by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg the NATO Parliamentary Assembly Plenary Session (London, Queen Elizabeth II Center)

  • 14 Oct. 2019 -
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  • Mis à jour le: 14 Oct. 2019 17:32

(As delivered)

Speech by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the NATO Parliametary Assembly Plenary session

Dear Madeleine,

First of all let me just say that I also appreciated working with you, David, and it is a strange thing that you are no longer to be here leading these meetings, but it has been a really great honour for me also to be working with you for all the time, for all the years I served as secretary general of NATO.

Dear friends, it is a great pleasure to see you again.

And let me start by expressing a special thanks to our hosts, the UK Government and the UK Parliamentary Delegation.

It is a particular honour to be here in London, in this important year of anniversaries.

NATO not only celebrates our 70th  anniversary, 70 years since the creation of our Alliance.

But also 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

An important milestone for the Alliance and for the new democracies who joined NATO after the Cold War.

So we may have real causes to celebrate, but we have no reason to become complacent.

That is why I am delighted to have this opportunity to discuss with you today.

Not only about what we have achieved.

But more importantly, about where we are going.

NATO is the most successful Alliance in history.

For over seven decades, it has created an area of unprecedented peace and prosperity.

And prevented devastating conflict, which had marred so much of Europe’s history for so long.

London itself witnessed the heavy cost of war.

And the UK has always made a major contribution to European and transatlantic security.

A bold, outward-looking and responsible global power.

Which I know it will continue to be.

This city is part of NATO’s history.

Our first home was less than a half hour walk from here, at 13 Belgrave Square.

Lord Ismay, our first Secretary General, helped turn NATO into a political, as well as a military alliance.

And in 1990, London hosted the meeting where NATO Leaders agreed to ‘extend the hand of friendship’ to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

The UK has always been a highly valued member of our alliance.

It leads by example, spending 2% of its GDP on defence, and by investing in new capabilities and innovation.

Regardless of the UK’s changing relationship with the European Union, the UK commitment to NATO remains unchanged.

If anything, it will only become more important.

So we are delighted to be ‘coming home’ to London in December, and grateful to the UK for helping us to close this year of celebration.


As an Alliance, we face many challenges today.

The balance of power is shifting.

And our values are under pressure.

China is now the second largest economy.

And the second largest defence spender in the world.

The rise of China presents opportunities.

But opportunities that also come with risks.

Russia is not the partner we once hoped for.

It continues to threaten its neighbours, disregard international law, and interfere in our societies.

Instability in the Middle East and North Africa continues.

Despite the enormous strides we have made against Da’esh in Iraq and Syria.

Increasingly, the lines between peace and war are being blurred.

Our adversaries are using hybrid tactics to undermine our institutions, our values, and our democracies.

So the list is long.

And I am ready to answer your questions on all of these challenges.

But in my opening remarks I would like to focus on three of them:


 arms control,

 and disruptive new technologies.

These are all challenges NATO Leaders will discuss when they meet in London at the end of this year.

First, Afghanistan.

The day after 9/11, NATO invoked Article 5 of our founding treaty for the first and only time in our history.

This was not just an attack against the United States.

It was an attack against freedom and democracy everywhere in the world.

This is why NATO Allies and partners continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in Afghanistan.

To make the Afghan security forces stronger, so that they can fight international terrorism, and create the conditions for lasting peace in Afghanistan.

I commend the Afghan forces, and the Afghan men and women for what they have achieved, and I commend the Afghan people who exercised their democratic right to vote in the recent presidential elections.

NATO supported the peace talks.

We would welcome the resumption of these peace talks, but then Taliban must show willingness to make real compromises at the negotiating table.

Unfortunately, what we see now  is that the Taliban are escalating violence, not ending it.

This demonstrates a lack of commitment to lasting peace, and it proves the need for firm and credible guarantees for any future peace deal.

NATO remains committed to Afghanistan and to ensure the country never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists.


Second, Russia’s challenge to arms control.

We have seen this most recently with the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

For years, the United States and NATO pressed for Russia to verifiably destroy its treaty-violating SSC-8 missiles, and to come back into full compliance.

But instead, Russia took a different path.

It developed and deployed intermediate-range missiles in Europe for the first time in decades.

Missiles that are nuclear capable, mobile, very hard to detect, and can reach European cities with little warning.

All Allies supported the United States’ decision to withdraw from the Treaty, because no treaty is effective if it is only respected by one side.

While we must respond to the presence of new Russian missiles in Europe, we will not mirror what Russia does.

NATO has no intention to deploy land-based nuclear missiles in Europe.

We do not want a new arms race.

We remain open for constructive dialogue with Russia, and committed to effective arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation.

And at the same time, we will continue to maintain credible deterrence and defence.

To keep our people safe.

That is the core purpose of NATO.


The third challenge I will mention is innovation, and the rapid pace of technological change.

Artificial intelligence, autonomous weapon systems, big data, and biotech.  

Extraordinary technologies that are changing our lives.

That have the potential to revolutionise our societies, and to change the nature of warfare.

Throughout NATO’s history, our deterrence and defence has depended on maintaining our technological edge.

We achieved this by investing more in research and development than our rivals.

But today, we can no longer take our technological edge for granted.

China, for example, intends on becoming the world’s leading power in artificial intelligence by 2030.

Our security depends on our ability to understand and adopt emerging technologies.

And NATO plays a key role.

It coordinates defence planning among nations, ensuring Allies are developing and investing in the best technologies for our defence.

It creates common standards and procedures, ensuring we continue to work effectively together, including in this new domain.

And NATO can serve as a platform, as a forum for Allies and partners to consider the difficult practical, ethical and legal questions that will inevitably arise from these new technologies.

For example, how to deal with the advent of entirely autonomous weapons systems that can locate, identify and kill with no human interaction?

How do we ensure effective arms control when the challenge is not counting warheads, but measuring algorithms?

Or how to do we respond to the increasing use of off-the-shelf drones for surveillance, or to attack and disrupt civilian infrastructure? 

So there are many challenges which are connected to how NATO is responding to the development of new and disruptive technologies.


Ladies and gentlemen,

Every one of these challenges depends on NATO maintaining strong deterrence and defence.

And every one of these challenges requires your support as parliamentarians.

Every single day.

I was, as I told you before, a parliamentarian for 20 years.

So I know the difficult debates that must be had.

Particularly when it comes to deciding budgets, and allocating resources for defence.

When other domestic priorities, such as health or education, are more pressing.

But our security is the foundation for everything else.

We cannot take it for granted.

Especially as our world becomes more unpredictable, and as our security challenges grow.

In recent years, NATO Allies have made progress,

More Allies are meeting the 2% guideline.

Defence spending has increased across European Allies and Canada for five consecutive years.

And by the end of next year, those Allies will have added one hundred billion extra dollars for defence spending.

So we have really turned a corner.

And I thank you whole-heartedly for that progress, for continuing to make a strong case for investing in our shared security.

Your experience and expertise is essential as we navigate the complexities of our modern world.

Afghanistan, arms control, new technologies and many more challenges besides.

They require the wisdom that only our democratically elected parliaments can offer.

And perhaps even more important, is your role as the direct link between the almost one billion people we protect.

We must continue to demonstrate that working together is always better than going it alone.

NATO is an Alliance of values.

Of liberty, democracy and the rule of law.

For 70 years, it has kept our people and our nations safe.

And with your support it will keep us safe for many more years to come.


Before taking your questions let me just say a few words about the ongoing situation in Syria.

The situation is of great concern.

I met with President Erdoğan as well as Minister Çavuşoğlu and Minister Akar in Istanbul on Friday.

I shared with them my serious concerns about the ongoing operation and the risk of further destabilising the region, escalating tensions, and even more human suffering. 

Turkey has legitimate security concerns.

No other Ally has suffered more terrorist attacks. 

No other Ally is more exposed to the instability, violence and turmoil from the Middle East.

And no other Ally hosts so many refugees from Syria.

Nevertheless, I expect Turkey to act with restraint and in coordination with other Allies so that we can preserve the gains we have made against our common enemy – Da’esh.

A few years ago, Da’esh controlled significant territory in Iraq and Syria.

Working together in the Global Coalition, we have liberated all this territory and millions of people.

These gains must not be jeopardised.

An imminent concern is that captured terrorists must not be allowed to escape.

The international community must find a coordinated and sustainable solution to deal with foreign fighters held in Syria.

With that I am ready to take your questions, and as I said in the opening I’m ready to also answer questions about all the other issues I didn’t mention in my opening remarks.

So, many thanks