by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Plenary session at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Bucharest
Thank you so much President Alli, President of Romania, President of the Senate, President of the Chamber of Deputies, Ministers, dear Parliamentarians
Good morning to all of you.
It’s a great to see you all of you here today and it is great to be back in Bucharest, to be among Allies, partners and friends.
Let me begin with thanking Romania for hosting all of us here today.
And also for Romania’s very strong contributions to the Alliance and to our collective defence, to our shared security.
Romania is contributing in many different ways, contributing to NATO operations in Afghanistan and in Kosovo.
As the host of our ballistic missile defence site in Deveselu.
And as a nation committed to spending 2% of GDP on defence.
So, Romania is helping to keep NATO’s nearly one billion citizens safe.
The NATO Parliamentary Assembly also makes an essential contribution to that mission.
And I want to thank President Paolo Alli and the Secretariat for all the very hard and important work they do to make this organization functioning as well.
And, of course, I also want to thank you, all the members of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.
NATO relies on you.
To engage with your colleagues.
And with the people you represent.
You can help explain what NATO is.
And what NATO does.
You approve national defence budgets.
And you ensure that the Alliance has the tools to do its job.
That’s why I am so pleased to be here together with you today.
I am very impressed by the work you are doing.
On topics very high on NATO’s agenda.
Such as cooperation with the EU.
Security in the Black Sea region.
The European defence industry.
Challenges from the South.
And of course burden-sharing within the Alliance.
Today, I want to outline where the Alliance stands right now.
And where we are all going.
Then I look forward to your questions, and to our discussion after my speech.
NATO is an Alliance that keeps its promises.
We say what we do.
And we do what we say.
We are adapting to a new security environment and we are adapting to new challenges and to a new security threat.
We are adapting to the new security challenges we face.
Expanding our presence in the east of the Alliance.
Stepping up our response to the threats from the South.
Increasing our resilience to hybrid and cyber threats.
Boosting our support for partners.
And taking our cooperation with the EU to a new level.
I’ve been to all our new multinational battlegroups in the east of the Alliance.
I’ve seen them in action.
And I met their commanders and troops.
In Estonia, in Latvia, in Lithuania and in Poland.
The battlegroups are in place and fully operational.
Sending a clear message that an attack on one Ally will be regarded as an attack against us all.
The speed and efficiency with which they were deployed reflects Allies’ strong commitment to our collective defence.
I want to thank Canada, Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom for leading the four battlegroups.
As well as the 16 other Allies who are contributing.
Including the four host nations.
But of course, we haven’t only strengthened our forward presence in the North-east of the Alliance.
But also in the South-east.
Here in Romania, our multinational framework brigade is now operational.
I want to thank Romania for hosting the brigade.
And I am looking forward to visiting it later today with President Iohannis.
We are also seeing increased Allied presence in the Black Sea.
Allied jets continue to patrol the skies over Romania and Bulgaria as part of our ongoing air policing mission.
Canadian pilots flying alongside Romanians.
And Italian pilots working with their Bulgarian colleagues.
Our deployments are a direct response to Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine.
NATO’s actions are defensive, proportionate and entirely in line with our international commitments.
We are concerned by Russia’s military build-up close to our borders.
And its lack of transparency when it comes to military exercises such as ZAPAD 2017.
This highlights the importance of our dual-track approach to Russia.
Which combines strong defence with meaningful dialogue.
In the NATO-Russia Council.
Throughout bilateral engagements.
And through military-to-military contacts.
We continue to call on Russia to abide by its international commitments.
Russia is our neighbour.
Russia is here to stay.
We do not want to isolate Russia.
NATO does not want a new Cold War.
Our actions are designed to prevent, not provoke conflict.
And we are committed to transparency and predictability, which are in everybody’s interest.
Our Alliance has to face many different threats and challenges at the same time.
A pressing concern, of course, is the arc of instability from Afghanistan to the Middle East and North Africa.
Which has inspired terrorist attacks in our own countries.
NATO has played a role in the fight against terrorism for many years.
Our largest ever military operation is in Afghanistan.
Where today we have around 13,000 troops from 39 different NATO and partner countries training Afghan security forces.
Helping them to fight terrorism and stabilise their own country.
I have just returned from a trip to Afghanistan together with US Secretary of Defence Mattis.
There is a renewed commitment to our efforts in Afghanistan.
I have seen how well NATO troops are working with Afghan security forces.
Providing training and support to them.
Helping them to make progress on the battlefield, and reduce their casualties.
The situation in Afghanistan is challenging.
We all understand the cost of staying in Afghanistan.
The human cost and the financial cost.
But the cost of walking away would be much higher.
If NATO leaves too soon, we risk Afghanistan returning to a state of chaos.
A safe haven for international terrorism.
The last time that happened then it led to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
In which almost 3000 people were killed.
We cannot allow that to happen again.
That is why we remain committed to Afghanistan.
We are also stepping up elsewhere.
The Alliance is now a full member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.
Our AWACS surveillance planes are helping the Coalition to better understand the situation in the air.
NATO is training Iraqi security forces.
Bolstering their ability to win the fight against ISIS.
And Iraqi troops trained by NATO and Allies have put their skills to use in the battle for Mosul and elsewhere.
We are making progress.
ISIS is losing ground.
And they are on the run.
At the same time, we are boosting the support we give to partners in the Middle East and North Africa.
Including training programmes in countries such as Tunisia and Jordan.
We are working to improve situational awareness and information-sharing.
So that Allies can take even swifter action against threats we face, including terrorism.
That is why we have set up our new Intelligence Division at NATO Headquarters.
And the Hub for the South in Naples.
And we are working hard throughout the alliance to make our societies more resilient to attack.
Resilience is essential to our ability to resist hybrid threats.
Such threats are quicker, more potent and more intense than ever before.
Combining many different elements.
Including cyber-attacks, disinformation and the use of hard military force.
From tweets to tanks.
Guarding against such threats is an increasingly vital part of NATO’s mission.
And that’s what we are doing.
Including by strengthening our cooperation with the European Union.
Just last week, I took part in the inauguration of the Helsinki Hybrid Centre of Excellence.
Together with EU High Representative/Vice President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini.
Neither NATO nor the EU alone have all the tools to tackle the challenges alone.
So that is why we must work more closely together.
We have now started the preparions for the next NATO Summit which will take plate in Brussels next year at our new headquarters.
We will continue to build on the decisions we took at the Wales and Warsaw Summits.
Upgrading our collective defence.
And helping bring stability and security to our neighbourhood.
Both East and South.
Relations with Russia will, of course, be an important topic.
As will our cooperation with the EU.
And the continuing modernisation of the Alliance.
Crucially, going forward, Allies need to invest in defence.
At the Wales Summit as you know in 2014, all Allies made a pledge.
To stop the cuts in defence budgets.
And gradually move towards spending 2% of GDP on defence within a decade.
The good news is that we have seen real progress.
After years of decline, in 2015 we saw a real increase in defence spending across European Allies and Canada.
This continued in 2016.
And this year 2017, we estimate an even greater annual increase – of 4.3% in real terms.
That is three consecutive years of accelerating defence spending.
The trend is up and, with your help, we will keep it up.
Last year, five Allies met the 2% target.
Romania has announced it will join them this year.
With Latvia and Lithuania doing the same next year.
Increased defence spending is about making sure we have what we need in a more dangerous world.
But it’s also about burden sharing within the Alliance.
And keeping the transatlantic bond strong.
That’s why it is so important.
And why I rely on you all to make the case for more and better spending back home.
One way of doing that is by addressing the fragmentation of the European defence industry. And let me also give you some examples on what I mean of speaking about the fragmentation of the European defence industry.
The US has one type of main battle tank, while Europe has 17 different tanks.
The US has four types of frigates and destroyers; Europe has 29.
The US has six types of fighter plane; Europe has 20.
Think what that means for our ability to work and fight together.
And the unnecessary costs involved.
This is a challenge NATO is addressing through our work on capability development.
We are also now stepping up our cooperation with the EU on the issue of capability developments.
And I strongly welcome the commitment of EU leaders.
Many thanks to your efforts, the Alliance is better prepared to face a new and changing security environment.
This assembly has long played an essential role in NATO’s evolution.
As NATO continues to adapt to an uncertain world, I know I can count on you all.
To shape the debate.
To engage with citizens on our behalf.
Thank you for everything you do.
I look forward to your questions.
And our discussion.