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Transcript: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on "Face the Nation," February 20, 2022

NATO ready to reinforce allies if Russia invades Ukraine
NATO ready to reinforce allies if Russia invades Ukraine, Stoltenberg says 06:14

The following is a transcript of an interview with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg that aired Sunday, February 20, 2022, on "Face the Nation."

MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to NATO's secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg. He joins us from Brussels. Good morning to you, Mr. Secretary. I will get right to the latest reporting from CBS, which is that intelligence shows Russian troops have actually received orders to proceed with the invasion. And as David Martin reported, that goes down to the detail of how they would maneuver in their sector of the battlefield. How will NATO respond to this?

SECRETARY GENERAL JENS STOLTENBERG: So our main responsibility is to make sure that all allies are safe and secure and that we provide a deterrence and defense to them, and that's the reason why we already have increased our presence- military presence of NATO forces in the eastern part of the alliance. And also– 

MARGARET BRENNAN: You'll be increasing that?

SEC. GEN STOLTENBERG: why we are ready to further reinforce that presence if there is an attack on Ukraine. This has been a crisis in the making for a long time, so therefore we have gradually increased our presence and, as I said, ready to further reinforce that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Now that Russia and Belarus have said those troops are staying in the north of Ukraine. Does that mean NATO has to either, you know, increase more advanced weaponry in the region or move in more troops? Or is that still yet to be decided?

SEC. GEN STOLTENBERG: We have- we have all of the (inaudible) since 2014, when Russia invaded and annexed Crimea and- and started to destabilize eastern Ukraine Donbas. We have reinforced and implemented the biggest reinforcement of collective defense since the end of the Cold War, with battlegroups in the Baltic region in- in Poland, with increased defense spending every year since 2014 and with a higher readiness of the NATO forces. So we have implemented significant reinforcements of- of NATO already. And then over the last weeks or months, we have augmented- added even more forces and troops to our presence in East. I think what we are now faced with is a new normal in European security. We see Russia being willing to contest fundamental values for our security by the use of force and also by the threat of use of force. And- and therefore I- we have started all of the work on or more longer-term adjustment of NATO's posture, NATO's presence–


SEC. GEN STOLTENBERG: along the eastern flank.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We also know that U.S. projects there could be as many as five million or more refugees created by an invasion. What will NATO do if Russia weaponizes refugees and pushes them into your member states?

SEC. GEN STOLTENBERG: So first of all, the most important thing is to prevent a new armed attack on Ukraine, and therefore we support all efforts by NATO allies to find a political solution, and NATO's also ready to sit down in the NATO-Russia Council with Russia. If Russia decides to use force, that may, of course, be a large number of people fleeing Ukraine. The NATO Response Force, the forces we are prepared to deploy, for instance, to Poland, to Romania, to all the neighboring countries, also have the capabilities that can help to deal with migrant and refugee crises so that we can assist. We will never be the first responder when it comes to refugee crisis, but we can help and and assist the efforts of NATO allies. And we did that already in Poland and Lithuania. When you saw Belarus trying to weaponize or use refugees and migrants as a means to to intimidate these countries earlier last year. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Vladimir Putin personally oversaw some strategic nuclear exercises yesterday. Is this an attempt to intimidate NATO?

SEC. GEN STOLTENBERG: It is a way for them to demonstrate all the capabilities they have. This is a regular exercise, but it was planned for last fall and now it happens in the midst of this significant Russian military build up in and around Ukraine with the largest concentration of combat troops I've seen in Europe since the end of the Cold War. So last week, actually, Russia said that they will step back. Russia is stepping up with more troops and higher and even closer to the to the Ukrainian border. And also the fact that this exercise, they said, should end today will now continue. So all of this fits into the picture that Russia is preparing for an invasion of Ukraine.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Bigger picture though, Ukraine's president blasted the West as you know yesterday when he spoke at Munich, he said, The security architecture of our world is brittle. It's obsolete. The west is treating Ukraine like a buffer between itself and Russia." Exactly what is the timeline for Ukraine's membership in NATO's?

SEC. GEN STOLTENBERG: We have not set any timeline for that about NATO allies have been very clear that it is for Ukraine and 30 NATO allies to decide on membership and not Russia. And second, we have provided over many years significant support to Ukraine. We help them to modernize the defense and security institutions to strengthen their cyber defenses. And NATO allies, the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and others have also provided significant training and different kinds of military equipment, defensive weapons. So the Ukrainian Armed Forces are much stronger now with better equipped, better trained troops than in 2014. And this is not least because of all the support that NATO's allies have provided over all these years.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mr. Secretary General, we'll be watching closely what happens in the coming days. Thank you for your time this morning.

SEC. GEN STOLTENBERG: Thanks so much, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION, so stay with us.

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