Joint press conference

with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken

  • 18 Jun. 2024 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 19 Jun. 2024 14:16

(As delivered)

US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken

Good morning, everyone.

In just a few weeks time, we'll gather here in Washington for NATO's 75th summit, celebrating 75 years of strength, of unity, of growth, of innovation in our Alliance, but also critically looking forward to make sure that NATO is fit for purpose for the challenges of today and the challenges tomorrow. 

Making sure that this Alliance continues to do what it's done so effectively for the last 75 years. And that's protect our people. And I think it's an opportunity as well, to remind all of our citizens about the power of collective defence, the power of collective defence as the best way to prevent conflict, to deter aggression, to avoid war. Because at the heart of NATO is a commitment from each Ally, to come to the defence of any other Ally, that may be the victim of aggression, and that means the would-be aggressor considering taking action knows that, if they pick a fight with one, they pick a fight with all. And that is the most effective, powerful way to do what we all want to do, which is to prevent war from occurring in the first place. So these investments that we're making, in our defensive Alliances are the best possible investments we can make, in preventing conflict, avoiding conflict, deterring aggression. Secretary General and I were together in Prague with all of our Allies just a couple of weeks ago, working through the key decisions ahead of the July Summit, and of course, critically, Secretary General was here with President Biden yesterday, working to help finalize these details and very important ones, we continue that conversation today. 

We have very ambitious commitments that we're making as an Alliance going forward. We're demonstrating our enduring support for Ukraine and providing a strong bridge to Ukraine's membership in the Alliance. We're establishing a NATO command in Wiesbaden, coordinating training, security assistance, equipment, its transfer, its repair, its maintenance. 

We’re strengthening our collective deterrence and defence. We're implementing the robust plans that Allies agreed to, the most robust plans for defence and deterrence since the end of the Cold War, meeting the long term challenge that Russia poses to the Transatlantic Alliance and to security. We're growing our defence industrial basis to make sure that all of our countries can effectively produce what's needed for our defence. And critically, and you heard President Biden and Secretary General addressed this yesterday, we are boosting our burden sharing, making sure that every Ally is standing up and carrying the weight of our collective defence. As the Secretary General announced yesterday, 23 Allies, 23 Allies out of the 32 now meet the 2% target, the target of spending 2% of GDP on defence, a target established in 2014 at the Wales Summit, when President Biden took office in 2021. Nine Allies were meeting that mark, now it is 23. And we've also seen, as the Secretary General said yesterday, an 18% increase in defence spending across the Alliance. That's the largest in a decade, and it is necessary to meet the challenges of this time. 

We're also making sure that our Alliances strengthening partnerships with other countries, including countries out of the transatlantic area, particularly deepening coordination, with partners in the Indo Pacific who were present at the at the summit, as well as within the transatlantic community with the European Union, a critical partner for all of us. The Alliance recognizes that security challenges, in one part of the world, impact another and vice versa. 

So what's happening in the transatlantic space has real consequences and implications for the Indo Pacific and other areas, just as what's happening in the Indo Pacific space has real implications for our Allies. And there's a recognition of that, and that recognition is turning into concrete and strong partnerships. Prime Minister Kishida may have said this best in the context of Ukraine when he said what's happening in Ukraine today, may well be happening in East Asia tomorrow. We're also adapting and building resilience to emerging threats and this is also something that you'll see underscored at the summit. 

Cyber hybrid attacks and threats, as well as other challenges to security that we've seen manifests themselves in different ways in recent years, including things like pandemics. NATO has to be fit for purpose to deal with all of these. 

Two other points I want to make quickly before turning it over to the Secretary General. I mentioned already that the summit will focus on bolstering Ukraine's long term success. From day one, as the battlefield has evolved, so too has our support for Ukraine. Partners, the Alliance, the United States, have all adapted and helped Ukraine deal with what it had to deal with in terms of warding off this Russian aggression. Now, thanks to the supplemental, which passed Congress after many months, but it did pass and it passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. 

We've now been working these recent weeks to speed all of that assistance to the front lines to make sure that Ukrainians have what they needed in hand to deal with the ongoing Russian aggression. And we've seen I think that be very effective in terms of stabilizing the front lines and making sure that the Russians could be stopped in their offensive so they can get the big prints of course as we settle on what makes the biggest difference is the extraordinary courage and resilience of Ukrainians themselves, both in dealing with the challenges in Kharkiv and in the east, but also taking the fight as necessary to Russia and Crimea, as well as in the Black Sea. 

The bilateral assistance agreement that the United States signed just a few days ago, President Biden and President Zelenskyy, that marks now the, I think, 17 bilateral security agreement has been signed since President Biden announced this initiative on the margins of the G7 a year ago. And by the time of the summit, we expect that the NATO Summit, we expect that some 20 countries, and maybe more will have concluded their bilateral security agreements with Ukraine. This is proof, clear proof, that all of our countries are with Ukraine for the long haul. And that if Mr. Putin is counting on outlasting Ukraine, or outlasting any of us, he is misguided. He's wrong. And again, I think you'll see the summit, further emphasis on that.

We're also as necessary, imposing new sanctions on Russia to keep the pressure off so that the aggression ultimately ends. And among other things, we're looking at countries that are supporting Russia's defence industrial base, which is allowing Russia to continue the war, including China's. President Biden's make clear. We have a real concern not with weapons being supplied by China. To Russia. That's not what they're doing. But they are doing, as you've heard me, discussed many times, is providing critical support to Russia's defence industrial base. So 70% of the machine tools that Russia is importing are coming from China. 90% of the microelectronics coming from China and that has enabled Russia to keep that defence industrial base going, to keep the war machine going to keep the war going. So that has to stop. 

We, as well are doing everything we can to provide the necessary support to Ukraine beyond the supplemental. You saw partners come together across the G7 and beyond to be able to use effectively some of the Russian sovereign assets that are primarily in Europe, and that now are being leveraged to provide some $50 billion to Ukraine in additional assistance, and we'll continue to look at that. We had a very effective recovery conference just a few days ago as well, looking at other forms of enduring support for Ukraine, including in the energy sector. The bottom line is this. 

The Ukraine strategy that we've had, and that we've been acting on, individually and collectively now for nearly two and a half years, is showing effective results, effective results in making sure that Ukraine can ward off Russian aggression. And it's done that remarkably, keep in mind Putin objective from day one was to erase Ukraine from the map, to end its existence as an independent country, to subsume it into Russia. That has failed. But going forward, we want to make sure that Ukraine is a success that it stands strongly on its own feet, militarily, economically, democratically. And that's exactly what we're enabling Ukraine to do. And that is the mark of success going forward. 

Again, decisions that will be made at the summit will further that effort, and more to be said in a few weeks time. Finally, heading into the 75th Summit. We have an alliance that is stronger that is bigger, that is more fit for purpose than at any time in recent years. That's thanks to the effort that every Ally has made the commitments that every Ally has made. But it's also fundamentally thanks to the leadership of one individual, and that is the person standing beside me. The Secretary General of NATO for this past decade, Jens Stoltenberg. Jens, you have led the Alliance at a time of historic change, historic challenge, and the results are there for everyone to see. This would not have happened without your leadership. And it's truly been extraordinary.

Now, some of you know that Secretary General is particularly fond of numbers wise to recite them. I understand that you even told one interviewer that if you could bring just one book to a desert island, it would be a book on statistics.

I have things I could say about that, that I won't. But let's just remind a few numbers of  statistics because they do show what's happened over this remarkable decade with the Secretary General's leadership. Four new Allies in our Alliance, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Finland, Sweden. Multinational battle groups in eight countries, enhancing NATO's defence posture. 75% of the citizens in allied nations say that NATO is important to their security. These numbers speak powerfully for themselves. 

At every step, Secretary General has set the tone. He's built consensus among the 32 countries. His vision, his achievements, will pay dividends for this Alliance far into the future. So, Jens' contributions ultimately can't be fully quantified. But neither can the gratitude of the United States and all of our Allies to you, Mr. Secretary. Thank you.


NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

Secretary Blinken, 

Dear Tony, thank you for your kind words and thank you for your support throughout these years in different ways. 

Thank you also for your very strong commitment to NATO and to our transatlantic Alliance. And also thank you for your tireless efforts to end the suffering in the Middle East.

NATO was founded in Washington 75 years ago. Since then, the Alliance has been the ultimate security guarantee for all our members. 
Standing together, we prevent war and preserve peace. 

In NATO, the U.S. has 31 friends and Allies. Together, Allies represent half of the world’s economic and half of the world’s military might. 

Advancing U.S. interests and multiplying America’s power, 
NATO makes America stronger. Yesterday, as you mentioned Secretary Blinken with President Biden, I announced that NATO Allies are making major increases in defence spending.

This year, defence spending across Europe and Canada is up 18 percent, the biggest increase in decades.
23 Allies will meet the target of spending at least 2 percent of GDP on defence. This is more than twice as many as just four years ago. 

Since 2014, Europe and Canada have added over 640 billion extra in defence spending. 

This demonstrates a historic improvement in burden sharing within NATO. 

It shows that the United States does not need to shoulder the burden alone.  

And that the U.S. has a strong Alliance in which Allies are stepping up, year after year.  

And much of this increased defence spending is spent right here in the United States. 

Over the past two years, European Allies have signed contracts with American companies worth $140 billion.

Since 2014, NATO has undergone the most significant transformation in our collective defence in a generation.

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

We have 500,000 troops at high readiness, and we have doubled the number of battle groups in the eastern part of the Alliance. 

And with Sweden and Finland as members, we are stronger than ever. 

Russia’s war on Ukraine is a brutal assault on a peaceful democratic nation. 

This war is propped up by China, North Korea and Iran. 

They want to see the United States fail. They want to see NATO fail.

If they succeed in Ukraine, it will make us more vulnerable and the world more dangerous. 

So our support for Ukraine is not charity. It is in our own security interest. 

We all want this war to end.  But a Russian occupation of Ukraine offers no peace, And capitulation to Putin offers no security.

The stronger our support, the sooner the war will end.

Which is why I welcome the 10-year bilateral security agreement between the United States and Ukraine.

Europe is also doing its part, matching U.S. efforts in Ukraine.

And at the NATO Summit this July, here in Washington,  I expect European allies and Canada to come forward with more financial and military support.

And that leaders will agree that NATO takes the lead in coordinating the security assistance and training for Ukraine. 

All of this will reduce the burden on the United States. 

Secretary Blinken, I thank you and the US for hosting the Summit, which we all are looking forward to attend. 

At the Summit we will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the most successful Alliance in history, but also make important decisions for the future.

Thank you.


Let me turn to both of you. Russian President Vladimir Putin is going to North Korea, a first in 24 years, and the partnership of Russia, China and North Korea seems to be solidifying and emerging as a front against West rules-based order. How concerned are you about this partnership? Mr. Secretary General, particularly for you, do you see a collective NATO role to contain this emerging front and back to both of you again, what specifics do you have on how much North Korea is contributing to Russia's war machine? And what is your understanding that what Moscow is giving Pyongyang in return? Thank you.

Secretary General
I very much agree with what Secretary Blinken just stated, Putin's visits to North Korea demonstrates and confirms the very close alignment between Russia and authoritarian states like North Korea, but also China and Iran. And this also demonstrates that our security is not regional, it's global. What happens in Europe matters for Asia. What happens in Asia matters for us, and this is clearly demonstrated in Ukraine, where Iran, North Korea, China, are propping up, fuelling Russia's war aggression against Ukraine. So, this idea that we can divide security into regional theatres doesn't work anymore. Everything is intertwined and therefore we need to address these challenges together. We are of course also concerned about the potential support that Russia provides to North Korea when it comes to supporting their missile and nuclear programs. We see how much military support Russia gets from North Korea but also from Iran, and how China's propping up their war economy.
And this is also one of the reasons why, at NATO and at the NATO summit here in Washington next month, we will further strengthen our partnership with our partners in Asia Pacific region, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan. Also to address the fact that the challenges they see, we see, in Asia and Asia Pacific are directly linked to the challenges we face in Europe. And it will also say that I also fully agree that China cannot have it both ways. They cannot continue to have normal trade relationships with countries in Europe and at the same time, fuel the biggest war we have seen since the Second World War. So, at some stage this has to have consequences for China.

Question to both of you, Norway today still has a continued fishing cooperation with Russia. I am wondering how we should approach this moving forward and if there are or if you are concerned or we should be concerned about them taking advantage of this cooperation in light of Russian intelligence?

Secretary General
I'm not speaking on behalf of Norway, but what I can say is I expect all our allies to fully implement the sanctions sir, we have agreed within the EU framework and also individual allies have imposed. Then beyond that, I leave it to Norway to comment on how they implement the sanctions.

I’ll start with the Secretary General. We heard the Secretary of State about hybrid attacks against NATO frontline countries an issue he's talked about before particularly in Prague and a view that NATO would respond collectively, as is appropriate. What does that response look like? Perhaps you can elaborate on whether there is a response already or is this something that you think should take place in the future? Do you retaliate or try and create deterrence, so I'm just interested in how that happens. And is there evidence that such action can create deterrence?

Secretary General
On Russian hybrid actions against NATO allies in Europe, let me say that what we have seen over the last weeks or months is a surge in hostile actions by Russia against NATO allies and that includes sabotage, arson attempts, cyber-attacks, and also trying to use migration as a tool to coerce NATO allies. And we need to react to this in a calm and measured way but at the same time to take it very seriously. And that's also why NATO allies have agreed response options that the Allies can take both individually and collectively. On the NATO level, this is about increasing awareness, sharing intelligence, making Allies aware that this is not individual but there's actually a pattern or Russian behavior over some time. And I welcome also the US sharing a lot of intelligence on these actions with other NATO allies. Then it is about protecting our critical infrastructure, including undersea and cyber infrastructure. I've taken several steps to increase the protection of critical infrastructure. And then of course, many of these actions are met by individual actions in the individual member states. So there have been several arrests across the Alliance in the United Kingdom, in Poland, in Germany, in the Baltic countries, we have seen those behind this sabotage actions being arrested and there are legal processes going on. So that there is a mix of collective action by NATO and individual allies taking the necessary legal steps to protect us against this Russian behavior.

Mr Secretary General, China can't have it both ways. What kind of consequences should China, should be on China and you want to secure the long-term help to Ukraine. You have been talking about the fund, if I understand it correctly, the Alliance has in [inaudible] to an aid fund. What's your next step there? And if you soon get to read some more statistical books, what can you say about your possible successor? Thanks

NATO Secretary General:
First briefly on the question about China, it is too early to say exactly what kind of consequences, but I think just in itself, that more and more Allies recognize that it cannot continue the way it is like it is today, where China really tries to have a normal relationship with European NATO Allies, and at the same time are enabling Russia to conduct a war on aggression against European country, the biggest security challenges we have faced in Europe since the end of the Second World War and of course, unless China changes its behaviour, what kind of consequences should then this have for, instance, our trade relations too early to say, but it has to be an issue that we need to address, because to continue as we do today is not viable.
Then on, support for Ukraine. So we are discussing and we are addressing many deliverables on Ukraine before the upcoming NATO Summit. We have already agreed the plan for NATO training and security assistance for Ukraine. We have seen new announcements, and I expect also more announcement of more military support to Ukraine. I'm certain that we also have language expressing that Ukraine will become a member of the Alliance. And then you are right that I have also put forward proposals on a more long-term commitment, because I strongly believe that the stronger our support is, the more credible our long term commitment to Ukraine is, the sooner this war can end. The exact language, exact what we will agree is what Allies are now discussed among Allies but I'm confident to have a good solution agreement by the summit.
Then, normally, I don't say anything about my successor, because it's not for me to select my successor. But with the announcement by President or, sorry, Prime Minister Orbán today, I think it's obvious that we are very close to a conclusion in the Alliance, for Allies to select the next Secretary General. And I think that's good news. I think Mark Rutte is a very strong candidate. He has a lot of experience as Prime Minister. He's a close friend and colleague, and I therefore strongly believe that very soon the Alliance will have decided on my successor, and that will be good for all of us, for NATO and also for me. Thank you.