Stoltenberg: Membership is a process, and I don’t expect the process to be concluded tomorrow.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reminded that a meeting will be held tomorrow at the NATO headquarters between Finland, Sweden, Finland, and Turkey, stating that “this (membership) is a process and I do not expect the process to end tomorrow. But I am sure that Finland and Sweden will become NATO members.”

Stoltenberg made important statements before the European Union (EU) Defense Ministers Meeting in Stockholm. Stating that they have come together at a critical time for the security of Europe, Stoltenberg said, “Russia’s war against Ukraine continues. We have seen intense fighting in Bakhmut and its surroundings in recent weeks and months. We see that Russia is attacking with more troops and more force and trying to compensate for its shortcomings. They suffered great losses. But at the same time, we cannot ignore the possibility that Bakhmut may fall in the coming days.” Stoltenberg, who warned that Bakhmut could come under Russian control, used the expression, “This situation will not be a turning point in the war. It is important for us to underline that we should not underestimate Russia.” Stating that “we should continue to support Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said, “NATO allies supported Ukraine last year with military and financial assistance worth about 150 billion euros, of which 65 billion euros were military support. This is especially important for accelerating ammunition production. This is a topic that NATO allies have been addressing for some time. Now we will agree on new needs that will enable us to fill our own stocks and continue to support Ukraine. I look forward to discussing this issue and all the challenges we face with the defense ministers. What we have seen during the war in Ukraine is how NATO and the European Union stand together, complement each other, and work together to protect our values.”

“We have not been able to determine who is behind the attack on the Nord Stream pipelines”

Answering a journalist’s question about reports of a pro-Ukrainian group attacking the Nord Stream pipelines, Stoltenberg said, “What we know is that there was an attack, a sabotage operation on the Nord Stream pipelines. However, we have not been able to determine who is behind it. Countries have ongoing investigations, and I think it is right to wait for the results of these investigations before saying anything more about who is behind it.” Stoltenberg also said, “We know that this demonstrates the importance of protecting our critical submarine infrastructure, because we have thousands of kilometers of gas pipelines, oil pipelines, electricity grids, and of course, internet cables. All of this infrastructure is critical to our societies. NATO has been addressing this issue for years, but after the attacks on the Nord Stream pipelines, we have accelerated our work in this direction.”

“We need to increase production”

Stoltenberg answered the question of whether he was satisfied with the speed at which EU and NATO countries are increasing their production capacities, saying, “NATO allies have signed contracts that include increasing production. This is good news and something that I welcome, but there is a huge demand. The current consumption rate compared to the current ammunition production rate is unsustainable. Therefore, we need to increase production. I am pleased to see that the European Union and NATO allies are accelerating efforts in this regard. We already have joint projects among NATO allies to provide more ammunition for artillery units, air defense systems, and better infrastructure and ammunition depots.” Stoltenberg continued, “So this is something we are working on. We have seen important steps taken, but we need to do more. We need to ensure that Ukraine gets the ammunition it needs to defend itself against Russian aggression and we need to renew our own stocks. Because so far, the support we have provided to Ukraine has mainly been through the consumption of NATO stocks. Of course, this is not sustainable in the long run. Therefore, we have started working solely to increase production.”

“We have integrated Finland and Sweden into NATO’s civilian and military structures”

Responding to the question of whether there will be any progress in the upcoming round of talks between Turkey, Finland, and Sweden on Thursday, or whether nothing will happen until the elections in Turkey, Stoltenberg said, “First of all, we need to remember that all NATO allies, including Turkey, made a historic decision at the NATO Summit held in June of last year to invite Finland and Sweden to become NATO members. Since then, we have integrated Finland and Sweden into NATO’s civilian and military structures,” he said. Stoltenberg added, “Sweden and Finland have a completely different status and are now moving closer to NATO. Some NATO allies have also provided security commitments to Finland and Sweden. NATO has increased its presence in this region. This means that any military threat against Finland and Sweden is not impossible. So, Finland and Sweden are in a much safer and better position than before applying to the alliance. This is good for Finland and Sweden, but also a good situation for NATO.”

“We are making progress”

Stoltenberg said, “Secondly, a few weeks ago I had a good meeting with President Erdogan. I was there to offer condolences after the earthquake and to discuss how NATO can support Turkey after the earthquake. We also discussed the steps forward for membership. We are making progress. President Erdogan agreed to restart talks between Finland, Sweden, and Turkey at NATO Headquarters tomorrow. After a long conversation, this is an important development in itself. Membership is a process and I do not expect it to be concluded tomorrow, but I am sure that Finland and Sweden will become NATO members. This is our top priority. We will continue to integrate Finland and Sweden into our Alliance.”

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