Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the Informal meeting of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Oslo, Norway

  • 01 Jun. 2023 -
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  • Mis à jour le: 01 Jun. 2023 17:37

(As delivered)

Good afternoon.

We have just finished our informal Foreign Ministerial meeting.
Let me start by thanking Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt for hosting this meeting in a wonderful setting.
And let me also thank His Majesty King Harald V for his hospitality last night.

This meeting was an opportunity to discuss key issues as we prepare for our Summit in Vilnius in July.
We had good and constructive discussions on our ambitious agenda. 

We will take decisions to further strengthen our deterrence and defence.
Agree a new Defence Investment Pledge,
with 2 % of GDP on defence as the minimum.
And deepen our partnerships with our partners in the Indo-Pacific region.

Our focus today was on how we can bring Ukraine closer to NATO, where it belongs.

NATO is already providing unprecedented assistance.
I am confident that Ukrainian forces now have the capabilities they need to liberate more occupied land.
But we need to do more.

We are working on a multi-year package of support.
With robust funding.

This will ensure Ukraine’s deterrence and defence for the longer-term,
help rebuild its security and defence sector,
and transition Ukraine from Soviet-era doctrines, equipment and training
to full interoperability with NATO.

We also discussed upgrading the existing NATO-Ukraine Commission
to a new NATO-Ukraine Council.

This would be a significant step.
To establish a joint consultative forum with Ukraine, sitting at the table as equals.
To discuss key issues for our security.

We also addressed Ukraine’s membership aspirations.

All Allies agree that NATO’s door remains open.
That it is only for Allies and Ukraine to make decisions on membership.
Russia does not have a veto.

And all Allies agree that Ukraine will become a member of NATO.

And we all agree that the most important thing now is to ensure that Ukraine prevails as a sovereign and independent state.

We don’t know when the war ends.
But we must ensure that, when it does, we have credible arrangements in place to guarantee Ukraine’s security in the future.
And to break Russia’s cycle of aggression.

We had a good discussion on all these issues.
And I am confident that we will come to consensus by the summit in Vilnius.

I am also working hard to ensure that Sweden’s accession to NATO is completed as soon as possible.
I spoke to President Erdogan earlier this week, and I intend to travel to Turkiye in the near future.
And I welcome that Sweden’s new anti-terrorism laws have come into force today.
That shows that Sweden has delivered on what they committed to do under the Trilateral Memorandum concluded last year in Madrid.
And demonstrates that Sweden’s swift accession will contribute to Alliance security.

And with that I am ready to take your questions.


NATO Spokesperson, Oana Lungescu: The first row.

Dan Michaels (The Wall Street Journal): Dan Michaels with the Wall Street Journal. Thank you very much for the question. You said you're confident that you will reach consensus by the summit. But how confident are you that you will reach a consensus that won't disappoint Ukrainians, nobody is fighting and dying for interoperability or going from a council to a commission. And second, if I may, there's been some sort of nascent discussion of a possible –was being called a peace summit before the NATO summit. Are you aware of any of that? Is there any discussion of that? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: So first and foremost, the most important thing for NATO and of course for Ukraine is to ensure that they win this war. And we are providing unprecedented level of support. And at the meeting today and at the Vilnius summit next month, I'm absolutely certain that the main focus will be on how to sustain and step up the concrete military support to Ukraine, with equipment, with ammunition, with spare parts, with everything they need to be able to liberate more land. I say that because we need to be extremely focused on that and also knowing that over the last weeks, Allies have stepped up not only delivering heavy armour, modern battle tanks, but also the United Kingdom has delivered long range cruise missiles, which are making a difference on the battlefield. And also Allies have now announced they will start training of pilots to be able to fly F-16 and other NATO standard aircraft. So of course, this is the main focus, this is the most urgent task. This is what we have to focus on every day. And of course, Ukrainians they are calling for more and we are mobilizing and mobilising more support, because it will be a tragedy for Ukraine, but it will be dangerous for us if President Putin wins in Ukraine. It will make the world more dangerous. It will send the message that when authoritarian leaders use military force to get what they want, and that also make us more vulnerable. So I say that because I understand of course that some of these more long term issues related to reforms, interoperability, transition from Soviet standard to NATO standard is not perhaps the most urgent task, but it matters. It matters for two reasons. It matters partly because it indicates a long term commitment, sending a message to Moscow that President Putin cannot wait us out. I believe that in Moscow, they think that democracies are lazy, that we are not ready to stand by Ukraine for as long as it takes and we are going to prove the opposite, by demonstrating that democracies are actually able to stand up for their values and be there when they are needed to defend democracy and freedom as we do when we support Ukraine. So these more long term efforts, the multi-year program of implementing the transition from Soviet era to NATO standards, it sends a message of long term commitment which is important. Second, the interoperability also matters for a more shorter term. Because it is a challenge. It is a logistical challenge, that there are so many systems, so many different types of weapons, so many different doctrines at the same time on the Ukrainian side. So this is now a war of attrition and war of attrition is a battle of logistics. And to help us win that battle of logistics. Everything we can do to make the Ukrainian forces more interoperable, and at the end fully interoperable with NATO forces –it also actually have a more short term effect on their ability to win on the battlefield. So that for me there is absolutely no contradiction between being focused on the urgent need for military support and the more long term commitment. Also because the long term commitment sends the message to Moscow that President Putin cannot wait us out –

Dan Michaels (The Wall Street Journal): –[inaudible]

NATO Secretary General: We welcome efforts to find a peaceful solution, but of course, we support the Ukrainian initiatives, the plans put forward by President Zelenskyy and I will leave it to President Zelenskyy and to the Ukrainians decide the format and the conditions for any peace talks and political dialogue.

NATO Spokesperson, Oana Lungescu: NRK

Oyvind Talsnes (NRK): [inaudible] from the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation at the beginning of this war, when NATO countries started to deliver weapons to the Ukraine authorities, it was important that the weapons were not long range and that they were handed on the condition that they were not targeting Russia on Russian territory. Now asked on what's your reaction to possible Ukraine attacks on Russian soil? Your answer is the Ukrainians has the right to defend itself. There is a change of tone and what has changed?

NATO Secretary General: Fundamentally, the message is the same that we support Ukraine, but the type of support we are delivering has changed as the world has, as the war has changed. So as the war has evolved, also, the type of support has evolved, in the beginning the focus was mainly on light anti-tank weapons and lighter weapon systems. Then gradually we moved into delivering heavy artillery then not only light and man held air defence systems but also more heavier and advanced air defence systems like the NASAMS and the Patriots. And then, after some more months, we went into delivering also different types of armour including the mortars and the different types of armoured personnel carriers that have proven to be extremely important than now also heavy armour and battle tanks. So yes, you're right that the type of support has evolved. But that reflects that the war has evolved. And that we have realized that actually, by delivering more advanced weapon systems, the Ukrainians are able to defend themselves against all these different air attacks, but also to actually use the heavy armour, the artillery, the HIMARS to also liberate more land. But fundamentally, the message is the same, that NATO, NATO Allies are not party to the conflict. We help Ukraine to defend itself. That's a right, enshrined in the UN Charter and we’ll continue to support Ukraine upholding that right.

NATO Spokesperson, Oana Lungescu: Reuters.

Sabine Siebold (Reuters): Thank you, Sabine Siebold with Reuters. Secretary General, could you tell us whether the ministers have agreed to hand Ukraine in Vilnius any kind of roadmap for NATO accession? And you were talking about a framework of security guarantees? Could you work out a little bit on that one? Who should issue these security guarantees and when should they take effect? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General 
First of all, this was an informal meeting. We didn't make any decisions but we discussed and it's always useful to have all the Allies and also Sweden around the same table. Actually, there's no table – sitting there in the ring. But have an informal discussion where the Ministers is not reading from manuscripts. We have an open exchange, helps us to improve the understanding of where we can find consensus, how we can move forward. And again, first of all, they all agree that NATO’s door is open, that Ukraine will become a member and it's for NATO Allies and not for Russia to decide when that will happen. They also then also sent a very clear message of the need to focus on the urgent task to ensure that we provide the necessary support to military support to Ukraine. So Ukraine prevails then I think what we all realise but we still have work to do. We still have consultations before we can make decisions, is that wars are unpredictable. No one can say how and when this war ends, but what we do know is that when it ends, we need to ensure that we have the frameworks in place to ensure that this is not a pause in the pattern of Russian aggressive actions against Ukraine, because the war didn't start in February last year. It actually started in 2014 with first Crimea and later on, they went into Donbas, and we need to stop this vicious circle of aggression against Ukraine. Because we need to be sure that what happens after is some kind of end that Russia reconstitute, rest and then regroup and then attack again, in some months or some years and to ensure that you actually stop it there, we need to provide long term military support Ukraine, multi-year programs as we have discussed, but also look into what kind of frameworks that we can establish to provide the necessary guarantees that President Putin is not able once again to attack Ukraine, the details, how this will be done, what kind of mechanisms that remains to be decided, but the idea of preventing history from repeating itself, preventing President Putin from continue to be able to chip away at European security, that's the aim and then we discuss the means to achieve that.

NATO Spokesperson, Oana Lungescu: Swedish Radio

Journalist (Swedish Radio): Mr. Secretary General, according to your trip to Ankara, more concrete, which day will you go? Does the President Erdoğan knows that you will come and will try to go there together with the Swedish Prime Minister and perhaps even with the Prime Minister of Finland. Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: Well, I'm invited by the President. So our staffs are now looking into the practicalities on the exact dates. I spoke with him two days ago, President Erdoğan and one of the things we then agree that I should go once again to Ankara. I went there also this fall, actually to Istanbul to spend some days there to discuss how to make progress and, and also different phone calls and meetings has enabled us to make progress, partly first of all, actually to –may have the decision in June last year to invite Finland and Sweden which was a big decision that we all made together, also President Erdoğan last summer. Since then, I have been close and constant contact with the political leadership in Ankara. My staff, we have this permanent mechanism that meets also regularly and then we agreed on the way forward and also to ensure the ratification of Finland and now there has been a period of elections in Türkiye so then the contacts are not being so close and so intensive but since now the election is over. I think it's important to then restart the dialogue and the process. The plan is for me to go alone. But I'm actually certain there will be other formats also to engage with the Swedish political leadership. And of course, we also stay in very close contact with Stockholm. I spoke with the Swedish Foreign Minister, here at the NATO ministerial, and of course we’ll will stay in close contact with Stockholm.

NATO Spokesperson, Oana Lungescu: Yonhap News Agency

Binna Chung (Yonhap News Agency): Thank you Binna Chung of Yonhap News Agency. Secretary General, yesterday you strongly condemned the DPRK Satellite launch but today, the DPRK said, rejected those criticism, insisting if I quote, it's the right to self-defence of them. And do you have any further comments on this and if I may ask another one. At the Vilnius Summit, what can we expect to be discussed in terms of stepping up cooperation with the Indo Pacific partners? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: So I strongly condemn the military satellite launched by North Korea, using a ballistic missile technology, this blatantly violates several UN Security Council resolutions, its threats to neighbours and a challenge to global stability. And of course, this launch raises tensions and poses serious risks to the security of the region and beyond. And it's very clear a breach of different UN resolutions. NATO calls on North Korea to seize these provocative actions and to return to dialogue in order to achieve sustainable peace and the complete and verifiable denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. We stand together with our close partners in the region, the Republic of Korea and Japan. And as you may know, I visited Japan and the Republic of Korea not so long time ago and the message there was that security is not regional, security is global. What happens in Asia matters for Europe and what happens in Europe matters for Asia, and therefore it is even more important that NATO Allies are strengthening our partnership with our Indo Pacific partners. For the second time in our history, we'll have all the leaders of the four Asia Pacific partners, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, attending our summit in Vilnius. And I also seen that there has been a request to have a NATO liaison office and we're looking into the possibility of establishing the office.

NATO Spokesperson, Oana Lungescu: Okay, we'll take the final question from VG.

Erik Rovsik (VG): Erik Rovsik, Norwegian Newspaper VG, what signals did you get from the Turkish about Swedish membership application in this meeting, and the same goes for Hungary?

NATO Secretary General: I will be careful in my speaking on behalf of Allies, but in general, I can say that Türkiye has expressed that they are supportive of Swedish membership and Türkiye stand by the decision they made together with other Allies to invite Sweden, of course and when you invite Sweden to become a member, the purpose is to make Sweden a full member. Then, in the run up to that decision last summer, Türkiye raised some legitimate security concerns related to the fact that no other Allies has suffered more terrorist attacks than Türkiye and then we address them and looked into how can we further strengthen what NATO does but also what NATO Allies do, to work together with Türkiye to fight terrorism, including organizations which are recognized as terrorist organisations also by Sweden, by the European Union, for instance, the PKK and then we agreed this trilateral memorandum that outlines need for more exchange of intelligence, information, working more closely together, but also where Sweden made it clear that they're going to enhance their legislation on terrorism. And all of this is now implemented. Sweden, as of today, has put in force new legislation, strengthening the tools, to how to fight terrorism. And we have established a mechanism we've actually now exchanged more information and intelligence. So my message is that Sweden has delivered there for the time has come to ratify Sweden, and I'm working hard to ensure that happens as soon as possible. When it comes to Hungary. We have no indication that they have changed their position that they will not be the last to ratify so when Türkiye ratifies, I’m absolutely certain –I'm confident that Hungary will do that because they have said it before.

NATO Spokesperson, Oana Lungescu: Thank you very much, colleagues. That's all we have time for. Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: Thank you so much.