Thank you for that kind introduction. I am delighted to be sharing the stage with two of my predecessors. George, Jaap -- your skilled leadership steered the Alliance through many difficult and decisive moments.
The crisis in Ukraine is another difficult and decisive moment. It is also a very dangerous moment. And a wake-up call for all of us – not just in Europe, but across the whole of the Euro-Atlantic area.
Earlier this week, in Washington, I spoke about why the crisis makes clear that NATO matters more for America than ever before. Today, I want to explain why the crisis also shows that the transatlantic bond and NATO matter more for Europe than ever before.
Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine is the most serious crisis in Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Our vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace has been put into question.
Because this is not an isolated incident. It follows a pattern of behaviour. Of military pressure and frozen conflicts in our neighbourhood. Transnistria, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and now Crimea. What connects those crises is one big country unilaterally deciding to rewrite international rules. Overnight, and on its own. And recreate new dividing lines in Europe, twenty-five years after the free peoples of Europe erased them.
We had hoped this kind of revisionist behaviour was confined to the 19th century. But we see it is back in the 21st century. It is based on confrontation, not cooperation. And it poses a real threat to the global order based on our values, and the rules that we all agreed to respect.
So we need to respond. Both now and in the future.
For now, I see three priorities. First: To reaffirm our commitment to collective defence. Second: To strengthen our support to Ukraine and the wider region.
And third: to make clear that we can no longer do business as usual with Russia.
First, collective defence. No one should doubt NATO’s resolve if the security of any of its members were to be threatened. Our commitment to the security of all Allies is unbreakable. Now and in the future.
This commitment is not just about words, but real assets and real actions. More planes to police the airspace over the Baltics. Surveillance flights over Poland and Romania. And we remain vigilant and ready to take all necessary steps. Our goal is to defuse the crisis on our borders. And make no mistake – we will defend our Allies.
Second, we will strengthen our support for Ukraine. We will intensify political and military cooperation. That includes
- support of the transformation of Ukrainian armed forces into modern and effective organizations, able to provide credible deterrence and defence against military threats
- enhancing the ability of the Ukrainian armed forces to work and operate together with armed forces of NATO Allies
- increased participation in NATO exercises
This will be done both as an Alliance and by Allies individually.
We are also working with other partners in the region to provide the support they need at this time of crisis.
Finally, our relations with Russia.
In 2010, we agreed to develop a true strategic partnership between NATO and Russia. I still believe that engagement remains the right way forward. But I also have to say that today, we see Russia speaking and behaving more as an adversary than as a partner.
That is not of our choice. It is of great concern. And it puts into question the very foundation of our cooperation with Russia.
We have already agreed that no staff-level meetings with Russia will take place for now. And we are reviewing the entire range of our cooperation so that NATO Foreign Ministers can take the appropriate decisions when they meet in Brussels in ten days from now.
However, we are also keeping the door open for political dialogue.
This is what we are doing now. But we must look to the future. Because this crisis is a game-changer. And it undermines the rules-based global order.
To uphold that order, Europe and North America must stand together. And continue to strengthen our economic and military ties. This is how we can best face up to those who break the rules. And how we can continue to protect our values and our way of life.
First: We must reinforce our economic ties. The transatlantic trade and investment partnership is key. And it is urgent. Second: We must make energy diversification a strategic transatlantic priority and reduce Europe’s dependency on Russian energy.. And third: We must increase defence investment in Europe and strengthen our security cooperation within NATO.
The United States has shown a clear commitment to Europe’s security. From jet fighters to the Baltics, exercises in the Black Sea, to the deployment of the USS Donald Cook to Spain, as a centerpiece of NATO’s missile defence system.
Europeans must play their full part. We have seen encouraging signs, but there is more to be done. We need greater political will, stronger capabilities, and more investment in defence.
We cannot continue to disarm, while the rest of the world is rearming, and some are rattling their arms on our borders.
NATO’s greatest responsibility is to protect and defend our populations and our territory. To do that, we must ensure that we have the full range of capabilities to deter and defend against any threat.
To back up diplomatic soft power with military hard power.
To act, as well as talk - and to stand together as transatlantic Allies.
NATO will remain strong and vigilant, and work with the European Union and the rest of the international community to safeguard security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As we prepare for our next Summit in Wales, we will be taking tough decisions. On the security of Allies, cooperation with partners and our relations with Russia. Make no mistake. In a changed world, NATO stands ready.