Doorstep statement

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union with Defence Ministers

  • 23 May. 2023 -
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  • Last updated: 23 May. 2023 14:57

(As delivered)

Good afternoon. 
I look forward to meeting the EU Defence Ministers. 

NATO-EU cooperation has been close to my heart for many, many years and we are making a lot of progress. 
The war in Ukraine demonstrates the importance of NATO and the European Union working closely together and NATO Allies and the EU has delivered unprecedented support to Ukraine. 

Just over last months, we have delivered heavy battle tanks – the Leopards, the UK British Challengers but also now the US Abrams and then the last weeks, United Kingdom has delivered advanced long-range cruise missiles, which are already making a difference on the battlefield. 
And then of course, over the last days, we have heard an announcement from several Allies including the United States, United Kingdom and several European Allies that they will start the training of pilots on NATO-standard modern western fighter jets. 

This demonstrates our readiness to stand by Ukraine and to be prepared for the long haul. 
But of course, to continue our support to Ukraine, we also need to ramp up production of weapons and of ammunition, and therefore, one of the issues that we'll discuss with the defence ministers is how we can work even more closely together, NATO and the European Union on increasing and strengthening our transatlantic industrial base. 

I welcome the work the EU is doing. 
This is making a difference, is helping our joint efforts. 

At the same time what NATO does, is also critical because we are setting the standards to ensure interoperability, interchangeability. 
We have the NATO guidelines, the capability targets for each and every Ally and we are now in the process of revising the guidelines, the capability targets for battle decisive ammunition which includes also 155mm ammunition which is a critical piece of ammunition in the war in Ukraine. 

And we are engaging closely with industry. 
I met them several times, we have engaged with them. 
And I see now that more and more NATO Allies actually signing contracts, which is what we need to ensure that production actually increases. 
We need to avoid creating new barriers between NATO Allies, we need to strengthen the transatlantic industrial base to ensure that we can both replenish our own stocks, to ensure our own deterrence and defence but also to continue to support Ukraine. 

Then another topic which was also related to the war in Ukraine is the protection of critical infrastructure. 
We have seen the vulnerability of infrastructure, especially undersea infrastructure. 
We have established a joint task force with the European Union, NATO and the European Union on resilience including infrastructure. 
NATO has established a cell at NATO to coordinate the efforts of different countries, different Allies and the public and the private sector to step up what we do to protect critical infrastructure, and I expect also new announcements and decisions at the upcoming NATO Summit. 

So then I'm ready for your questions.

Andrew Gray (Reuters): Secretary General, can I just ask [about the] ammunition which you mentioned there… Are the European Union and NATO Allies doing everything possible to get enough ammunition to Ukraine in the timeframe that Ukraine needs it? Are you confident about the EU three-track approach? Is there anything more you will be encouraging them to do today?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: It is extremely important that we increase the production of ammunition. This is something we have been focused on for some time now since last fall, we had the first meetings at NATO. I also met with Foreign Minister Kuleba and Josep Borrell and me, we met some months ago and agreed to coordinate our efforts between Ukraine, EU and NATO even more closely. Because it is always, of course, important to discuss new platforms, planes, battle tanks, air defence systems. But as important – or perhaps even more important – is to ensure that all the systems which are already in Ukraine work and function as they should. And to do so, they need ammunition, they need fuel, spare parts, maintenance, and air capacity. So the sustainment, which also includes ammunition, is absolutely critical.
This is now a war of attrition, and a war of attrition becomes a battle of logistics, and then production. Ramping-up production is absolutely key. So of course, we are always focusing on what more can we do to ensure that we engage even more with industry, that we mobilize even more contracts. I have decided to invite representatives from the defence industry from both sides of the Atlantic to our defence ministerial meeting next month, to an event where we will engage directly with all the ministers and the defence industry. The EU is of course also invited, Ukraine is invited to the same event with High Representative Borrell, but also Commissioner Breton, to ensure the fullest possible engagement with the defence industry.
In NATO, of course, we have tried and tested structures for production, and for also joint procurement. We have done joint procurement, meaning Allies buying ammunition and weapons together, for many, many years. We have big ongoing projects. Some of them are organized by NATO Allies as groups. Many of them are organized through the NATO Support and Procurement agency, the NSPA, and there are ongoing projects now. And I think, of course, it's important to use all the tools available, including the well-established NATO structures, to coordinate and to ensure joint procurement and to sign the contracts so the industry is willing to invest and ramp up production.

Florian Neuhann (ZDF): And on the fighter jets, Mr Stoltenberg, [Inaudible]? Do you have any idea about the timetable: When will the pilots be trained, and when will the first fighter jets be delivered to Ukraine?

General Secretary Stoltenberg: I think it's a good idea and I welcome the decision on … training of pilots. Because that gives us the opportunity, the possibility, to make decisions also delivery later on. I will leave it to individual Allies to make an announcement exactly about when they start training.
But of course, also with the announcement by President Biden this weekend, the US being, of course, the main provider of, for instance, F-16s, and also announcing today that they will start training. This is an important step that partly will enable us to then deliver fighter jets at some stage, but also is sending a very clear signal that we are there for the long term, and that Russia cannot wait us out. And President Putin started this war, he can end this war. And we have to remember what this is: This is a war of aggression. Ukraine has the right of self-defence, they're defending themselves. And the right of self-defence is enshrined in the UN Charter. We help Ukraine to uphold that right. That's our right, to help them protect UN law, international law, against the war of aggression. That doesn't make NATO, NATO Allies, parties to the conflict. But we are supporting Ukraine to defend themselves against a war of aggression, brutal invasion by President Putin.

Reporter: Viktor Orbán said in an interview on Bloomberg, looking at the figures, looking at the surroundings, looking at the fact that NATO is not ready to send troops, it is obvious that there is no victory for poor Ukrainians on the battlefield”. How would you comment on that?

General Secretary Stoltenberg: Well, what we have demonstrated now is the willingness of NATO Allies to really provide support to Ukraine. And we have seen that this support has been really decisive.
President Putin made several big strategic mistakes when he invaded Ukraine, partly because he totally underestimated the Ukrainians, their bravery, their determination, their courage, but also he totally underestimated NATO Allies and partners when it comes to our willingness, our readiness, to provide support to Ukraine. And this has enabled Ukrainians to push back and to retake territory. We saw it in the north, around Kyiv, where they actually liberated a lot of territory. Then we saw it in the East and around Kharkiv. And then we saw it in the South – again – Kherson. So the Ukrainians have already demonstrated the capability they have to liberate land, push back the Russians, and the importance of the support that they get from NATO Allies.
Then, of course, they need to do more, and that's exactly why we are stepping up our support. I just mentioned the battle tanks, the long-range cruise missiles, and also the training of the pilots. And let me come back to exactly which nations are training pilots. But anyway, several Allies have announced that they are training pilots.
So I'm absolutely confident that Ukraine has the capacity, the will, the courage, but also that NATO Allies have the commitment, the resolve, to support them so they can liberate and ensure that President Putin does not win this war.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Thank you very much, dear colleagues, that’s all we have time for.