by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Munich Security Conference
Thank you so much Teri and it is always a great pleasure to be here at the Munich Security Conference.
This year’s conference raises the question
"has the West lost its way?"
Indeed, questions are being asked on both side of the Atlantic about the strength of our transatlantic bond.
People wonder where we are heading.
And whether we will continue to go together.
But does this mean that we are lost?
It’s true, the path is not easy.
And sometimes we stumble.
But we have not lost our way.
And more importantly,
our values have not lost their value.
Freedom, democracy and the rule of law.
They have brought unprecedented peace and prosperity.
And they remain, the values remain a beacon of hope for people around the world.
Whenever they have been threatened, we have stood up for them.
Europe and North America came together to end two bloody world wars.
Countless men and women fought oppression during the Cold War.
And today, people are standing up for their right to live in freedom.
From Hong Kong to Tehran.
And people refuse to be intimidated by terrorism and extremism.
From Paris to Christchurch.
In many ways, NATO is the ultimate expression of the "West."
Europe and North America.
United in our vision of free and open societies.
And in our commitment to protect and defend one another.
The reality is that we are doing more together now than we have done for many, many years.
The US is investing more in European security.
With more troops, exercises and infrastructure.
With strong bipartisan support from the US Congress.
And while the US President has urged European Allies to do more,
he has also recognised the enormous progress we are making.
European Allies and Canada are investing more in our collective defence.
Adding in new capabilities.
And increasing their contributions to NATO missions and operations.
And when we met in London, NATO Leaders agreed to launch a reflection process.
To further strengthen NATO’s political dimension.
So, Europe and North America need to continue to stand together.
In the face of increased global competition.
Economically, militarily, technologically.
And more fundamentally, over our way of life and our values.
This is what is at stake in our fight against terrorism.
Freedom against oppression.
Tolerance against intolerance.
And let’s not forget that together we have made enormous progress.
ISIS no longer controls any territory in Iraq and Syria.
And millions of people have been liberated from oppression.
But the fight is not over.
We must ensure that ISIS can never return.
To threaten people in the region and our citizens at home.
So therefore NATO Defence Ministers have this week decided to step up our support to Iraq.
And to consider what more NATO can do in the Middle East and North Africa.
To support our partners and stabilise the region.
Our mission in Afghanistan is also about protecting our values, which came under attack on 9/11.
16.000 NATO troops are training the Afghan forces, so that they can fight terrorism and create the conditions for peace.
We are not leaving Afghanistan.
But we are prepared to adjust our force level if the Taliban demonstrate the will and the ability to reduce violence and make real compromises.
That could pave the way for negotiations among Afghans, sustainable peace, and ensuring the country is never again a safe haven for terrorists
We also face competition from a more assertive Russia.
Which seeks to return to a world of spheres of influence.
NATO Allies are responding.
Significantly increasing the readiness of our forces.
And countering Russia’s attempts to interfere in our democracies.
Allies consulted closely over many years on Russia’s breach of the INF Treaty.
And agreed on a joint response.
All Allies remain committed to arms control.
And to dialogue with Russia.
We continue to aspire for a better relationship with our biggest neighbour.
We also face competition from a shifting global balance of power.
China will soon be the world’s largest economy.
It already has the world’s second largest defence budget.
And it is investing heavily in new capabilities.
So, the rise of China presents both challenges and opportunities.
We need a common understanding of what this means for our shared security.
For freedom and democracy.
Keeping our societies open, free and resilient must be part of our response.
As is investing in new capabilities to maintain our technological edge.
We should not be tempted to trade short term economic benefits for longer-term challenges to our security.
So, there is a competition out there.
In so many areas.
And with so many different actors.
But simply lamenting that we have lost our way will not provide us with a way forward.
We must have the ability – and the confidence - to compete.
Some say that the answer is more Europe.
And I agree.
But this is only part of it.
Because more Europe cannot mean Europe alone.
Any attempt to distance Europe from North America,
not only weakens the transatlantic bond,
and our ability to compete on the global stage,
it also risks dividing Europe.
I don’t believe in Europe alone.
As I don’t believe in America alone.
I believe in Europe and America together.
So, we should not compete with ourselves.
And talk up our differences.
While talking down our strengths.
Europe and North America are indispensable partners.
Two sides of the same coin.
Together we are half of the world’s military might.
And half of the world’s economic might.
So, when we stand together,
we can compete with confidence,
protect our interests,
and defend our values.