by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the start of the extraordinary Summit of NATO Heads of State and Government
We meet here at the NATO Headquarters facing the most serious security crisis in a generation.
We will address this crisis together and address the threat that means for Ukraine, for NATO and for the whole international rules-based order.
President Zelensky will address the NATO leaders.
The leaders will focus on our support to Ukraine. Allies have provided support to Ukraine for several years and we have stepped up with more military support, financial support, humanitarian support to help Ukraine uphold its fundamental right for self-defence.
NATO's core task is to protect and defend all Allies.
We have increased our military presence in the eastern part of the Alliance.
The NATO leaders will today address the need for a reset of our deterrence and defence in the longer term.
And the first step is the establishment of four new battlegroups in the eastern part of the Alliance in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia.
We need to do more, and therefore we need to invest more.
There is a new sense of urgency and I expect that the leaders will agree to accelerate the investments in defence to meet the pledge we have made to invest more in defence.
And I welcome that several Allies have already made announcements on investing more in defence.
The meeting today will demonstrate the importance of North America and Europe standing together facing this crisis.
We are the strongest Alliance in the world. And as long as we stand together, we are also safe.
Hadley Gamble (CNBC): I want to get a sense from you of NATO's understanding of President Putin's actual mental state at this point, because what we understand of course, is that even his central bank governor is trying to leave her post and he's being… he's seeing some defection, if you will, from his inner circle. What's your sense of his mental state at this point?
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: President Putin has made a big mistake and that is to launch a war, to wage war, against an independent sovereign nation. He has underestimated the strength of the Ukrainian people, the bravery of the Ukrainian people and the armed forces, and therefore they're also meeting much more resistance than they expected. We need, in a way, to address the actions that we see Russia is doing in Ukraine. And that's also the reason why we have significantly stepped up the support to Ukraine, and why we have increased the presence of NATO troops in the eastern part of the Alliance and increased the readiness of our troops. We do so to be able to respond and address any threat, any challenge to our security, and what kind of decisions… and what kind of decisions they make in Moscow, I will not speculate further about that.
Ukrainian media: [inaudible]
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: NATO Allies provide significant military support to Ukraine. NATO Allies have trained tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers who are now on the front line fighting against the invading Russian forces. The Ukrainian army is much better equipped, much better trained, much better commanded now than in 2014. And the combination of the training and support from NATO Allied countries with the bravery and the courage of the Ukrainian Armed Forces is enabling the Ukrainians to really resist and actually fight back the invading Russian Army. We provide Ukraine also with advanced air defence systems, with anti-tank weapons, with ammunition and fuel. So Allies are providing many different types of support. But we have also made it clear that we will not send in NATO troops on the ground, or NATO planes in the air. We do that because we have a responsibility to ensure that this conflict does not escalate beyond Ukraine. That will cause even more suffering, even more death, even more destruction. And to declare a no-fly zone over Ukraine means that we need to impose it, and to impose a no-fly zone means that we need to massively attack Russian air defence systems in Russia, in Belarus and in Ukraine, and also be ready to shoot down Russian planes. And then the risk for a full-fledged war between NATO and Russia will be very high, and that will cause more deaths and more destruction.
Bloomberg: You mentioned yesterday that if chemical weapons are used in Ukraine it could have a direct impact in NATO countries. Could this be considered an attack on a NATO Ally?
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: I will not speculate beyond saying the following, that any use of chemical weapons would fundamentally change the nature of the conflict. It will be a blatant violation of international law and it will have widespread and severe consequences. The seriousness of using chemical weapons of course becomes even more obvious knowing that there is a risk always for contamination, for that chemical agents are spread over bigger areas. So this will be a catastrophe for the people of Ukraine, but of course there is also a risk that we can see the spread of chemical agents also into NATO territory. I will not speculate beyond the fact that NATO is always ready to defend, to protect and to react to any type of attack on a NATO Allied country.
ARD: How concerned are you about China’s role in this? And my second question, what does the new military posture of NATO mean in terms of national defence spending?
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: On national defence spending, I see a new sense of urgency among Allies. They all understand that since we now need to do more – we face the most serious security crisis in a generation, so therefore, we need to invest more in our security. And the Allies understand that the only way to do that is also to allocate more money for national defence budgets. And I expect Allies to agree to accelerate the implementation of the commitments we have made to invest more in defence. And I welcome the decision, for instance, by Germany to spend 2% of GDP on defence. This will really make a difference because Germany has such a big economy, so the increased investments by Germany makes a different for the whole Alliance.
We call on China to join the rest of the world in clearly condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine and not provide political support. And of course, neither provide any kind of material support to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Question: If Allies were to unanimously ask you to stay on as General Secretary today, would you say yes?
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: So I will leave that decision to the 30 leaders to decide. I don't have any further comments.
Danish television: Would you call what is happening in Ukraine now a genocide? And if so, what kind of responsibility does NATO have to prevent a genocide?
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: NATO is providing unprecedented support to Ukraine, helping them to defend themselves. NATO Allies are also imposing unprecedented sanctions on Russia to hamper, reduce the capability of Russia to finance this war against Ukraine. And we are also, of course, making sure that we are ready to protect and defend all Allies. What we have seen is attacks against civilians, civilian infrastructure, and this is a clear violation of international law. I therefore also welcome that the International Criminal Court has started an investigation and will look into this, because at the end it has to be this body that decides on issues related to violation of international law.
Georgian public broadcasting: Yesterday, you mentioned that it's important to protect other partners as well. What about Georgia, and do we see some statements about Georgia at the end of the communique of NATO?
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: I expected that Allies also today… or today in the meeting, that the leaders today in the meeting will express their support to partners which are under pressure from Russia and that includes of course, Georgia. Georgia has the right to choose its own path. NATO Allies have provided support for Georgia over many years to help them to implement reforms, to modernise the defence and security institutions. And the brutal invasion of Ukraine just highlights, underscores the need to provide support to Georgia.
Pro TV Romania: Mr Secretary General, given the war in Ukraine, what is NATO's view regarding possible permanent NATO bases, presence, in Romania? And regarding the battlegroup, will it be made up of the troops that have already been sent from US, Belgium, France in Romania in the past month, or there will be additional troops from other countries?
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: So NATO has already increased its military presence in Romania. We have deployed the elements of the high readiness joint task force led by France. I visited Romania a few weeks ago and I also met with the troops from the United States and from other countries, and they will demonstrate the commitment to stay and to protect and help to defend NATO territory also in Romania. These troops will be there as long as necessary. But this is part of the immediate response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Then I expect at the meeting today that the leaders will start the process that will provide us with advice to make more longer term decisions on our longer term deterrence and defence, because we need to reset our deterrence and defence. These decisions, I expect leaders to take them at the summit later on in June. So these are two different processes, one is what we already have done, and that will be there as long as necessary. And then we are addressing the more longer term changes in our deterrence and defence. The fact is that we face the most serious security crisis in a generation and therefore NATO needs to respond. And that's the reason why we need to reset our deterrence and defence for the long term. Thank you.