Joint press point

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy

  • 16 Dec. 2021 -
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  • Mis à jour le: 16 Dec. 2021 15:17

(As delivered)

Good morning, 
President Zelenskyy, dear Volodymyr, 

It’s great to see you again. 
Welcome to NATO. 
Ukraine is a highly valued partner of our Alliance.
And I thank you for your personal commitment to our partnership.

We discussed Russia’s substantial military build-up in and around Ukraine. 
With tens of thousands of combat-ready troops, 
tanks, artillery, armoured units, drones, electronic warfare systems.
We see no sign that this build-up is stopping or slowing down.
On the contrary, it continues.

This build up has no justification.
It is provocative.
It is destabilising.
And it undermines security in Europe.

We call on Russia to return to diplomacy.
To de-escalate.
And to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  

Any further aggression against Ukraine will have severe consequences.
And would carry a high price.

Over the last years, we have seen a pattern of Russian aggressive actions.
NATO Allies have demonstrated the ability to respond.

Since Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, we have implemented the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence in a generation.
And we will continue to do what is necessary to defend and protect all NATO Allies. 

At the same time, NATO Allies are prepared to talk to Russia.
And we reiterate our invitation to Moscow for a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council.

Because dialogue is even more important when tensions are high. 

And at the same time, NATO remains vigilant.
We have stepped up our reconnaissance and intelligence collection.
And will continue to monitor the situation very closely. 

NATO stands with Ukraine. 

All Allies support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. 
And we do not recognise Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.

Like all sovereign states, Ukraine has the right to defend itself, as enshrined in the United Nations Charter.

NATO will continue to give you practical support.

Allies are training and advising your armed forces, participating in joint exercises, and providing equipment. 

NATO’s support for Ukraine is not a threat to Russia. 

Ukraine has the right to choose its own security arrangements.
This is a fundamental principle of European security. 

And the decision on whether Ukraine can join NATO will be taken by Ukraine and 30 NATO Allies alone.

President Zelenskyy, thank you once again for coming to NATO and for our substantial discussions.
We will continue to remain in close touch in the days and weeks to come. 

So once again, welcome to NATO.

Dmytro Shkurko (Ukrinform):
Okay, Dmytro Shkurko from News Agency of Ukraine. Secretary General. NATO traditionally consider a deterrence as an internal policy. But if we are looking at the reality right now, Ukraine just pull out at least 100,000 Russian troops from the NATO Boarders. So that my question is, are there any chance that the deterrence role Ukraine is playing will be reflected somehow in the New Strategic Concept of NATO? 

Jens Stoltenberg (NATO Secretary General): 
We have decided to make a new Strategic Concepts, to develop a New Strategic Concept to be agreed at the NATO Summit in Madrid next year. We do because since we last agreed a Strategic Concept ten years ago, the world has fundamentally changed. And the new Strategic Concept has to reflect that change. 
One of the things that has changed is the behaviour of Russia. Back in the current Strategic Concept we refer to Russia as a strategic partner. But since then, we have seen more aggressive actions by Russia. We have seen Russia invading neighbours. We have seen Russia illegally annexing Crimea and continue to destabilise Eastern Ukraine. These are one of the many changes that has to be reflected in a new strategic concept.  
Of course, now we have just started the process of developing and agreeing the new Strategic Concept. And it's too early to preempt the conclusions.  But I believe that in the new Strategic Concept we will express very strong support to the idea of NATO working closely with partners, including with Ukraine. And I also expect that Allies will clearly recommit to the principle of every sovereign nation’s right to choose his own path.  That Ukraine has the right to choose his own path including what kind of security arrangements he wants to be a part of. 
And also that for NATO, it is a great value to work together with a partner like Ukraine. We think that we all are safer when you work more closely together. And this is important for NATO. It's important for Ukraine.  And together we work to enhance, or to work more closely together on how  to solve conflicts and differences by peaceful means, not by the use of force. So I expect that the upcoming strategic concept will be very clear on the need to work closely with a partner like Ukraine.

Oana Lungescu (NATO Spokesperson):
We'll take one question online from Steven Erlanger, New York Times. Steve, go ahead.

Steven Erlanger (New York Times): 
[inaudible] to everyone, especially translators. I have a question for the two men, President Zelenskyy first.  Ukraine was promised membership in NATO. Ukraine has provided troops to NATO missions in Afghanistan and in Iraq. Mr. Stoltenberg said in Riga and repeated again today that while Ukraine is not a part of the Alliance, it is a highly valued partner. So I want ask President Zelenskyy what does NATO owe such a highly valued partner. And is NATO’s credibility at stake in this affair?  And I would ask Secretary General Stoltenberg to answer the same question, but President Zelenskyy, Спасибо, thank you.  

Jens Stoltenberg (NATO Secretary General): 
NATO has an open door policy. This is enshrined in the NATO’s funding treaty, Article 10 of the Washington Treaty stating clearly that NATO can invite other European countries to join the Alliance.  And I was actually present at the NATO Summit in Bucharest in 2008, when all Allies agreed that Ukraine will become a member of NATO. And we stand by that decision and the decisions taken after to the Bucharest Summit on the issue of Ukraine's possibility to become a NATO member. 
The message today to Russia is that it is for Ukraine as a sovereign nation to decide its own path. And for the 30 NATO Allies to decide when Ukraine is ready to become a member. 
What is important now is that we focus on reforms for Ukraine to meet NATO standards. And I welcome the strong commitment by President Zelenskyy on reforms. And I also know that for instance, when Ukrainian forces and NATO forces have operated together in Afghanistan or Iraq or elsewhere, - that's important in our efforts to fight international terrorism-, but it's also a way to increase and strengthen interoperability of NATO and Ukrainian forces. 
Let me also highlight that NATO has proven over the last years that our ‘open door policy’ is not only something we support in words, but also in deeds, partly by inviting two new countries, Montenegro and North Macedonia to become members. So we have enlarged the Alliance over the last few years with two new members. Despite of protests from Russia. And also we are supporting Ukraine’s efforts to come closer to NATO membership. We help with reforms, fighting corruption, capacity building, modernising Ukraine’s security and defence institutions. And NATO and NATO Allies also provide training, advising. We have joint exercises and NATO Allies also provide equipment. So we support Ukraine. We are strengthening Ukraine's defence and armed forces. This is practical cooperation and practical support provided by NATO Allies and NATO to Ukraine. So we stand in solidarity with Ukraine. We continue to support their efforts to become a NATO member. 
And we also send a very clear message that we can, we are ready to talk to Russia. We actually believe in dialogue. We believe that dialogue is important especially when times are difficult as they are now. And our invitation to Moscow to meet in the NATO-Russia Council stands, and we are ready to sit down. 
But we will never compromise on the right of every sovereign nation, as Ukraine, to choose his own path and of the principle that it is for Ukraine and the 30 Allies to decide when Ukraine is ready to join the Alliance. 

Oana Lungescu (NATO Spokesperson):
We will go to Interfax Ukraine.

Iryna Somer (Interfax-Ukraine): 
Thank you. Iryna Somer, News Agency Interfax Ukraine. Question for both. Almost like follow up what did you say right now Secretary General regarding NATO support and assistance for Ukraine.  Recently became known that two Allies in NATO, namely Germany and the Netherlands, blocked a possibility for Ukraine to receive via NATO Agency weapon to defend itself. So how this statement and actual actions goes together? And what kind of future for NATO and Ukraine for cooperation do you see in the future? Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg (NATO Secretary General): 
I see great potential for cooperation and partnership between Ukraine and NATO. 
And over the last two years, we have stepped up and we have agreed to work more closely together. I think this is good for Ukraine and good for NATO. And we are grateful for also the way Ukraine has contributed to different NATO missions and operations. 
The NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) has helped to facilitate the procurement of different types of equipment for Ukraine. For instance, anti-drone systems, winter clothing, and many other types of equipment, which is important for the Ukrainian Armed Forces. And then, on top of that, of course, NATO Allies also provide different types of equipment on a bilateral framework or through bilateral agreements. I welcome the support the NATO Allies and NATO provide both when it comes to training, exercise, advise, but also the fact that NATO Allies provided different types of equipment. Sometimes this happens through the NATO Agency. And sometimes this is equipment which is provided bilaterally. I think the most important thing is that Ukraine gets this equipment, equipment which is important to strengthen the strength and the capabilities of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. We also help them, for instance, with command and control, with cyber defences, and many other types of support to Ukrainian armed forces.

Oana Lungescu (NATO Spokesperson):
Final question to Radio Free Europe.

Rikard Jozwiak (Radio Free Europe): 
Rikard Jozwiak, Radio Free Europe. A question for you Mr. Secretary General. I understand that there is no chance of NATO compromising on the Bucharest declaration of 2008. But I wonder if NATO is considering compromising on some of the current relationship between NATO and Ukraine? You mentioned for example, exercises, trust funds etc. Would NATO be willing in the foreseeable future [to] perhaps have less exercises with Ukraine provide less support, and potentially even reconsidering the enhanced opportunity partner status that you gave Ukraine last year, or is this also something you won’t compromise on?

Jens Stoltenberg (NATO Secretary General): 
So we will not compromise on the right of Ukraine to choose his own path. We will not compromise on the right for NATO to protect and defend all NATO Allies. And we will not compromise on the fact that NATO has a partnership with Ukraine, which is important for us and for Ukraine. And Ukraine as a sovereign nation and NATO as an Alliance of 30 democracies of course have the right to work closely with a closer partner as Ukraine. 
And our cooperation with Ukraine is defensive. 
It's not in any way a threat to Russia. 
The aggressor here is Russia. Is Russia that has used military force against Ukraine. Illegally annexing a part of Ukraine, Crimea, back in 2014 and continued to de-stabilise Eastern Ukraine. And now we see a significant, strong military build-up in and around Ukraine with combat ready troops, with armoured units, with battle tanks, with a lot of advanced equipment that is actually absolutely unjustified and undermining the security of Ukraine, but also the security of Europe. 
So it is for Russia to change behaviour. It is for Russia to change course. And the disturbing thing is that this is a pattern we have seen over many years. With Russia invading neighbours, Georgia, Ukraine. Russia violating a key arms control agreements, like for instance, the INF treaty banning all intermediate range weapons, and Russia also deploying new nuclear capable missiles in Europe. So this is this pattern of behaviour, that of course, are of great concern. And that's also the reason why we are calling on Russia to step down and to de-escalate. And while we also so clearly convey that we are saddened by this development. 
We want another path. We want another development in Europe. 
So we will continue to strive for a better relationship with Russia. We'll continue to strive for meaningful dialogue with Russia. We are ready to sit down and discuss a wide range of issues, Confidence Building Measures, arms control, transparency, risk reduction, many other issues that can reduce the risk for instance, accidents or even an arm conflict in Europe. But we can never compromise on the main principle of respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations in Europe, including, of course, Ukraine. 

Oana Lungescu (NATO Spokesperson):
Thank you very much. This concludes this press conference.