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nato secretary general jens stoltenberg
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Source: NATO

30 Sep. 2022

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg condemned Russia’s attempts to annex four regions of Ukraine as “illegal and illegitimate.” Speaking to press on Friday (30 September 2022), he underlined that NATO Allies do not and will not recognise any of this territory as part of Russia. “We call on all states to reject Russia’s blatant attempts at territorial conquest,” he said.

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Source: NATO Secretary General condemns Russia’s illegal attempts to annex Ukrainian territory

(As delivered)

Good evening.

President Putin has now claimed four more regions of Ukraine as part of Russia.

This is the largest attempted annexation of European territory by force since the Second World War.

Another 15 percent of Ukraine’s territory. An area roughly the size of Portugal.
Illegally seized by Russia at gunpoint.

The sham referendums were engineered in Moscow.
And imposed on Ukraine.
In total violation of international law.

This land grab is illegal and illegitimate.
NATO Allies do not, and will not, recognise any of this territory as part of Russia.
We call on all states to reject Russia’s blatant attempts at territorial conquest.

These lands are Ukraine.
Donetsk is Ukraine.
Luhansk is Ukraine.
Kherson is Ukraine.
Zaporizhzhia is Ukraine.
Just like Crimea is Ukraine.

This is the second time Russia has taken Ukrainian territory by force.
But it does not change the nature of the conflict.

This remains Russia’s brutal war of aggression against Ukraine.

And it does not change our commitment to support Ukraine.

NATO is not party to the conflict.
But we provide support to Ukraine so it can uphold its right for  self-defence, enshrined in the UN Charter.

Ours is a defensive Alliance.
We stand united and determined
to defend and protect every NATO Ally.
And every inch of Allied territory.

This is a pivotal moment.
Putin has mobilised hundreds of thousands of more troops.
Engaged in irresponsible nuclear sabre-rattling.
And now illegally annexed more Ukrainian territory.

Together, this represents the most serious escalation since the start of the war.

None of this shows strength.
It shows weakness.
It is an admission that the war is not going to plan.
And that Putin has utterly failed in his strategic objectives.

Putin bears full responsibility for this war.
And it is his responsibility to end it.
To end the immense suffering of the brave Ukrainian people.
To end the energy and food crisis that is affecting so many around the world.

If Russia stops fighting, there will be peace.
If Ukraine stops fighting, it will cease to exist as an independent sovereign nation in Europe.

NATO reaffirms our unwavering support for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

We remain resolute in providing support to Ukraine as it continues to defend itself against Russia’s aggression.

For as long as it takes.

And with that, I am ready to take your questions.

NATO Spokesperson, Oana Lungescu:

And we’ll have time for just a couple of questions. We’ll start with the News Agency of Ukraine.

National News Agency Ukraine, Dmitry Shurkho:

Thank you for you all. National News Agency of Ukraine Dmitry Shurkho. We, in Ukraine have no doubt we’ll prevail and liberate our territories. But a few hours ago Ukrainian leadership showed us the possible way out of this bloody war and officially applied to NATO membership. My question,  is NATO ready to consider that kind of application? And the second part of the question, is it possible to consider this speedy procedure for that kind of membership, like it was done for Sweden and Finland? Thank you so much.

NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg:

Every democracy in Europe has the right to apply for NATO membership, and NATO Allies respect that right. And we have stated again and again that NATO’s door remains open. And we have demonstrated that over the last years.

NATO Allies, when they met at the NATO Summit in Madrid, stated also very clearly, that we support Ukraine’s right to choose its own path, to decide what kind of security arrangements it wants to be part of. Then, a decision on membership, of course has to be taken by all 30 Allies and we take these decisions by consensus.

Our focus now is on providing immediate support to Ukraine, to help Ukraine defend itself against the Russian brutal invasion. And then that’s the main focus and the main effort of NATO Allies, as we speak.

NATO Spokesperson, Oana Lungescu:

Associated Press.

Associated Press, Lorne Cook:

Secretary General the war seems to have taken on a new dimension today with both President Zelenskyy and President Putin taking fairly big steps. I wonder now that President Putin has annexed these parts of Ukraine, he has threatened to use nuclear weapons as well. Would you call for calm? Would you would you advise President Zelenskyy to perhaps stay away from the region? How will NATO deal with this as well from the outside?

NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg:

We call on President Putin to end the war. He is responsible for starting the war and he has the responsibility to end the war. Because if Russia stops fighting, there will be peace. If Zelenskyy and Ukrainians stop fighting, Ukraine will cease to exist as an independent nation. So we are not speaking about in a way to equals. We have an aggressor, Russia and we have a country which is the victim of aggression, Ukraine. And that’s also the reason why we are so clearly supporting Ukraine. With the illegal annexations of Ukrainian territory, it doesn’t change the nature of this war. It remains a war of aggression by Russia against Ukraine.

And of course, what we’ve seen over the last weeks or days is the most serious escalation of this conflict since the invasion on the 24th of February, because we have the combination of the mobilisation in Russia, combined with the reckless dangerous nuclear rhetoric, and then today’s illegal annexation or attempt to annex parts of Ukraine. Together, this is the most serious escalation of the conflict since the start. And the aim of President Putin is to deter us from supporting Ukraine. But he will not succeed in that. The message from NATO Alliesand our partners is that we will continue to support. The United States just announced today, more support. And I spoke also with all our leaders over the last few days. And NATO leaders and they all have the same message, we need to stand united and need to provide support to Ukraine, because this is of course in the interest of Ukraine, and that we help them to defend themselves. But it’s also in our interest that we ensure that President Putin doesn’t win because if he wins the message is that authoritarian powers like Russia can use military force and then achieve their goals and that will make the whole world more dangerous.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu:

ZDF.

ZDF, Florian Neuhann:

Thank you. Florian Neuhahn, ZDF German TV. Mr. Stoltenberg, two questions if I may. The first one coming back to that my colleagues’ question on the nuclear doctrine of Russia. Once again: would you encourage, if you were asked,  Ukrainian army, Ukrainian military to really attack those annexed regions, and by this also maybe provoking a nuclear escalation, since many people throughout the world and especially in Europe, fear nuclear escalation of this war? And the second question, you just today talked to Chancellor Scholz, and I guess you also discussed the attacks on the pipelines. What could be the NATO and German response to that? Would enhanced military presence in the Baltic Sea, for example, be a response that you consider? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:

Ukraine has of course the right to retake Ukrainian territory which is now occupied by Russian forces. That’s the reason why we support them. So that they can defend themselves, but also they can continue to liberate territory. As I said, the illegal annexation or attempt of annexing Ukrainian territory doesn’t change that. It doesn’t change the nature of this conflict. Because if we accepted that the annexation by Russia and the nuclear sabre-rattling, actually, deterred us from supporting Ukraine, then we accept nuclear blackmailing, then we accept that by threatening of using nuclear weapons, authoritarian powers like Russia can achieve exactly what they want: to take control over a neighbour, Ukraine, and then deter us from supporting Ukraine in their absolute sovereign right to defend themselves against an aggressor. A right which is actually enshrined in the UN Charter.

President Putin’s nuclear rhetoric is dangerous. It is reckless. NATO is of course vigilant. We monitor closely what Russia does. Russia must understand that nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought. And it will have severe consequences for Russia if they use nuclear weapons. And this has been very clearly conveyed to Russia. So we will continue to support Ukraine. And we will continue to support them in their efforts to liberate even more territory, because they have the right to do so.

Then on the on the on the pipelines. Yes, I spoke with Chancellor Scholz today. We addressed of course the sabotage against Nordstream One and Nordstream Two. This is very serious, big explosions destroying two pipelines. We support also the efforts which are ongoing, efforts of investigation to reveal the facts and to determine who was behind these attacks. NATO and NATO Allies are present with naval capabilities, with planes in the Baltic Sea, in the North Sea. And of course, this sends a message of Allies and NATO readiness to protect and defend each other, also critical infrastructure. These Allies, these capabilities, these planes, these ships are also collecting information, data, which can be helpful both for the ongoing investigation but also to monitor these critical energy infrastructures.

And we are stepping up our sharing of intelligence, sharing of information. MARCOM, our Maritime Command in Northwood is collecting a lot of this information. And we are also actually reviewing some of the data we have already collected over the last weeks and months, to see that when we looked through those data again, whether we were able to discover something connected to the attacks on the two pipelines in the Baltic Sea. It also highlights the importance of the work which is ongoing in NATO to strengthen the resilience, including resilience of critical infrastructure. So a military presence to send the message of deterrence, to collect and monitor and collect data and monitor the infrastructure. And then, share information, and step up resilience are the most important ways NATO and NATO Allies are now supporting each other to prevent anything similar to happen to any other critical energy infrastructure.

NATO Spokesperson, Oana Lungescu:

Final question Wall Street Journal.

Wall Street Journal, Dan Michaels: 

Dan Michaels with the Wall Street Journal, coming back to some of the issues already raised, but thanks in large part to supportive NATO members, Ukraine has had notable success on the battlefield over recent weeks, but it does seem that the more success Ukraine has on the battlefield, the more erratic, belligerent and potentially dangerous Mr. Putin becomes. So does this change the way you approach the situation? Does it make you more cautious, or in any way that this fact that the better Ukraine does in fighting the Russian troops, the bigger the threats seem to be from Moscow.  Thank you.

NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg:

It doesn’t change what we have to do, and that is to support Ukraine. Because if we let Putin win in Ukraine, it will be catastrophic for Ukraine. Ukraine will cease to exist as an independent, sovereign nation, but it will also be dangerous for us. It’s not as if inaction is not a risk. Inaction is a great risk. Because that will create a world, where Putin will see that with impunity, he can use military force, invade the neighbour and then establish a sphere of influence. So when you listen to what he has said, not only about Ukraine, but also about members of NATO, eastern Allies, that will be a world, that will be more dangerous for all of us.

So yes, we are faced with a dangerous war in Ukraine. But it’s not as if that war will not be dangerous anymore if we allow Putin to win. In many ways, it will at least increase the long-term risks for all of us. And that’s the reason why we pay the cost of supporting Ukraine, and knowing that the cost, the price we have to pay if we don’t support them, most likely will be much higher.

We are monitoring closely what Russia is doing. We haven’t seen any changes in their nuclear posture. We are vigilant, we are sharing information and we have conveyed very clearly to Russia that there will be severe consequences if they use nuclear forces against Ukraine.

We also have to realize that we speak about different types of escalation. One thing is escalation within Ukraine. We have conveyed a clear message on that. Then, of course, there is also the risk of escalation beyond Ukraine involving other NATO Allies. We also been very clear on that.

NATO is not party to the conflict. We support Ukraine, but that doesn’t make us part to the conflict. We support a sovereign nation in the sovereign right for self-defence.

On top of that, we have also significantly increased our military presence in the eastern part of the Alliance. We did so immediately after the invasion, because we were prepared. And so that morning of the invasion, we activated all our defence plans from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea, and started additional deployment of additional troops to the eastern part of the Alliance. To remove any room for miscalculation, or misunderstanding in Moscow about our willingness, our readiness to protect every inch of NATO territory. And more troops in the eastern part alliance is sending that message.

So NATO’s aim, what we are doing is support Ukraine, but at the same time preventing escalation by sending a clear message to Moscow about the dangerous nuclear rhetoric and the consequences the use of nuclear weapons will have, and by demonstrating our readiness to defend and protect all Allies, by increasing the presence of NATO troops and sea and air capabilities in eastern part of the Alliance.

NATO Spokesperson, Oana Lungescu:

Thank you very much. This concludes this press point.

NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg:

Thank you.

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