by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the Atlantic Council of the United States’ Future Leaders Summit in Newport, Wales
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends, Kolinda,
Thank you very much indeed for that very kind, and also in a way a bit surprising, introduction. I didn’t know that we met at Alpe d’Huez. But surely I do remember climbing Alpe d’Huez : the 21 curves really represent a challenge. But I think for a Secretary General that’s really a quite good, or a future Secretary General, that is a quite good preparation, because it takes perseverance, also a bit of patience, to climb Alpe D’Huez but though it’s uphill, finally we succeed. And that is exactly how I see the work within NATO. It can be a challenge to get 28 nations to agree, but at the end of the day, there is a strong consensual spirit. And thanks to that spirit of solidarity, we succeed in making important decisions.
So, we are now starting one of the most important Summits in the history of our Alliance, and it is indeed a great pleasure to also welcome you to our NATO Summit here in Wales.
Let me also thank wholeheartedly the Atlantic Council for once again organizing the Future Leaders Summit. We really appreciate all your work to create the right framework for engaging the next generation in our important work and I attach great importance to involving you in our work to strengthen the transatlantic bond, and I would also, right from the outset, thank you warmly for your contributions, your input, earlier this year to strengthening our transatlantic bond. It has been a great inspiration for us in the preparations for our Summit.
Growing up in Denmark in the 1960’s, I came of age in a Europe that was divided and dangerous. When everything could end in the flash of a nuclear exchange. Your experience has been very different. You came of age after the fall of the Berlin Wall in a Europe where conflict had been contained. Where dividing lines were being erased. And where freedom, stability and prosperity appeared to be the natural state of affairs.
Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has been a wake-up call. It has reminded us, reminded all of us, that our freedom, security and prosperity cannot be taken for granted.
That some are trying to redraw dividing lines in Europe with force and in blood. So a Europe whole, free and at peace remains a work in progress.
NATO has stood firm in the face of this challenge. We have suspended our cooperation with Russia. We have boosted our cooperation with our partner Ukraine. We have strengthened our collective defence. And we have left no doubt that we will do whatever it takes to defend ourselves.
But Russia’s aggressive behaviour is not the only challenge we face.
We see the greatest number of crises since the end of the Cold War, emerging at the same time in different places on our periphery. A climate of chaos beyond our borders which could have direct implications for us at home. From criminal regimes and violent extremists to crippling cyber attacks.
It is for all these reasons that the Wales Summit is a critical Summit. At a critical time. And it is why today and tomorrow, we will forge a stronger NATO for a more complex and chaotic world.
We will adopt a Readiness Action Plan that will make our forces faster, fitter, and more flexible. Ready to address any challenges. Whenever they come. And from wherever they come.
We already have much of the equipment, capabilities and expertise that we need. But some changes to our force posture, positioning and infrastructure will be needed. In short: more visible presence in the East. And this will require continued investment in modern, deployable forces.
Our Summit will be a key opportunity to reverse the trend of declining defence budgets. And to share the responsibilities for security more fairly across the Alliance.
We will also use our Summit to strengthen our partnerships. To improve our ability to work with partners to tackle common challenges. And to help partners to develop their own capacity to spread stability in their regions.
Finally, our Summit will be an opportunity to enhance the transatlantic bond that is so essential to our security and our well-being. As I mentioned, a few months ago, several of you made valuable suggestions for strengthening that bond. And I want to thank you once again for that strong engagement. And for your innovative ideas.
Here in Wales, NATO’s 28 Allies will demonstrate our commitment to our security. To our shared values. And to our vision for a better Europe. We will equip ourselves with new tools to defend that vision. And to turn it into reality.
I look to you to play your part too. You believe in NATO. You are young leaders. And you can decide what your future will be.
So follow us closely over the next days. And then go back to your countries, your cities and your communities. Tell your family, your friends, and your colleagues what we did here in Wales.
Tell them that the unique bond between North America and Europe is the anchor of our freedom, our security and our prosperity.
Tell them that NATO is not a Cold War relic but a powerful tool for dealing with the threats of today and tomorrow.
Help make our vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace a reality.
Thank you very much.