Press conference

with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany, Annalena Baerbock

  • 17 Mar. 2022 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 29 Mar. 2022 12:25

(As delivered)

Press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany, Annalena Baerbock

Minister Baerbock,
Dear Annalena,

Thank you so much for your warm welcome, and for your kind words.
It is great to be back in Berlin and to meet with you, and many thanks for your strong personal commitment to our transatlantic alliance.

Germany’s leadership and Germany’s leading role in our Alliance is of key importance for all of us at this turning point of European security.
President Putin’s war in Ukraine is killing innocent civilians, and causing massive destruction every day.
Forcing millions to flee their country.
And undermining the international rules-based order we all believe in.

NATO’s response has been swift and decisive.

We continue to provide strong support to the courageous Ukrainian people and armed forces.

And Germany is playing a key role with military supplies, financial and humanitarian aid. And also by hosting more and more refugees.

Allies have imposed unprecedented costs on Russia.
And our sanctions are hurting Putin’s ability to wage war.

Germany’s efforts here are critical too, including through the European Union and the G7.

We have also rapidly reinforced NATO’s deterrence and defence.

Germany has stepped up – including with more troops in Lithuania, and jets in Romania.

We also work together to manage the risk of further escalation.  Because we have a responsibility to ensure that this conflict does not escalate beyond Ukraine.  That would be even more devastating and more dangerous.

We are facing a new reality.

So we must also reset our deterrence and defence for the longer-term.
And we have already started addressing this in NATO.

Reinforcing our defences will require increased defence investments.

Germany is leading by example.
Including with major increases to the budget.
And your decision to invest in fifth-generation aircraft.

I really welcome Germany’s tireless efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Ukraine.
Including your government’s direct contacts with the Kremlin.

At next week’s NATO Summit, we will address the consequences of Russia’s invasion.
Our strong support to Ukraine.
And further steps to strengthen NATO’s deterrence and defence.

North America and Europe stand united in NATO.
Determined to protect our people and our values.

So once again, dear Annalena, it is great to be here.
And I look forward to our meeting and I also look very much forward to continue to work with you because your leadership and your strong message on the need for standing together, facing this new reality is something that is important for the whole Alliance.
Thank you so much.

Deutsche Welle: A question to both of you, Madam Minister, you spoke about strengthening the eastern flank. What does that mean in concrete terms? How many troops are to go where? Does this also include new equipment? Mr Secretary General, what are the dimensions of strengthening the Alliance that you're talking about? And the second question, if I may, you also listened to what Zelensky said today. He said Germany was not doing enough for Ukraine. What is your view with regard to the speed in which Germany is trying to rearm itself?

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany Annalena Baerbock: Thank you. Thank you very much indeed. NATO's Ministers of Defence tasked the military bodies of NATO yesterday to draft proposals for a more long term adaptation of NATO's defence capabilities. Part and parcel of that will undoubtedly be enhancing the troops that are being positioned and deployed.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: NATO has already increased our deterrence and defence especially in the eastern part of the Alliance. We now have hundreds of thousands of troops on heightened alert across the Alliance. We have 100,000 US forces, troops, in Europe – that has increased by several thousands just over the last weeks. And then we have 40,000 troops under direct NATO command, especially in the eastern part of the Alliance. And the German leadership of the battlegroup in Lithuania and doubling the number of German forces there is just one example of this increased presence on land, in the air and at sea. This is our immediate response, sending a clear message to Moscow that an attack on one Ally will trigger the response from the whole Alliance: one for all, all for one.

But then we have also started the process in NATO to assess the more longer term consequences for our deterrence and defence. And we have asked our military commanders to provide advice. We will receive that advice within some weeks and then based on those advices from our military commanders, we will take the political decisions on how to further strengthen for the more longer term our deterrence and defence. The deterrence and defence is not about provoking conflict, but it is about preventing a conflict. It's about preserving peace. And NATO's core task is to preserve peace, prevent conflict. We have done so for more than 70 years. And we need to continue to do that in a new security reality.

On Ukraine, I will just say that I fully understand the frustration and the desperation that President Zelensky and the Ukrainian people feel because they're in an extremely difficult situation where they see civilian casualties, destruction every day, including attacks on hospitals, schools, civilian infrastructure. And that's also the reason why NATO Allies have stepped up their support, also delivering advanced weapon systems, air and missile defence, anti-tank weapons, fuel, ammunition, which is critical for the resistance that Ukrainian forces are able to mobilise against the invading Russian forces. And at the Defence Ministerial meeting yesterday Allies stated and committed to continue to provide critical support to Ukraine.

Let me also add that we have also actually supported Ukraine significantly since 2014, since Russia illegally annexed Crimea. Since then, NATO Allies and NATO have supported Ukraine in many different ways. Allies have trained tens of thousands of Ukrainian troops which are now on the front line fighting the invading forces. We have equipped them over many years with missile defence, with air defence, with many types of equipment so the Ukrainian Army, Defence Forces, is much bigger, much stronger, much better equipped, much better trained, much better commanded now than in 2014. It's first and foremost the bravery, the courage of the Ukrainian Armed Forces which has enabled them to resist the invading Russian forces, but of course the support we have been giving them for many years has proven to be extremely important and therefore we continue to provide support to Ukraine.


DPA: A question addressed to both of you. We've heard speculations about the possibility of cancelling the NATO-Russia Founding Act, is that conceivable to you in face of Russia's actions in Ukraine? And a question addressed to the minister: the Eastern European heads of government drove to Kyiv in an act of solidarity. Could you think of or consider a similar act of solidarity?

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany Annalena Baerbock: As concerns your first question let me say we, the Allies, have spoken out and explained and expressed our commitment to the NATO-Russia Founding Act and we continue to stand by that. It is Russia that in a very brutal way has called into question the NATO-Russia Founding Act, has violated it and thus violated peace in Europe. For me, it is crystal clear that with an eye to these violations of the Founding Act, we cannot just overlook these violations. It is an absolute breach of international law. It is also a breach of the NATO-Russia Founding Act, what Russia has done. The Founding Act has provided the guarantee for security in Europe. I think we have found a clear answer to these breaches. The sanctions that we have passed, especially the fourth package of sanctions that has just been passed, and we've clearly condemned the breach and violation of international law and the violation of the NATO-Russia Founding Act.

And as the Secretary General quite clearly said, at this point in time, we have to make sure we are protected. This includes the eastern flank, we have to enhance our protection there, as I underlined myself a minute ago. Also, with an eye to the eastern flank, we have to ensure that further troops are deployed there. But, and this has to be said clearly here and now, this happens explicitly on the basis of the NATO-Russia Founding Act. Because it has made clear time and again that the self-commitments contain therein take place in a security environment; the minute the security environment was violated by Russia it has created the basis for us increasing and enhancing our strength, or being forced to increase and enhance our defence at the eastern flank. And it was a one sided breach and violation of the Founding Act.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: I would like to remind you of the fact that, as Minister Baerbock said, Russia has walked away. Russia has violated the NATO-Russia Founding Act not only once, but actually every day since they illegally annexed Crimea in 2014. Because in the NATO-Russia Founding Act it is clearly stated that we should respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of every European nation within its internationally recognised borders. So there is no doubt that Russia, by annexing Crimea, there violated the NATO-Russia Founding Act. Then they continue to violate the Founding Act by destabilising Eastern Ukraine, Donbas, by supporting the separatists. And now they have launched a full-fledged invasion of Ukraine, killing thousands of people, bombing cities and waging a full-fledged war on Ukraine. This is a blatant violation of the core principles of the NATO-Russia Founding Act. So Russia has walked away.

We will do what is necessary to protect and defend all Allies. And we do so to ensure that there's no room for miscalculation or misunderstanding in Moscow about our ability to stand by our commitments. And we do so to prevent escalation, prevent that the war in Ukraine which is dangerous, devastating and deadly becomes even more devastating and deadly and dangerous by becoming a full-fledged war between NATO and Russia. And to prevent any miscalculation in Moscow about our ability to and commitment to defend all Allies, we have increased the presence in the eastern part of the Alliance. Thank you very much.