by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Arthur F. Burns Fellowship Alumni Dinner in Berlin, Germany
It is really a great honour to see you all here tonight.
And I really mean it.
Because I have been invited to this dinner actually many times before.
I have been on the programme twice.
And cancelled twice.
And to be honest, I was afraid I was going to cancel this time too.
Because we had some arrangements in Washington.
And then tomorrow we have a very important meeting at NATO with the National Security Advisors.
But I really felt that the third time, there is no way to cancel.
And third time means luck, so therefore I am glad that I am here.
And then, it is also a privilege to be here.
And to congratulate the recipients of the awards.
That is a great honour.
I thought it was going to happen much later in the evening.
But congratulations to both of you.
Then, I would like to say that I am happy to be in Berlin.
Because I like this city.
I like the atmosphere.
And I like the historic importance of this city for Europe and for the transatlantic alliance.
On top of that, I know that the Arthur Burns Fellowship is not affiliated to NATO.
But you could have been.
Because what you do is very much in line with what we do at NATO.
We, NATO, we are a transatlantic alliance protecting democratic values.
You are a transatlantic institution, offering German, American, and Canadian journalists the opportunity to live and work across the Atlantic.
And you uphold democratic values by supporting a free and independent media.
Then, I have to admit, that most, actually not most, but my whole political career, I have been on the receiving end of all the questions from journalists.
And this is not always easy.
Actually, sometimes, it is a bit annoying!
But it is always important.
Because without a free and independent press there is no democracy.
So thank you so much for the work you do every day.
I also welcome your efforts to build lasting friendships between Europe and North America.
And at NATO we go one step further!
Tonight we are celebrating a very special transatlantic partnership.
Exactly 20 years ago today, a Canadian-German couple – who met at NATO – got married.
So could I please ask you to give a very warm transatlantic round of applause for Minister Isabelle Poupart and Ambassador Reinhard Bettzüge.
So this is a transatlantic partnership, friendship and transatlantic love.
Then, the rest of the speech will be about something completely different.
And it will not be very long.
Because the main purpose of being here, actually, is not to deliver the speech, but to be able to answer questions and comments from you.
Tonight I would also like to recognise the many valuable contributions that Germany makes to the transatlantic security.
From Baltic air policing,
to maritime deployments in the Aegean and the Mediterranean.
And from NATO’s multinational battlegroup in Lithuania,
to our new logistics command in Ulm.
Germany has been a long-standing supporter of our peace-keeping mission in Kosovo.
And it was the second largest troop contributor to our training mission in Afghanistan.
Bringing our troops home from Afghanistan was a difficult decision.
But it was a decision we made together after extensive consultations.
We all knew that if we ended our military presence, there was a risk the Taliban could return.
But we also knew there was a risk if we stayed.
A risk of an open-ended military presence.
With more NATO troops.
And more loss of life – both civilian and military.
We went in to Afghanistan together.
We went out together.
And now we must learn together.
I have already launched a thorough assessment in NATO of our engagement in Afghanistan.
And the German Ministry of Defence has launched its own lessons learned process today.
It is too early to prejudge the outcomes.
But one thing is clear.
The crisis in Afghanistan does not change the need for Europe and North America to stand together in NATO.
In fact, the need for transatlantic unity is greater now than at any time since the end of the Cold War.
We are facing a pivotal moment.
Global competition is rising.
Russia is more aggressive abroad and more oppressive at home.
China is using its economic and military might.
To coerce other countries and control its own people.
The authoritarian regimes in Moscow and Beijing are challenging the resilience of our societies, our critical infrastructure and supply chains.
They are putting pressure on our values and our democratic way-of-life,
and they are trying to divide us.
All of this has consequences for our security.
Consequences that none of us can face alone.
Not Europe alone.
Nor North America alone.
Only Europe and North America together.
NATO is already doing a lot to adapt to a rapidly changing world.
Since 2014, we have strengthened our deterrence and defence.
Reinforced our presence in the east of the Alliance.
And stepped up our defences against cyber and hybrid offence.
And at our Summit in Brussels in June, NATO leaders adopted NATO 2030 – an ambitious forward-looking agenda for our Alliance.
We agreed to continue to strengthen NATO, as the indispensable forum for all issues that affect our security.
Increasing national resilience.
Investing in the latest technologies.
Boosting our cyber-defences.
And addressing, for the first time, the security impact of climate change.
These are defining challenges that can only be addressed by Europe and North America together.
Just this morning, I arrived back from Washington.
In my meeting with President Biden, he reiterated his strong commitment to rebuilding alliances and strengthening NATO.
And I think for Europe, this is a historical opportunity we should seize to actually build a strong alliance over the Atlantic.
And I also went to the US Congress during my visit this week to Washington.
And there I once again saw the strong bipartisan support for NATO in the US.
This is demonstrated not only in words, but also in deeds.
Over the last years, actually opposite to what many people believe, the US has increased its military presence in Europe.
With more troops, air and naval exercises, and pre-positioned equipment.
And our European Allies have stepped up too.
With increased defence spending,
and the higher readiness of our forces.
We need to keep up this momentum.
Germany is at the heart of Europe,
as the largest economy,
and a champion of multilateralism.
So Germany has a special responsibility.
To strengthen European security within a transatlantic framework.
I count on Germany to continue to invest more in defence and new capabilities,
as you have done in recent years.
I count on you to continue to invest in the resilience of our societies and critical infrastructure.
Because economic decisions have a real impact on our security too.
And I also count on Germany to keep your commitment to a safe and effective nuclear deterrent,
as the ultimate guarantor for our security.
NATO shares the aim of a world without of nuclear weapons.
But a world where NATO Allies give up their nuclear deterrent,
while Russia, China and other countries, like North Korea,
continue to expand and modernise their nuclear arsenals,
is simply not a safer world.
We live in uncertain times.
We do not know what the next crisis will be.
But we do know that whatever happens,
we are safer when we stand together.
With a strong Germany at the heart of a strong NATO,
we will continue to keep our people safe.