Doorstep statement by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen
at the start of the NATO Foreign Affairs Ministers meetings
Our meeting today is very timely.
Russia’s aggression against Ukraine challenges our vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace. It fundamentally changes Europe’s security landscape. And it causes instability right on NATO’s borders.
Today, we will show our steadfast commitment to NATO’s collective defence. Defence starts with deterrence. So we will take the necessary steps to make it clear to the world that no threat against NATO Allies will succeed.
We will agree on ways to support our partner Ukraine, with political and practical measures within the framework of our long-standing partnership.
An independent, sovereign and stable Ukraine, firmly committed to democracy and respect for human rights, minorities, and the rule of law, is key to Euro-Atlantic security.
And we will make clear that Russia’s actions are unacceptable. We will take decisions on which cooperation with Russia is still appropriate. Because through its actions, Russia has undermined the principles on which our partnership is built, and has breached its own international commitments. So we cannot go on doing business as usual.
With that, I am ready to take a couple of questions.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN (NATO Secretary General): (...) And with that, I'm ready to take a couple of questions.
OANA LUNGESCU (NATO Spokesperson): BBC over here please.
Q: Secretary General, from BBC, Jonathan Marcus. Persistent reports, overnight, of certainly small troop withdrawals by the Russians from near the Ukrainian border. Can you give you any information as to whether we are genuinely now seeing a significant Russian pullback?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Unfortunately, I cannot confirm that Russia is withdrawing its troops. This is not what we're seeing. And this massive military build-up can in no way contribute to a de-escalation of the situation... a de-escalation that we all want to see. So I continue to urge Russia to pull back its troops; live up to its international obligations and engage in a constructive dialogue with Ukraine.
OANA LUNGESCU: NRK.
Q: Secretary General, Norwegian Broadcasting. Do you think that NATO permanently should allocate more soldiers on the ground in the Baltics? And second question. You have warmly welcomed Mr. Stoltenberg's appointment. But how would you describe the job he has said yes to?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: First, on deployment, we are now considering all options to enhance our collective defence, including an update and further development of our defence plans, enhanced exercises and also appropriate deployments.
On Mr. Stoltenberg, first of all, I would like to congratulate him on his appointment as Secretary General to take office when I leave by the end of September. I wish him all of success. He takes office at a crucial point in time. We are going to shape future NATO after completing our combat mission in Afghanistan and now also in the light of the new security situation in Europe. So a very important task for Mr. Stoltenberg as new Secretary General will be to continue strengthening our collective defence.
OANA LUNGESCU: Wall Street Journal.
Q: Secretary General, everybody is saying right now that the important move should be political and economic and that we shouldn't engage in military action. People are reluctant to deploy troops in the eastern states. I mean, what can NATO really do here that makes it not appear sort of helpless or impotent at a situation in which people are not talking about military confrontation? And this is a military alliance.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: I think everybody realizes that the best way forward is a political and diplomatic dialogue. Really, I don't think anybody, honestly, would like to see a military confrontation in Europe. We share that view. The right way forward is a political and diplomatic pass.
Having said that, it is of utmost importance to make sure that the world understands that we are very determined to provide effective defence and protection of our Allies, of our populations. And to that end, we will take the steps that are necessary to make sure that our collective defence is appropriate and effective.
OANA LUNGESCU: Our last question: German TV at the back.
Q: (...inaudible...) What is the minimum to show solidarity for the east European member states? What do you think about it? Is it enough actually, only a little bit air policing or something like that? Or isn’t it necessary actually troops on the ground … [inaudible]. What’s your … [inaudible]?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: But that will very much depend on the evolving situation. We have already taken some steps. We have enhanced air policing in the three Baltic States. We have deployed AWACs aircrafts to improve surveillance of Poland and Romania. You have seen more naval presence in the Black Sea. And we will not hesitate to take further steps if needed to ensure effective deterrence and defence. And that includes as I mentioned an update and further development of our defence plans, enhanced exercises, appropriate deployments; very much dependent on how the situation develops.
OANA LUNGESCU: And a very last question Al-Arabiya there.
Q: Noureddine Fridhi, Secretary General, Al-Arabiya. The situation in Ukraine changed; and Crimea is gone. Do you think that NATO position will change also from... to Moscow position?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: On?
Q: Moscow, on Russia.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Obviously, we will have to review our relationship with Russia. We have already decided to suspend practical cooperation with Russia. I would expect foreign ministers to endorse that step in today's meeting. And we will also agree today to continue our review also in a more profound way of our relations with Russia. Also in that respect, very much will of course depend on the evolving situation.
We urge Russia to take steps to de-escalate the situation; to engage in a political and diplomatic dialogue. If Russia were to interfere further, it would further isolate Russia. And of course, NATO would also act... or react accordingly when it comes to our relationship with Russia.
OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you very much....