NATO at 70 - The bedrock of European and transatlantic security

Speech by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Körber Global Leaders Dialogue, Berlin

  • 07 Nov. 2019 -
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  • Mis à jour le: 07 Nov. 2019 17:57

(As delivered)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg delivers a keynote speech at the Koerber Global Leaders Dialogue on ''NATO at 70 - the Bedrock of European and Transatlantic Security''

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, and dear Thomas,

It is always great to be at the Körber Foundation. Normally, actually, we meet for breakfast, and you serve a lot of food and good coffee. Now there’s no food, no coffee. But a fresh glass of water. And as you said, more food for thought, hopefully.

And the fact is that regardless of food or no food, it is a great pleasure to be back here at the Körberstiftung, especially on the eve of this important anniversary.

Standing in the vibrant city of Berlin today, it is hard to imagine how different the world looked, just a generation ago.

A city divided. A country torn in two. A continent frozen in the depths of a Cold War.

So therefore it is even more important to remember, the bravery of countless men and women, in East Germany, and across Central and Eastern Europe, who stood up against oppression and fear.

Germany understands better than most of the other countries in our part of the world, the value of freedom and democracy. And Germany’s history shows the importance of a strong bond between Europe and North America.

Our transatlantic Alliance was created in 1949 as a “shield against aggression.” Founded on our solemn pledge to protect and defend each other. One for all and all for one.

In 1955, NATO extended this pledge to West Germany. A remarkable gesture of trust, so soon after the end of the Second World War. Offering a former adversary a stake in our shared security. Not to repeate the mistakes of the past. But committing to build a unique area of peace and prosperity, together.

Because NATO has always been much more than a military alliance. It is a political alliance. An unprecedented promise to preserve peace. Prevent conflict. And uphold our values. This is true multilateralism. Germany has for decades been firmly anchored in our transatlantic Alliance. Which has created the framework for this country’s security policy at every critical juncture. From Chancellor Adenauer’s “Westbindung” to Chancellor Brandt’s “Ostpolitik.” And eventually paving the way for Chancellor Kohl to reunite Germany and deepen European integration.

This story of reconciliation is reflected in so many families, including my own. My grandfather was a prisoner of war, who became a friend of Germany. My father served in the Norwegian Brigade in 1950 in Schleswig-Holstein. And he became a great admirer of Germany. And I am proud to continue this family tradition.

So, in 2000, when I became Prime Minister of Norway, I made my ‘Antrittsbesuch’ to Germany. Reflecting that we admire and that we regard ourselves as close friends of this country. It was this same desire for reconciliation, that helped to reunite friends and loved ones, East and West, after forty years of the Cold War.

For my generation, the fall of the Berlin Wall was a defining moment. That night, we were all Berliners. Like so many others, I was glued to my television set. Holding my son, who was just a few months old, in my arms. This truly felt like a new beginning.

That his generation, unlike my my father’s, my grandfather’s, and mine, may grow up in a world without barriers, and without the constant threat of war.

The images of hundreds of people “tearing down that Wall” became iconic. A rallying cry for champions of freedom and oppressed people everywhere. But as we know, the walls had already started to tumble. All across central and eastern Europe.

In the shipyards of Gdansk, the birthplace of Solidarność. In the pan-European picnic, on the Austrian-Hungarian border. In the peaceful protests on the streets of Dresden, Leipzig and Prague. And in the two million people, forming a human chain from Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn.

And that is what made these events so remarkable. The power of peaceful protest. The strength of solidarity. Being part of something bigger.

And that is what makes the transatlantic bond so important. Where no nation stands alone. And no barrier is too great.

The bond between Europe and North America made it possible to reintegrate Germany into the European and international community. To end the Cold War without a shot being fired. And to create the conditions for European integration.

The reunification of Germany and Europe would have been impossible without the United States’ security guarantee. And further European integration was made possible under the umbrella of security provided by NATO. For the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, NATO membership was the first step to integration in the Euro-Atlantic family. A driver of democracy and reform. A step to greater prosperity. And a precursor to EU membership. NATO and the European Union are two sides of the same coin. Indispensable partners for peace and prosperity in Europe.

Any attempt to distance Europe from North America will not only weaken the transatlantic Alliance, it is also risking dividing Europe itself. European unity cannot replace transatlantic unity. I strongly welcome efforts to strengthen European defence. Which can enhance capabilities and burden sharing within NATO. But the European Union cannot defend Europe.

This is partly about military might. After Brexit, 80% of NATO’s defence expenditure will come from non-EU Allies. And Germany will be the only EU member leading one of NATO’s battlegroups in the east of the Alliance.

It is also about geography. From Norway in the North, to Turkey in the South, and the US, Canada and the UK in the West. All are key to keeping Europe safe.

I say all of this knowing that many of you may be thinking about the disagreements, differences and divisions among NATO Allies. Over trade, energy, climate change, Iran. And most recently over the situation in northeast Syria. We have had serious differences before. From the Suez Crisis in 1956. To the Iraq War in 2003. But at the end of the day, we have always been able to unite around our core task. To protect and defend each other.

NATO is the only platform where Allies from Europe and North America sit down on a daily basis. To discuss difficult issues affecting our shared security. And to keep our almost one billion citizens safe.

Consensus is not always easy. I know that after chairing the North Atlantic Council for some years. But our unity is essential for our shared security. And it is in the national interest of each and every one of us to stay united. It is good for North America. And good for Europe.

Therefore we all have a responsibility to overcome our differences today, as we have done in the past. Because we are faced with a more unpredictable world. And in uncertain times we need to stand together. We need strong multilateral institutions like NATO.

A more assertive Russia is a key driver for the increased unpredictability we are facing. Its illegal annexation of Crimea was the first time after World War Two one country seized another’s territory in Europe. North America and Europe have responded in a united and firm way. NATO has implemented the largest reinforcement of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War. And the European Union has stood firm in its use of economic sanctions.

Demonstrating to Russia the consequences of violating international law. And showing the strength of the transatlantic bond.

Arms control and the demise of the INF Treaty further demonstrate the importance of transatlantic unity. Russia has deployed new intermediate range missiles, in clear violation of the INF treaty, which was a cornerstone for our security arms control for decades. A treaty that is only respected by one side cannot keep us safe. That is why all Allies supported the United States’ decision to withdraw from the Treaty earlier this year.

NATO’s position is clear. We will do whatever is needed to keep our citizens safe. But we will not mirror what Russia is doing. We do not want a new arms race. We do not want another Cold War. And we have no intention of deploying new land-based nuclear missiles in Europe.

NATO Allies remain committed to effective arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation. And to open and meaningful dialogue with Russia.

As you know, the INF Treaty was a bilateral agreement between the United States and the former Soviet Union. But NATO provided a platform for all Allies to make decisions together. As it has done with other landmark arms control treaties in the past. And as it continues to do today. So a strong transatlantic bond shaping our arms control architecture. And our shared security.

Another challenge which requires Europe and North America to stand together is the fight against international terrorism. Side by side in the US-led Global Coalition, we have made enormous progress in the fight against ISIS. Liberating vast territory and millions of people in Iraq and Syria.

The situation in northeast Syria remains very difficult. There are different views among Allies. But Allies agree on the need to safeguard the gains we have made in the fight against our common enemy, ISIS. To maintain the commitment to our missions and operations in the region. Including NATO’s training missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. And to find a political solution to the crisis in Syria through UN-led efforts.

Europe and North America must also work together to understand and respond to a changing geostrategic landscape. This includes the rise of China and the dizzying pace of technological change. China will soon have the world’s largest economy. And it already has the second largest defence budget in the world, investing heavily in new capabilities. Only in the last five years, China has added 80 ships and submarines to its navy – the equivalent of the whole UK Royal Navy. It has hundreds of missiles with a range that would have been prohibited by the INF treaty. And it recently displayed a new supersonic cruise missile, an assortment of new drones, anti-ship missiles and hypersonic gliders.  

China is becoming a global leader in the development of new technology. From 5G to facial recognition. And from quantum computing to gathering vast amounts of global data. So we need to understand what the rising size and scope of China’s influence means for our security. Not only for our shared security, but also for freedom, democracy and the rule of law. The best way to do this is by Europe and North America working together. Because we represent half of the world’s economic might. And half of the world’s military might. We are stronger when we speak together on the global stage. And we are safer when we stand together to face future challenges.

The paradox is that despite the differences we see between NATO Allies, Europe and North America are doing more together today than for many years. The United States is not abandoning Europe. Quite the opposite. It is investing in Europe’s security. With more troops, infrastructure and more exercises.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall the United States gradually reduced its military presence in Europe. The last US battle tank left Bremerhaven in 2013. Now they are back with a full armoured brigade. And next year we will see the largest deployment of US troops to Europe for an exercise in 25 years. Germany will be the logistics hub for this Defender 2020 exercise. Demonstrating the United States’ ironclad commitment to Europe. And Germany’s role at the heart of our Alliance.

European Allies are also stepping up. Investing in modern capabilities and the readiness of our forces. Increasing defence spending for five years in a row. And adding an extra one hundred billion dollars to their defence budgets by the end of next year.

This is good news. We are doing more together. And I am confident that we will maintain the momentum. Not because the United States demands it. But because our freedom does not come for free. And because, in a more unpredictable world, we must continue to keep our citizens safe.

We cannot afford to be complacent. We need a strong Germany, at the heart of NATO and European security. Germany is a highly-valued NATO Ally. Making major contributions to NATO missions and operations, from Kosovo to Afghanistan.

It is leading this year our Very High Readiness Force. To enhance our ability to deploy wherever and whenever needed. And it hosts a new NATO command in Ulm. To ensure our forces can move quickly and easily throughout Europe.

Over many decades, Germany has proven a trusted Ally. A responsible global leader. And a driving force behind a stronger and deeper European Union. Europe’s largest economy must also remain a leading force within our transatlantic Alliance.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The world we are facing is very different from 1989. But one thing remains the same. The need for a strong bond between Europe and North America. Germany needs a strong NATO. And NATO needs a strong Germany.

We have faced what seemed like insurmountable barriers in the past. But as history shows, when we stand united no barrier is too great. 30 years ago, a generation dared to dream the impossible. Today, our generation must continue their fight. So that the next generation can face the future with confidence.

Thank you so much for your attention.