Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the virtual meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council at the level of Allied Defence Ministers

  • 19 Apr. 2024 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 22 Apr. 2024 08:43

(As delivered)

Good afternoon,
We have just concluded a virtual meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council.

President Zelenskyy briefed Allied Defence Ministers on the situation on the battlefield, and Ukraine’s critical need for more air defences.

NATO Defence Ministers have agreed to step up and provide further military support, including more air defence.

NATO has mapped out existing capabilities across the Alliance and there are systems that can be made available to Ukraine. 

So I expect new announcements on air defence capabilities for Ukraine soon.

I welcome Germany’s efforts, including the recent decision to deliver an additional Patriot system to Ukraine. 

In addition to Patriots, there are other weapons that Allies can provide, including SAM-Ts.

And many Allies who do not have available systems have pledged to provide financial support to purchase them for Ukraine.

We are also working with industry to ramp up production and to refurbish systems to make them operational and fit for purpose.

In our meeting today, Ministers also addressed many other pressing needs, including 155 mm ammunition, deep precision strike capabilities, and drones.

Each NATO Ally will decide what to provide. Several Allies made concrete commitments during the meeting and are finalising contributions that I expect will be announced soon.

Help is already on the way. 

Just this week, Denmark made a new pledge for Ukraine, and the Netherlands announced an additional 4 billion euros in military support. 

Czechia confirmed that they have procured half a million artillery rounds through their ammunition initiative.

And I welcome the progress made in the US Congress towards vote on the critical aid package for Ukraine tomorrow.
I count on the bill to pass without further delay.

Allies must dig deep into their inventories.
And speed up the delivery of missiles, artillery and ammunition.

Ukraine is using the weapons we provided to destroy Russian combat capabilities.
This makes us all safer.

So support to Ukraine is not charity.
It is an investment in our own security.

With that, I am ready for your questions.

Farah Dakhlallah, NATO Spokesperson
We’ll start with Ukraine news agency, over to you

Dmytro Shkurko, National News Agency of Ukraine

Thank you for [inaudible], Dmytro Shkurko, National News Agency of Ukraine. Secretary General, had Ukraine's side inform you about today's shutting down the Russian bomber Tu-22. And the related question as we are expecting some kind of anti-aircraft systems delivery to Ukraine. Are there any restrictions on targeting Russian military targets over Russian territory and follow up if I may, before we were speaking about the formation, some kind of multi-level anti-aircraft system in Ukraine, had the Ukrainian side requested a part of the Patriots some kind of other systems to create such kind of air defence. Thank you.

NATO Secretary General 
Defense ministers Umerov, who also participated in the meeting updated us on the efforts by the Ukrainian armed forces to protect their territory and to protect their airspace, including, of course, the efforts to down different Russian capabilities. But it's not for me to go into the specifics. I will leave that to the Ukrainian side to go into the specific comments on the specific concrete actions, what I can say is that of course, NATO Allies will step up and several allies also made that clear in the meeting today with delivery of more air defences and I expect concrete announcements in the near future based on the information allies shared with us in the ministerial meeting with President Zelenskyy today. We have to remember this is a war of aggression where Russia is attacking a neighbour, attacking Ukraine. Ukraine has the right to self-defence. That includes also striking legitimate military targets outside Ukraine.

So to down Russian planes which are used to attack Ukraine is part of Ukraine's right for self-defence. Ukraine already has a multi-layered Air Defence System. The problem is that it has to be stronger and more comprehensive because Ukraine has different systems to take down drones, to take down different types of cruise missiles and also to take down the most advanced ballistic missiles. So Ukraine has NASAMS, it has IRIS-T, it has Gepard, it has, of course also Patriot batteries. So these are different layers of air defence systems, but they need more systems, they need more batteries and they need also more ammunition for all these systems. And that's exactly what we addressed during the meeting today.

Farah Dakhlallah, NATO Spokesperson
Thank you over to FAZ, Thomas in the middle there.

Thomas Gutschker, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Thanks a lot. Thomas Gutschker, with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, just to be clear Secretary General. So you've had a concrete pledges in the rooms, in the room, but you cannot announce them now. But you have reason to believe that the member states themselves will make these announcements soon, if you could just confirm that. And could you also give us an idea about the scope of this additional support to Ukraine and maybe also give us the result of your mapping exercise. So how many systems are operative or deliverable from NATO allies? How many systems could they provide without risking the security of NATO? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General 
So we have mapped and updated the overview we always have in NATO on different capabilities that different NATO Allies have and this mapping confirms that there are systems including Patriot systems available to be provided to Ukraine. But I will not go into the specific numbers because this is classified information. This is part of NATO's defence planning. Therefore, I will not go into the specific numbers but of course, these numbers and the updated overview the mapping has been shared with all allies and we are working with those allies to ensure that they make the right decisions to provide new Patriot batteries. But it is also extremely important to ensure that the batteries which have already been delivered to Ukraine are operational, meaning that they need spare parts. They need maintenance and they need interceptors because to have batteries without interceptors doesn't help.

So we need the full package, we need the capability, we need the sustainment in addition to the new systems, so we need to focus on new capabilities or new batteries. But also on sustaining existing and also new batteries. Yes, I expect new announcements in the near future based on information that allies have shared with us, but I will leave it to those different allies to make the announcements. We have also had some important announcement just this week, the German extra Patriot battery is an example. But also the Netherlands, 4 billion extra for Ukraine, but also based on the information Allies shared with us today.

I expect new announcements that was also very clearly conveyed in the meeting I had with Prime Minister Frederickson, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and also Fiala from the Czech Republic here at NATO two days ago, where we addressed how we can mobilise more support from Ukraine and also in the meeting with the G7 Foreign Ministers I attended yesterday in Capri more air defence and more ammunition for Ukraine was the top topic and based on all these consultations, I expect new announcements in the near future.

Farah Dakhlallah, NATO Spokesperson
Other questions? Over to you.

Alexandra Von Nahmen, Deutsche Welle
Thank you very much. Alexandra Von Nahmen with DW, Deutsche Welle. I would have a question on the Middle East. There were reports of explosions in Iran overnight. What is your assessment and how concerned are you and what would you say what NATO Allies can do to convince all parties from any further escalation they are thinking?

NATO Secretary General
Of course, we are concerned and I echo the words by the G7 foreign ministers and other international leaders who have called on all parties to de-escalate tensions. No one stands to benefit from another war in the Middle East. It is vital that the conflict does not spiral out of control and therefore we call on all parties to show restraint.

Farah Dakhlallah, NATO Spokesperson
Okay, we'll take a final question.

Stephan Israel, Table Media
Yes, Stephan Israel for Table Media.  I would come back to Ukraine and the air defence systems. Could you maybe say what the needs of Ukraine are because we heard some figures like they would need seven to cover the biggest cities at least. Can you confirm that and could you maybe tell us whether these systems which you discussed today, about the number is covering these needs approximately? Or do you still need more offers from other member states? And maybe finally, why does it take so long? I mean, we speak about defensive system, why is it so complicated to deliver that and how long would it take to deliver them? Like, for example, a German Patriot which is already offered? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General
So first of all, we have to remember that so far, NATO Allies have delivered unprecedented level of military support to Ukraine, including very advanced air defence systems including Patriot batteries, NASAMS which are also extremely advanced, SAMP/T advanced air defence systems and IRIS/T and many other systems. And these systems have helped to both protect Ukrainian cities, Ukrainian forces, and Ukrainian critical infrastructure and of course also different, more shorter range systems has also been supplied. But this is a war of attrition, there is a need for more and there’s urgent need for more, and therefore Allies are now stepping up. We have had announcements just over the last few days, I expect more announcements in the coming days.

And we are mobilising more support from NATO Allies, NATO Allies are providing 99% of the military support to Ukraine. I also made it clear that of course when I call on Allies to dig deeper into their inventories, there is a risk that they will go below the NATO guidelines. We have NATO capability targets, we have NATO guidelines based on defence plans. But of course if Allies then dig deeper and provide the capabilities to Ukraine that are part of NATO's defence plans, then there is that we will go below those guidelines. And we, I, made it clear that if the only way NATO Allies are able to provide Ukraine with the weapons they need to defend themselves, well that's the risk we have to take provided that this is a national decision and provided that Allies then make sure that they replenish their stocks so they, again, are able to meet the NATO capability targets. So Allies are providing, help is on its way and I expect more help and support to be announced in the very near future.

Farah Dakhlallah, NATO Spokesperson
Thank you. Thank you all for your time.

NATO Secretary General
Thank you