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Secretary Antony J. Blinken and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at a Joint Press Availability
37 MINUTE READ
January 31, 2024

Secretary Antony J. Blinken holds a joint press availability with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Department of State in Washington, D.C., January 29, 2024. (Official State Department photo by Chuck Kennedy)

 

 

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, good afternoon, everyone.  First, let me say what a pleasure it is as always to have Secretary General Stoltenberg here in Washington at the State Department.  Let me first note the drone attack yesterday by Iranian-backed militia on U.S. forces in Jordan.  It killed three of our soldiers, wounded many others. First and foremost, I’m thinking of those who lost their lives, those who are wounded, their family members, and their friends.  Every day we have our men and women in uniform around the world who are putting their lives on the line for our security, for our freedom.  I am as always humbled by their courage and their sacrifice.

From the outset, we have been clear in warning that anyone looking to take advantage of conflict in the Middle East and try to expand it:  Don’t do it.  We’ve taken steps to defend ourselves and to defend our partners as well as to prevent escalation.  And the President has been crystal clear:  We will respond decisively to any aggression, and we will hold responsible the people who attacked our troops.  We will do so at a time and a place of our choosing.  At the same time, we remain focused on our core objectives in the region, both in terms of the conflict in Gaza and broader efforts to build truly durable peace and security.

To that end, I had an opportunity to meet today with the prime minister and foreign minister of Qatar on the ongoing effort to get hostages out and to create an extended pause.  This is critical to them being able to get to the formula that we’ve been talking about for putting a durable end to the cycle of violence that we’ve seen in the region for generation after generation and the opportunity that exists to actually achieve it:  an integrated Israel with relations with all of its neighbors, security commitments, assurances that it needs to make sure that it can move forward in peace and security; a Palestinian Authority that’s reformed, and a clear pathway to a Palestinian state.

That vision and its realization can dramatically change the security circumstance for Israel, for the Palestinians, for all of our partners in the region, and at the same time isolate the small number of actors who don’t want to get there, who have a very different vision for what the future is – notably Iran – a different vision that we see playing out every single day, either directly by Iran or by its proxies.  But the way to durable security is through a region that’s more integrated, where the relations among its countries are normalized, and where the question of the rights of Palestinians is finally answered.

Jens and I had an opportunity today, of course, to talk about the NATO Summit and to talk about other matters relating to our Alliance.  And I have to say that once again we see that NATO is advancing with a sense of urgency and a strong sense not only of unity of purpose but unity of action.  Just at the very end of last week, Türkiye approved Sweden’s accession to NATO.  Sweden brings tremendous capabilities to the Alliance in every domain.  Hungary now will have to act in order to complete the process of Sweden’s accession, but I fully anticipate that that will happen in the weeks ahead when Hungary’s parliament returns.

Now, the accession of both Finland and Sweden was far from inevitable.  In fact, if you go back a little over two years, no one was talking about it.  But in the wake of Moscow’s renewed aggression against Ukraine, both countries felt that it was clearly in their interest to defend their people and defend their sovereignty by joining the Alliance.  I think the process that we’ve seen in actually record time – first with Finland and now with Sweden – demonstrates that NATO’s door is open, remains open, including to Ukraine – which will become a member of NATO.

This also underscores one of the many ways in which Putin’s aggression against Ukraine has been an abject strategic failure for Russia, how it has in fact precipitated the very things that Putin sought to prevent.  He wanted to shrink NATO; it is now larger and getting larger still.  He wanted to weaken NATO; it is stronger than it’s ever been.

All of this will, I think, come to an important inflection point when we get to the NATO Summit – the historic NATO Summit that we are very honored to host in Washington in July.  This is going to be, I think, the most ambitious summit since the end of the Cold War, showing NATO’s adaptation to new challenges and new threats, whether it’s Russia, whether it’s in very different ways the PRC, in the cyber domain, terrorism.  And what you’re seeing is an Alliance that, as I said, is coming together in new ways and in stronger ways to make sure that it can deal effectively with those challenges.  And even as we’re celebrating when we get to the NATO Summit 75 years of its history, the real focus of the summit is going to be on the next 75 years and everything NATO has done to adapt and make itself, as it has been, indispensable to the defense and security of its members.

Some of those capabilities and some of that strength was on display as we kicked off the largest NATO military exercises since the end of the Cold War, Steadfast Defender, 90,000 personnel who are sending a very clear message:  This Alliance is ready and it is able to defend every square inch of NATO territory.

We discussed with the secretary general NATO’s unwavering support for Ukraine.  Last week, NATO signed a $1.2 billion contract to produce 220,000 artillery shells.  That’s going to help Allies restock their own arsenals, and it complements efforts by the United States, by the European Union, by Ukraine, to ramp up defense production.  This will make NATO itself and all Allies much more resilient for future threats as we move forward.

As all of us take on these challenges – and I want to emphasize in the case of Ukraine we’ve seen this very, very clearly – there’s probably never been a better example of burden sharing in the history of the Alliance and the partnerships that we have with different countries than we see when it comes to Ukraine.  As I’ve mentioned before, the support that the United States has provided to Ukraine has been exceptional, about $75 billion over the last couple of years.  But our partners and allies, notably our core NATO Allies, have provided more than $110 billion over that same period of time.  And whether it’s military support, whether it’s economic support, whether it’s humanitarian support, the burden sharing that we’ve seen in the case of Ukraine has been more than exemplary.

But in order to make sure that that continues, that all of us step up and do what’s necessary to continue to ensure that Ukraine knows success and Russia knows strategic failure, it is vital that Congress pass the supplemental budget request that the President has put before it.  Without it, simply put, everything that Ukrainians achieved and that we’ve helped them achieve will be in jeopardy.  And absent that supplemental, we’re going to be sending a strong and wrong message to all of our adversaries that we are not serious about the defense of freedom, the defense of democracy.  And it will simply reinforce for Vladimir Putin that he can somehow outlast Ukraine and outlast us.  Well, that’s not going to be the case.  We have to make sure that it’s not the case.

Finally, let me just say that we have a lot of work to do over the next few months to prepare for the summit.  I think we had today very good sessions with the secretary general, and we’ll be meeting shortly with the National Security Advisor and the Secretary of Defense over at the Pentagon to continue that work.  I look forward to that and look forward to the weeks and months ahead as we prepare for NATO Summit.

Jens, over to you.

SECRETARY GENERAL STOLTENBERG:  Thanks so much, Secretary Blinken, dear Tony, and thank you for hosting me here in Washington.  It is always good to meet with you and even more important given the dangers that we face.  So let me begin by offering my deepest condolences for the U.S. troops killed and wounded in yesterday’s drone attack in Jordan.

We see Iran continue to destabilize the region.  Iran also bears the responsibility for backing terrorists who attack ships in the Red Sea.  Tehran’s behavior reminds us of what a world without rules look like – unpredictable and dangerous, a world where our security becomes more expensive.

I welcome your tireless diplomacy, Secretary Blinken, to prevent further escalation of the war in Gaza, your efforts to alleviate human suffering, and your hard work towards a peaceful resolution.

Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine is nearing the two-year mark, and a Russian victory would embolden Iran, North Korea, and China.  That matters for Europe’s security and it matters for America’s security, so supporting Ukraine serves U.S. interests.  For a tiny fraction of annual defense spending, the United States has helped Ukraine destroy a major part of Russia’s combat capacity without placing a single American soldier in harm’s way.

I welcome the clear commitment from President Biden and you to sustain U.S. support to Ukraine and to work with Congress to achieve that.  As you said, other Allies are also stepping up.  In fact, what European NATO Allies and Canada provide in terms of military, financial, and humanitarian aid actually exceeds what the U.S. is providing.  So this is truly a joint effort by all NATO Allies from both sides of the Atlantic, and I am confident that all NATO Allies will continue to deliver, because supporting Ukraine is not charity.  It is an investment in our own security.

President Putin started this war, and he could end it today if he stopped attacking a neighbor.  The war could also end if Ukraine stopped defending itself, but that would not mean peace.  It would mean Russian occupation, and occupation is not peace.  A just peace will require President Putin to realize that he will not get what he wants on the battlefield.  Moscow must accept a negotiated solution where Ukraine prevails as a sovereign independent nation.  What happens around the negotiating table is inextricably linked to the situation on the battlefield.  So if we want a lasting, just peace, we must provide Ukraine with more weapons and ammunition.  Weapons to Ukraine is the path to peace.

Finally, we also discussed adapting our Alliance for the future.  In July, we will mark NATO’s 75th anniversary with a summit here in Washington.  And as you said, NATO is getting stronger and bigger.  Finland is already a member; Sweden will become a member soon.  And this demonstrates that Putin is getting exactly the opposite of what he wanted.  He wanted less NATO, a weak NATO; he’s getting a stronger and more united NATO, and a NATO with more members.

At the summit we will take further steps to bolster NATO’s strength, invest more in our defense, and work with partners around the world.  Through NATO, the U.S. has more friends and allies than any other power.  Together we make up 50 percent of the world’s economic and military might.  China and Russia have nothing like NATO.  It is why they always try to undermine our unity.  In times of growing competition and rivalry, NATO makes the U.S. stronger and safer, and all of us more secure.

So Secretary Blinken, dear Tony, thank you again for your personal commitment to our transatlantic bond and to our shared security.  Thank you.

MR MILLER:  For the first question, Olivia Gazis with CBS.

QUESTION:  Thank you, Matt, and thank you, Mr. Secretary.  To date, the United States has not publicly accused Iran of being directly involved in any attacks on U.S. forces, while noting the regime in Tehran supports and does not discourage its proxies from conducting these attacks.  This weekend’s lethal strike, Mr. Secretary, was one of at least 160 attacks on U.S. forces in the region by Iranian proxies since October.  Could earlier, stronger action by the United States against Iran and not just its militias have spared American lives?

And secondly, if I may, Mr. Secretary, the UN secretary-general has appealed to the U.S. and 10 other countries who have suspended funding to UNRWA following revelations regarding allegations that at least a dozen of its 13,000 employees may have had involvement in the October 7th attacks, and more than a hundred more may have links to militant groups.  Under what circumstances and how soon could the U.S. consider resuming its support, considering this decision comes as Gaza is tipping into famine, and given your own personal and persistent appeals that humanitarian aid to Gazan civilians increase and not decrease?

Mr. Secretary General, welcome to Washington – welcome back.  The United States Congress, as you well know, remains at a political impasse regarding continued aid to Ukraine, and the European Union is likewise struggling politically to restart the flow of resources into Kyiv.  You yourself have said that Ukraine’s spring offensive didn’t lead to the results that many had hoped for.  So how long does Ukraine’s military have before the marginal successes that it did notch when it enjoyed steadier resources from the West risk being reversed by Russia, which seems to be enjoying growing support from the likes of North Korea and Iran?

And briefly, Mr. Secretary General, I understand you’ll be meeting with American lawmakers during this trip to Washington, much as President Zelenskyy did when he was here late last year.  Is there a message you believe you can deliver to those lawmakers to make a timely difference in their decision-making?  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Olivia, thank you very much, and thank you for also representing all your colleagues in making sure that you asked all their questions as well.  Appreciate it.  (Laughter.)

Look, first I think it’s very important to note that this is an incredibly volatile time in the Middle East.  I would argue that we’ve not seen a situation as dangerous as the one we’re facing now across the region since at least 1973, and arguably even before that.  And that is the environment in which we’re operating, and of course that was triggered by the horrific attacks of October 7th by Hamas against innocent men, women, and children.

We’ve made very, very clear from day one that we’re going to defend our people, we’re going to defend our personnel, we’re going to defend our interests, and that’s exactly what we’ve done.  We’ve taken action, and significant action, to deter groups, to degrade their capabilities in Iraq, in Syria, in Yemen.  At the same time, the President’s been very clear that we want to prevent broader escalation.  We want to prevent this conflict from spreading.  So we are intent on doing both – that is, standing up for our people when they’re attacked, while at the same time working every single day to prevent the conflict from growing and spreading.  And that’s exactly what we’ll continue to do.  It’s fundamentally what’s in the interests of the United States, what’s in the interests of the region, and I think what’s in the interests of the world.

But I – the President said this, I think virtually from day one, to anyone who would try to use the crisis in the Middle East, the conflict in the Middle East, to sow further instability and use it as an excuse to attack our personnel:  We will respond, we will respond strongly, we will respond at a time and place of our choosing.  And obviously, I’m not going to telegraph what we might do in this instance or get ahead of the President, but I can, again, tell you that as President said yesterday, we will respond.  And that response could be multi-leveled, come in stages, and be sustained over time.

With regard to UNRWA, the reports that we got last week – and UNRWA brought them to us – were deeply, deeply troubling.  It is imperative that UNRWA immediately, as it said it would, investigate; that it hold people accountable as necessary; and that it review its procedures.  I had a very good conversation with the Secretary-General of the United Nations Guterres last week when we were first made aware of these allegations, and we are going to be looking very hard at the steps that UNRWA takes, again, to make sure that this is fully and thoroughly investigated, that there’s clear accountability, and that as necessary, measures are put in place so that this doesn’t happen again, assuming the allegations are fully borne out.  Certainly we’ve not had the – we haven’t had the ability to investigate them ourselves, but they are highly, highly credible.

At the same time, and as you indicated, UNRWA has played and continues to play an absolutely indispensable role in trying to make sure that men, women, and children who so desperately need assistance in Gaza actually get it.  And no one else can play the role that UNRWA’s been playing, certainly not in the near term.  No one has the reach, the capacity, the structure to do what UNRWA’s been doing.  And from our perspective, it’s important – more than important; imperative – that that role continue.

So that only underscores the importance of UNRWA tackling this as quickly, as effectively, and as thoroughly as possible, and that’s what we’re looking for.

SECRETARY GENERAL STOLTENBERG:  I will meet the members of Congress tomorrow.  And of course, I’m looking forward to discussing many issues with them, including Ukraine.  I’m confident that all NATO Allies, also the United States, will continue to provide support to Ukraine because this is in our own security interests to do so.  It would be a tragedy for the Ukrainians if President Putin wins, but it will also make the world more dangerous and us, all of us, more insecure.  It will embolden other authoritarian leaders – not only Putin, President Putin, but also North Korea, Iran, and China – to use force.  Today it’s Ukraine; tomorrow it could be Taiwan.

So therefore it is in our interests to ensure that Ukraine prevails as a sovereign, independent nation.  And the support we are providing is making a difference.  There’s a steady flow of ammunition and weapons from NATO Allies, and we have seen that this support has enabled the Ukrainians actually – to actually make big achievements.

We have to remember where we started.  When this war started, or when the full-fledged invasion happened in February last year, or in 2022, most experts feared that Russia would control Kyiv within days and all of Ukraine within weeks.  The reality is that the Ukrainians were able to push back the Russian forces, and they have liberated 50 percent of the territory that Russia occupied at the beginning of the war.  They have been able to inflict heavy losses on the Russian armed forces – more than 300 casualties, thousands of armored vehicles have been destroyed, and the – and hundreds of planes.  And this is something we all have achieved without putting any NATO soldiers, U.S. soldiers or any other NATO soldiers, in harm’s way, but just by providing military support to Ukraine.  And Ukrainians have been able to open the western part of the Black Sea, to push the Russian Black Sea fleet to the east, so they’re now able to export grain and other commodities through the Black Sea.

These are substantial achievements, and they continue to conduct deep strikes on Russian positions.  So this idea that it doesn’t help to help them – actually, Ukrainians have proved the opposite.

Then of course, we all would like to have seen more progress in the offensive, but we should not underestimate the achievements the Ukrainians have already made.  And if we want an end to this war, the only way to end this war is to convince Putin that he will not win on the battlefield, and the only way to achieve that is to provide weapons to Ukraine from the United States, from other allies and partners.  So support to Ukraine is a good deal for NATO, for United States, for all of us.

Then you asked me one more question, I think.

QUESTION:  How long does Ukraine have before the (inaudible)?

SECRETARY GENERAL STOLTENBERG:  Well, the wars are by nature unpredictable, but the only thing we know is that – is that we need to continue to support them, and I’m confident that we will do so, and also when we meet here in Washington I am confident that Allies will again commit to sustain their support for Ukraine.

MR MILLER:  Caitriona Perry with BBC.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Caitriona Perry with BBC News.  Mr. Secretary, if I could just follow up on my colleague’s comments there, you referred to a multistage response to yesterday’s attack.  Do you hold Iran directly responsible?  Do you consider the U.S. to be at war or on the verge of war at this point?  And what impact would any response have on the hostage ceasefire deal, which we’re told is at an advanced stage at this point?

And Mr. Secretary General, if I could ask you what NATO’s view is of the risk of the U.S. becoming involved in a direct conflict with Iran, what that means for NATO’s other priorities, including Ukraine.  And on the risk to further U.S. funding of Ukraine, can NATO and other allies, including the EU, keep Ukraine going without the U.S. if they need to do that?

And just on the point of EU and European countries, on the issue of Sweden and Hungary holding out on its ratification of membership, do you think – is that forthcoming soon, and what does that mean for future expansion of NATO?

Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  So the attacks that have taken place since October on our – on our forces, on our personnel in both Iraq and Syria have been conducted by groups that are aligned with Iran and indeed are supported by Iran, funded by Iran, equipped by Iran.  And I would note that the presence of our forces in both Iraq and Syria has nothing to do with Gaza, nothing to do with the conflict that’s taken place since October 7th, since the horrific attacks by Hamas, and everything to do with making sure that ISIS doesn’t re-emerge.  That’s why they’re there – something that Iran should share as an interest.

But on the contrary, the groups that are aligned with it have been conducting these attacks.  And as I mentioned, we do not seek conflict with Iran, we do not seek war with Iran, but we have and we will continue to defend our personnel and to take every action necessary to do that, including responding very vigorously to the attack that just took place.  And as I mentioned, I’m not going to get ahead of where the President is; I’m certainly not going to telegraph the response.  But as I mentioned, that response could well be multileveled, it could come in stages, and it could be sustained over time.

At the same time, totally separately, we have been working to try to get hostages back out of Gaza and at the same time to get an extended pause in, and that effort is something that we are very, very actively pursuing right now with, of course, our partners in Qatar and Egypt as well as Israel.  Those who are trying to expand the conflict, broaden the conflict, escalate the conflict, they may say that they’re doing that somehow in response to Gaza, but every action they’re taking really is to perpetuate the conflict and to expand it.  They don’t have the interests of anyone in mind except their own interests, as they see them, and we’re determined, again, that we do everything possible not to see the conflict expand.  On the contrary, we’re working to end it, and end it in a way that the atrocities of October 7th never happen again as well as the suffering that we’ve seen on the part of Israelis and Palestinians alike doesn’t happen again.  That’s what we’re working toward and that’s where our focus is.

SECRETARY GENERAL STOLTENBERG:  First, on the issue of Swedish membership, I welcome, of course, that Türkiye now has finalized the ratification process with the decision in the parliament and also the signature from President Erdogan.  This demonstrates that Türkiye has followed up and delivered on what we all promised at the NATO Summit in Vilnius last summer, and it demonstrates that NATO’s door is open.

I spoke last week with Prime Minister Orban of Hungary, because now Hungary is the only country that has not yet finalized the ratification process.  Prime Minister Orban was very clear that he supports Swedish membership of NATO.  He told me that the parliament in Hungary will reconvene at the end of February, and I expect also in line with what he has said that the parliament will then finalize the ratification shortly after that.  So I’m confident that Sweden will be a full member of the Alliance; that will make NATO stronger, it will send a clear message to Moscow, and it will demonstrate that it’s for NATO Allies to decide who’s going to be a member.  Moscow has no veto over NATO enlargement.

Then on Iran, of course, Iran is responsible for destabilizing the whole region, threatening stability and security in the Middle East.  It is repressive at home and aggressive abroad.  We have seen this through many different attacks and also the different proxy groups, terrorist groups that Iran supports.  This underlines, of course, also the risk of escalation, and therefore I welcome the efforts by the United States to address these risks, and it is important that we also realize that Russia and Iran are now aligning more and more.  Russia is more and more dependent on drones from Iran – they actually built a new factory in Russia based on Iranian drone technology – and in return Russia is providing advanced technology to Iran.  So it demonstrates how authoritarian regimes are now coming closer and closer, and the only answer to that is that NATO Allies, all those countries that believe in democracy, have to stand together as we do in NATO.

MR MILLER:  Alex Marquardt with CNN.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Mr. Secretary, if I could start with you, specifically about the hostage and ceasefire talks.  Can you share specifically what progress was made yesterday in Paris?  The Qatari prime minister after his meeting with you, he made it sound like a broad framework had been agreed to and it was being taken to Hamas for them to take a look at.  Do you believe that it is the language surrounding the end of hostilities that is the biggest sticking point?  And if you would also comment on how – to what extent Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments about no Palestinian sovereignty, his leaked recording about criticizing Qatar, his ministers talking about resettling Gaza – to what extent has that complicated these conversations over an eventual deal?

And Mr. Secretary General, following on some of my colleagues’ questions, how much do you think Ukraine’s war efforts are suffering because of the dwindling amount of U.S. aid and the uncertainty about whether more will be coming?  How can you convince the U.S. and others to continue sending advanced systems and large amounts of aid when they say that supply issues are growing?  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So first, of course, look, the less said the better in terms of where we are in pursuing a resumption of getting hostages out and back home with their families.  What I can tell you is this:  I think the work that’s been done, including just this weekend, is important and is hopeful in terms of seeing that process resume.  Recall that in the first go-around, we were able with our partners in Qatar and Egypt to get an agreement that resulted in the release of more than a hundred hostages, and I believe that the proposal that is on the table and that is shared among all of the critical actors – of course Israel, but also with Qatar and Egypt playing a critical role in mediating and working between Israel and Hamas – I believe the proposal is a strong one and a compelling one that, again, offers some hope that we can get back to this process.  But Hamas will have to make its own decisions.  I can just tell you that there is, again, strong, I would say, alignment among the countries involved that this is a good and strong proposal, and the work that was done over the weekend, including by CIA Director Bill Burns, was important in helping to advance this.

As to comments that people make or that come out into the media, look, all I can tell you is this:  It’s my strong assessment that certainly Israel would very much like to see this process of hostages coming out resume.  It may be – well, I don’t want to speak for the Israelis, but I can certainly say from the perspective of the United States, because we of course have American citizens who are involved, this is at the very top of our list and has been from day one, and I believe that Israeli leadership and certainly Israeli society feels very, very strongly about it.  So we’ll see.  I can’t say anything more than that.  But I can say that very important, productive work has been done, and there is some real hope going forward.

SECRETARY GENERAL STOLTENBERG:  The United States has demonstrated leadership in mobilizing NATO Allies to support Ukraine, and I count on the United States, and I am confident that the United States will continue to do so because it is in the interest of the United States to ensure that President Putin does not win in Ukraine, and that we have to remember that this is something we have to do together, and – all NATO Allies and partners.  As Secretary Blinken just referred to, European Allies have actually provided more support in total for Ukraine than the United States.  I commend the United States, but we must not forget that this is a joint effort of all Allies, and if we put together what European Allies and Canada are providing, it actually exceeds the U.S. support.  So this is burden sharing, a joint effort by all Allies together.

And we do so in solidarity with Ukraine, but our support is not charity; it is an investment in our own security because we know that this is closely watched also in Beijing.  And we also see how China and Russia are aligning more and more, how China is propping up the Russian economy, including the defense production.  We see how China is repeating and spreading the same narrative about the war as Russia, how China has failed to condemn the illegal invasion of Ukraine.  And then we have to remember that just days before the full-scale invasion, China and Russia – President Xi and President Putin – signed a joint partnership agreement where they promised each other limitless partnership.

So I understand that many Allies are also concerned about China, but that’s not an argument for being less concerned about Ukraine.  Security is not regional; security is global.  What happens in Europe matters for Asia; what happens in Asia matters for Europe.  And today it’s Ukraine; tomorrow it can be Taiwan.

So therefore, it is in our interest to ensure that we provide the weapons and support they need.  And I’m confident that Allies will do so to – and to make sure that we can do that, we need the money, but we also need to ramp up production.  And I welcome what has been done in the United States.  Tomorrow I will go – on Wednesday, I will go to Alabama to – so a factory there where they are producing Javelins – Lockheed Martin – to recognize the importance of ramping up production.  We have to understand that the fact that European Allies are now investing more in defense is a good deal for the United States, demonstrating that NATO’s a good deal for the United States.

Just over the last two years, European NATO Allies have agreed contracts for the U.S. defense industry worth 120 billion U.S. dollars.  We need to do more, and therefore I welcome also that NATO has now, over the last months, actually agreed contracts worth $10 billion to ramp up production of ammunition, of interceptors for the Patriot batteries, and so on.  That enables to replenish our own stocks, but also to continue to provide support to Ukraine.

So we will – we are able, we have the will, and I’m confident that we’ll have the necessary decisions both in the United States and Europe to continue the support.

MR MILLER:  And for the final question, Anders Tvegard with Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation.

QUESTION:  Thanks very much.  Mr. Secretary, your – the Biden administration’s policy on supporting Israel is unmistakable.  How would you look at the interim ruling by the World Court on Gaza?  And if I may, you talked about Congress and the funds.  What message does this send about U.S. leadership when your administration cannot – cannot or won’t hold words or promises?  I mean, you cannot fulfill them by action.

And Mr. Secretary General, Mr. Stoltenberg, you have now repeatedly warned about saying that China is watching the discussions over here about arming Ukraine.  How does this play out?  How will China use this?  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Let me take the second part of your question first.  I think you’ve heard both from me and from the secretary general how critical this ongoing funding is, both from the United States as well as from our partners and allies around the world.  And in fact, the EU – European Union – is also looking at additional support that it wants to provide to Ukraine, and that decision is also critical.  I think these are mutually reinforcing.  As Jens said, the fact that our own allies and partners have actually provided more than the United States, as much as we’ve already done, should reinforce the message to Congress as it’s considering the supplemental budget request that we really do have what is so critical, and that is burden sharing – that this is a load that is being borne more than equitably among allies and partners.  And by the way, not just in Europe; of course, we have key partners in other parts of the world, notably in Asia, who are participating in this.

But equally, if the United States doesn’t follow through on our commitments, then it’s going to make it more difficult to have Europeans and others continue to do what they’ve already been doing.  So I think it matters a lot, more than a lot.  I think it’s essential that we do make good on our commitments.  And as we do, I’m convinced that allies and partners around the world will continue to do what they’ve been doing.  And I also remain confident that in Congress we continue to have strong and bipartisan support for Ukraine.

So let’s see in the days and weeks ahead as this goes forward.  There is no other magic pot of money, and we are now currently out of the military assistance that we’ve been providing to Ukraine, and we’re even seeing some evidence of what that means on the battlefield.  So it is absolutely vital, absolutely urgent that we do it, and it is important in the terms that you’ve laid down, which is:  What does this mean for our word and our leadership around the world?  But I’m confident that as we do it you will see the benefits of that leadership with many other countries, allies and partners like, continuing to do what’s necessary with us to defend Ukraine.

With regard to the ICJ ruling, first let me just say broadly that we continue to believe clearly that the allegations of genocide are without merit.  We have consistently made clear to Israel going back to the early days the imperative of taking every possible step to protect civilian life, to get humanitarian assistance to those who need it, and also to address dehumanizing rhetoric that we’ve heard from some individuals.

The court in this decision agreed with that, and the court’s ruling is also very consistent with our view that Israel has the right to take action to ensure that the terrorist attacks of October 7th never happen again, in accordance with international law.  So I can just say we took note of the opinion.  We will continue to monitor the proceeding as it moves forward.

SECRETARY GENERAL STOLTENBERG:  China is not an adversary and I welcome the fact that the United States and other Allies engage with China in dialogue on issues of mutual concern like climate change and arms control.  But at the same time, we have to take seriously the consequences for our security – the significant military buildup which China now is undertaking, and also the fact that the war in Ukraine is bringing China and Russia closer with the substantial support that China provides to Russia in different ways and the promise of a limitless partnership in the midst of this brutal war of aggression against Ukraine.

Of course, the size of the Chinese economy, the significant military buildup, all of that is a challenge for all NATO Allies, also for the United States.  The United States is by far the biggest Ally, but it is a great advantage even for the United States to have so many friends and Allies as you have in NATO.  No other major power – Russia and China has nothing similar.  The U.S. represents 25 percent of the world’s GDP, but together with NATO Allies we represent 50 percent of the world’s GDP and 50 percent of the world’s military might.  So there is no reason why the U.S. should deal with China alone.  Together we are so much stronger.  It demonstrates that NATO is a good deal for United States.  It’s good for all European Allies but also for the United States.

So therefore, one of the messages from the summit next summer I expect will be that we need to stand together in a more dangerous world.  NATO is more needed than ever because we live in a more unpredictable and dangerous world.

MR MILLER:  Thank you.

SECRETARY GENERAL STOLTENBERG:  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.