Closing press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the end of the 2023 NATO Summit in Vilnius

  • 12 Jul. 2023 -
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  • Last updated: 13 Jul. 2023 13:46

(As delivered)

Good afternoon.

We have just concluded an historic NATO Summit.

Over the past two days, we took major decisions to adapt our Alliance for the future.

We agreed NATO’s most detailed and robust defence plans since the Cold War.

We strengthened our commitment to defence investment. 

We agreed to bring Ukraine closer to the Alliance, and step up support for the long haul.

And we deepened our partnerships around the world even more.

I have just chaired the inaugural meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council.

From now on, NATO and Ukraine will meet in the Council to discuss and decide as equals.

This is a significant step to move Ukraine closer to NATO. 

I also welcome the major new announcements of military support made by NATO Allies at this Summit. 

Allies have already provided tens of billions of dollars in military aid to help beat back Russia’s invasion. 

Tens of thousands of Ukrainian troops have been trained and equipped by NATO Allies. 

And as Ukraine continues to liberate territory, we will stand by them. 
For as long as it takes. 

Yesterday, Allies agreed a new multi-year assistance package for Ukraine to help transition Ukraine from Soviet-era to NATO equipment and standards, and make their forces fully interoperable with NATO.

Ukraine is now closer to NATO than ever before.

Allies reaffirmed that Ukraine will become a member of NATO, and agreed to remove the requirement for a Membership Action Plan. 

This will change Ukraine’s membership path from a two-step process to a one-step process.

We will issue an invitation for Ukraine to join NATO when Allies agree that conditions are met. 

This sends a clear, strong and united message from our Vilnius Summit.

We must ensure that when this war ends, there are credible arrangements in place for Ukraine’s security, so that history does not repeat itself.

I welcome that many Allies have now committed to providing long-term security assistance to Ukraine. This will help deter any future aggression from Russia after this war ends.

This morning, we met with the leaders of Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea, as well as the European Union. 

NATO is a regional Alliance, but we face global challenges.

What happens in Europe matters to the Indo-Pacific, and what happens in the Indo-Pacific matters to North America and Europe.

Beijing’s global assertiveness and Moscow’s war against Ukraine require even closer coordination between NATO, the EU and our Indo-Pacific partners. 

We condemn North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes, including its latest missile launch: These violate multiple UN Security Council Resolutions and pose a threat to regional and global security.

NATO is reinforcing our ties with Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea with tailored partnership programmes, including joint work on issues like maritime security, new technologies, cyber, climate change, and resilience. 

We will work even more closely together, standing strong for the rules-based international order. 

We face the most serious security situation in decades, but Allies are rising to the challenge.

NATO is more united than ever, standing strong in defence of our people, and our values. 

I would like to close by thanking President Nausėda, the Lithuanian government and the people of Vilnius for hosting this historic Summit.

I look forward to the Washington Summit next year, marking NATO’s 75th anniversary.

With that, I am ready to take your questions. 

Lili Bayer, Politico
Thank you very much. Lili Bayer from Politico. Secretary General, after reading the communiqué, some Ukrainians have raised concerns that perhaps some Western capitals may be preparing for a situation where Ukraine's NATO membership would be a chip in a negotiation with Russia. What is your response to Ukrainians who have that concern at the moment? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General
We’ve had a very good meeting with President Zelenskyy and his delegation today, where he welcomed the very strong message from NATO Allies. He welcomed the establishment of the NATO-Ukraine Council, and also the clear commitment to move Ukraine closer to membership. So this was not an issue raised in any of those meetings. And I think it is extremely important to recognize that the decisions made with all NATO Allies is the strongest ever message on Ukraine membership that this Alliance ever made, by stating clearly that Ukraine will become a member, that Ukraine's future is in NATO and also [by] describing the path forward with the practical support for ensuring interoperability with strengthening the political ties with the NATO-Ukraine Council, and then by removing the requirements for a Membership Action Plan. Then negotiations to solve the conflict in Ukraine will only happen when Ukraine is ready for negotiations. And as we have stated again and again, nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine. What we do know is that the more military support we provide to Ukraine, the more land they are able to liberate, the stronger their hand will be at the negotiating table. And therefore we continue, and the message from this Summit and from NATO Allies with new announcements of long range cruise missiles, of more armoured vehicles with more advanced air defence systems and training of the F-16 pilots is that we support them to liberate land, so they will have a stronger hand at the negotiating table. That's what this is about. It's not about NATO negotiating on behalf of Ukraine.

Oana Lungescu, NATO Spokesperson
Okay, we’ll go to the gentleman in the front row here.

Ken Moriyasu, Nikkei Asia
Hello, Ken Moriyasu from Nikkei Asia. Secretary General, there was talk about opening a NATO liaison office in Tokyo, but that was not mentioned in the communique whatsoever. Is this plan dead? Or is there plans to revive it towards the end of the year? Is opening at a different location and option and we know that France was very much openly opposed to this plan. Were there any other countries that were opposed to the idea as well? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General
This morning, I met with the Prime Minister Kishida from Japan and that was a very good meeting where we both recognized and stated clearly the importance of further strengthening the partnership, the work we do together, Japan and NATO. It is also Prime Minister Kishida that has so clearly stated that what happens in Europe matters for Asia and what happens in Asia matters for Europe, and he also went to Ukraine and visited Kyiv and demonstrated his clear commitment to provide support to Ukraine. We also agreed today a new individual partnership program between NATO and Ukraine, where we describe the different work strands where we are going to deepen our cooperation. This is about cyber. It's about maritime security. It's about countering hybrid threats, including disinformation and in all the areas where we see the potential for NATO and Japan working more closely together. The issue of a liaison office is still on the table, it will be considered in the future.

Oana Lungescu, NATO Spokesperson
Yonhap News Agency, lady in the third row.

Yul Rhee, Yonhap News Agency
Yes, how will NATO engage more in the Indo Pacific security regarding China and North Korea and how will the partnership with Indo Pacific partners develop in the future? Are you planning to invite them next year too?

NATO Secretary General
A very strong and clear message from this meeting, and especially the meeting we had with our partners this morning, the Indo Pacific partners, Australia, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand is that security is not regional, security is global. And therefore we need to really have to stand together. China's heavy investments in new military capabilities demonstrates that. We expect that China by 2035 will have 1500 nuclear warheads on missiles that can reach North America and the whole of Europe, NATO territory. We see how China is coming closer to us. This is not about NATO becoming a global military Alliance. But this is about recognizing that this region faces global challenges and the rise of China is a part of that and that China is coming close also in Africa, in the Arctic, but also trying to control critical infrastructure and of course we see them also in cyberspace. So therefore we have now different tailored programs. So with all our Indo Pacific partners describing different areas, but it's very often as well, it's partly about cyber, countering disinformation, maritime security, there's also Japanese staff at NATO's Maritime headquarters in Northwood in United Kingdom. So we are working on different practical ways of working together including by participating –participation of Asia Pacific or Indo Pacific partners in our cyber exercises. So we are gradually expanding what we are doing together simply because our security is interlinked and just the recent missile launch of North Korea demonstrates that because that's of course, a challenge to the region, it’s a threat to the region, but it's also undermining global peace and stability. The North Korean missile and nuclear programs and the launch we just saw, yesterday.

Oana Lungescu, NATO Spokesperson

Michael Preiss, ARD
Michael Preiss, ARD.  Secretary General, two questions if I may. The first one also on President Zelenskyy. You said that he welcomed the language of the communiqué today. That's right, but he called exactly the same communiqué yesterday absurd. Is he sometimes going too far, risking to alienate also Partners, who spend a lot of political capital and real capital in order to help them? That's the first question and the second one is very technical. If countries engage in security agreements or guarantees for Ukraine, does that count on a 2% spending goal? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General
Well, what counts against the 2% spending is every expenditure that falls within NATO's definition of defence expenditure. So if we speak about military expenditures, that is defined as a defence expenditure, according to the NATO definition, then it counts. If it doesn't fall under that definition, it doesn't count. That is the case in a way, regardless of what kind of framework this is spent within.

On the communiqué, I think, of course, we all understand the extremely difficult situation Ukraine is in. They are in the middle of the war. There are casualties every day, there's a counter offensive facing fierce resistance dug in Russian forces, landmines and a brutal warfare from the Russian side and of course, that's also the reason why Ukraine and again and again has asked for more support and also why Allies have stepped up with also gradually more and more advanced weapons systems. I welcome that. Our support has evolved as the war has evolved, and our political relationship also evolved as this war has evolved. So therefore, we made the decisions at this summit. I'm glad that President Zelenskyy welcomed both the creation of the NATO-Ukraine Council, the fact that we removed the requirements for Membership Action Plan, moving Ukraine closer to NATO. And also the fact that this is the strongest ever expression of the path forward. The united message on membership for Ukraine from this Alliance.

Oana Lungescu, NATO Spokesperson
We'll go with, I think we had Reuters.. AP.

Lorne Cook, AP
Lorne Cook from Associated Press. The whole Summit has shown how close you want to bring Ukraine to NATO. You've said that it requires credible security arrangements, so these kinds of things don't happen in the future and some of the biggest allies through the G7 have made commitments. How much appetite is there within NATO to actually go to Ukraine? What about some kind of peacekeeping mission once this is sorted out and actually, actually put your boots on the ground there if Ukraine can come to NATO?

NATO Secretary General
I think it's wrong now to speculate exactly on how this will be done in the future after the war ends. The most important thing now is to ensure that the war ends in a just and lasting way. And again, that's reason why the most urgent task, the most important task is the continued flow of military support. And I think we have really realized many months ago that this is a war of attrition, meaning a battle of logistics. It is important that we deliver different advanced weapon systems but as important as delivering new systems, is it that we are able to maintain and sustain all the systems which are already there, and enormous amount of ammunition, spare parts, maintenance, repair capacity. And maybe that's not as easy to get public attraction on this day-to-day hard work to sustain, but without sustaining all the systems then Ukraine will not been able to defend their land and to liberate the territory. I say this because when the war ends, and there's some kind of arrangements, then I think all NATO Allies have to sit down and agree exactly what type of arrangements. Part of this will also then be the membership path, because we have agreed that Ukraine's future is in NATO. We reaffirm that Ukraine will become a member. We actually have agreed on concrete tools, political tools, practical tools to help Ukraine move towards membership. And then of course, everyone understands that a final decision on this cannot be taken before there is some kind of end to this war.

Oana Lungescu, NATO Spokesperson
Colleagues I know there are lots of questions. I'm afraid we have to end this here. So thank you very much. This concludes this press conference.