, we will then in the following years, fill those targets meet those requirements and under the way to demonstrate that is not least the fact that we are also ramping up significantly defence spending. And I will next week, publish a new numbers, figures for defence spending across the lines and they are very encouraging so that's the first one.

The second was well, also, there are in one way there are four main things we have to deliver for Ukraine as we prepare for the Washington summit. One is the immediate need for capabilities now. For instance, air defence, some Allies have announced I expect more or less to announce more support. I will tell you the names when they are ready to be told. But we need ammunition, we need more F-16s, Allies are providing stepping up and announcing there were big announcements yesterday. There'll be new announcements in the coming days and weeks. So that's the most urgent thing we need to do is actually to deliver urgent military supplies support to Ukraine. Then there are three more things and that's the NATO Security Assistance and Training for Ukraine. The plan has been agreed today. And for NATO leaders than to launch at the NATO summit next week. And I outlined some of the elements of that with NATO providing training at NATO training facilities, coordinating and planning donations and so on.

The second element will then be the long-term financial pledge and we have not yet agreement on that. But I work and many Allies are very supportive of the idea that we need not only to have short term pledges, they are welcome of course, but if we could have more long-term predictable pledges, it will give the Ukrainians a better planning assumptions. It will give more predictability and transparency and assure a minimal or fair burden sharing within the alliance and most importantly, it will send a message to Moscow that they cannot wait us out. And under last element of the Ukraine package is then to ensure that we move Ukraine closer to membership. That's part an issue of language, which is now negotiated, but also of course, everything we do interoperability moving Ukraine, closer to NATO, when it comes to integration will help them also to sooner, faster, quicker, become a NATO Ally. So these are the four elements. We have one important decision in place today. We actually have also big announcements on the immediate needs. But then we need to work on the language for membership and we need to work on the financial pledge. We still have some weeks to go before Washington. So if you show up in Washington, I can tell you more.

Iryna Kutieleva, European Pravda: Mr. Stoltenberg. Could you provide with some details? What will the new plan for NATO Security Assistance and Training change for Ukraine? Comparing to what NATO is doing now? Thank you. Iryna Kutieleva, European Pravda.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General: Well, the NATO Security Assistance and Training for Ukraine will provide Ukraine with a better coordinated support, more cohesion between the short term needs and the long-term future Force of Ukraine. Not least because NATO only has the responsibility for work on the long-term force and also the interoperability and when we then integrate that with what we do in the short term, all of those efforts will be much stronger, more robust and more consistent. For instance, when we discuss the long-term future Force of Ukraine, which is extremely important to be able for Ukraine when this war ends to deter future aggression and defend against any future attack. Of course, when Allies deliver F-16s this is partly about the short-term needs, but it has to be integrated into the long-term structure of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and by having a NATO in the lead role we are ensuring that the support is more robust, more coherent, and that we ensure interoperability and that we reconcile the short term and the long-term needs. So I think what NATO will do is that by overseeing training of Ukrainian armed forces at NATO training facilities in allied countries, support Ukraine through the planning and coordination of donations, and manage transfer and repair of equipment. And then support the long term developmental of Ukraine armed forces will ensure that Ukraine has even more robust support than they have today.

Xenia Polska, Deutsche Welle: Thank you, Xenia Polska, Deutsche Welle. My question is on hybrid attacks by Russia. Would you please touch a little bit upon the geography of these hybrid attacks because you said sabotage and arson. Are these attacks actually happening in every NATO member state and is their scope and scale increasing in every NATO member state? And also, what are the concrete measures that the member states and I know you already touched upon that as well, but what are some concrete measures that you can talk about that the member states can collectively and individually take in order to mitigate the damage which is obviously taking place right now? Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General: It is important that we react in a calm and measured way, that we don't in a way overreact to what are Russian provocations at the same time, we have to take this very seriously. And that's the reason why we, over last weeks at NATO, have helped Allies to increase awareness, why at NATO have stepped up the exchange of intelligence and some of these intelligence that NATO Allies have helped to provide to each other. And that has been shared through the NATO platforms have actually helped to lead to some arrests and also prevent some of the planned sabotage actions. So we use NATO in an active way to help Allies individual Allies to prevent sabotage, but also to make arrests and to take actions individually. Of course, these are now legal processes going on in several allied countries. You have the United Kingdom, you have Germany, you have Poland, you have some of the Baltic countries, and there are also some more, and they're out there in the public domain. What NATO has done is to partly make Allies aware that these are not kind of individual random things, they're part of a campaign from Russia or a campaign of hostile actions. Russia is behind and our intelligence have been helpful in helping Allies to protect themselves or to take actions so it is about increasing awareness. It's about sharing intelligence. It's about increasing protection of critical infrastructure, warehouses, all the things which have been attacked, cyber and also to impose further restrictions on Russian intelligence personnel and sometimes also to send them out of our countries and restrict their ability to move around. In NATO Allied countries. There's a wide range of issues, taking partly collectively as NATO and partly NATO is helping Allies to take individual actions.

Valeria Proshchenko, Interfax Ukraine: Valeria Proshchenko, Interfax Ukraine. You may have heard that Putin promised on Friday that he will immediately order a ceasefire in Ukraine and begin negotiations with Kyiv as if Kyiv started to withdraw troops from the four regions and renounced plans to join NATO. Can you please comment on and maybe some comments about nuclear threats also from Putin, thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General: It's not for Ukraine to withdraw forces from Ukrainian territory. It's for Russia to withdraw their forces from occupied Ukrainian land. And this proposal is a proposal that actually means that Russia should have the right to occupy even more Ukrainian land or the four provinces that they claim are not Ukrainian. So this just demonstrates that this is not a proposal made in good faith. But this is a proposal that actually means that Russia should achieve their war games aims by expecting that that Ukraine should give up significantly more land than Russia has been able to occupy so far. So this is not a peace proposal. This is a proposal of more aggression, more occupation. And it demonstrates in a way that Russia's aim is to control Ukraine and that has been the purpose of Russia since the beginning of this war. And that's a blatant violation of international law and that's also the reason why NATO Allies continue to support Ukraine.