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Jens Stoltenberg: an exclusive interview with the NATO Secretary General for Hromadske Radio

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Estimated Reading Time: 7 min

Hromadske Radio publishes an exclusive interview with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Journalist Angela Bubelyak conducted the interview on the sidelines of the NATO Defence Ministers’ Summit in Brussels.

«In addition to discussing matters with the NATO Secretary General, I also wanted to express gratitude to Jens Stoltenberg for his unwavering support of Ukraine, a cause he appears to have taken personally», – stated the journalist.

Below is the full interview with the NATO Secretary General.

Angela Bubelyak: Mr. Secretary-General, you recently returned from the US, where a lot has been said about the aid to Ukraine, which has been blocked by some members of the American Congress. And I would say that American aid constitutes the lion’s share in supporting Ukraine. What’s NATO’s Plan B if the US stops helping Ukraine before or after a presidential election?

Jens Stoltenberg: Our focus is on Plan A, and that is to ensure that the United States continues to provide support to Ukraine. 99% of the military support for Ukraine comes from NATO allies. It is of course vital that the United States continues to play such a major role. But it is also European Allies and Canada, that are providing substantial support. So, we need all allies to continue and sustain their support to Ukraine.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and journalist Angela Bubeliak

Angela Bubelyak: Currently, there are non-public discussions that NATO will take over the role of the coordinator of aid to Ukraine within the framework of the Ramstein format, instead of the US. Is there a consensus on this and how would it happen?

Jens Stoltenberg: First of all, the most important thing is that NATO allies are providing support to Ukraine and again, almost 100% of the military support to Ukraine comes from NATO allies. And this is something we have addressed and discussed in NATO since the full-fledged invasion. How we organize that support is not the most important thing; the most important thing is that the support continues to flow. Much of the support is provided bilaterally, and some is brought to NATO under the comprehensive assistance package, where we help build interoperability with Ukrainian forces. Some support is provided to the European Union, and, of course, some from the United States and Canada, and many others. So, we have ongoing discussions on exactly how to organize support to make it robust, maximize sustainability, and ensure the best possible coordination. But, it is too early to say what will be the outcome of these discussions.

Angela Bubelyak: But can you confirm that such discussions exist about the possible replacement of NATO as a coordinator instead of the US?

Jens Stoltenberg: I will not go into the details of the discussions inside NATO. We have constant discussions on many issues in NATO, and I think that’s a good thing to have on the issues. But it will just make our discussions more difficult if I reported ongoing discussions. We will inform the world when decisions are taken.

Angela Bubelyak: As for the F-16s, when do you think the Ukrainian military will be able to use those aircraft in combat?

Jens Stoltenberg: I will be careful about speculating. I know that no final decision has been made, but I hope it can happen as soon as possible. We have just set up a training center in Romania, and I welcome the efforts of the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and all the allies in providing training, planes. The sooner, the better. At the same time, it’s important that when the F-16s are used in combat operations in Ukraine by Ukrainian pilots, these pilots have the necessary skills, experience, and training.

Angela Bubelyak: I’m sorry, but maybe you can say if we can expect this by the end of this year?

Jens Stoltenberg: Again, I will be careful, but of course by the end of this year, we aim to provide significant training not only for the pilots but also for the maintenance technicians and all the other infrastructure needed to operate such an advanced system.

Angela Bubelyak: The Minister of Defence of Ukraine stated that the country needs about 2.5 million of the 155-millimetre calibre munitions per year. How can these needs be satisfied?

Jens Stoltenberg: NATO allies need to provide a substantial amount of 155-millimetre rounds of ammunition to Ukraine. They have already done so for over two years. Initially, what we did we dig into our own stocks. In the long run, this is not sustainable, because many NATO stocks are now running quite low. There are three alternative sources: one is to increase our own production to replenish our own stocks and continue supporting Ukraine; Allies are doing that. NATO have just signed big contracts 10 billion worth of contracts for ammunition and air defence interceptors. It’s about also acquiring weapons from outside NATO, from countries in Asia or elsewhere.

And then thirdly, and I think very importantly, is of course to help to increase the Ukrainian domestic production of ammunition. And I welcome the ingenuity the skills that Ukrainian defence industry demonstrates every day in ramping up production in both producing standard 155 millimetre artillery shells but also producing drones, unmanned maritime vehicles and other systems which have proven extremely effective and which are constantly inflicting heavy losses on the Russian Armed Forces.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

Angela Bubelyak: Is NATO aware of any of Ukraine’s plans for an offensive this year?

Jens Stoltenberg: I think it’s very important, that we leave it to the Ukrainians, the Ukrainian political and military leadership to make announcements on behalf of what they are going to do and their plans for this year. We should not sit in Brussels and announce what Kyiv will do or not do. Our responsibility as NATO allies is to provide support training, and we will continue to do so.

Angela Bubelyak: Several NATO nations warned that Russia might attack an allied nation in the coming years. Does NATO have any data about the specific sounds of any possible attacks? And will it also be a full-scale invasion like in Ukraine? And could this happen after Ukraine’s total defeat or during this war?

Jens Stoltenberg: We live in a more dangerous world also for NATO allies. But NATO has become significantly stronger. We have seen the pattern of Russian behaviour, especially since 2014. With the illegal annexation of Crimea. Since then, NATO has implemented historic enforcement of collective defense and when, Putin launched a full fledge invasion of Ukraine back in 2022, NATO did two things. The first was to mobilise more support to Ukraine. The second was to activate our own defence plans and deploy more NATO troops in the eastern part of the lines to ensure that President Putin realised that there was nothing to gain for him by attacking a NATO allied country, to prevent escalation beyond Ukraine. And we don’t see any imminent threat against any NATO ally. We’re can never take peace for granted. But we don’t have any information indicating any imminent threat against the NATO ally.

Angela Bubelyak: Should spending on defense for the allies be increased up to Cold War times?

Jens Stoltenberg: While what NATO has decided is that our allies should spend minimum 2%, meaning that many allies will spend more than 2%, and many allies are already spending more than 2%. The United States our big ally, they spend significantly more than 2% but also Poland, the ally who spends almost 4%. The Baltic countries and others are spending significantly more. So, we agreed at the NATO summit in Vilnius that two present is a minimum, not the ceiling, but the floor for what we’re going to spend.

Angela Bubelyak: In his recent statement, Donald Trump said that he would encourage Russia to attack NATO allies who don’t pay their bills. Can we expect Trump if he wins the election not to activate Article Five or to even withdraw the US from NATO?

Jens Stoltenberg: I am confident that regardless of the outcome of the US elections, the United States will remain a staunch NATO ally, because it is in the US security interests to have a strong NATO, because there is a strong bipartisan support for NATO in the United States. And because that criticism of NATO has not primarily been about NATO, but it has been about NATO allies not spending enough on NATO. And that what we see now is that NATO allies are actually significantly increasing the defence investments.

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