Doorstep statement

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the start of the 2024 NATO Summit in Washington

  • 10 Jul. 2024 -
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  • Last updated: 10 Jul. 2024 16:15

(As delivered)

Good morning.

Today and tomorrow, we will have the NATO Summit with all the Heads of State of Government of the Allies with us. This will be an historic Summit because we will celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the most successful Alliance in history.

But we will do more than celebrations. We will also make important decisions for the future on deterrence and defence, on Ukraine, and on how to expand our partnerships in particular with our partners in the Asia-Pacific.

On Ukraine, I expect Allies to agree a substantial package, which will consist of five elements. One is a NATO Command for Ukraine to provide security assistance and training. A long term pledge to continue and sustain our support to Ukraine. New announcements of immediate military support including air defence and new bilateral security agreements between NATO Allies and Ukraine. And then finally we will step up what to do to ensure full interoperability between Ukrainian forces and NATO forces including with a new training and education centre in Poland.

All together these five elements constitute a strong bridge for Ukraine to membership of the Alliance. And I’m confident that Allies will then reiterate their commitment that Ukraine will become a member of NATO.

On deterrence and defence, we will ensure that we have the forces in place to meet the requirements of our new and ambitious defence plans. We already have 500.000 troops on high readiness, the highest in decades.

We will also integrate a new ballistic defence site in Poland.

And of course the most important thing is that we now see that Allies are stepping up when it comes to defence investments. We made the pledge ten years ago at the NATO Summit in 2014, that Allies should spend 2% of GDP on defence. At that time, only 3 Allies spent 2% or more on defence. This year, 23 Allies will spend 2% or more of GDP on defence. This makes a big difference and demonstrates that Allies are taking security extremely serious.

The last thing I will say is that we will also meet the Heads of Federal Government from our Asia-Pacific partners, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea and the war in Ukraine demonstrates how our security is interlinked because Iran, North Korea and China are the main enablers of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

CNBC (United States)

Thank you, sir. So first of all, congratulations on your Presidential Medal of Freedom. So well deserved. So, it's so apt that we are in Washington DC, and no one coming into the country can ignore the feverish speculation and questioning around the leadership at the moment. Even Volodymyr Zelenskyy has very, very great concerns about US politicians, waiting to offer their support on both sides of the House before the November election. How much does the Alliance hang in the balance? I remember for well, you being lambasted, sir, in Brussels in 2018 by the then-President, Mr. Trump, as well, about European defence. We're all waiting on the election. Is that very dangerous for the North Atlantic Alliance?

NATO Secretary General

I expect that regardless of the outcome of the US elections, the US will remain a strong and staunch NATO Ally -  for three reasons.

One is that it is in the US security interest to have a strong NATO. NATO is good for Europe, but it's also good for United States. It makes the United States stronger and safer because in NATO, the United States has something no other Ally… no other major power has. And that is more than 30 friends and Allies. Russia doesn't have that, China does not have that. The United States has NATO, [it] makes the United States stronger.

The second reason why I believe that the United States will remain a strong Ally is that it has broad bipartisan support for NATO in the United States. Just now, new opinion polls demonstrating the broad support for NATO among US voters, but also in the US Congress. I will later on today go to the US Senate. And in the US Congress, there is strong bipartisan support for NATO.

And thirdly, the main criticism from former President Trump and also from others against NATO has actually not primarily been against NATO. It has been against NATO Allies not spending enough on NATO. And this has really changed. Just over the last two years, we have seen a dramatic increase in defence spending across Europe and Canada. And a record high number of Allies are now meeting the target of spending 2%, and those Allies who are not yet there, they have clear plans in place to be at  2% soon. So this is… for these reasons - US security interest is to have a strong NATO, strong bipartisan support, and that European Allies are stepping up, investing more - I expect that the United States will remain a strong Ally regardless of the outcome of the elections.

ARD (Germany)

Thank you, Secretary General. Should Ukraine's path to NATO be irreversible? And should this be explicitly mentioned in the Summit declaration? And another question, if I may: is this Summit the opportunity to finally deliver all seven requested air defence systems to Ukraine?

NATO Secretary General

First, on the exact language: I expect that Allies will agree a strong message on membership for Ukraine. But on the exact language, I will refrain to comment on - until we have a statement agreed. It is negotiated as we speak. I'm confident that we'll agree a statement later on today, and then I can go into the details about the language. [Inaudible] question to ask but I will be able to answer it more in detail soon.

On air defence, President Zelenskyy spoke to NATO Defence Ministers in April. That was when he asked for more air defence capabilities. We promised to work hard on that, and Allies have worked hard. I have worked, and NATO leaders have engaged. And we have now the announcement by President Biden and several other Allies yesterday that they will be able to deliver five new advanced strategic air defence systems. From United States, from Italy, from Romania, from the Netherlands, and also from one more Ally. And of course, this is a significant contribution. On top of that, we will also then ensure that they have more tactical air defence systems, including NASAMS. So we are constantly working on how we can deliver more. I think that the announcement that was made by President Biden yesterday is significant, but we continue to see if we can add more on top of that.

Yonhap (South Korea)

Thank you Secretary General, Yonhap news agency, South Korea. South Korea's cooperation with NATO has been growing. So how do you think this cooperative partnership between South Korea and NATO will help counter the deepening alignment between North Korea and Russia, and how this kind of cooperation partnership will help enhance security on the Korean peninsula? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General

I will answer to that in a moment, but let me just add that, of course, Germany is also on the list of the Allies who have provided additional Patriot systems for Ukraine after the call was made by President Zelenskyy in April. Germany was actually the first to announce.

South Korea is an important partner. I look forward to meet the South Korean president tomorrow. We will have a meeting with our Asia Pacific partners, I will have a bilateral meeting also with the President of South Korea.

The war in Ukraine demonstrates how our security is interlinked, because North Korea is actually one of the main providers of military support, of ammunition to Russia, to enable them to conduct a war of aggression against Ukraine in the heart of Europe. And of course, we are deeply concerned about what is Russia giving in return. [President] Putin just the met with the North Korean leader. We know that North Korea and Russia are coming closer, and also signed a defence pact. So this demonstrates how what happens in Europe matters for Asia, Korea, and what happens in Asia and Korea matters for Europe.

So we are looking at how we can work more closely together including when it comes to expanding together defence industry cooperation. You have advanced… South Korea has advanced defence industry. I think there's great potential to do more together - on technology, on cyber, and also, we're looking into how we can have better systems and methods for exchange of information, because that will help strengthen the security both of South Korea and our NATO Allies.

So we're working on a wide range of areas. We will agree also some flagship projects to further expand the cooperation between South Korea and NATO.

Iitalehti (Finland)

Kreeta Karvala, Iitalehti, Finland. What is the main reason that Ukraine cannot be NATO member yet? And if I may, is Russia an emerging threat to NATO's Eastern flank, and can we expect that war escalates?

NATO Secretary General

We don't see any imminent military threat against any NATO Ally. And Russia is now fully preoccupied with the war against Ukraine. And they moved a lot of forces also from along the border between Russia and Finland down to Ukraine. So we don't see any imminent military threat against any NATO Ally.

What we see is, of course, a constant threat of cyber attacks, of sabotage, of different types of hostile actions against NATO Allies. But short of military attacks, because Russia is so preoccupied with the war in Ukraine.

But of course, we need to be vigilant. We monitor closely what Russia is doing. And NATO Allies are investing heavily in new, modern defence capabilities. And just the fact that we now have Finland and Sweden as members - that has made NATO stronger, and Finland and Sweden safer.

Finland brings very capable forces - well equipped, well trained forces to our Alliance, and the fact that Finland is now a member makes it also of course easier to do defence planning in the Nordic area, but also with the Baltic countries. So that was the second question. What was the first?

Iitalehti (Finland)


NATO Secretary General

So, as you know, to have a new Ally, to invite a new Ally, we need consensus. And all Allies agree that Ukraine will become a member, but it's too early to say exactly when that will happen. What I can say is that we are moving together with Ukraine, Ukraine closer and closer to NATO membership, and we do that by concrete actions. Because Ukraine’s membership is of course partly about the language, the wording we will agree later today, and the NATO declaration about membership for Ukraine, but it's also very much about the concrete actions we are taking to move Ukraine closer to membership.

And the fact that we now will have a NATO command with 700 people based in Germany at NATO command there, but also at hubs in Eastern part of the Alliance to facilitate training and security assistance to Ukraine. That will give us a stronger NATO framework basis for what we do, and also help to move Ukraine closer to our membership.

The long term financial pledge, everything we do on interoperability… when NATO Allies are delivering F16s, for instance, to Ukraine we also deliver training doctrines and all of that are examples of how we are moving Ukraine closer to NATO, and making it easier for them to become member when the time is right.

Helsingin Sanomat (Finland)

Secretary General, you mentioned the Russian sabotage campaign. Just yesterday, we read that US military bases across your  Europe were placed on heightened alert because of a possible threat. What concrete is NATO doing to prevent these kinds of actions and what will be the message from the Summit? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General

I will not comment on that specific incident. It's correct that the US has increased alert levels for some other bases, but it's for US to comment on that specific incident. What I can say is that we have seen a pattern of increased Russian hostile acts against NATO Allies over the last months organized by the Russian security services. And this is about sabotage, this is about cyber attacks, this is about arson attempts, this is about different types of malign actions against NATO Allies. And what NATO has done and what we are doing is that first of all, we are stepping up awareness. We are making Allies aware that these are not a standalone incidents but that this is part of a Russian campaign to try to intimidate those from supporting Ukraine. So, increased awareness. Second, more intelligence sharing.  The fact that we now also have arrests in UK, in Poland, in Germany, and some of the Baltic countries of people who are accused of standing behind this sabotage different sabotage or malign activities is to some extent also the concrete outcome of exchange of intelligence between NATO Allies. So stepping up our sharing of intelligence is a second thing we do.

And thirdly, it's also important to realize that what NATO does to help Allies improve their cyber defences. It's important because much of this is taking place in cyberspace, and also to counter disinformation because it's a variety of different hostile actions, ranging from disinformation to concrete sabotage attempts. We are vigilant. We are monitoring closely what Russia is doing. And of course, many of the actions have to be taken by individual Allies. The arrests that have taken place in in across the Alliance are taken by National Police authorities and there are ongoing legal processes across the Alliance. Thank you.