Secretary Antony J. Blinken and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at a Joint Press Availability


SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Good morning, everyone.  In just a few weeks’ time, we’ll gather here in Washington for NATO’s 75th summit, celebrating 75 years of strength, of unity, of growth, of innovation in our Alliance, but also, critically, looking forward to make sure that NATO is fit for purpose for the challenges of today and the challenges tomorrow, making sure that this Alliance continues to do what it’s done so effectively for the last 75 years, and that’s protect our people.

And I think it’s an opportunity as well to remind all of our citizens about the power of collective defense – the power of collective defense as the best way to prevent conflict, to deter aggression, to avoid war.  Because at the heart of NATO is a commitment from each Ally to come to the defense of any other Ally that may be the victim of aggression.  And that means that a would-be aggressor, considering taking action, knows that if they pick a fight with one, they pick a fight with all.  And that is the most effective, powerful way to do what we all want to do, which is to prevent war from occurring in the first place.  So these investments that we’re making in our defensive Alliance are the best possible investments we can make in preventing conflict, avoiding conflict, deterring aggression. 

The Secretary General and I were together in Prague with all of our allies just a couple of weeks ago, working through the key decisions ahead of the July summit.  And, of course, critically the Secretary General was here with President Biden yesterday working to help finalize these details and very important ones.  We continue that conversation today. 

We have very ambitious commitments that we’re making as an Alliance going forward.  We’re demonstrating our enduring support for Ukraine and providing a strong bridge to Ukraine’s membership in the Alliance.  We’re establishing a NATO command in Wiesbaden, coordinating training, security assistance, equipment – its transfer, its repair, its maintenance.  We’re strengthening our collective deterrence and defense.  We’re implementing the robust plans that Allies agreed to, the most robust plans for defense and deterrence since the end of the Cold War, meeting the long-term challenge that Russia poses to the transatlantic Alliance and to security.  We’re growing our defense industrial bases to make sure that all of our countries can effectively produce what’s needed for our defense. 

And critically – and you heard President Biden and the Secretary General address this yesterday – we are boosting our burden sharing, making sure that every Ally is standing up and carrying the weight of our collective defense.  As the Secretary General announced yesterday, 23 allies – 23 allies out of the 32 – now meet the 2 percent target, the target of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense, a target established in 2014 at the Wales summit.  When President Biden took office in 2021, nine allies were meeting that mark.  Now, it is 23.  And we’ve also seen, as the Secretary General said yesterday, an 18 percent increase in defense spending across the Alliance.  That’s the largest in a decade, and it is necessary to meet the challenges of this time. 

We’re also making sure that our Alliance is strengthening partnerships with other countries, including countries out of the transatlantic area, particularly deepening coordination, deepening cooperation with partners in the Indo-Pacific, who will be present at the summit, as well as within the transatlantic community with the European Union, a critical partner for all of us.  The Alliance recognizes that security challenges in one part of the world impact another and vice versa.  So what’s happening in the transatlantic space has real consequences and implications for the Indo-Pacific and other areas, just as what’s happening in the Indo-Pacific space has real implications for our own Alliance.  And there’s a recognition of that, and that recognition is turning into concrete and strong partnerships.  Prime Minister Kishida may have said this best in the context of Ukraine when he said what’s happening in Ukraine today may well be happening in East Asia tomorrow. 

We’re also adapting and building resilience to emerging threats – and this is also something that you’ll see underscored at the summit – cyber, hybrid attacks and threats, as well as other challenges to security that we’ve seen manifest themselves in different ways in recent years, including things like pandemics.  NATO has to be fit for purpose to deal with all of these. 

Two other points I want to make quickly before turning it over to the Secretary General.  I mentioned already that the summit will focus on bolstering Ukraine’s long-term success.  From day one, as the battlefield has evolved, so too has our support for Ukraine.  Partners, the Alliance, the United States have all adapted and helped Ukraine deal with what it had to deal with in terms of warding off this Russian aggression. 

Now, thanks to the supplemental, which passed Congress after many months – but it did pass, and it passed with overwhelming bipartisan support – we’ve now been working these recent weeks to speed all of that assistance to the front lines, to make sure that Ukrainians have what they needed in hand to deal with the ongoing Russian aggression.  And we’ve seen, I think, that be very effective in terms of stabilizing the front lines and making sure that the Russians could be stopped in their offensive.  It’s making a big difference.  Of course, as we’ve said all along, what makes the biggest difference is the extraordinary courage and resilience of the Ukrainians themselves, both in dealing with the challenges in Kharkiv and in the east, but also taking the fight as necessary to Russia and Crimea, as well as in the Black Sea. 

The bilateral assistance agreement that the United States signed just a few days ago – President Biden and President Zelenskyy – that marks now the, I think, 17th bilateral security agreement that’s been signed since President Biden announced this initiative on the margins of the G7 a year ago.  And by the time of the summit, we expect that – the NATO summit, we expect that some 20 countries and maybe more will have concluded their bilateral security agreements with Ukraine.  This is proof, clear proof, that all of our countries are with Ukraine for the long haul and that if Mr. Putin is counting on outlasting Ukraine or outlasting any of us, he is misguided; he’s wrong.  And again, I think you’ll see at the summit further emphasis on that. 

We’re also, as necessary, imposing new sanctions on Russia to keep the pressure up, so that the aggression ultimately ends.  And, among other things, we’re looking at countries that are supporting Russia’s defense industrial base, which is allowing Russia to continue the war, including China.  As President Biden has made clear, we have a real concern not with the – not with weapons being supplied by China to Russia.  That’s not what they’re doing.  What they are doing, as you’ve heard me discuss many times, is providing critical support to Russia’s defense industrial base.  Some 70 percent of the machine tools that Russia is importing are coming from China; 90 percent of the microelectronics coming from China.  And that has enabled Russia to keep that defense industrial base going, to keep the war machine going, to keep the war going.  So that has to stop. 

We, as well, are doing everything we can to provide the necessary support to Ukraine beyond the supplemental.  You saw partners come together across the G7 and beyond to be able to use effectively some of the Russian sovereign assets that are primarily in Europe and that now are being leveraged to provide some $50 billion to Ukraine in additional assistance, and we’ll continue to look at that.  We had a very effective recovery conference just a few days ago as well, looking at other forms of enduring support for Ukraine, including in the energy sector.

The bottom line is this:  The Ukraine strategy that we’ve had and that we’ve been acting on individually and collectively now for nearly two and a half years is showing effective results – effective results in making sure that Ukraine can ward off Russian aggression, and it’s done that remarkably.  Keep in mind Putin’s objective from day one was to erase Ukraine from the map, to ends its existence as an independent country, to subsume it into Russia.  That has failed.

But going forward, we want to make sure that Ukraine is a success, that it stands strongly on its own feet militarily, economically, democratically, and that’s exactly what we’re enabling Ukraine to do.  And that is the mark of success going forward.  Again, decisions that will be made at the summit will further that effort, and more to be said in a few weeks’ time.

Finally, heading into the 75th summit, we have an Alliance that is stronger, that is bigger, that is more fit for purpose than at any time in recent years.  That’s thanks to the effort that every Ally has made, the commitments that every Ally has made, but it’s also fundamentally thanks to the leadership of one individual, and that is the person standing beside me, the secretary general of NATO for this past decade, Jens Stoltenberg.  Jens, you have led the Alliance at a time of historic change, historic challenge, and the results are there for everyone to see.  This would not have happened without your leadership, and it’s truly been extraordinary.

Now, some of you know that the secretary general is particularly fond of numbers, likes to recite them.  I understand that you even told one interviewer that you could bring just one book to a desert island, it would be a book on statistics.  (Laughter.)  I have things I could say about that that I won’t, but let’s just remind a few numbers, a few statistics, because they do show what’s happened over this remarkable decade of the secretary general’s leadership:  four new Allies in our Alliance – North Macedonia, Montenegro, Finland, Sweden – multinational battle groups in eight countries, enhancing NATO’s forward defense posture; 75 percent of the citizens in Allied nations say that NATO is important to their security.

These numbers speak powerfully for themselves.  At every step, the secretary general has set the tone.  He’s built consensus among the 32 countries.  His vision, his achievements will pay dividends for this Alliance far into the future.  So Jens’s contributions ultimately can’t be fully quantified, but neither can the gratitude of the United States and all of our Allies to you, Mr. Secretary General.  Thank you.

SECRETARY GENERAL STOLTENBERG:  Secretary Blinken, dear Tony, thank you for your kind words and thank you for your support throughout these years in different ways.  Thank you also for your very strong commitment to NATO, to our transatlantic Alliance, and let me also thank you for your tireless efforts to end the suffering in the Middle East.

NATO was founded in Washington 75 years ago.  Since then, the Alliance has been the ultimate security guarantee for all our members.  Standing together, we prevent war and preserve peace.  In NATO, the U.S. has 31 friends and Allies.  Together, Allies represent half of the world’s economic and half of the world’s military might, advancing U.S. interests and multiplying America’s power.  NATO makes America stronger.

Yesterday, as you mentioned, Secretary Blinken, with President Biden I announced that NATO Allies are making major increases in defense spending.  This year, defense spending across Europe and Canada is up 18 percent, the biggest increase in decades.  Twenty-three Allies will meet the target of spending at least 2 percent of GDP on defense.  This is more than twice as many as just four years ago.  Since 2014, Europe and Canada have added over 640 billion extra in defense spending.  This demonstrates a historic improvement in burden sharing within NATO.  It shows that United States does not need to shoulder the burden alone and that the U.S. has a strong Alliance in which Allies are stepping up year after year. 

And much of this increased defense spending is spent right here in the United States.  Over the past two years, European Allies have signed contracts with American companies worth 150 – sorry, $140 billion U.S.  Since 2014, NATO has undergone the most significant transformation in our collective defense in a generation.  We are putting in place the most comprehensive defense plans since the Cold War.  We have 500,000 troops at high readiness, and we are double the number of battle groups in eastern part of the Alliance.  And with Sweden and Finland as members, we are stronger than ever.

Russia’s war in Ukraine is a brutal assault on a peaceful democratic nation.  This war is propped up by China, North Korea, and Iran.  They want to see the United States fail.  They want to see NATO fail.  If they succeed in Ukraine, it will make us more vulnerable and the world more dangerous.  So our support to Ukraine is not charity; it is in our own security interest.  We all want this war to end, but the Russian occupation of Ukraine offers no peace, and capitulation to Putin offers no security.  The stronger our support, the sooner the war will end, which is why I welcome the 10-year bilateral security agreement between the United States and Ukraine.

Europe is also doing its part, matching U.S. efforts in Ukraine, and at the NATO Summit this July here in Washington, I expect European Allies and Canada to come forward with more financial and military support, and that leaders will agree that NATO takes the lead in coordinating the security assistance and training for Ukraine.  All of this will reduce the burden on the United States.

Secretary Blinken, I thank you and the U.S. for hosting the summit, which we all are looking forward to attend.  At the summit, we will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the most successful alliance in history, but also make important decisions for the future.  Thank you.

MR MILLER:  The first question goes to Humeyra Pamuk with Reuters.

QUESTION:  Thank you, Matt.  Mr. Secretary, Mr. Secretary General, I’m very glad you like numbers.  I have a number of questions, in true Washington fashion – (laughter) – multi-part questions that Secretary Blinken is particularly fond of.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  The number one is a very good number. (Laughter.)

QUESTION:  Let me start with Gaza, then I’ll turn to NATO.  Mr. Secretary, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hosted – about an hour ago, conveniently timed for this press conference – a video talking about U.S. pause on some weapons to Israel, and said you assured him, last week that U.S. is working to remove those bottlenecks.  Is this an accurate characterization of what you told him?  If not, what did you tell him?  Will the U.S. remove its hold on these bombs?  And finally, have the ceasefire negotiators – excuse me – made any progress since last week?  Are you more, or less, optimistic today about the prospects of a deal?

Let me turn to both of you.  Russian President Vladimir Putin is going to North Korea, a first in 24 years, and the partnership of Russia, China, and North Korea seems to be solidifying and emerging as a front against West’s rules-based order.  How concerned are you about this partnership?

Mr. Secretary General, particularly for you, do you see a collective NATO role to contain this emerging front?

And back to both of you again.  What specifics do you have on how much North Korea is contributing to Russia’s war machine?  And what is your understanding that what Moscow is giving Pyongyang in return?  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thanks, Humeyra.  So on the questions regarding Israel and Gaza, first, it’s very important to remember that our security relationship with Israel goes well beyond Gaza.  Israel is facing a multiplicity of threats and challenges, including in the north from Hizballah, from Iran, from the Houthis in the Red Sea, from various groups that are aligned against Israel and in many cases beholden to Iran.  So the President’s been very clear from day one that he will do everything he can to make sure that Israel has what it needs to effectively defend itself against these threats.  And a big part of that as well is making sure that in providing that assistance to Israel, it has a strong deterrent, which is the best way to avoid more conflict, to avoid more war, to avoid what we’re already seeing in Gaza spreading other areas, to other fronts.  That’s been one of our objectives from day one.

So we’re committed to that.  We, as you know, are continuing to review one shipment that President Biden has talked about with regard to 2,000-pound bombs because of our concerns about their use in a densely populated area like Rafah.  That remains under review.  But everything else is moving as it normally would move, and again, with the perspective of making sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself against this multiplicity of challenges.

With regard to the ceasefire negotiations, and you heard me talk about this at length during our trip, I’ll just remind everyone once again that the entire world came together behind the proposal that President Biden laid out a few weeks ago – the entire world with one exception, and that was Hamas.  Hamas came back with – after everyone else had said yes, including Israel, reconfirmed to me by Prime Minister Netanyahu when I was in Israel – Hamas came back with new conditions, new demands, including demands and conditions that actually went beyond what it had already previously accepted.

So we’re working to see if we can bridge the gaps that Hamas has now created by not saying yes to the proposal that everyone else had agreed to, that was endorsed by the United Nations Security Council, countries around the world.  And we have the negotiators, the mediators – Egypt, Qatar in particularly – working on this to see if we can bridge the gap.

As I’ve said before and I’ll repeat again based on what we’ve seen in the – in recent days, I believe that the gaps are bridgeable, but that doesn’t mean they will be bridged because ultimately Hamas has to decide.  And it could decide again to continue to move the goalpost, to move the line out.  If it continues to do that, the net result will be that people will continue to suffer horrifically every single day. 

And you have to question whether one individual – living, we believe, hundreds of feet underground, relatively safe – is putting his own interests and his own views ahead of the interests, the needs, of the people that he purports to represent.  There could be a ceasefire right now if they had said yes a week ago.  So we’ll continue to work this with urgency, with determination, to see if we can bridge the gap.  But I can’t tell you with conviction that we will because, again, you have Hamas that continues to move the line.

With regard to Mr. Putin and his travels to North Korea, look.  We’ve seen, as you’ve said, Russia try, in desperation, to develop and to strengthen relations with countries that can provide it with what it needs to continue the war of aggression that it started against Ukraine.  And you heard the secretary general just reference this.  North Korea is providing significant munitions to Russia, and other – and other weapons for use in Ukraine.  Iran has been providing weaponry, including drones, that have been used against civilians and civilian infrastructure.  And as I’ve mentioned a moment ago, the deep concerns we have about China, not in terms of providing weapons but in providing what Russia needs to keep its defense industrial base going and to produce itself more tanks, more munitions, more missiles – yes, these are the countries of concern.

And with regard to China in particular, as I said before, it can’t, on the one hand, say that it wants better relations with countries in Europe while at the same time fueling the biggest security threat to Europe as a whole since the end of the Cold War.  And the President heard that himself – President Biden heard that himself from our European partners who are part of the G7 just last week.

So we are very much concerned about this because this is what’s keeping the war going.  And the fastest way to end the war is for Putin to be disabused of the notion that he can outlast Ukraine and outlast all of Ukraine’s supporters, but also, if he knows that the fuel he needs for his war machine won’t be there any more.  So if China in particular, which professes to have a strong interest in ending the war – if it really means it, it will stop fueling the war machine, and we’ll continue to do everything we can to cut off the support that countries like Iran and North Korea are providing.

SECRETARY GENERAL STOLTENBERG:  I very much agree with what Secretary Blinken just stated.  Putin’s visits to North Korea demonstrates and confirms the very close alignment between Russia and authoritarian states like North Korea, but also China and Iran.  And this also demonstrates that our security is not regional.  It’s global.  What happens in Europe matters for Asia, and what happens in Asia matters for us.  And this is clearly demonstrated in Ukraine, where Iran, North Korea, China are propping up, fueling Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.

So this idea that we can divide security into regional theaters doesn’t work anymore.  We are – everything is intertwined and therefore we need to address these challenges together.  We are, of course, also concerned about the potential support that Russia provides to North Korea when it comes to supporting their missile and nuclear programs.  We see how much military support Russia gets from North Korea but also from Iran, and how China is propping up their war economy. 

And this is also one of the reasons why at NATO and at the NATO Summit here in Washington next month, we will further strengthen our partnership with our partners in the Asia-Pacific region – Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and Japan – also to address the fact that the challenges they see, we see in Asia, in Asia-Pacific are directly linked to the challenges we face in Europe.  And let me also say that I also fully agree that China cannot have it both ways.  They cannot continue to have normal trade relationships with countries in Europe and at the same time fuel the biggest war we have seen in Europe since the Second World War.  So at some stage this has to have consequences for China. 

MR MILLER:  Helle Svendsen with Nettavisen. 

QUESTION:  Thank you.  My question also goes to both of you.  Norway today still has a continued fishing cooperation with Russia.  I am wondering how we should approach this moving forward, and if there are – or if you are concerned or we should be concerned about them taking advantage of this cooperationship in light of Russian intelligence. 



QUESTION:  Fishing cooperation. 

SECRETARY GENERAL STOLTENBERG:  Sorry, yeah, I know Norway. 

QUESTION:  Yes.  (Laughter.) 



SECRETARY GENERAL STOLTENBERG:  Yeah.  (Laughter.)  So I’m not speaking on behalf of Norway.  What I can say is that I expect all Allies to fully implement the sanctions we have agreed within the also EU framework and also individual Allies have imposed.  Then beyond that (inaudible), I leave it to Norway to comment on how they implement the sanctions.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yeah, and I agree with the secretary general.  Thank you. 

MR MILLER:  Tom Bateman with BBC.

QUESTION:  Thank you very much to both of you.  If I could start with Mr. Secretary General.  We heard the Secretary of State talk about hybrid attacks against NATO frontline countries, an issue he’s talked about before particularly in Prague, and a view that NATO would respond collectively as is appropriate.  What does that response look like?  Perhaps you can elaborate on whether there is a response already, or is this something that you think should take place in the future?  Do you retaliate or try and create deterrence?  I’m just interested in how that happens.  And is there evidence that such action can create deterrence? 

And Mr. Secretary of State, Amos Hochstein has been in the region over the last few days in the Middle East.  Can you report any progress on de-escalating tensions between Israel and Hizballah? 

And on Gaza, an investigation by the Associated Press this week identified 60 Palestinian families in which at least 25 members have been killed, some of them involving four generations of the same family, many with more than 50 family members killed, and in one, 173 family members were killed.  And I’m interested to understand that for Palestinians who hear what you say about a continuing conflict for just cause, but to them this feels like a war that seeks to destroy Palestinian society.  What do you say to those people?  How do you reconcile those views and those positions? 

SECRETARY GENERAL STOLTENBERG:  On the Russian hybrid actions against NATO Allies in Europe, let me say that what we have seen over the last weeks and months is a surge in hostile actions by Russia against NATO Allies, and that includes sabotage, arson attempts, cyber attacks, and also trying to use migration as a tool to coerce NATO Allies.  And we need to react to this in a calm and measured way, but at the same time to take it very seriously.  And that’s also why NATO Allies have agreed response options that Allies can take both individually and collectively. 

On the NATO level, this is about increasing awareness, sharing intelligence, making Allies aware that this is not individual, not linked incidents, but this is actually a pattern of Russian behavior over some time.  And I welcome also the U.S. sharing a lot of intelligence on these actions with other NATO Allies.  Then it is about protecting our critical infrastructure, including undersea and cyber infrastructure.  We’re taking several steps to increase the protection of critical infrastructure. 

And then, of course, many of these actions are met by individual actions in the individual member-states.  So there have been several arrests across the Alliance.  In the United Kingdom, in Poland, in Germany, in the Baltic countries, we have seen those behind these sabotage actions being arrested, and there are legal processes going on.  So there is a mix of collective action by NATO and individual Allies taking the necessary legal steps to protect us against this Russian behavior. 

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  On Lebanon, so as I mentioned earlier, one of our objectives from day one, since October 7th, has been to prevent this conflict from spreading, including in the north.  And as you mentioned, Amos Hochstein is in Lebanon, in the region working on this.  We’ve all collectively been working on this for many months and intensely again in recent weeks.  No one wants escalation.  No one wants to see the conflict spread.  And one of the paradoxes I think we have in this moment is I don’t think any of the potential belligerents actually want to see a war or conflict spread.  I don’t believe Israel does.  I don’t believe Hizballah does.  Lebanon certainly doesn’t because it would suffer the most.  I don’t believe that Iran does.  And yet you have momentum potentially in that direction because with the back and forth that goes on every day, there is always the possibility of miscalculation, of one side not fully seeing what the other is doing, and it’s very important to do everything we can to arrest that and to find a diplomatic resolution to the challenge that exists for Israel as well as for Lebanon. 

In Israel, there are something like 60 or 70,000 Israelis who have been forced from their homes.  They’ve basically depopulated a big part of northern Israel because of the threat from Hizballah, because of Hizballah launching rockets into Israel and making life impossible.  There are many Lebanese in southern Lebanon who are also not able to live in their homes and live in their towns.  So we’re working diplomatically to find a resolution to this so that people on both sides of the line have the confidence to be able to live in their homes and go back to their – where they live.

Now here again, so much of this comes back to the ceasefire.  The most immediate way to empower our diplomacy and to be able to reach an agreement that allows people to return to their homes and live in security would be through a ceasefire in Gaza, because Hizballah has tied the actions that it’s committing against Israel to Gaza.  So if we get that ceasefire, I think that will make it more likely that we can find a diplomatic resolution to the crisis in the north.

With regard to the Palestinian families that you’ve discussed – on a human level, the suffering of little children, men, women, is horrific, and we see it every single day.  People who are caught in a crossfire of Hamas’s making as a result of a war that Hamas started are suffering every single day.  And for all of us, this is a profoundly human tragedy.  I’ve met with Palestinian Americans who’ve lost multiple members of their own families in Gaza, who shared with me the pictures of a little niece, a little nephew, a brother, a sister, a parent, a grandparent who’s been killed in the months since October 7th. 

And it’s profoundly motivating in the wake of this suffering to want to do everything we possibly can to bring this to an end.  The fastest way to do that – and this has been the case now for weeks, for months – is through the ceasefire that we’ve been working to achieve.  And the biggest obstacle to achieving that ceasefire, again, remains Hamas and remains the decisions of perhaps one man, who is we believe hundreds of feet underground in relative safety, while the people he proports to represent are suffering every single day. 

So we have to – all of us – put the interests of these many, many innocent families and people first and foremost.  And that means that Israel has to do more – continue to do much more – to protect civilians, to make sure that they get the assistance they need.  But it first and foremost means that Hamas has to make a decision.  Is it actually looking out for the interests of Palestinian people?  Is it looking out for its own interests at the expense of the interests of Palestinians who are suffering every single minute in Gaza?

The fastest way to bring this to a conclusion – tomorrow – is through this ceasefire.  That’s what we’re looking to achieve. 

QUESTION:  Can I just follow up, just on the point about crossfire?  Because many of these deaths were in airstrikes, and by definition – I mean, they’re on a (inaudible) so this is not crossfire.  And I’ve heard you use that description before, so I just wanted to clarify.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yeah, look, on that – again, we’ve been on this as well, from day one, in trying to press Israel to do everything it can to avoid civilian causalities, to put a greater premium on civilian protection.  And yes, we see that – we see this, too.  It’s – without justifying any particular airstrike – and certainly we’ve, ourselves, reported as a government, as the State Department, on numerous incidents where civilians have been killed or grievously injured, including through airstrikes.  But as we’ve also said, this terrain is extraordinarily difficult, maybe uniquely difficult. 

Because again, you have Hamas that not only is hiding deep underground in tunnels while the people it proports to represent are not, it’s also hiding in apartment buildings, hospitals, schools, using those as places to plot, to plan, protect itself.  But that means also that it’s endangering thousands – tens of thousands – of children, women, and men.  It launched this war on November[1] 7th.  It conducts it in a way be retreating to places where it’s hiding behind civilians that further endanger civilians.  And it has not made the decisions necessary to stop it, which it could do right now. 

MR MILLER:  And the final question goes to Anders Tvegard with NRT.

QUESTION:  Thank you, Matt.  Mr. Secretary, how do you do?  How can Ukraine trust your words of support when the recent bilateral agreement can be canceled with a six months’ notice?  And how confident are you that you will not need to ask Mr. Stoltenberg to extend his term as secretary general?  And I didn’t quite hear your answer to my colleague’s question here on Israel.  Is Netanyahu’s – Prime Minister Netanyahu’s characterization – is it true what he said about – that you – what you assured him last week? 

Mr. Secretary General, China can’t have it both ways.  What kind of consequences should China – should be on China?  And you want to secure the long-term help to Ukraine. You have been talking about a fund.  If I understand it correctly, the Alliance has been lukewarm to an aid fund.  What’s your next step there?  And if you soon get to read some more statistical books, what can you say about your possible successor?  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  With regard to the bilateral security agreements, first it’s important to note that the United States signed our agreement last week.  President Biden and President Zelenskyy signed it together.  But we are not alone.  Dozens of countries have either concluded or will conclude bilateral security agreements with Ukraine, each of which basically says the same thing, that we’re committed individually, as well as through the work that will be formalized at the NATO summit, to supporting Ukraine in building a deterrent force for the future that can ward off aggression and, as necessary, deal with it.  And each of these agreements is projected over a decade to, again, send a very strong message that each of us is in this for the long haul.  And that is the determination and commitment of the United States.

I think the fact that ultimately the supplemental funding bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, both houses of Congress, again is indicative of the depth and strength of that support in the United States.  And polling continues to show strong support in the United States for helping Ukraine, for making sure that it can stand on its own feet effectively, because that’s what this is about.  Any international agreement of one kind or another always has a mechanism in it for one of the parties to pull out of that agreement.  That’s standard operating fare in any of these agreements.  But I think everything that we’ve seen, not just from the United States but from so many other countries, is an enduring commitment to Ukraine and making sure that it can stand strongly on its own feet.  And I do not expect that to change.

With regard to the secretary general, look, I think many of us wish on one – on one level that this was a lifetime appointment because of – (laughter) – but I don’t think the secretary general feels that way.  And I’m confident, very confident, that the Alliance will come strongly together behind a new secretary general, and that when the current – when current secretary general – Secretary General Stoltenberg’s term ends this fall, there will be a very strong secretary general in place to pick up the baton and carry the extraordinary work that this secretary general has done forward into the future for the Alliance. 

And finally, with regard to the last question on Israel, I stand by exactly what I said a few minutes ago.  Thank you.

QUESTION:  Well, is Mr. Netanyahu telling the truth or not, Mr. Secretary?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Again, I’ve been very —

QUESTION:  Is his characterization correct or not?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I’ve been as clear as I can possibly be.

QUESTION:  You assured him that (inaudible)?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I’m not going to talk about what we said in diplomatic conversations. 

QUESTION:  But he is talking about it. 

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I can just say – I can just say, again, that we have a commitment to make sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself against a whole variety of threats.  Gaza is part of it, but it far surpasses Gaza in terms of the threats they face.  The President’s committed to that.  We continue to move these different cases through our system on regular order.  We have one case that the President’s talked about publicly, about the 2,000-pound bombs and concerns that we have about them being used in densely populated areas.  That remains.  We continue to work through that. 

But there’s been no change in our posture, which our posture is, again, to make sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself across these many threats.  Many of the systems that are moving through our system are ones that have been on order for, in some cases, years.  It takes a long time to move these things.  And a number of the things that are going to Israel won’t get there for years.  That is the nature of the way this works.

But it’s regular order, with the exception of that one system that we’ve talked about many times in public.  Thank you.

SECRETARY GENERAL STOLTENBERG:  First, briefly, on the question about China, well, it’s too early to say exactly what kind of consequences.  But I think just in itself that more and more Allies recognize this, that it cannot continue the way it is like it is today, where China really tries to have a normal relationship with European NATO Allies and, at the same time, are enabling Russia to be – conduct – to conduct a war of aggression against a European country, the biggest security challenge we have faced in Europe since the end of the Second World War.  And of course, this is then about how – unless China changes its behavior, what kind of consequences should then this have for, for instance, our trade relations?  Too early to say, but it has to be an issue that we need to address, because to continue as we do today is not viable.

Then on support for Ukraine, as we are discussing and we are addressing many deliverables on Ukraine before the upcoming NATO summit.  We have already a plan for NATO training and security assistance for Ukraine.  We have seen new announcements, and I expect those are more announcement of more military support to Ukraine.  I’m certain that we will also have language expressing that Ukraine will become a member of the Alliance. 

And then you are right that I have also put forward proposals on a more long-term commitment because I strongly believe that the stronger our support is, the more credible our long-term commitment to Ukraine is, the sooner this war can end.  The exact language, exact – what we will agree, is what Allies – or – are now discussed among Allies, and – but I’m confident we will have a good solution agreement by the summit.

Then, normally, I don’t say anything about my successor because it’s not for me to select my successor.  But with the announcement by president – or, no, sorry, Prime Minister Orbán today, I think it’s obvious that we are very close to a conclusion in the Alliance for Allies to select the next secretary general.  And I think that’s good news.  I think Mark Rutte is a very strong candidate.  He has a lot of experience as prime minister, he’s a close friend and colleague, and I therefore strongly believe that very soon the Alliance will have decided on my successor and that will be good for all of us, for NATO, and also for me. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thanks, everyone. 


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