Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Chancellor of Germany, Olaf Scholz

  • 18 Jan. 2022 -
  • |
  • Last updated 24-Jan-2022 09:06

(As delivered)

Press conference by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Chancellor of Germany, Olaf Scholz

Chancellor Scholz,
Dear Olaf,

It’s great to be back here in Berlin and thank you for your warm welcome.
It is a pleasure to meet with you again.
You came to the NATO Headquarters in Brussels just two days after your appointment as Prime Minister [Chancellor] after you took office. And I think that your visit to NATO just two days after you took office demonstrates your strong personal commitment to NATO, to our transatlantic bond and also the leading role of Germany in our Alliance. 

And this strong commitment is very clearly stated in the coalition agreement.
Including by stressing that the Bundeswehr must have the best possible equipment and reliable funding.
And this is a message I really welcome.

And it is even more important now at this defining moment for European security.

Today, we addressed Russia’s military build-up in and around Ukraine, and the implications for European security.

The risk of conflict is real.

NATO Allies call on Russia to de-escalate.
And any further aggression will come with a high cost for Moscow.

NATO is a defensive Alliance, which does not threaten Russia or any other country.

We remain committed to our dual-track approach: strong deterrence and defence, combined with dialogue.

NATO Allies and Russia met in the NATO Russia Council last week, and NATO Allies are ready to meet again – to meet again
to put forward concrete proposals and to put written proposals on the table, and seek constructive outcomes.

I have today invited all the members of the NATO-Russia Council to a series of meetings.

To address NATO-Russia relations,
NATO Allies are prepared to look at how we can strengthen military and civilian lines of communications.

We also encourage Russia to reverse its decision to cut the diplomatic ties with NATO.   

We should also address European security, not least the situation in and around Ukraine.

NATO Allies are also prepared to discuss concrete proposals on how to reduce risks and enhance transparency regarding military activities;
and how to reduce space and cyber threats.

We are also prepared to resume the exchange of briefings on exercises, and on our respective nuclear policies.  

And Allies are prepared to discuss arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation.  
And encourage Russia to engage seriously on reducing the threat from nuclear weapons and missile systems.

So NATO is ready and NATO Allies are ready to engage and listen to concerns Russia may have.
But we will not compromise on core principles.
Such as the right for each nation to choose its own path.
And NATO’s ability to protect and defend all Allies.

We must remain clear-eyed about the prospects of progress.
But when tensions are high, dialogue is even more important.
And NATO Allies will make every effort to find a political way forward.

I also welcome the bilateral talks between the United States and Russia, and the discussions at the OSCE.

I appreciate Germany’s leadership in working to make progress in the Normandy format.
And we will continue to consult very closely among NATO Allies,
and with our partners, including of course the European Union.

Chancellor Scholz,
Thank you again.
I look forward to continuing to working with you.

Journalist question:
(translated) Question to the Federal Chancellor and to the Secretary General. Should Russia attack Ukraine and you described the threats just a minute ago, what would be the exact role of NATO? Should there be such an attack would NATO assists Ukraine in one form or another? Mr. Chancellor, you said yesterday [it] would have economic and political consequences could it also have military consequences?

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General:
The main task now is to prevent the military attack on Ukraine. And that's exactly why we send a very clear message to Russia that if they once again decide to use force against Ukraine, it will come with a high costs for Russia. Economic, financial, political sanctions. 
NATO Allies also provide support to Ukraine. Ukraine has of course the right to self-defense as every sovereign nation has. And NATO Allies help them to uphold that right to self-defense with the support Allies provided to Ukraine.
And then of course, we also need to make sure that there is no misunderstanding, no room for miscalculation about NATO's readiness to protect and defend all Allies. And that's also the reason why we  - since 2014 when Russia used force against Ukraine last time, annexed Crimea, and invaded Donbass, Eastern Ukraine-, we have implemented the biggest reinforcement our collective defense in a generation with increased NATO presence in the eastern part of the Alliance including with a German led battlegroup in Lithuania.
But again, the main task now is to make progress on the political way forward. NATO Allies are ready to meet with Russia again. And today I have invited Russia and all the NATO Allies to attend a series of meetings in the NATO-Russia Council in the near future to address our concerns, but also listen to Russia’s concerns, and to try to find a way forward to prevent any military attack against Ukraine.

Olaf Scholz, Chancellor of Germany:
(translated) Thank you. Perhaps I may add to that just briefly.
What we have to attend to now is to ensure that there is no military aggression. That we do whatever we can to prevent such an aggression. I refer to the troops and buildup along the Ukrainian border, between Ukraine and Russia, which we believe to be very threatening.  And they have to be taken as being very threatening and also if you take a closer look at the specifics of the troop buildup.
It's important that we say now, it will mean high political costs for Russia should there be such an intervention and the principle of sovereignty of states and the integrity of borders should it be violated. We are committed, we have all committed to these principles. As I said, we're consulting about this, we are talking about this. We're looking into ways in which we can immediate response should such an action happen and that it will have high economic, political costs.

Journalist question:
(translated) One question to the Chancellor. Within your own party, we hear more voices now demanding that Nord Stream 2 is no longer be considered a private business project, but that it has always been a project tied to certain political conditions, the integrity of Ukraine, the continued utilization of the pipeline through Ukraine. Perhaps if you could not shirk the question, may ask you, do you still believe that Nord Stream 2 is a purely private business project? Or should there be such an attack on Ukraine, would this mean the political end to this pipeline? Could that be considered one of the political instruments at your disposal?

Olaf Scholz, Chancellor of Germany:
(translated) Thank you for this question. It is crystal clear that we do feel responsible for ensuring a continuation of the gas transit via Ukraine. We've always felt committed towards this. And we have pointed a special representative, a special envoy, who has engaged in ensuring that an agreement about the continued transit was available in time. So we continue to feel committed to that principle.
The federal government, the chancellor at the time coordinating very closely with me and the then Foreign Minister of the United States reached agreement, and we stand by all the elements of that agreement. Part and parcel of things is that it is crystal clear that Russia will have to pay a high price should there be a military intervention against Ukraine or in Ukraine.

Journalist question:
Question for Telegraph, a newspaper from Amsterdam.
Mr. Secretary General, would you call it a little bit naive of the government in Germany to see this project the Nord Stream, the second pipeline, as a pure economic project? Because we have seen here the assassination of somebody here in Berlin, we have seen the attack on the German Bundestag, we have seen the attack on a plane from Amsterdam above the Ukraine with many dead people. 50,000 dead people also in the east of Ukraine. You've seen the invasion of the Crimea. And we have seen also 100,000 soldiers near the border of Ukraine. So would you see it as a little bit naive of the German government to see this pure as an economic project? And my question is – the second question to Mr. Bundeskanzler [Chancellor] Scholz. I just heard you that you are not in favor of providing military support to Ukraine. So you are not in favor of providing military assistance to Ukraine. In the face of the points that I just listed. - May I ask you whether you would not be ready to say that Nord Stream 2 is also a political project? Even the former government that member of which you happen to be under Chancellor Merkel made the point at the time that this project, of course, had also political implications.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General:
There are different views among NATO Allies on the issue of Nord Stream 2 but all Allies agree on the importance of diversification of the sources of supply for energy for many reasons, for environmental reasons, but also for security reasons. So this is an issue that has been addressed in NATO. We are encouraging Allies to diversify their supplies, because this is good for the reliability of energy supplies, but also important as part of the transition to a more climate friendly system of energy supplies throughout NATO countries.
Then I have taken, of course, note of what Fatih Birol of the International Energy Agency stated that what we've seen over the last months is…it's a reduction in the Russian exports of natural gas to Europe. That Russia has the capability to significantly increase exports if they so want, and also a depletion, significant reduction of the mantle gas in the storage sites of Gazprom. So he referred to this as a manipulation of the European gas market. I think it demonstrates in a way, the challenges we see in the European gas market, and also the importance of diversifying our sources of supply.

Olaf Scholz, Chancellor of the German Republic:
(translated) It is indeed very important that we diversify our energy supplies and place them on a new foundation. We want to become completely independent from the use of fossil fuels this government that is. It is an ambitious project of ours; it affects oil and gas as our energy resources for industrialized processes. This is why we are in the midst of initiating the greatest reform ever in this government. We also want to enhance our capacities for the production of energy with the help of renewables. Germany will, by the end of this decade, will need much more electricity and we'll get those from renewables. We aim to continue in that same vein. We, as I said, increase our electricity supply but make sure it does not come from oil or gas.
We are aiming to achieve a diversification of our energy supply get these supplies from Norway, Scandinavia, the North Sea, from the European gas market, and we will continue to work in that direction apart from the project of becoming completely independent from such resources. We want to be fossil fuel free. That is the national strategy of Germany.
Generally speaking, I cannot only repeat what I said earlier, the federal government and the former government, too, has talked to the American President. And the American administration has agreed on how to proceed on this question and we continue that course.

Journalist question: 
Thank you, Secretary General, Mr. Chancellor. Great Britain decided to supply anti-tank weapons to Ukraine. I would be interested to hear from you whether you have understanding for that step or are you afraid that this step might lead to further escalating the situation with Russia?

Olaf Scholz, Chancellor of the German Republic:
(translated) For many years now, the German government has been pursuing a specific strategy and that includes that we don’t export lethal weapons. We have not changed that strategy as we assumed or when we assumed the power - came to power and took office. We pursue that strategy in the NATO-Russia Council, in the framework of the OSCE, and the bilateral talks between America and Russia, and also in the talks with the Normandy format.
We will now have to consider how we can ensure that the present escalation can come to an end and how we can ensure that we can rely on territorial integrity of Ukraine not being threatened in any way. That there will be no military aggression against Ukraine, nor that there will be any other ways and means in which one tries to achieve a political change through the use of force. And that is what we are working on, what our efforts are about, and the negotiations what we are focusing on right now.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General:
NATO provides support to Ukraine. We provide strong political support for their territorial integrity and sovereignty. We also provide them practical support, we help them to modernize their defense and security institutions. We also provide some capacity building, also provide some training, we have for instance helped them with developing their naval capabilities. Last time I visited Ukraine we were in Odessa, where we saw and witnessed how NATO helps at the Naval Academy of Ukraine in Odessa, to help them build their naval capabilities.
So NATO as an Alliance provides support to Ukraine in different ways.
When it comes to defensive and lethal weapons, different allies have different approaches. So NATO Allies provide also this kind of support. I think that the important thing is that Ukraine has the right to self-defense. And this is enshrined in the UN Charter. And then NATO provides support to Ukraine to help them to uphold that right.