Joint press point

with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Lithuania, Ingrida Šimonytė

  • 03 Jun. 2021 -
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  • Mis à jour le: 04 Jun. 2021 15:13

(As delivered)

Prime Minister Šimonytė,
Dear Ingrida,

Welcome to NATO.

I know this is your first visit as Prime Minister to the NATO Headquarters.
So I would like to start by wishing you all the best in your new position.

Lithuania is a strong and highly valued NATO Ally.

You host a German-led battlegroup in Rukla, deterring any possible aggression.
And your troops helped to build security in Afghanistan for many years.
And you lead by example on defence spending, spending more than 2 percent of GDP on defence.

Lithuania also shares expertise on energy security through the NATO Centre of Excellence in Vilnius.

Today we discussed preparations for the NATO Summit, which is now less than two weeks away.

We are well-prepared to take ambitious decisions, modernising our Alliance under the NATO 2030 initiative.
We will reinforce our unity.
Including with a strengthened commitment to collective defence.
This means continued improvements to our readiness and our capabilities.

And Lithuania has been a strong voice supporting this continued adaptation of our Alliance.

Today we also discussed the situation in Belarus.
The state hijacking of a passenger plane last month was dangerous and unacceptable.

All Allies strongly condemn the arrest of journalist Raman Pratasevich and his companion Sofia Sapega.
We call for their immediate release.

And we support the sanctions introduced by the United States and other NATO Allies, as well as the European Union.

I’m sure that at our Summit, leaders will discuss Belarus’s outrageous actions.
As well as Russia’s continued pattern of reckless behavior.
This includes its continued significant military presence in and around Ukraine.

The level of Russian troops and weapons in the region remains high.
So NATO continues to monitor the situation very closely.
We stand in full support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

And we will continue to support Ukraine to help the country advance its Euro-Atlantic integration.

Prime Minister Šimonytė,

Thank you again for Lithuania’s many contributions to our shared security.

I look forward to working with you in the months ahead as we continue to strengthen and adapt our Alliance.

So, welcome.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu 
We'll take a few questions, we'll start with Lithuanian National Radio and Television, Mindaugas Laukagalis.

Mindaugas Laukagalis (Lithuanian National Radio and Television)
Yes. Hello. I would like to ask about the unity of NATO’s position on Belarus, because the media report showed that there are some disagreements between some EU countries, for example, Turkey. So is the Alliance really united? And having that in mind, what concrete decisions could be reached or are being proposed for the next NATO summit was… which is like in a few weeks. Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
So NATO is united and NATO Allies, all 30 NATO Allies agreed a very strong statement last week where we strongly condemned the forced landing of a civilian aircraft on its way from one NATO capital, Athens, to another NATO capital, Vilnius. And this was a very clear and strong political message. We also, in that statement called for an impartial international investigation into what happened. And we also have, of course, condemned the fact that a journalist, Raman Pratasevich, and his companion, were that they were arrested. And we call for the immediately release of both of them, and I have also again and again on behalf of NATO called for the immediate release all political prisoners in Belarus. 

I also welcome the fact that NATO Allies, the United States, the United Kingdom, and also, of course, the European Union are imposing sanctions, as a direct consequence of the forced landing of the plane. Let me add that these sanctions are important, because we have to demonstrate that there are costs, consequences, when basic international norms and rules are violated in the way we saw also when the plane from Athend to Vilnius was forced to land.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu 
The next question goes to Rustavi 2, Tamara Nutsubidze.

Tamara Nutsubidze (Rustavi 2)
Thank you for this opportunity. Lithuania is a big supporter of Ukraine's and Georgia's Euro-Atlantic integration. So what do you think: can Georgia and Ukraine expect some concrete positive signals from the upcoming NATO Summit? And should or will NATO members discuss these issues on the meeting in Brussels? Thank you very much. And the same question to SecGen.

Prime Minister of the Republic of Lithuania, Ms Ingrida Šimonytė
Well, I'll start and then the Secretary General will definitely put more light to it. I just can assure once more that we think it was a very big achievement for a country like Lithuania, Baltic States, to be able to join the strongest alliances that are there around the globe. And this adds up to not only our security and safety, but also to security and safety in the region. So therefore no surprise that Lithuania was, is and will be an advocate of Open Door Policy. And we see a need of developing closer cooperation and partnership with countries that do think like we do think in the bloc, and therefore no surprise that most probably on all the fora, where there will be this debate, we will be strongly supporting Ukraine and Georgia, in this respect.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
I expect that when the NATO leaders, NATO heads of state and government, meet on the 14th of June here in Brussels that they will reiterate their strong commitment to support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of both Georgia and Ukraine, two very close and highly valued partners of NATO. 

I also expect that they will state very clearly that we will provide political support but also practical support. It's extremely important that we continue to work together with these two important partners, partly because that's good for all of us, for NATO, but also, it is a way for NATO to demonstrate that when Russia tries to violate their territorial integrity, try to intimidate them, then NATO Allies are partners of these two countries and we are ready to provide strong support to both of them. 

So I welcome the fact that over the years we have been able to, step by step, step up and strengthen our partnership with Georgia and Ukraine, and I absolutely… I am absolutely confident that that will also be the clear message from the summit in two weeks’ time.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu 
Next question goes to you at UAB All Media Lithuania, Augustinas Sulija.

Augustinas Sulija (UAB All Media Lithuania)
Thank you. I would have a question for Secretary General about the recent statement by Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, and about him claiming that Russia will deploy around 20 new military formations and units near its western borders. How NATO is assessing this? Can it be seen as a threat and response to Western action on Belarus and Russia? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
NATO is a defensive alliance, and what we do is in no way a threat to Russia. What we have seen is a significant military buildup by Russia over many years. They have modernized their military capabilities, both the conventional capabilities and the nuclear capabilities. They have deployed new missiles, including missiles violating the INF Treaty that led to the demise of the treaty, and more importantly, Russia has been willing to use military force against neighbors, as we have seen in Georgia, as we've seen in Ukraine, illegally annexing Crimea and continue to destabilize eastern Ukraine. So of course, NATO has to make sure that we send a very clear and strong message of credible deterrence and defense. That's the reason why we have increased our readiness.

While we have deployed for the first time in our history, battlegroups, combatable battlegroups, to the eastern part of the Alliance, and we will continue to make sure that there is no room for miscalculation, misunderstandings, about NATO's readiness, NATO's capability, and NATO's resolve to protect and defend all Allies. 
Just what you've seen over the last weeks in and around Ukraine with significant Russian military buildup just highlights what kind of behavior we have seen from Russia over the last years, and also highlights the importance of NATO remaining vigilant, that we closely monitor the situation and that we send a very clear message of unity and resolve, and again, I'm absolutely confident that that will be the message from the leaders when they meet at the NATO summit on the 14th of June.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu 
And for the last question we'll go to TV Imedi, Ketevan Kardava. 

Ketevan Kardava (TV Imedi)
Good evening. I have a question regarding the strategy of 2030 NATO. In 11 days you will discuss with your colleagues this strategy. Madam Prime Minister, from the point of view of Lithuania, what is urgently needed to ensure that the Alliance can defend its norms, strengthen its instruments, and be not only attractive for aspirant as Georgia and Ukraine, but to… ready to make decisions, to invite them. And, Mr. Secretary General, after NATO summit US President will meet with his Russian colleague. Your expectations? Thank you very much.

Prime Minister of the Republic of Lithuania, Ms Ingrida Šimonytė
Well thank you for your question. I think that this is an insight on how NATO… the 2030 strategy is an insight on how we should adapt our way of action, taking into account the new challenges that are popping up from all sorts of new activities, new infrastructure, new technologies, and new processes that we can  see globally. And this is extremely important. But as Secretary General has already mentioned then, which is very important, this is an alliance that was set for defence. So we think that this role will remain crucial. The deterrence and defence, and the decision-making, and the processes that are aligned to this primary need as much as possible. Of course we need to develop our capabilities to react to cyber-attacks, or hybrid attacks, or whatever new threats that are upcoming. Unfortunately due also to actions of countries that were also mentioned during this press conference before.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
I'm looking forward to welcoming President Biden to Brussels in a couple of weeks’ time. I'm absolutely confident that when we meet we will discuss a wide range of issues including NATO's relationship with Russia. And, again, the NATO 2030 agenda is about how NATO should respond, adapt to a more assertive Russia. A Russia responsible for aggressive actions against its neighbors. So I think we will have a good discussion on those issues when we meet with President Biden or when all NATO leaders meet here in Brussels. 
Then I welcome that Biden, after his meeting with the NATO leaders, will travel on, and meet with the President Putin. And the meeting between President Biden and President Putin, that is in line with NATO's dual track approach to Russia. We need deterrence and defense, but also dialogue when it comes to Russia.

Because we need to have a firm and predictable message to Russia, especially when you see the reckless behavior of Russia. At the same time, we need to have dialogue because we need to strive for a better relationship with Russia. Russia is our neighbor, and we need to strive for reducing tensions and improving the relationship. But even if we don't believe in a better relationship in the foreseeable future, we need to talk to Russia, because we need to manage a difficult relationship. And we need to address issues like transparency, risk reduction, with more military presence, with more exercises, with higher tensions along our borders. Actually we see now that the NATO Russia relationship is at the lowest point since the end of the Cold War. We need to prevent incidents and accidents, miscalculations, misunderstanding, and therefore, military lines of communications, transparency, predictability is important, especially when the relationship is difficult as it is now. And of course President Biden's meeting with President Putin is part of this dialogue with Russia.

Another area where it is important to talk, that is arms control. And I welcome that President Biden and President Putin, the United States and Russia, that they have agreed to extend the New START agreement, which is the only major arms control agreement that still exists. It is an important agreement because it limits the number of long range nuclear weapons to 1550 on each side. But we need to go further to include more weapon systems into arms control and I'm confident that the two presidents will also discuss and address arms control when they meet. 

So all in all, I welcome the fact that NATO Allies we sit together. And then, that the President of the United States will meet President Putin, and I'm absolutely certain that the issues, for instance, arms control will be addressed by NATO leaders before President Biden meets President Putin. 

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu 
Thank you very much. This concludes this press point.