Press conference

with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the Prime Minister of Estonia, Kaja Kallas and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Tapa Military Base in Estonia

  • 01 Mar. 2022 -
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  • Last updated: 01 Mar. 2022 17:31

(As delivered)

Prime Minister Kallas, 
Prime Minister Johnson, 
Dear Kaja, 
Dear Boris.
It is great to be with you here at Tapa.

It is great to be back.
And we are here to meet the soldiers that are defending Estonia, our Alliance, and our values.

These soldiers are keeping our nations safe and free.
And we owe them a debt of gratitude.

Thank you to Estonia for hosting our battlegroup so well.
And being such a staunch NATO Ally.

Let me also thank the United Kingdom and you, Boris, for leading this NATO multinational battlegroup here at the Tapa base, in Estonia.
And for doing so for the last five years.
And also for doubling your contribution over the last few weeks, with more British troops coming to Estonia.
This really makes a huge difference.
And demonstrates NATO’s solidarity.

We stand together in this time of crisis.
The people of Ukraine are fighting bravely against a brutal and unprovoked Russian invasion.
We utterly condemn the Kremlin’s war. 

Allies are imposing severe costs on Russia through sanctions.
We are increasing NATO presence across the Alliance, to deter and to defend.
And we are stepping up our support to help Ukraine defend itself.

NATO Allies are sending Ukraine anti-tank weapons, air-defence missiles, and ammunition. 
Allies are also providing millions of euros worth of financial help and humanitarian aid. 
I commend Estonia and the United Kingdom for the assistance you are providing to Ukraine. 

Over the last weeks, in response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine,
we have increased our defensive presence.
In the air, on land, and at sea.
With over 100 jets at high alert operating from 30 different locations.
And over 120 ships from the Baltic Sea to the Mediterranean.

The UK, the US, and other Allies are deploying thousands more troops to the eastern part of the Alliance.  
For the first time in our history, we are deploying the NATO Response Force.
Because there must be no doubt, no room for miscalculation or misunderstanding. 
Our commitment to Article 5 of the Washington Treaty is iron-clad.
We will protect and defend every inch of NATO territory.
Credible deterrence prevents conflict and preserves peace.

NATO is a defensive Alliance.
We do not seek conflict with Russia.
Our message to President Putin is: stop the war, pull out all your forces from Ukraine, and engage in good faith in diplomatic efforts.
The world stands with Ukraine in calling for peace.

So, Kaja and Boris, it is great to be with you here again.
And we stand together in the Alliance, united in our condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.


Reporter (UK broadcast): Thank you. On behalf of all British broadcasters, a question to all three of you actually. Kharkiv city is under heavy bombardment, the capital Kiev is being surrounded and has a column of heavy armor restrictions somewhere between 25 and 30 miles towards it. Do you think that given the tactics being deployed by Russian forces edging towards indiscriminate use of munitions in civilian areas, means that given Russia’s overwhelming superiority, that cities in Ukraine, including the capital will inevitably fall? A specific one for you, Prime Minister Johnson, the UN Security Council is at the heart of the system of global peace and security. Britain, like Russia is a permanent member. Do you think that you would support moves to suspend Russia from the UN Security Council?

Prime Minister of Estonia  Kaja Kallas: Yes, what we are seeing in Ukraine is really very horrifying. To see what kind of steps they are taking and how they are escalating this crisis. The question on whether the cities will fall, I think we underestimate the Ukrainians’ motivation and will to protect their cities. Of course, we also know that the forces are not really equal. So one is to really conquer the cities and the other one is to keep those cities under control. So I think there is going to be a lot of resistance from Ukrainians. And even if, temporarily, Russia takes hold of the cities it is still very hard to keep, as there is no support from the Ukrainian side. So I think what we have seen is that all Ukrainians have really surprised everybody by their motivation to fight for their country, to fight for the freedom. I think the same would be here because we have already lost our freedom once and we don't want to lose it a second time. So I think, all the nation is up to defend their country and to take it back even after building the resistance in the nation,  to take those back.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson: Yes, just right on your point about what is happening in Kharkiv. It is absolutely sickening and if anything, it reminds me, if you remember the shedding of Sarajevo market, the shedding of innocent people in Bosnia. It has that feel to me over an atrocity committed deliberately against a civilian center. And I think that coming to your second point, you know, within the UN structures it is very difficult o to move people without a vote and clearly where you have a majority, where you have a veto in the Security Council, you cannot. There is a paradox there, we cannot vote to change the rules without the agreement of the Russians. But what is happening is that, I think that the great middle of the of the UN congregation, if you like, is starting to realize quite how horrific this is. With every day that goes by, as they watch the heroism of the Ukrainian resistance and they see what is happening in Ukraine, and they see episodes like the shedding, like the missile in Kharkiv and the destruction of civilian populations. I think peoples’ stomachs are being turned by what is happening and they are seeing that it is necessary to stand up against Russian aggression to support the Ukrainians and to endorse our strategy, which is that President Putin must not be allowed to succeed, he must he must fail in Ukraine.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: So what we now see is a new wave of attacks against Ukraine, against innocent people under a column of heavy  Russian armor which is moving towards Kiev, and will bring more death, more suffering and more civilian casualties. And that is the reason why we need to continue to provide support to Ukraine, why we continue to call on Russia to stop this bloody war and why we need to impose costs, by the heavy sanctions on Russia. And why we also should, once again, commend the bravery and the courage of the Ukrainian people, the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and also the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. This is horrifying, this is totally unacceptable and it is a blatant violation of international law.

Reporter (Estonian TV): Question for Boris Johnson. By the middle of March, the UK will have sent here about 2000 troops. That is definitely a big support for us but what would happen? Or what would be the trigger point for you to double it or triple, or what is the limit?

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson: Well, thank you very much. We are very proud to be working here with our friends, with our French friends, with our Danish friends, and of course with our wonderful Estonian hosts. I am delighted we are doubling it. It is a big commitment that we are making. I think that we will always keep things under review. But you can take it from me, that our priority is the safety, the security of our friends and partners across the whole of the Eastern frontier of NATO. And we are increasing our presence not just in Estonia but in Poland in the skies, above Romania, in the Eastern Mediterranean, in the Black Sea. The UK is beefing up our presence on NATO's Eastern flank and the message we need to get over, I think, we are collectively, all of us, is that if Vladimir Putin thinks he is going to push NATO back by what he is doing, he is gravely mistaken. This will end up with a fortified and strengthened NATO on his Western flank. You will have more NATO, not less NATO.

Reporter (Danish TV): You have doubled your number of troops here at Tapa. Denmark is due to arrive next week. Would you like to see Denmark increase the number of troops here as well?  

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson: All I can say is that I had a great conversation with Mette, with your Prime Minister the other day. She was fantastically robust. I think she understands the problem very well. And I am glad that Denmark is increasing its contribution. We work well with our Danish friends and, of course, it is always good that Denmark is contributing more but I hesitate to go beyond that. Thank you very much.

Reporter: This morning you got some tough questions from a Ukrainian Reporter and today, this afternoon, you are telling the crowd here,  “we, as the international community, have responsibility to do everything we can to help the Ukrainians in their efforts.” So, are you actually doing that if you are not granting the request from Ukraine for no-fly zone?

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson: Thank you. And I just want to get back to the points that Kaja and Jens, and all of us have made today. It is very, very important to understand that NATO is a defensive Alliance. This is a time where miscalculation and misunderstanding is all too possible. And it is therefore crucial that we get that message over.  And that does not mean that we cannot help our friends. It does not mean that they do not have a right to self-defense and we can help them in that self-defense and that is what we are doing. When it comes to a no fly-zone, which is I think what you asked, in the skies above Ukraine, we have to accept the reality that, that involves shooting down Russian planes, as I said, in an answer to I think, the first question. That is a very, very big step that is simply not on the agenda of any NATO country. Thank you all very much.