Speech by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Munich Security Conference
Minister von der Leyen, Ambassador Ischinger, Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great honour for me to speak at the start of the Munich Security Conference.
And it’s a pleasure to share the platform with you, Ursula. We have already discussed important issues at the NATO Defence Ministers meeting in Brussels yesterday.
And I am glad we can continue our conversation here in Munich.
Last year was a turning point: for European security and for the global order. Here in Europe, we see a dangerous pattern of Russian behaviour: annexation, aggressive actions and intimidation. The conflict in Ukraine is deepening, with a horrific cost to civilians. The causes are clear and cannot be denied. Russia continues to provide training, equipment, and forces in support of the separatists, and it continues to destabilise Ukraine in utter disregard for the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
North Africa and the Middle East are also in turmoil. States are breaking up and conflict is at our borders. Extremism is fuelling barbaric violence across the region and inspiring terrorism on our own streets.
So I agree with Ursula and Wolfgang; this conference has a dramatic backdrop. But does this mean that the international order is on the brink of collapse? My answer -- is no. Not as long as the guardians of the international order remain ready to act to uphold international rules and the vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace.
Since its foundation, NATO has been a resolute guardian of the international order. That order is being challenged. And we must do our utmost to protect it.
I want to talk to you today about three issues that are fundamental to this task: keeping NATO strong; building stability with our neighbours; and charting the course for relations with Russia.
First, NATO. Collective defence has always been our core task. Twenty-eight member states, acting as one, to defend each other. But the way we do that has changed over time and we must continue to adapt to provide collective defence for the 21st century. This is not about lining up tanks or digging ditches along our borders. The Cold War is history and it should remain that way.
We need a collective defence where Allied forces are more ready to deploy and better able to reinforce each other. Faster. Sharper. And more mobile. We must be able to deter any threat, from any direction. Including hybrid warfare, and attacks that are aimed at our infrastructure -- our economies -- and our open societies. This requires resolve. And resources.
We have shown the resolve. We are fundamentally changing NATO’s defence posture. To ensure we have the right forces -- in the right place -- at the right time. This is the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War. At our Defence Ministers meeting yesterday we decided to enhance our NATO Response Force. It will consist of up to 30,000 troops. Its centrepiece is the new Spearhead Force. With a land brigade of around 5,000 troops, supported by air, sea and special forces, ready to move within as little as 48 hours.
Six Allies declared that they will act as framework nations. And I thank you, Ursula, and Germany for being one of them. Along with France, Italy, Spain, Poland and the United Kingdom. Europeans are taking the lead. Germany is amongst those taking responsibility for Euro Atlantic security. And what Germany does, counts.
We also decided on the immediate establishment of the first command and control units in six eastern Allies: Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania. These units will make it easier to rapidly deploy NATO forces. They will support our collective defence planning. Help to coordinate training and exercises. And they will demonstrate to any aggressor that if they try to attack one of our Allies, they will face the whole Alliance.
All these measures are defensive, proportionate, and in line with our international commitments. And they are our response to the challenges we see. Both from the east and from the south. They show our collective resolve, but they will also require resources.
NATO is the strongest military Alliance in history. Yet we cannot take our security for granted. Since 1990, there has been a steady fall in European defence spending.
And last year, there was a further decline of about 3 percent. So the fact is that our security challenges are increasing. But our defence spending is decreasing. This is simply not sustainable. We cannot do more with less forever.
Last autumn, our Heads of State and Government pledged to stop the cuts. To increase defence spending as our economies grow. And to spend more efficiently. This is not easy. It cannot be done overnight. But it can be done. Some Allies are already doing it. But this is a pledge that we must all keep. Because, the less we invest in our defence, the more our security becomes a matter of hope. Even in the best of times, hope is not a strategy. And we do not live in the best of times.
The second critical point I want to address is about our neighbours -- in the east and in the south. We must work with them to make them stronger, better able to meet security challenges in their region and to choose their own path. Because if they are more stable, we are more secure.
We clearly see this in our eastern neighbourhood. Ukraine, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova have all held democratic elections. Their peoples have voted for Europe and what it represents. This is their free choice. A free choice enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act, which we have all agreed to respect.
In Ukraine, the immediate task is to stop the fighting. Ukraine is a sovereign country. Its people have the right to live in peace and security like the rest of us and we must support them to achieve this.
In the longer run, we must help our eastern neighbours to stay on the path of democracy and reform. To fight corruption, open up their economies and build efficient institutions. This is good for them. And it is good for us.
To the south, violent extremism is a growing threat. To counter this threat, we must reinforce our security at home. But we must also remain ready to act beyond our borders. From the Balkans to Afghanistan, NATO has led large and complex coalitions under the most challenging conditions. This is a unique ability that we must preserve.
But we are also exploring new ways of working with our partners.
We are stepping up our support for Jordan and Iraq has asked us to help improve its defence capacity. In this way, we can project stability without deploying large numbers of troops. Because most of the time, it will be more effective to help countries look after their own security.
Finally, let me turn to Russia. NATO does not seek confrontation with Russia. On the contrary, since the end of the Cold War, we have worked tirelessly for a constructive relationship. Our goal has been to involve Russia - not to isolate her.
At the start of last year, NATO and Russia were doing more together than ever before. Our ships sailed together to counter piracy. We worked together to fight terrorism. And we were about to launch our first ever joint operation – to support the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons. Cooperation benefitted NATO, but it also benefitted Russia.
And it can benefit us both again. If cooperation is what Russia really wants.
Cooperation, however, can only be based on trust and respect. Respect for rules and agreements. And respect for borders. But Russia has isolated itself. By its own actions. And its own choices. Russia bears the responsibility for the dangerous situation in which we find ourselves. Nobody forced Russia to annex Crimea. And nobody is forcing Russia to destabilise Ukraine.
So we call on Russia to change course. To treat its neighbours as sovereign states. To come back into compliance with the commitments it has made. And to contribute to a peaceful solution in Ukraine, based on the Minsk agreements. That is why the efforts of Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande are so important. And that is why NATO fully supports the broad efforts to find a political solution. This is urgent. And it is critical.
There is no contradiction between defence and dialogue. A strong NATO is essential if we are to engage Russia with confidence. A constructive NATO-Russia relationship would benefit the Euro-Atlantic community and the entire international order. But international rules must be respected – not rewritten. And certainly not violated.
We will not compromise on these principles. We will stay united and steadfast. And we will continue to work for the day when Russia recognises that there is no future in confrontation. But only in respect, trust and cooperation.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Last year was a black year for our security. And this year has started on an equally dark note. But history is not written in advance. We can prevent an age of disorder – if we have the will. We can keep the international order that has served us so well, if we stand up for its rules and if we stand up for each other. So it is up to us.