Monsieur le ministre,
Mesdames et Messieurs,
Permettez-moi tout d’abord de remercier le ministre Le Drian pour l’offre généreuse de la France d’accueillir ce séminaire à Paris. C’est là une nouvelle manifestation claire de l’engagement fort de la France envers l’OTAN. Et de l’exemple que la France continue de donner au sein de notre Alliance.
La France a montré sans tarder sa solidarité en déployant des avions supplémentaires à l’appui de notre mission de police du ciel dans les États baltes. La France apporte aussi une contribution significative à la sécurité de l’Europe et de l’Alliance grâce à ses opérations déterminées au Mali et en République centrafricaine. Et la France reste décidée à investir dans les capacités de défense de pointe dont nous avons besoin, tant à l’OTAN qu’à l’Union européenne.
Et bien sûr, l’une des contributions les plus appréciées de la France à notre Alliance est notre commandant suprême allié pour la transformation, le général Paloméros. Je tiens à le remercier, ainsi que son équipe, pour le travail remarquable qu’ils accomplissent au profit de la défense intelligente, de l’initiative d’interconnexion des forces et plus largement pour la réforme de l’Alliance. Je lui suis aussi très reconnaissant d’avoir organisé ce séminaire. Merci beaucoup.
We are meeting at a defining moment for the security architecture we have built together over the last decades. Events in Eastern Ukraine are of great concern. I urge Russia to to step back. Any further move into Eastern Ukraine would represent a serious escalation, rather than the de-escalation that we all seek. We call on Russia to pull back the tens of thousands of troops it has massed on Ukraine's borders, engage in a genuine dialogue with the Ukrainian authorities, and respect its international commitments.
This crisis raises serious questions for Euro-Atlantic security.
Now is the time for the right answers. And let me put forward three answers which I see as key for our Wales Summit in September.
We must prepare a readiness action plan.
We must reinvest in our defence.
And we must reinforce the transatlantic bond.
So first, we must stand ready at all times to safeguard the security of all Allies. To deter and defend against any attack. To deal with the unexpected. And to address the arc of crises around our borders with our network of partners around the world.
Because from Sevastopol to Syria and the Sahel, we are facing a dangerous world. Where threats are complex, unpredictable and interconnected. Newer challenges, such as terrorism, failed states, cyber and missile attacks. And old challenges in new guises, such as attempts to redraw borders by force.
We must develop an action plan to strengthen our readiness. And this requires the right training, the right posture, and the right capabilities.
First, training and exercising. This is about our people and platforms being properly prepared. Exercised together. Trained together. And ready to be deployed together - wherever and whenever required.
We must continue to build on our Connected Forces Initiative to exercise more frequently and with more forces. We must exercise all scenarios, including collective defence. We must rehearse reinforcement. This involves not just the dispatch and deployment of forces, but also ensuring they have what they need when they arrive. And we must exercise in the places where we may expect to deploy, not just in military training areas. As Allies, and together with partners.
The second element in a readiness action plan is the NATO Response Force. We have it, and we must use it. To do that, we should place parts of it at very high readiness.
But this is not enough. We must review the readiness of all our forces. To ensure that we can act within reduced warning times. Of course, you cannot react quickly if you are not in the right place. So we must also review where we place our forces. How we posture them. And how we redeploy them rapidly when necessary. And all this needs to be underpinned with the appropriate defence plans prepared and ready to use.
The third element for improved readiness is improved capabilities.
We need to procure the high-end capabilities that we currently lack – joint intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; missile defence; air command and control; and air lift. Much work has already been done to fill these gaps. But we need to advance and expand our programmes.
Of course readiness has a cost. But if we’re not ready for whatever the future brings, we place our security at risk. And the costs of insecurity are much higher.
This leads me to my second point. This crisis has shown that we cannot take our security for granted. So we must be ready to pay the price to preserve it.
Over the past years, some of our European Allies have cut their defence spending by as much as 40 %. While other countries, like Russia, are increasing theirs by 30 %.
The reality is that Europeans have disarmed too much and for too long. In NATO, we have agreed a defence spending guideline of 2% of Gross Domestic Product. Too few Allies meet this guideline. And too many have moved too far in the other direction. This is the time to stop the cuts and start reversing the trend.
I am not naive. I know defence spending will not increase overnight. But we cannot have effective collective security without collective commitment.
This is not just about what we invest. It is also about how we invest.
We must prioritise. So we can acquire what we need for the future, and replace what was needed in the past.
We must also do more to seek multinational solutions. Through our Smart Defence initiative, Allies are already achieving savings. And they are acquiring capabilities. We must maintain this momentum.
My third and final point is that the bond between North America and Europe remains vital for our shared security. And we must reinforce it.
Our transatlantic community is built on common values and on a common vision of Europe whole, free and at peace. It is now at the centre of a wide network of global partnerships -- not just for security, but also for the economy and trade. And it plays a vital role in setting and upholding global norms.
The current crisis poses a serious challenge to our common security. But North America and Europe stand together in facing up to it. And we stand united in our firm response. In recent weeks, we have seen the United States’ clear commitment to European security. From the Baltics to the Black Sea.
France and other European Allies are complementing that effort. And the European Council in December showed that European nations are prepared to step up. So I encourage all Allies to play their full part.
This is the time to find a better balance of costs and responsibilities between Allies. Both between the United States and Europe. And among Allies within Europe.
A better transatlantic balance is also based on better cooperation between NATO and the European Union. We are working together successfully in the Balkans. In Afghanistan. And in the Indian Ocean. And when I look to Ukraine, I see scope for an even closer relationship.
We all have an interest in helping to stabilize and strengthen Ukraine. There is a lot of work to do, and there is a role for all of us to play. The European Union could make a considerable contribution in helping to reform the police and border service. While NATO could help to reform the Ukrainian defence structures and armed forces, as the Ukrainian authorities have asked us to do.
Such a close and coordinated cooperation between NATO and the European Union would be good for Ukraine. And it would also be good for Europe and North America.
Our strength is our solidarity. We are simply stronger when we act together. This does not contradict national sovereignty. It reinforces it.
That is why I have asked three groups of experts – from the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, prominent think-tanks, and young leaders - to make recommendations on how we can strengthen the transatlantic bond. Their reports are due in June. And I am very pleased to see that so many of these excellent experts are taking part in this seminar.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The current crisis has highlighted some important lessons for our Alliance. We need to improve our collective defence and readiness, we have to increase our investment in defence, and we must maintain the vitality of our transatlantic bond.
For the past eleven years, Allied Command Transformation has demonstrated its value and success as a driver for change. And as we approach our Summit in Wales later this year, your debates should help us find the way to apply those lessons.
So I look forward to receiving your recommendations. So that NATO remains ready and robust in an unpredictable world. Thank you very much.