Press conference

with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Minister of Defence of Germany, Christine Lambrecht

  • 17 Mar. 2022 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 18 Mar. 2022 14:38

(As delivered)

Press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Minister of Defence of Germany, Christine Lambrecht

Minister Lambrecht,
Dear Christine,

It is great to be back here and to meet with you so shortly after we met, yesterday, at the NATO Defence Ministers Meeting.
And as we said we met here in January.

I am grateful for your strong personal commitment to our transatlantic alliance.
German leadership is vital as we face this dangerous moment for European security.

President Putin’s brutal war in Ukraine continues.
And the bravery of the Ukrainian people and their armed forces are an inspiration for the whole world.
We support their right to self-defence, as enshrined in the UN Charter.

Germany is playing a key role, with military equipment, financial and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
And I am extremely grateful for the rapid response from Germany in providing support to Ukraine.

Allies are imposing unprecedented costs on Russia.
And sanctions are hurting Putin’s ability to wage war.
Germany is also stepping up to help protect and defend other NATO Allies.

You quickly sent hundreds of more troops to the NATO battlegroup you lead in Lithuania.
You have deployed Eurofighters to Romania.
And I actually met German pilots there when I visited Romania a couple of weeks ago.
Germany has deployed patriot air defence systems in Slovakia.
And German warships have been on patrol for NATO in the Baltic Sea.

All of this is part of NATO’s immediate response to the crisis.

And yesterday, we met in Brussels to address the changes we must make for the longer-term.
To reset our deterrence and defence for a new reality, we will require more defence investment.

Germany is already leading the way.

The announcement of the 100 billion Euro investment fund for defence is impressive. 
And increasing German defence spending to more than 2% starting this year, will have a significant impact for peace and security in Europe.

Helping make Germany and our whole Alliance even more secure.

Your investment in fifth-generation aircraft will also be vital for NATO.
And it reaffirms Germany’s commitment to our nuclear deterrence mission.

These are the right decisions.
Because we cannot take peace and security for granted.
Now is the time to invest in our armed forces, increase our readiness, and modernise our capabilities.
To keep our people safe.

I look forward to discussing with Germany the coming weeks and months, how we can make sure that we adapt NATO to this new security reality.

So once again, Minister Lambrecht, it is always a great pleasure to meet you and thank you for your strong commitment to NATO.

German media: Minister Lambrecht, Secretary General, I've got a question to both of you regarding considerations to station more permanently soldiers and equipment with the eastern Allies. What does that mean for Germany? What expectations do you have in Germany? And the Ukrainian President Zelensky spoke very impressively today in the German parliament asking for more support. What's your response to that?

Minister of Defence of Germany Christine Lambrecht: Well, in the current situation we responded very quickly, both as NATO and as Germany in order to strengthen the security of the eastern flank and of our Allies, and it was the right thing to act so quickly. Now we are talking about how we can ensure that in the mid and long term because we need to expect a security situation that is not going to be over within a few weeks’ time. And we now need to think about the infrastructure we need, the kind of capabilities and capacities. That's what we need to talk about. And the first position paper is on the table. And I'd like to thank you, Jens, for having started to discuss that. Over the next few weeks we will discuss it more so that in the summer we can take the necessary decisions on it.

The speech by President Zelensky in the German parliament was very concerning. It showed the situation that people in Ukraine live in and, you know, we are here in Germany, and at the same time, there are bomb alerts and there's a terrible situation in Ukraine and so we must act. And we do that, we are supporting Ukraine and we will continue to do that. But we will not necessarily talk about it in detail publicly because we want to ensure that what we deliver arrives where it is needed, where it is so urgently needed and we want to ensure that those who deliver the equipment do not become a target. We want to ensure that they have the highest level of safety that is possible in such a situation. So the Ukraine can rely on us continuing to be a good partner when it comes to equipment and support but also in terms of humanitarian aid, in terms of helping those people who've had to flee their homes.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: [inaudible]… what Minister Lambrecht just said. Let me just add that when it comes to NATO presence in the eastern part of the Alliance, we have to distinguish between our immediate response which has already been implemented, we have significantly increased the presence of NATO troops in the east on land and also more ships at sea and more planes in the air. And what we see now is that we have hundreds of thousands of troops on heightened alert across the Alliance, we have 100,000 US forces in Europe now which is an increase of several thousands just over the last weeks. And then we have 40,000 troops under direct NATO command, most of them in the eastern part of the Alliance and then you have of course, like Germany, doubling the number of troops in the battlegroup Germany leads in Lithuania. So this is our immediate response and we will just add if needed.

But as the Minister said, we have also started now the discussion at NATO to a more longer-term reset of our deterrence and defence and we have not made the decisions but we have asked our military commanders for advice. We will receive that in some weeks. Based on that we will have the political consultations and then finally decisions in NATO in June. But I expect that to be about both more prescence in the east, but also more capabilities like for instance air defence and all the capabilities which we think are critical to convey a clear message to Moscow that we are there to protect and defend all Allies. So this is a process and I am extremely grateful for the support and the constructive approach from Minister Lambrecht and from the German government. Thank you.