Joint press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the National Security Advisor of the United States, Jake Sullivan

  • 07 Feb. 2024 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 08 Feb. 2024 08:17

(As delivered)

Good afternoon.

I have just chaired a meeting of National Security Advisers from all NATO Allies. 

And I am glad to be joined today by U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

Jake, it is good to see you again,
Just after we last met in Washington last week.

In our meeting today, NATO Allies discussed our preparations for the Washington Summit in July.

Including Ukraine;
Deterrence and defence;
And the growing challenge posed by China.

Today, Allies reiterated their support for Ukraine.

This is not charity.
It is in our own security interest.

A Russian victory would weaken us,
And embolden not just Moscow,
But also China, Iran, and North Korea.

That matters for Europe’s security.
And it matters for America’s security.

By spending a fraction of our military budgets,
We have helped Ukraine to destroy a substantial part of Russia’s combat capacity.

Our support is also an example of true transatlantic burden sharing.

Where both Europe and North America are making critical contributions to preserve Ukraine’s freedom.

Last week in Washington, I heard strong support for Ukraine from Congressional leaders – both Republicans and Democrats.

The debate continues in Washington on funding for a number of important priorities.

It is vital that the United States Congress agrees on continued support for Ukraine in the near future.

And I count on all Allies to sustain their commitment.

Today, we also discussed further bolstering NATO’s deterrence and defence.

At the Summit, we will demonstrate that we are delivering on our commitments.

Including by fully resourcing our new defence plans,
Investing in new capabilities,
And accelerating efforts to strengthen our transatlantic defence industrial base.

Since last July, NATO has agreed industry deals worth some 10 billion US dollars for ammunition.
Including 5.5 billion dollars for 1,000 more Patriot air defence missiles just last month.
A deal that will build more production capacity in Europe for this vital capability.

The world has become more dangerous.
But NATO has become stronger.
With more forces,
Higher readiness,
And increased defence investment.

We can never take peace for granted.
But we do not see any imminent threats against any NATO Ally.

NATO is now holding Steadfast Defender - our biggest military exercise in decades.

Our exercise demonstrates that there should be no room for miscalculation in Moscow about NATO’s readiness and resolve to protect all Allies.

In our meetings today, we also addressed the growing challenge posed by China. 
Our competitors are increasingly joining forces.
And Russia's increasing cooperation with China, Iran, and North Korea raises serious concerns.

So it is even more important that NATO is working more closely with partners like Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

Today, we also condemned Iran’s destabilising role throughout the Middle East,
Including its support for terror groups that attack Allied forces and civilian shipping.

Attacks by Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria against U.S. forces are unacceptable.
Iran must rein in its proxies.

So dear Jake,

Thank you again for your strong personal commitment to our Alliance.
And for the extraordinary leadership of the United States and President Biden as we face global challenges.

Together in NATO, we will continue to protect our nations, our people and our values.

And we all look forward to the Summit in Washington.

So, please.

Acting NATO Spokesperson Dylan White
Thanks very much. We'll go to questions starting with Bloomberg in the middle here in the front, please.

Natalia Drozdiak, Bloomberg
Natalia Drozdiak from Bloomberg, thank you so much for this question. Mr. Sullivan, what's the plan B for Washington’s support for Ukraine. We've heard repeatedly in the last few weeks and months that from the White House that this package would eventually get through Congress, but it keeps failing. I mean, what at what point do you start looking at alternatives? And Mr. Secretary General, I mean, what can NATO do if the US can't get this aid passed for Ukraine? Thank you.

National Security Advisor of the United States Jake Sullivan 
So first, we're not focused on plan B. We're focused on Plan A, we're focused on passing a bipartisan support package for Ukraine that will provide it with the tools and capabilities it needs to continue to defend effectively and to take back territory that Russia currently occupies. You've seen a lot of ‘tooing and froing’ in the Congress, and I'm not going to get into the details of that, particularly standing here in Brussels.

But what I will say is this, even in the last 24 hours, you've seen a significant number of Republicans come out and say that no matter what else happens, we need to move forward a package of support for Ukraine, as President Biden said yesterday, history will record any failure to deliver the type of assistance that's contained in the package that was put forward this week. And we fully intend to drive to the point where that package passes both the Senate and the House and lands on the President's desk for signature. At the end of the day, there is no alternative to the United States stepping up to the plate and providing a level of resources that allow Ukraine to have the artillery, the air defence systems and the other capabilities they need. And time is of the essence in this regard. So we're going to stay focused on that and we believe that we still can and will deliver it.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
First of all, I think we need to recognise how important our support has been since the full-fledged invasion happened or took place in 2022. What we have seen is unprecedented support from NATO Allies and our support is making a difference on the battlefield every day. And it's the support from NATO Allies that has enabled and made it possible for the Ukrainians to liberate 50% of the territory that the Russian forces occupied in the beginning of the war. It's our support that enabled the Ukrainians to open a corridor in the Black Sea pushing back the Russian Black Sea fleet and also enable the Ukrainians to inflict heavy casualties on the Russian invaders, more than 300,000 casualties, there was thousands of armoured vehicles and hundreds of aircraft.

So the first message is that our support makes a difference. It really helps the Ukrainians to demonstrate that it was a big strategic mistake of President Putin to invade Ukraine. He believed that he was able to take control of Ukraine within days. And now the war soon will be moving to its third year, and Ukrainians have been able to actually make important gains. That’s the reason also why it is important that support continues. And as National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan just said we are focusing on plan A and that is that all Allies continue to support Ukraine, this is truly a joint effort by Europe and North America. We have seen burden-sharing within the Alliance when it comes to support to Ukraine, and I expect the US to make decisions in the near future to continue to support Ukraine.

Acting NATO Spokesperson Dylan White
Next question is Reuters in the second row please.

Andrew Gray, Reuters
Andrew Gray from Reuters, a question for both of you. How concerned are you by President Zelenskyy’s decision to dismiss General Zaluzhnyi at this critical time in the war and what does it say about the state of civil military relations in Ukraine, given that in most democracies, if a civilian leader had said that he no longer wanted a Chief of Staff in office, then that person would no longer be in the job.

National Security Advisor of the United States Jake Sullivan 
So I'll leave it to the Ukrainians to speak themselves to the question of the future of anyone of their military personnel. That's a sovereign decision for a sovereign country to make. And obviously an elected leader has to make his choices about who occupies the upper rungs of the military leadership. All I can say is that from the United States’ perspective. We're going to continue to support both the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian military in their efforts to continue to get the kind of progress that the Secretary General referenced, but we will leave the decisions, the personnel decisions to the Ukrainians, that's not for us to decide from Washington or from here in Brussels.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
I agree, just to highlight, this is of course, a Ukrainian decision. We –it's not for NATO to have any opinion about that. But I welcome the very clear statement from Foreign Minister Kuleba that any changes will not affect Ukraine's relationship with partners and with NATO. So we will continue to support that's what matters and we will continue to do so.

Acting NATO Spokesperson Dylan White
Next question from the Washington Post please here.

Emily Rauhala, The Washington Post
Thank you, for the National Security Advisor. Hungary promised not to be the last Ally to ratify Sweden's entry into NATO. And yet, here we are. We still don't have a sense of when or if this will happen. Some US lawmakers have proposed tougher measures, potentially sanctions, changes to visa rules for Hungary. I'm curious what specific measures the administration is considering to close this deal. And for the Secretary General, same question. Essentially, Hungary said it wouldn't be the last, it is the last, can this Alliance and can you still trust Hungary as an Ally? Thank you.

National Security Advisor of the United States Jake Sullivan 
So first in the session today with the National Security Advisors, we heard Security Advisor after Security Advisors say that it's past time for Sweden to get in and to directly address the representative from Hungary to say, indeed, they are the last and it's, you know, a matter of credibility and obligation that they take the necessary steps to complete the parliamentary process so that NATO can in fact, welcome Sweden as the 32nd member. We see a path forward for that. Of course, we're staying in close consultation with Sweden who sees a path forward for that. So I'm not going to stand here today and make particular threats or speculations about steps we would take down the road. But of course, our patience on this can't be unlimited either. So we'll continue to watch it carefully but hope that there is a constructive resolution to this issue in the very near term.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
I spoke with [Prime Minister Orbán] a few days ago and he made it very clear that he strongly support Swedish membership of the Alliance. It is also clear that the Hungarian parliament is not in session now but they will reconvene at the end of February and the message was that soon after that they will make a decision on ratification of Sweden, so I expect that Sweden will be a full member in the near future. We have to remember that what you have seen since February 2022 is one of the fastest accession processes in NATO’s history. Finland and Sweden applied in May 2022, already in July, they were both invited. Then Finland become a full member in April last year, and I expect then Sweden to be a member very soon. That demonstrates that NATO is not only getting stronger but NATO is also getting bigger, Finland already a member and Sweden, very soon.

Acting NATO Spokesperson Dylan White
Time for just one or two more. We'll go to the Telegraph please here in the second row.

Joe Barnes, The Daily Telegraph
Thank you. Joe Barnes from The Daily Telegraph, to National Security Advisor, Tucker Carlson is about to broadcast an interview with Vladimir Putin, we know Tucker Carlson is highly critical of US Western support for Ukraine. What are you going to do to be countering the message that he puts out there? [inaudible] you have your own struggles with Congress and there's lots of sort of doubt amongst Western political bodies, Parliaments, over whether we should carry on supporting Ukraine in the long term. And then I guess one for both of you. Ukraine this week's announced a standalone drone force, which puts an emphasis on unmanned and unconventional capabilities. NATO and its Allies have been focused on ramping up production for conventional warfare so artillery shells and air interceptors, etc. Are we capable of now moving that to support Ukraine's wishes to create a sort of a drone led army?

National Security Advisor of the United States Jake Sullivan 
Just your second question, and very interested to hear what Secretary General has to say as well but I mentioned in my opening comments that moving our defence industrial base forward has to be about just traditional production of the basics like 155mm artillery shells, but it also has to be about the modern technologies that we're seeing, adapt and evolve on the battlefield in real time in this war.

A few weeks ago I hosted at the White House, a series of technology companies in the United States who are working on unmanned aerial systems, counter UAS systems, and other advanced technologies and technological capabilities that could be relevant to the future of warfare and that have to be part of, you know, the planning and the posture of the United States and of the NATO Alliance. We have confidence that we have all the tools necessary to do this. We are on the technological cutting edge. We have the best companies in the world and we have public, private partnerships that can do this work. Now it's a matter of getting all of that integrated and moving it forward. But I believe that that can be done and should be a central priority, as I noted in my opening remarks.

With respect to this interview, we've heard voices in the United States and Europe elsewhere around the world, casting doubt or casting aspersions on our collective support for Ukraine from the day this war started, in fact, even before this war started, and we have consistently made the case about why standing up and supporting Ukraine is in the fundamental national security interest of the United States and of the Transatlantic Alliance. And I believe that we have continued to prevail in that argument that vast majority of the American people see the merit in that and a strong bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives have continued to support Ukraine and continue to believe in that so we're going to stay the course and we're going continue to point out that walking away from Ukraine at this moment, at this time would be fundamentally wrong from the point of view of our basic national security in the United States and for our NATO Allies as well. And we think we will continue to win that argument. Because we have the truth on our side.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
I welcome the efforts to modernise the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the midst of a war of aggression by Russia against Ukraine, and that includes, of course, everything to do to invest more and to produce more drones. These efforts are conducted with the support of NATO and NATO Allies. I think it also demonstrates the importance of working with Ukraine to ramp up also their industrial base, because this is now a war of attrition and a war of attrition becomes a war of logistics. And then it depends very much on the production capacity. Also, when it comes to modern systems, like for instance drones. Then I think we need to remember that drones have played an important role throughout this war. And that NATO Allies have also provided support throughout the war.

For instance, Turkiye has provided the Bayraktar drones since actually before the full scale invasion. And now they are now establishing a new factory to produce drones, which is then a Turkish drone factory in Ukraine. And that's one example of many how NATO Allies are supporting Ukraine with direct deliveries of weapons and ammunition but also by investing in and ramping up their capacity to produce their own weapons. Lastly, I think that we need to recognise that the war in Ukraine is a challenge because it is a combination of First World War trench warfare, combined with a modern technology from the 21st century, including drones and that's exactly the challenge that we are in addressing together with Ukraine by providing support to them.

Acting NATO Spokesperson Dylan White
Time for one final question. We'll go to FAZ in row four please.

Thomas Gutschker, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Thanks a lot for this, Thomas Gutschker with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. I have a question to both of you. There's an ongoing debate here in Europe, whether European nations are doing enough in terms of monetary support for Ukraine. Clearly, those at the Eastern flank are spending much more both in absolute numbers and also in share of their GDP than nations in the South. So many people in this city point to for instance, as France, Spain and Italy has not spending enough. How do you view this and would you be in favour of setting a percentage of GDP for military support in favour of Ukraine? Thank you.

National Security Advisor of the United States Jake Sullivan 
From our perspective, the overall picture of Allied burden sharing and Allied contributions to Ukraine looks quite healthy. The United States has come in with a huge contribution over the past two years, but so have a lot of European partners and the total European support, including on the defence side has been robust and far beyond what I think anybody would have expected when this began. Now obviously there are differences among different countries. I'm not going to stand here and speak about any one country but I think that the formula that we have right now, led by Secretary Austin through the Ramstein process, the UDCG is generating the kinds of contributions that we would like to see. And some of the major limitations are not actually about people stepping up with resources, it is about these defence industrial base issues that that we were just talking about.

So I'll leave it to others to have the debate about whether any given country should be doing more. And I don't know that we need a mechanical formula as long as we're getting the overall kinds of resources that are necessary. Of course, we always want to see more. And we're going to countries and saying hey, there's a particular capability and we need to fill this hole and you've got it please give it so don't misunderstand me we're constantly egging countries on and encouraging them to do more and challenging ourselves to do the same. But I do want to reinforce that the coalition of countries that has come together to support Ukraine has moved fast and has moved big, and we just need to keep that up and where there specific gaps we need to fill them.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
Again, I agree. I think that what we have seen is actually really, burden sharing in practice demonstrated by European Allies and North America together, and especially if, on top of the military support, where the use of –the leading role, also at the economic and financial support where European Allies and Canada have played the most important role is to take all that together. It's really burden sharing across the Alliance. We will –of course we address what each and every Ally can do, both within NATO but also within the Ramstein format, where the US led contact group for Ukraine is actually going through different lists of specific [inaudible] requirements. We're asking Allies to do more. So we always would like Allies to do more and not least sustain what they're already committed to do. And that's the main message today is that we must sustain our support and that's a responsibility for all Allies.

Acting NATO Spokesperson Dylan White
That concludes this press point. Thank you very much.