Why the Warsaw Summit matters

Speech by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Warsaw Summit Experts' Forum

  • 08 Jul. 2016 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 08 Jul. 2016 15:32

(As delivered)

Mister President, Minister, Secretary Albright, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Let me first of all thank the Polish Institute of International Affairs and GLOBSEC for organizing this very important event.

And let me add a special welcome and word of appreciation to all of you being present here and a special word of appreciation to you, President Duda, for your strong personal commitment to the Allinace and to our shared security and to keeping the Alliance strong. And I very well remember when we met in June last year after you were elected but before you had taken up your post as President, and I immediately understood that we were going to have an excellent cooperation in the preperations for the summit and now we are here at the eve of the summit and I’m looking forward to be together with you at the summit and addressing all the different challenges we are going to face and address at the summit.

Let me also thank Poland for hosting our summit in this vibrant city.

And I appreciate this opportunity to address so many experts, policymakers and opinion leaders from around the world.

You play an important role. Because in our open societies, public understanding and support are vital for NATO’s success.

And let me in particular recognise Madeleine Albright, because you have played such an important role in working for our ambition for a Europe whole, free and at peace. So it’s great to have you here and it’s great also to know that you still so committed to this Alliance.

A few hours from now, NATO leaders will gather here to chart  the future of our Alliance. Guided by our common values of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law.

The Warsaw Summit comes at a defining moment in the history of our Alliance. With unpredictable threats and complex challenges from many directions.  NATO has responded. We have launched a wholesale reinforcement of our collective defence and deterrence. The biggest since the end of the Cold War.

And I am personally very proud of the determination shown by all Allies since our summit in Wales. We have done what we said we would do.

The NATO Response Force is now three times bigger, with a brigade-sized Spearhead Force at its core. Able to move within days.

We have set up a series of small headquarters in the eastern part of our Alliance, including here in Poland. They make it easier for us to plan and exercise, and to reinforce if needed. We have augmented Turkey’s air defences with AWACS surveillance planes and defensive missile systems.

We have increased the number of exercises, sped up our decision-making,and developed a strategy to deal with hybrid threats.

We have bolstered NATO’s ability and readiness to defend our territory and our citizens.

Here in Warsaw, we will take decisions to further strengthen our collective defence and deterrence. And to project stability beyond our borders.

Today, we will agree to enhance our forward presence in the east of the Alliance. In Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and here in Poland. We will deploy, by rotation, a robust, multinational battalion in each of the countries. Making clear that an attack against one Ally will be met by forces from across the Alliance.

Let me thank Canada, Germany, the UK and the US, for deciding to lead these battalions.

And let me thank Poland, and the three Baltic states, for hosting and supporting these NATO forces, and for strengthening their own.

We will also transform a Romanian brigade into a multinational brigade to strengthen our posture in the south-eastern part of the Alliance.

And we will increase our defences against hybrid threats, cyber-attacks, and ballistic missile attacks from outside the Euro-Atlantic area.

Everything we do is defensive, proportionate and transparent.

And fully consistent with our international obligations Our position is clear.

NATO does not seek confrontation. We do not want a new Cold War. The Cold War is history. And it should remain history.

We will continue to seek constructive and meaningful dialogue with Russia. To make our intentions clear. To dispel any misunderstandings. And to reduce the risk of military incidents or accidents spiralling out of control. Russia is our biggest neighbour and an integral part of European security. So sustaining dialogue is essential.

That is why we established the NATO-Russia Council, as an all-weather forum for dialogue. So it is especially important that we use this tool now.

For our nations to be safe, it is not enough to keep our defence strong. We must also help our partners become stronger.

And the second theme of the Warsaw Summit is projecting stability beyond our borders.

We will help our partners in the Middle East and North Africa to tackle the root causes of instability. To secure their own countries. And to fight terrorism. Training local forces is often our best weapon against violent extremism.

We have learned a great deal from our operations in the Balkans and in Afghanistan.

We remain committed to training Afghan forces. We will also put together a financing package to sustain them through 2020.

All NATO Allies already contribute individually to the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL.

We will decide at the summit that NATO’s AWACS planes will share information with the Coalition.  We will start to train Iraqi officers in Iraq. And we will continue to support Jordan and Tunisia. And we stand ready to assist Libya.

We will also affirm our commitment to our partners in the east – to Ukraine, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova – to help them resist outside pressures and to advance reforms.

Everything we do – to defend ourselves, and to project stability – is magnified when we work with others.

This is especially true when we speak about the European Union. We share common values and interests. And we face common threats.

While Brexit will change the UK’s relationship with the EU, it will not change the UK’s leading position within NATO.

Unity and cooperation between NATO and the EU remains as important as ever.

In these times of uncertainty, our partnership is increasingly essential.

So at this summit, we will take our partnership to a new level. To counter hybrid threats. To increase our resilience against cyber-attacks. And to address maritime security in the central Mediterranean – as we have already in the Aegean Sea.

Because our citizens demand that we keep them safe.  This requires resources.

Last year, after many years of decline, we saw a small increase in defence spending by NATO’s European Allies and Canada.

And this year, we expect a real increase of 3%in defence spending among European Allies and Canada.

Poland has led by example. Spending more, and spending better. As an Alliance, we are starting to move in the right direction.

But there is a long way to go. And we must spare no effort to sustain the momentum.Our security depends on it.

Ladies and gentlemen,

For nearly 70 years, NATO has helped to keep the peace in Europe. By forging an unbreakable bond between Allies on both sides of the Atlantic. In recent years, the world has changed dramatically. We continue to change with it.

What will not change is the enduring bond between Europe and North America on which our Alliance is founded. What will not change is our resolve to defend each other. To uphold our shared values. And to preserve peace and security for future generations.

MODERATOR:  Ladies and gentlemen I would like to invite to the floor once again the President Andrzej Duda as both speakers kindly agreed to take two questions before they leave us. So I see the first gentleman raising his hands, please introduce yourself and be brief if possible.

Q:  Thank you. James Sure from Chatham House. Thank you both for your very clear and impressive introductory statements. A direct question if I may, how do you believe NATO should respond if the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union diminishes the Atlanticist impulse in the EU and weakens the eastern and northern dimensions of European policy?

JENS STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General):  I am certain that we will continue to see a European Union which is very focused on how the European Union can contribute to peace and stability in Europe even without the UK as a member. And the European Union is an important security provider today as NATO is and the thing is that I just believe that cooperation between the European Union and NATO has been important for many years but it has increasingly become more and more important even before the UK vote. Because we see that new threats, like for instance hybrid threats, terrorist threats, instability in our neighbourhood requires that both the European Union and NATO act and that we act together. None of us possess all the tools, but together, we are a formidable power and force. So I was among those who, or should I say stated, that I would like to see the UK remain.  But now I think we all have to respect the decision by the people of the United Kingdom and then look into the future and I’m certain that United Kingdom and the European Union will find a way to continue to cooperate. I’m absolutely certain that the UK will continue as a strong and committed ally in NATO and that is important because the UK is the second largest military force in the alliance next to the United States and the UK provides one quarter, close to one quarter of total defence spending among European allies. So UK will continue as a strong member of the alliance and I’m certain that we will strengthen further our cooperation between the European Union and NATO even without the UK as a member of the European Union.

ANDRZEJ DUDA (President of Poland):  [Speaking with Interpreter]. Ladies and gentlemen responding to this question one would have to say first and foremost the following. First the United Kingdom has to leave the European Union and only then can we talk about the real effects of Brexit. While they are already here to a certain extent because Brexit has already started to impact the economic situation, both in the United Kingdom and also in other countries to some extent. However, we will be able to talk about the real results and the full meaning also in the legal dimension, the moment when the United Kingdom actually leaves the European Union and this is up to the British Parliament and this is up to the British Government who have to make a special declaration. However, one thing has to be stated, of course in the situation of Brexit there is a big threat for the European Union. I have always repeated that and I want to reiterate it today, actually I think it has been obvious to all of us, if Brexit happens this is going to cause another deep crisis, perhaps even the most profound crisis in the European Union and for the European Union and this is a crisis indeed. This is a leading topic right now. However, if we are talking about a threat caused by Brexit to NATO remembering that NATO is a separate structure of course there are countries who belong to both organizations but there are also countries who are members only of one of these two organizations. So, if we look from distance at Brexit this should not cause any problem for NATO because there are countries who are members of NATO today but not members of the European Union. All of us know perfectly well about that. The largest NATO country, the United States, is not a member of the European Union and this does not generate any problem whatsoever. So if there is a problem for NATO then it’s going to result, not so much from Brexit directly, not so much from Great Britain leaving the European Union but, it will result from the effects that Brexit potentially can bring for the United Kingdom. Because if we now look at the big discontent expressed by the Scots, expressed by the Irish, there we have to ask ourselves to what extent does Brexit pose a danger to the United Kingdom itself and this generates a bigger problem to my mind for NATO, a bigger potential problem for NATO than the very exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union. And this is the core of the problem to my mind.  Now what can the positive side, even if the United Kingdom leaves the European Union but still remains a unity, perhaps because it leaves the European Union that Great Britain will be willing to tighten its cooperation, its allies and try to build up its potential in other organizations also in NATO. So paradoxically we might see the role of the United Kingdom and its activity within NATO increasing. And of course today this is just a hypothetical issue, but if we look at a different facet to your question I would respond in this way.

MODERATOR:  Second row, on my right side. Yes, microphone is coming.

Q:  Thank you very much. I’m Anna Vislander (sp?) from Sweden, Secretary General of the Swedish Defence Association. And my question is as has been mentioned is some, is also about projecting stability beyond the borders of NATO. While at the same time there are signals from some members that they might want to revise the decision from the Bucharest Summit in 2009 that Ukraine and Georgia will be members of NATO. So I would like to hear your view and comments on that. Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG:  At the next summit Montenegro will be present because Montenegro is now in the process of joining the alliance and they are participating in all our meetings and they’ll be a full member as soon as all 28 allies have ratified the accession protocol. I’m saying that because I think that this summit once again shows and proves that the NATO’s door remain open. We are now in the process of going from 28 to 29 members. We are also working both with Georgia and with Ukraine as close partners. When it comes to Georgia they are an applicant nation, we are working with them, supporting them in their efforts to modernize their armed forces, to reform and to meet the NATO standards. And we decided a substantial package at our last summit, since then we have worked on implementing that package, we provide advice, we provide advisors and we also recently opened a joint training centre in Georgia as a very strong signal, or example, of how we are stepping up the cooperation and the support to Georgia. So we welcome the progress Georgia is making and we will continue to support them and there will be a meeting on the NATO-Georgia Commission at Foreign Ministerial level at this summit. So we continue to support the efforts of Georgia. When it comes to Ukraine, Ukraine is in a different position because they are now in the position where they are themselves focusing on the reforms and they have announced that they will wait with an application until they have, or to say moved further and been able to modernize and reform their defence sector more than, than is the case today. So what we do when it comes to Ukraine is that we support them, we provide political support, practical support and we also step up that support at this summit. What remains unchanged is the fundamental principle that every nation has the right to choose its own path including what kind of security arrangements it wants to be part of. And that of course applies for Georgia, Ukraine and for all other nations. The reason why I’m saying that is that whether Georgia or whether Ukraine or whether any other nation is going to be, any other European nation is going to be a member of NATO is up to that nation to decide and the 28 allies. No one else has a say or any right to try to veto such a process because that’s a fundamental principle that every nation has a right to decide its own path.

ANDRZEJ DUDA:  [Speaking with Interpreter]. Let me give you the following answer. If we are saying that NATO is an alliance which right from the start has assumed the role of defender of the peace in the world according to certain rules and principles then every country which is acceding the alliance and which is a reliable and responsible member of the alliance supports the sphere of peace. So if we go down this logic the more member states we have who observe the rules, the bigger guarantee we have of peace in the world and the stronger NATO is going to be, I believe. That is why I have been stressing so much and so clearly in all my speeches within North Atlantic Alliance that it is necessary to keep the open door policy. This policy combines two issues and one of them has just been raised by Mr. Secretary General of NATO, Mr. Jens Stoltenberg. Namely every single country is free, every country has the right to join the North Atlantic Alliance. Of course there are certain conditions which have to be met but if we look from the other side the alliance also has to keep the door open. Therefore we should be saying yes we are ready to accept into NATO those willing countries who will fulfill adequate conditions and the moment there are adequate conditions for their joining and the path to their acceptance lies in tightening the cooperation. So I believe that the cooperation of NATO with those countries whom you have enumerated, with Georgia, with Ukraine, with Moldova, is to my mind not only justified but also necessary, even more so that those countries require support. Not to mention cooperation because it runs into dozens of years, we have got more than 20 years of cooperation with Finland and Sweden.

MODERATOR:  Thank you very much for being with us and sharing with us your thoughts, your policy about the future of the alliance and the Warsaw Summit. Ladies and gentlemen please join me in thanking our honourable guests.