Transcript: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on “Face the Nation,” July 7, 2024

The following is a transcript of an interview with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on “Face the Nation,” which aired on July 7, 2024.

ROBERT COSTA: The leaders of America’s closest European allies will be in Washington this week for the annual NATO summit. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is here. Good morning, Mr. Secretary General, it’s a pleasure to have you here at the table. Let me read you a headline from the Wall Street Journal, quote: “The world has watched President Biden deteriorate, Democrats have ignored warnings.” European leaders and officials have expressed concern about his focus and his stamina. You’re meeting with NATO leaders this week in Washington, you’re close to President Biden and many other NATO leaders. What do you really think of NATO leaders’ private assessment of the President of the United States?

JENS STOLTENBERG: I am absolutely convinced that when all the NATO leaders come together here this week, it will be a great summit. We will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the most successful alliance in history. And I met with President Biden in the Oval Office a few weeks ago. And it was a fruitful and productive meeting where we prepared all the important decisions that we will take here on defense, on support for Ukraine and ultimately on burden sharing that the European allies are now stepping up and spending record amounts on defense, and of course, also on China and our need to work together. So that is one of the key points of the summit. And of course, these decisions would not have been possible without strong American leadership.

ROBERT COSTA: There’s no question that it’s the substance that matters. We just heard from Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Republican who is close to the Republican candidate. He said he’s concerned that world leaders don’t trust President Biden to lead this mission. You’re talking privately with these people. What’s the truth here? Are there concerns or not among NATO leaders?

STOLTENBERG: But if I started commenting on issues like that, then suddenly NATO – I would be among the national debaters –

ROBERT COSTA: — It would be easy if you could just say no or yes–

STOLTENBERG: — But I think it’s important that NATO stays out of these kinds of national discussions. They’re important in the United States, of course, but NATO should not be part of them. What matters to NATO is the decisions, what you do together. And for example, on defense spending, which has been a major issue for the United States for many years, different presidents, when we made a commitment ten years ago to increase defense spending, only three allies spent 2 percent of their GDP on defense. This year, it’s 23 allies, an increase of only 18 percent this year. In Europe and Canada, the investments of the European allies are also high.

ROBERT COSTA: I understand that you want to focus on this. But you just met with President Biden, as you said, in the Oval Office. What is your personal assessment? Is this someone you can work with effectively on policy issues?

STOLTENBERG: We had a productive meeting. And of course, there is no way that we can make these big decisions about how to strengthen NATO, how to expand it, how to add new members without strong American leadership.

ROBERT COSTA: Why such a long delay in bringing Ukraine in? You talked about a 10-year window. Why is it 10 years instead of one, two, three years when they’re facing war?

STOLTENBERG: Nobody said exactly 10 years, but it is clear that Ukraine’s accession to the EU is a very serious matter. Ukraine is now a country at war. Ukraine has been attacked by Russia. So the most important thing we should do is to step up our support for Ukraine to ensure its victory. This is a prerequisite for any future accession of Ukraine.

ROBERT COSTA: Stay with us. We’ll have more questions for the Secretary-General shortly. Stay with us.


ROBERT COSTA: Welcome back to Face The Nation, and we’re back with NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg. Thank you for staying with us. What are the specific goals of this NATO summit, particularly in terms of the possibility of training and an alliance plan for NATO troops with Ukraine?

STOLTENBERG: We will make important decisions on strengthening our support for Ukraine. NATO will take over the delivery and coordination of security assistance to Ukraine. In addition, Cheney will establish a command in Germany and logistics centers in the eastern part of the Alliance to help overcome Ukraine’s dominance in equipping and training Ukrainian forces. This is an important objective of the summit, which will help ensure a more robust framework for our support to Ukraine.

ROBERT COSTA: So NATO leaders are in Washington and focused on this, but Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban was in Moscow on Friday to meet with Vladimir Putin. Would you discourage him from continuing these discussions? And should he let NATO handle this situation at this point?

STOLTENBERG: Prime Minister Orban made it clear during his visit to Moscow that he was not going there on behalf of NATO. Different NATO allies interact with Moscow in different ways. What matters to me is that all allies agreed that we need to do more for Ukraine, both with this new training and this new assistance that NATO is going to provide to Ukraine, but also with the long-term commitment. I also expect that by the time of the summit that starts next week, the allies will make further announcements about more air defense and more munitions. So yes, Hungarian Prime Minister Orban went to Moscow, but that doesn’t change the common decisions that we have made as NATO members.

ROBERT COSTA: Does it affect NATO in any way if Orban does what he wants?

STOLTENBERG: No, because the reality is that we are able to make decisions about how we are going to increase our support for Ukraine, because we all want peace. The fact is that the answer has always been to say that ending the war means losing it. But that is not peace, that is occupation. So we need the last thing, just peace. And the only way to get that is to convince President Putin that he is not going to win on the battlefield, that he has to sit down and accept a solution in which Ukraine will establish itself as a sovereign and independent nation in Europe. The only way to convince Putin that he is not going to win on the battlefield is to provide military support to Ukraine abroad. So a negotiated and sustainable solution for Ukraine requires military support to Ukraine.

ROBERT COSTA: It is worth noting, Mr. Secretary-General, that Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea will be joining this summit. Is this about trying to find a strategy for China as it collaborates with Russia in its war against Ukraine?

STOLTENBERG: Yes, absolutely, because the war in Ukraine demonstrates how closely Russia and China, North Korea and Iran are intertwined. China is the main supporter of the Russian military aggression against Ukraine. President Xi and President Putin both want NATO and the United States to fail in Ukraine. If Putin wins in Ukraine, it will not only strengthen President Putin, but also President Xi, as the Japanese Prime Minister said, what is happening today in Ukraine can happen tomorrow in Asia. So this demonstrates that NATO is important for the United States, also in its relationship with China. The United States is an important power. But NATO counts for more than 30 friends and allies, which does not exist in any other major power: the United States accounts for 25% of the world’s GDP. With NATO, the allies account for twice as much, that is, 50% of the world’s economic and military power. So the United States is stronger in its relationship with China, also with NATO.

ROBERT COSTA: And one last thing, quickly, Mr. Secretary-General, last week, the U.S. European Command raised the threat level on bases across the continent to what’s called Charlie, the second highest of five. As NATO leader, do you share this heightened concern about security in Europe?

STOLTENBERG: Yes, we must always be vigilant and aware of the threat of terrorist actions and so it is important that the American command be vigilant and make decisions on the alert levels that they deem necessary.

ROBERT COSTA: What’s driving this movement? Is it Gaza, Ukraine, the Olympics?

STOLTENBERG: It’s a combination, it’s always a little bit dangerous or difficult to get into the details of intelligence, but NATO and the United States have to be aware of the constant threat of new types of attacks and that’s exactly what we’re doing by also sharing more intelligence and working together.

ROBERT COSTA: Mr. Secretary-General Stoltenberg, thank you for coming. We appreciate it and we will respond to you as soon as possible.

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