Jens Stoltenberg on NATO unity, support for Ukraine

This week the Biden administration authorized another $700 million in military aid for Ukraine as its war to fend off Russia's invasion grinds into its fourth month. The U.S. has helped bring together NATO in ways not seen in recent years to support Ukraine militarily, but some cracks are starting to show. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg joins Nick Schifrin to discuss.

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  • Geoff Bennett:

    This week, the Biden administration authorized another $700 million in military aid for Ukraine, as its war to fend off Russia's invasion grinds into its fourth month.

    The U.S. has helped bring together NATO in ways not seen in recent years to support Ukraine militarily, but some cracks are starting to show.

    Nick Schifrin speaks now with the NATO secretary-general.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    The NATO secretary-general is here in Washington this week to meet with the president and the secretaries of state and defense and the director of the CIA, as American and allied support for Ukraine continues.

    But are there limits on that support as the war approaches brutal stalemate? And how long can the alliance maintain cohesion?

    To discuss that and more, I'm joined by Jens Stoltenberg.

    Mr. Secretary-General, welcome back to the "NewsHour."

    So far, Turkey is blocking Finland and Sweden from joining the alliance. Were you personally surprised when Turkey raised that objection? And what do you believe Turkey's price is?

  • Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary-General:

    It is not unusual that allies express concerns when we have processes on enlarging the alliance.

    I think we all have to remember the fact that Finland and Sweden have applied for NATO membership is an historic or are historic decisions. And NATO enlargement have — has helped to spread democracy and freedom across Europe for decades.

    And then when Turkey raises some concerns, we have to do as we always do in NATO, sit down and then find a way to address those concerns, and then find a united way forward to allow Finland and Sweden to join our alliance.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Turkey is raising concerns about what it calls Swedish support for Kurds and is demanding the deportation and removal of political support for those Kurds.

    A former senior NATO official told me today, if you can't find a solution to this by the leaders summit at the end of the month, it would be a — quote — "reprieve" for Vladimir Putin.

    Do you agree?

  • Jens Stoltenberg:

    Well, we are now working on how to address the concerns expressed by Turkey and welcome the fact that there are direct contacts between Ankara, Helsinki, and Stockholm. And I also convened senior officials from those three capitals in a few days in Brussels to look into the concerns and how we can address them.

    We have to remember that Turkey is the NATO ally that has suffered the most terrorist attacks. That includes also, of course, PKK attacks.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    The PKK Kurdish organization deemed a terrorist group by the U.S. and Turkey.

  • Jens Stoltenberg:


    And, therefore, these are serious concerns. And, therefore, we need to address them. And that's exactly what we are doing now and what we will do in the coming days. We will aim to find a way to agree on how to invite Finland and Sweden to join our alliance.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Let me ask you about another aspect of alliance cohesion.

    NATO's position is that Ukraine and only Ukraine can define what victory is in Ukraine. But listen to two statements from the leaders by France and Poland.

    First, France insisting that Russian priorities need to be considered, Poland that Russian defeat needs to be ensured.

  • Emmanuel Macron, French President (through translator):

    In the future, we will have to build peace. Let's never forget that. We will have to do it with both Ukraine and Russia sitting around the table.

  • Andrzej Duda, Polish President (through translator):

    If Ukraine is sacrificed for holy calmness, economic reasons or political ambitions, even a centimeter of its territory, it will be a huge blow, not only for the Ukrainian nation, but for the entire Western world.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Is the alliance united over Ukraine?

  • Jens Stoltenberg:

    The NATO alliance is united over Ukraine.

    And we have seen unprecedented unity in both implementing the unprecedented level of sanctions, in providing support to Ukraine, and to increase NATO's military presence in the eastern part of the alliance. But, of course, we face every day difficult decisions. We face dilemmas.

    And in an alliance of 30 different allied countries, there will be differences, there will be discussions. But when it comes to the conclusions and our ability to act, both on sanctions and on military support to Ukraine, NATO has been extremely united and very capable of acting.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Ukrainian President Zelenskyy in recent days has defined victory as the eviction of all Russian troops from all of Ukrainian land.

    Is NATO prepared to support Ukraine with the more weapons and with the more time it will need to do that?

  • Jens Stoltenberg:

    NATO allies have provided a lot of support. They are ready to continue to provide support to Ukraine.

    And I think the only way to address the issue of what kind of settlement can we see at the end of this war is to trust the Ukrainian political leadership, the Ukrainian people, to make those hard decisions on potential compromises.

    Our responsibility is to provide support to them, to uphold the right for self-defense, and a right which is enshrined in the U.N. Charter, and to stand up against the aggressive invasion of Russia.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    And that aligns with the words by President Biden in a New York Times op-ed this week.

    He also wrote — quote — "The U.S. will not try to bring about the ouster of Vladimir Putin."

    Are you not afraid that, if Putin stays in power, he will continue to threaten Europe?

  • Jens Stoltenberg:

    Well, our responsibility is to continue to be a defensive alliance, protecting and defending all NATO allies.

    We don't have any aim of threatening or interfering in Russian politics. We are there to defend one billion people living in 30 allied countries on both sides of the Atlantic and then, of course, provide support to Ukraine.

    And that's exactly what we are doing, and have done united as an alliance over the last months.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    It sounds like, though, you're acknowledging that the threat so long as Putin is there will continue?

  • Jens Stoltenberg:

    What we have seen is a pattern of Russian behavior over several years, invading Georgia in 2008, illegally annexing Crimea in 2014, and now a full-fledged invasion of Ukraine.

    So, when that invasion happened, NATO was prepared. We actually warned against this potential invasion back last fall. And when it happened, we were prepared. So, therefore, we were able to quickly reinforce and strengthen our military presence in the eastern part of the alliance and now more than 40,000 troops under direct NATO command.

    The U.S. has increased their military presence in Europe, and we have more than 100,000 troops on heightened alert just to send a very clear message to Moscow that we are there to protect and defend all our allies and remove any room for miscalculation about NATO commitment to protect the allies, not to provoke a conflict, but to prevent a conflict and preserve peace.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    And, finally, Mr. Secretary-General, you're working on a strategic concept that will be unveiled at the end of the month at that leaders summit.

    It will contain new language on China. Do you believe that NATO could play a role if China decides to invade Taiwan?

  • Jens Stoltenberg:

    Well, NATO will remain a regional alliance, North America and Europe.

    But this region faces more and more global threats and challenges. And one of them is, of course, the security consequences of a stronger and stronger China. China has the second largest defense budget in the world. They're investing in new heavy military equipment, including nuclear-capable missiles.

    And, of course, as matters for our security, when it comes to Taiwan, I don't think it's for me now to speculate, but it's about NATO being ready to defend and protect all NATO allies.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, thank you very much.

  • Jens Stoltenberg:

    Thank you so much for having me.

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