by NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller at the Kyiv Security Forum
It’s an honour to be asked to the Kyiv Security Forum and to address such a distinguished audience.
It’s also good to return once again to Kyiv.
Since Russian forces first set foot on sovereign Ukrainian soil in 2014, the NATO Alliance has spoken with one voice. We do not and we will not recognise Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea and its ongoing destabilisation of the east of Ukraine.
In recent weeks, violence has increased. The latest report from the UN Human Rights Office highlights a dire situation: increased civilian suffering, with tens of thousands of people deprived of even the most basic of necessities. It estimates the death toll from the conflict to be almost 10,000 people, including more than 2,000 civilians.
Last week, Foreign Ministers from across the Alliance met in Brussels to reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine. Ministers were briefed by Foreign Minister Klimkin and then discussed the current security situation in the east of Ukraine and Crimea.
NATO Foreign Ministers condemned Russia’s ongoing hostility and occupation and confirmed that Crimea-related sanctions must remain in place until Russia returns control of the peninsula to Ukraine.
That meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission was not a one off. It was the latest in a long line of meetings held between NATO and Ukraine at all levels. From meetings of NATO leaders with President Poroshenko, to frequent meetings among Ambassadors and Deputies, and between our militaries.
Of course, our cooperation goes back much further than 2014. For as long as NATO has had partners, not long after the end of the Cold War, Ukraine has had a mission at NATO headquarters – one of the largest of all our partners – and NATO has more than 50 staff here in Kyiv.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces have greatly improved their capabilities in recent years. Ukraine sends more people on NATO courses than any other partner, and NATO commanders enjoy close relationships with their Ukrainian counterparts. Ukraine has committed to reforming its security and defence sector in line with Euro-Atlantic standards and principles, and we have a sizable team of NATO advisors here on the ground to help support these reforms.
We know how hard it is to reform while you are embroiled in fighting a conflict, but the ongoing conflict makes reform even more essential and its timing even more acute.
It is vital that momentum for reform is maintained and increased. Ukraine is an independent, sovereign nation. A democratic, prosperous Ukraine is the best response to Russian aggression. That is the prize that reform can bring.
NATO’s Comprehensive Assistance Package supports Ukraine as it reforms its security and defence sector. It provides specific, practical support for the people of Ukraine. In previous years, my predecessor, Ambassador Vershbow, set out some of the things we have been doing together. Today I would like to give you an update on where we are today. I will focus on an example: what we are doing to help rehabilitate your wounded warriors.
Hundreds of servicemen and women have received rehabilitation, including 80 who have attended sports camps and four who have run in the 41st US Marine Corps Marathon.
Later this month, a group of wounded warriors from Ukraine’s “Games of Heroes” will come to the NATO Headquarters in Brussels to compete at Crossfit. And in September, thanks to this NATO Trust Fund, a Ukrainian team will compete in the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto.
Our Medical Rehabilitation Trust Fund provides support to both institutions and individual patients focusing on physical rehabilitation and prosthesis. We support six Ukrainian medical rehabilitation institutions with state-of-the-art equipment and, only last week, opened a new rehabilitation facility for wounded service personnel in Kharkiv.
To help soldiers overcome the trauma of battle, we provide psychological rehabilitation. Our seminars have helped almost 5,000 people demobilized from the Armed Forces and the National Guard.
The Medical Rehabilitation Trust Fund also trains Ukrainian medical personnel to improve their own skills. To date, more than 1,700 Ukrainian military, medical and NGO personnel have been trained, potentially helping many thousands of people in the coming years.
So at a very practical level, NATO is doing a great deal to support Ukraine. But our relationship is far from a one way street. Ukraine actively contributes to Euro-Atlantic security in many ways. Indeed, it is the only partner country that has contributed, at one stage or another, to all ongoing NATO-led operations and missions.
Right now, Ukraine has a heavy engineering unit in Kosovo and 10 people serving under a NATO flag as part of our Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan. Over the last two years, Ukraine has contributed strategic airlift, naval and medical capabilities to the NATO Response Force. The fact that Ukraine can do this despite the ongoing conflict in the east is remarkable.
Beyond these specific missions, NATO is also learning a great deal from Ukraine’s ongoing experience of hybrid warfare. Every country in the NATO Alliance, as well as many of our partners, have been affected by Russia’s ongoing efforts to destabilise our democracies, cyber-attacks, and most controversially, direct interference in our elections. But none has been as affected as Ukraine.
Ukraine has been the prime battle ground of this new type of warfare. Military operations, cyber-attacks, propaganda and ‘fake news’ are all just points on a continuum of conflict with the aim of advancing Russian political objectives.
This is a decidedly backward approach to foreign policy – a policy of domination over its neighbours – and it is vital that we learn all that we can if we are to effectively combat it in the future. To do this, NATO and Ukraine are establishing a Platform on Countering Hybrid Warfare.
Through this Platform, we will improve our ability to recognise and attribute hybrid attacks. We will actively identify areas of vulnerability and strengthen resilience. Areas like critical national infrastructure, strategic communications and crisis management.
Together, we will enhance Ukraine’s – and NATO’s – ability to withstand these attacks. This summer, Poland will host a conference to focus on crisis management and civil preparedness as part of this work to counter hybrid warfare.
Russia’s aggressive actions against Ukraine these last few years have had a lasting impact both here and far beyond this land. NATO has responded. For the first time in a generation, NATO has had to focus on ‘collective defence’.
As I speak, we are deploying multinational forces to countries in the east of our Alliance and have substantial forces available at very short notice to provide reinforcements if they are needed. And for the first time in many years, defence spending across the Alliance is going up.
Russia’s substantial military build-up in Crimea and its projection of military power in the region is of great concern to all NATO Allies. But because of the concerted action we have taken, NATO is stronger today than it has been since the Cold War.
It is vital that all free, democratic countries that face aggression stand together. Just as the NATO Alliance and Ukraine stand together in solidarity.
Ukraine is fighting a brutal conflict in the east. But as you sing in your national anthem, “Ukraine’s glory has not yet died, nor her freedom”. And NATO will continue to support you to live “in a free land of your own”.