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CNN Live Event/Special

United Kingdom Prime Minister, NATO Secretary General and Estonian Prime Minister Speak. Aired 10-10:21a ET

Aired March 01, 2022 - 10:00   ET



KAJA KALLAS, ESTONIAN PRIME MINISTER: I would like to thank the United Kingdom and all the allies who are already present here in Estonia. And also sending additional troops to Baltic region. We must work together to help Ukraine and to strengthen our own defense. Thank you.


Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the floor is yours.

BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: Thank you very much, well, thank you for your welcome.

Great to see you, Jens, and great to be here again in Tapa, this very, very important mission.

NATO is perhaps unique in the history of defensive alliances because it has stood for over 70 years and not for aggression but for peace and stability.

And during those years the alliance has been many times -- in the Cold War, in the Balkans, in Afghanistan.

This matters because the world has become a more dangerous and a more contested place.

A few short days ago we all stood witness to scenes we hoped we would never see again on the continent of Europe, a sovereign democratic people fighting for their lives against a foe, who wishes to subjugate them by force.

As we realized the terrible extent of President Putin's ambitions, the world has been rightly united in praise for the valor and bravery of the Ukrainian people, led by President Volodymyr Zelensky.

And I expect, like colleagues here, I have had the privilege of speaking to President Zelensky virtually every day since the Russian invasion and I've heard first-hand his sheer determination, that the freedom his people have experienced must never be snatched away.

And, indeed, it is clearer day by day, from the way the Ukrainians are responding, that President Putin has made a disastrous miscalculation. His troops have not been welcomed into Ukraine, as he prophesied. And instead the Ukrainians have mounted an astonishing and tenacious resistance.

We, as the international community, have a responsibility to do everything we can to help the Ukrainians in their efforts. And that is why the U.K. has trained 22,000 members of the Ukrainian armed forces and why we have provided further defensive military support to Ukraine.

And we have a responsibility to all Ukrainians. That is why the U.K. has provided 140 million pounds in humanitarian aid to Ukraine and to the region. It's why we have deployed both humanitarian experts and hundreds of military logistics experts to Ukraine's neighbors, to help them shelter those seeking sanctuary on their shores.

And it's why we have announced the first phase of a bespoke humanitarian route for the people of Ukraine to come to the U.K. It is also why, alongside allies across the world, the U.K. has swiftly executed the biggest package of sanctions ever imposed against a G20 nation.

And we've seen organizations, from banks to oil companies to football leagues, to singing competitions who've made it clear that Vladimir Putin and his regime must be isolated from the international community for his actions.

As we support the people of Ukraine, we must also shore up our shared resilience, both to protect our people and our values. These are nothing more than defensive measures, which have been the essence of the NATO for more than 70 years.

And I want to be crystal clear finally on that point. We will not fight Russian forces in Ukraine and our reinforcements -- like these reinforcements here in Tapa -- are firmly within the borders of NATO members and they are profoundly the right thing to do.

Thank you all very much.


Secretary General Stoltenberg, please.

JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: Prime Minister Kallas, Prime Minister Johnson, dear Kaja and dear Boris, It is great to be with you here at Tapa. It is great to be back.

And we are here to meet the soldiers that are defending Estonia, our alliance and our values. These soldiers are keeping our nations safe and free. And we owe them a debt of gratitude.

Thank you to Estonia for hosting our battle group so well and being such a staunch NATO ally.

Let me also thank the United Kingdom and you, Boris, for leading this NATO multinational battle group here at the Tapa base, in Estonia, and for doing so for the last five years and also for doubling your contribution over the last few weeks, with more British troops coming to Estonia.


STOLTENBERG: This really makes a huge difference and demonstrates NATO solidarity. We stand together in this time of crisis. The people of Ukraine are fighting bravely against a brutal and unprovoked Russian invasion. We utterly condemn the Kremlin's war.

Allies are imposing severe costs on Russia through sanctions. We are increasing NATO presence across the alliance, to deter and to defend. And we are stepping up our support to help Ukraine defend itself.

NATO allies are sending Ukraine anti-tank weapons, air defense missiles and ammunition. Allies are also providing millions of euros worth of financial help and humanitarian aid. I commend Estonia and the United Kingdom for the assistance you are providing to Ukraine.

Over the last weeks, in response to Russia's attack on Ukraine, we have increased our defensive presence, in the air, on land and at sea with over 100 jets at high alert, operating from 30 different locations, and over 120 ships from the Baltic Sea to the Mediterranean.

The U.K., the U.S. and other allies are deploying thousands more troops to the eastern part of the alliance. For the first time in our history, we are deploying the NATO Response Force because there must be no doubt, no room for miscalculation or misunderstanding.

Our commitment to Article 5 of the Washington Treaty is iron-clad. We will protect and defend every inch of NATO territory. Credible deterrence prevents conflict and preserves peace.

NATO is a defensive alliance. We do not seek conflict with Russia.

Our message to President Putin is: stop the war, pull out all your forces from Ukraine and engage in good faith in diplomatic efforts.

The world stands with Ukraine in calling for peace.

So Kaja and Boris, it is great to be with you here again. And we stand together in the alliance, united in our condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.


We are now at your disposal for questions. Please state your name and your media organization you're presenting and to whom the question is addressed to. Please use microphone.

QUESTION: Hello (INAUDIBLE) from Estonian television. I have a question to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Your country has supported volunteers who are ready to fight in the ground in Ukraine.

What do you think under which circumstances should NATO get directly involved in fighting in Ukraine?

JOHNSON: Well, thank you very much. Look, I'm going to be very clear about this, because you're not quite right in what you say about supporting volunteers going to fight on the ground. The U.K. is not actively doing such a thing.

But I understand, of course, the feelings of people, who feel emotionally engaged in this conflict, because I cannot think of a time in international affairs when the difference between right and wrong, between good and bad, between good and evil has been so obvious.

And it is clear that the people of Ukraine have right on their side. And I can understand why people feel as they do. But we have laws in our country about international conflicts and how they must be conducted.

And on your point, as both Kaja and Jens have stressed, NATO is a defensive alliance. I think for any NATO member to get involved actively in conflict with Russia is a very, very -- is a huge step, which is not been contemplated by any member.

You have to go to parliaments and to peoples to get agreement for such a step. That is not on the agenda.

What is on the agenda is offering the humanitarian support that we are offering, the logistical, the defensive but lethal military support that we are -- and we're offering it in ever growing quantities --


JOHNSON: -- but also the economic pressure that the West is now applying to the Putin regime.

And I think one thing is clear, they -- the -- Vladimir Putin miscalculated two things. He miscalculated the strength of the Ukrainian resistance and he also miscalculated and underestimated the strength of Western unity and Western resolve to ensure that Putin must fail.


QUESTION: Thank you, on behalf of all British broadcasters.

This is a question to all three of you, actually. Kharkiv, the city, is under heavy bombardment. The capital, Kyiv, is being surrounded and has a column of heavy armor stretching somewhere between 25 and 30 miles toward it. Do you think that, given the tactics being deployed by Russian forces,

edging toward indiscriminate use of munitions in civilian areas, means that, given Russia's overwhelming superiority, that cities in Ukraine, including the capital, will inevitably fall?

And one specific one for you, Prime Minister Johnson, the U.N. Security Council is at the heart of the system of global peace and security. Britain, like Russia, is a permanent member.

Do you think that you would support moves to suspend Russia from the U.N. Security Council?

KALLAS: Yes. What we are seeing in Ukraine is really very horrifying, to see what kind of steps they're taking. And now they are escalating this crisis. The question whether the cities will fall, I think we underestimate the Ukrainians' motivation and will to protect their cities.

Of course, we also know that the forces are not really equal. So one is to really conquer the cities and the other one is to keep those cities under control. So I think there is going to be a lot of resistance from Ukrainians.

And this -- even if, you know, temporarily Russia takes hold of the cities, it is still very hard to keep and -- as there is no support from the Ukrainian side. So I think what we have seen and the -- all Ukrainians have really surprised everybody is by the motivation to fight for their country, to fight for their freedom.

I think the same would be here, because we have already lost our freedom once and we don't want to lose it a second time. So I think all the nation is up to defend their country and to take it back even after, you know, building the resistance in the nation, really, to take those back.

JOHNSON: Yes, and just to rally on your point about what is happening in Kharkiv, it is absolutely sickening. It reminds me, if anything, if you remember the shelling of Sarajevo market by the Serbs, the shelling of innocent people in Bosnia, it has that feel to me, of an atrocity committed deliberately against a civilian center.

And I think that, coming to your second point, you know, within the U.N. structures, it is very difficult to move people without a vote. And clearly, where you have a veto in the Security Council, you can't -- there is a paradox, that we can't vote to change the rules without the agreement of the Russians.

But what is happening is that I think the great middle of the U.N. congregation, if you like, is starting to realize quite how horrific this is with every day that goes by, as they watch the heroism of the Ukrainian resistance and they see what is happening in Ukraine and they see episodes, like the shelling of -- like the missile in Kharkiv and the destruction of civilian populations.

I think people's stomachs are being turned by what's happening. And they're seeing that it is necessary to stand up against Russian aggression, to support the Ukrainians and to endorse our strategy, which is that President Putin must not be allowed to succeed. He must fail in Ukraine.


STOLTENBERG: So what we now see is new wave of attack against Ukraine, against innocent people, under a column of heavy Russian armor, which is moving toward Kyiv; will bring more death, more suffering and more civilian casualties.

And that's the reason why we need to continue to provide support to Ukraine, while we continue to call on Russia to stop this bloody war, and why we need to impose costs by heavy sanctions on Russia and why we also should once again commend the bravery and the courage of the Ukrainian people, the Ukrainian armed forces and also the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

This is horrifying. This is totally unacceptable and it's a blatant violation of international law.


QUESTION: Question for Boris Johnson.

By the middle of the March, U.K. will have sent here about 2,000 troops, that's definitely a big support for us.

But what would happen -- what would have to happen or what would be the trigger for you to double it or triple it or what is the limit?

JOHNSON: Well, thank you very much. We're very proud to be working here with our friends, with our French friends, with our Danish friends and, of course, with our wonderful Estonian hosts.

And I -- we're doubling it. It is a big commitment that we're making. I think that, you know, we'll always keep things under review.

But what, you can take it from me that our priority is the safety, the security of our friends and partners across the whole of the eastern frontier of NATO.

And we're increasing our presence not just in Estonia but in Poland, in the skies above Romania, in the eastern Mediterranean, in the Black Sea. The U.K. is beefing up our presence in -- on NATO's eastern flank.

And the message we need to get over -- and I think we are, collectively, all of us -- is that if Vladimir Putin thinks he's going to push NATO back by what he's doing, he's gravely mistaken. This will end up with a fortified and strengthened NATO on his -- on his western flank. He'll have more NATO, not less NATO.

QUESTION: Thank you. Unfortunately, this is all the time we have. Thank you, everyone, for coming.


JOHNSON: Danish television. I'm -- go on. Something tells me this will -- you'll have a brilliant question.

QUESTION: Yes, of course, I will. You doubled your number of troops here at the base (INAUDIBLE) Denmark due to arrive next week.


QUESTION: Would you like to see Denmark increase the number of troops here as well?

JOHNSON: All I can say is that I had a great conversation with Metta, your prime minister, the other day, she was fantastically robust. I think she understands the problem very well.

And I'm glad that Denmark is increasing its contribution. We work well with our Danish friends and, of course, it is always good that Denmark is contributing more. But I hesitate to go beyond that.

Thank you very much. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) based on the questions that you got, based on the questions -- this morning you got some tough questions from our Ukrainian reporter.

And today, this afternoon, you're telling the crowd here, we, as the international community, have responsibility to do everything we can to help the Ukrainians in their efforts.

So are you actually doing that if you're not granting the requests from Ukraine for a no-fly zone?

JOHNSON: Thank you and I just want to get back to the -- to the points that Kaja and Jens all of us have made today. It is very, very important to understand that NATO is a defensive alliance. This is a time when miscalculation and misunderstanding is all too possible.

And it therefore crucial we get that -- we get that message over. That does not mean that we cannot help our friends -- or it does not mean they do not have a right to self-defense. And we can help them in that self-defense. And that is what we are doing.

When it comes to a no-fly zone, which is what I think you asked, in the skies above Ukraine, we have to accept the reality that that involves shooting down Russian planes. As I said in an answer to I think the first question, that's a very, very big step and it is simply not on the agenda of any NATO country.

Thank you all very much. Thank you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, everyone. This concludes the press conference. BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST: Right. Just picking up on what you just

have been hearing there, you have been listening to the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, he's in town in Estonia today for talks with the Estonian prime minister. And the two leaders focused on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, of course.

Estonia, Balkan state that feared it could be next if Russia continues to advance into former Soviet states. They were speaking alongside the NATO secretary general. Let me just go through some of what was said there.

Boris Johnson said, as we support the people Ukraine, we must also shore up our shared resilience, both to protect our people and our values.

He added, we will not fight Russian forces in Ukraine.

They were all asked whether, given Russia's overwhelming superiority on the ground and in the air and in the sea, will cities in Ukraine inevitably fall?

The Estonian prime minister said we underestimate Ukrainian motivation to protect their cities. But their forces are not equal. There will be a lot of resistance, she said, even if Russia temporarily take over these cities.

They were asked whether they supported moves to suspend Russia from the Security Council. Boris Johnson pointing out that you can't vote to change the rules without the support of the Russians and they have a veto as a permanent member.

He described that as a paradox (ph). And what you just heard was a question from one of the journalists, asking why no no-fly zone. And Boris Johnson made it very clear, that there is agreement amongst all NATO allies. This is a defense force and that, at least at present, there will be no no-fly zone above Ukraine.

It would effectively be an act of war against the Russians. Let me put you back with my colleagues for continuing coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.