by NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow at the 2015 NATO-Industry Forum, Lisbon, Portugal

  • 20 Oct. 2015 -
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  • Last updated 26-Oct-2015 08:51

(As prepared)

Minister Aguiar-Branco,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would first like to welcome you all to the 2015 NATO-Industry Forum.  I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you, Minister Aguiar-Branco as the representative of the Portuguese government (newly re-elected, I might add), Allied Command Transformation and the NATO International Staff for organizing today’s event. 

Last year at our NATO Summit in Wales, we called on Allies to step up and provide what we need to ensure our security.  Our leaders heard the call and committed to deliver.  To deliver more and better investment, more and better equipment, and more and better capabilities.  But while it is undoubtedly nations that provide the funding, it is industry that delivers the goods.  NATO could not have ensured Euro-Atlantic security for over six decades without the close support and partnership of industry.

For every weapon and field dressing, every plane and ship, every guidance system and service contract, everything that goes to make up our armed forces is developed, designed and made by and with industry.  There would be no NATO, no military, no security, without you, our industrial partners.  Our continued collaboration is vital for our national and international security.  I want to thank you for the vital work you all do.

The NATO-Industry Forum is the strategic event where NATO and nations, industry, academia and think tanks can come together to debate the current geopolitical situation and its impact on industry’s ability to provide what NATO needs.  Enabling us to draw actionable conclusions and to move our work forward.  And this meeting has never been more important nor as timely.

After a long and relatively benign period following the Cold War, matters of European security are once more front page news.  The picture is complex and appears to change daily. 

First and foremost, to my mind, is the challenge of dealing with an increasingly assertive and unpredictable Russia.  Russia now occupies parts of Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine and is still supporting the separatists in eastern Ukraine with men, weapons and command-and-control.  Now they have entered the war in Syria on the side of Assad, adding fuel to the fire of an already complex and highly dangerous situation. 

The war in Syria, the brutal rise of ISIL and other terrorist groups, the failed and failing states of the Arab world.  This violence and chaos is just a few hundred miles from many of our southern Allies.  Allies that are dealing with the consequences of that chaos in the form of the largest refugee crisis since the Second World War.

And that doesn’t even include the other threats we face, such as proliferation, ballistic missiles and cyber-attacks, and dealing with the hybrid nature of modern warfare.

How these events unfold and how NATO and our partners deal with them will shape our world for decades to come.  Our initial response has been the Readiness Action Plan, putting in place what we need to protect our Allies from any attack from any direction.   We agreed this plan at our Summit in Wales last summer, and since then we have been focused on implementing that plan.

Already, we have a Very High Readiness Force that is operational and able to move within a matter of days.  We have just agreed with Defense Ministers to double the size of our NATO Response Force to 40,000 troops.  We have opened six new headquarters in our eastern Allies, with two more on the way, to help with command-and-control, exercises and logistics for our forces when they deploy to the east.  And we are running around-the-clock assurance measures, with more planes in the air, ships at sea and boots on the ground in and around our eastern Allies.

But this is not enough.  As we head towards our next leaders’ Summit, in Warsaw next July, we must look to the long term adaptation of our Alliance.  In our more dangerous and unpredictable world, we need to develop a strategy that ensures our security whatever may happen.  And we have to find ways to cooperate more, and cooperate better.

The Summit will be a chance to take stock of what Russia is doing and to assess the future of our relationship.  We need a cohesive strategy that deters Russia from its current course and that encourages it to return to the international community and to respect the sovereignty of its neighbours.  Russia may be more interested in throwing its weight around at the moment, but we still need to do all we can to restore predictability and transparency in our relations, to avoid unnecessary accidents and confrontation. 

We also need to further develop our resilience against hybrid tactics.  This will include the pre-positioning of equipment, enablers and – potentially – the forward stationing of combat units on a rotational basis.  It means better sharing of intelligence, identifying potential vulnerabilities, better strategies to defeat cyber-attacks, and working more closely with other international organizations, the European Union, in particular.

Of course, all of this costs money.  That is why Allied leaders also agreed at our Wales Summit to stop the cuts in defence spending and to gradually increase spending to 2% of GDP over the next decade.  The picture isn’t perfect, but already, many Allies have begun to reverse the trend of the last twenty-five years.  We are now seeing increased defence spending by a number of nations, with more announcements being made all the time. 

This helps in two ways.  First, of course, it makes more resources available to invest in our security.  But it also has an important political dimension, showing that we are all in this together – 28 for 28 – and that we are all willing to do what is necessary to ensure our security – both individually and collectively.  The argument about burden sharing – both within Europe and between the United States and the rest of the Allies – is as old as NATO itself.  But as European Allies increase their defence spending, it shows that they too are willing to step up to the plate and not to simply rely on the United States for their defence.

This Defence Investment Pledge also includes a commitment by all Allies to spend 20% of their defence budgets on new equipment and on research and development. As national budgets increase, we look to nations to make the investments in capabilities that contribute to broader NATO objectives. And this is where Industry should see your opportunity.

We are moving from being a deployed NATO, to being a more prepared and a better equipped NATO.  An organisation equally able to defend our Allies at home, as to defend our interests beyond NATO’s borders. 

We know what our most immediate needs are.  At Wales we agreed a list of 16 priority capabilities.  These included Ballistic Missile Defence; Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance; Precision Guided Munitions; and Anti-Submarine Warfare. The Readiness Action Plan has added to this list. We are now working towards delivering each of these priorities, and doing so in a way that neither conflicts with nor duplicates the efforts of the European Union.

We have made good progress with the Alliance Command and Control System, with Alliance Ground Surveillance – a major part of the future NATO Joint Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance – the Federated Mission Network and many more solutions.  But the process of improvement and adaptation is never ending.  We need to identify the capabilities we will need to strengthen our security in the future, and to do so in the most effective and cost effective way. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our world has rarely been more chaotic or unpredictable, certainly not in our lifetime.  But the nations of the NATO Alliance remain a beacon of stability.  For this to continue we must always ensure that we have the right level of investment, the right capabilities and the right partnerships – with countries around the world, with other international organisations and, importantly, with industry.  The stakes are high.  So there is all the more reason to deliver what we need to protect our Alliance.

A strong, sustainable and innovative defence industry is essential to the future security of our nations and the safety of our people.  The defence industry in Europe and North America is already the most advanced and most competitive in the world.  We are determined that it stays that way.

The closer and more productive our partnership, the better it is for everyone; for NATO, for industry and, ultimately, for our people.  I hope that we will continue to make excellent progress within this NATO-Industry Forum and further strengthen our partnership.

I would like to thank you again, for making our partnership such a constructive one and for being part of NATO’s adaptation to this challenging environment.  Together, we are securing our nations, our neighborhoods, and our future.  I look forward to an interesting and productive meeting with all of you.

Thank you.