by NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană at the General Staff College in Hamburg

  • 28 Feb. 2020 -
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  • Last updated: 03 Mar. 2020 18:21

(As delivered)

Speech by NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană at the Staff College in Hamburg

Guten Abend. As you can see from the presentation, I am not Jens Stoltenberg. And on behalf of the Secretary General of NATO who has to be today in Brussels, in a complex international moment around Syria, and he just the chaired the North Atlantic Council meeting, Article 4, invoked by our Ally, Turkey. So he sends his apologies, and I hope I will be filling in for him, and also it’s a great pleasure to be here.

Deputy Inspector General Vice Admiral Rühle and Brigadier General Neumann.
That was a nice touch, sometimes when I listen to my own CV, sometimes I have the feeling I’m a sort of a hologram. Time goes by fast, the world is changing.

And because these headquarters bear the name of Manfred Wörner, a former Secretary General of NATO, and for our part of Europe he’s a hero. He was the one who started the push for NATO enlargement. And if today, 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, we see roughly 100 million free citizens of Europe rejoining the West, it’s also because he made such a fantastic mark on modern history. For us he’s a hero, for Germany he’s a hero. And I’m also happy to be here with all of you in this exceptional facility in Hamburg.

Officers, ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for inviting me in today. It’s an honour to meet the next generation of NATO’s military leadership and to meet so many of our friends and partners. I know that many of you, men and women, you have served – or you will serve – in NATO’s missions and operations around the world. So first, let me thank you all for your bravery, your dedication, your professionalism.

We are here at the Clausewitz Barracks. I’ve seen his portrait in the other, in the other hall. The ultimate military thinker in human history. And, of course, being here, since there is a sort of an unspoken and unwritten rule that anybody addressing this auspicious, prestigious and auspicious occasion, we should, quote at Clausewitz, which I will do. And I quote.

And this is important for you as future leaders of the militaries and, why not, even politics of your nations. And he said: “If the leader is filled with high ambition, and if he pursues his aims with audacity and strength of will, he will reach them in spite of all obstacles.” What better definition of leadership? What better definition of the ingredients that make future leaders? And I’m convinced that the fantastic education you receive here, and I hope this will continue all over your careers, will make you proud inheritors of the wisdom and fantastic reach of Clausewitz.

But things changed since his time, but this sentiment remains true. And NATO’s high ambition is to maintain peace and security. We are a defensive Alliance and this General Staff College, in a very practical way, is about achieving that high ambition. It represents the best of the NATO Alliance. You are the best of the NATO Alliance. You also have partners and friends, I hope, from all over the world.

NATO has 42 nations as our partners. You are the best of the best. And this is why it’s so important for you to know firsthand, as highly-skilled, intelligent people, coming [from] across the Alliance and across the world, working, training, building relationships and building the foundation of future peace and stability around the world.

For more than 70 years, the NATO Alliance has existed in bringing nations together for our own security. When it started, there were just 12 Allies. Today we have 29. In the next couple of weeks it will be 30, with North Macedonia joining our ranks. Each committed to defending and protecting the others.

Article 5, the famous Article 5 of our Founding Treaty is a solemn commitment that an attack on one would be treated as an attack on all. That promise kept our nations safe throughout the Cold War and it keeps us safe today.

For we face significant challenges: a more assertive Russia; instability from Afghanistan through Iraq and North Africa; and terrorism. These threats come against the backdrop of rapid dialogical and geopolitical change. New technologies like artificial intelligence, autonomous systems and facial recognition are transforming our societies. And yes, they are transforming also the character of warfare.

NATO Allies must continue to work together to maintain our technological edge –  the edge that has helped us keep us safe for so long.

But many of these new technologies are not coming only from the traditional West, or the political West. New technologies are being led today by China. China has rapidly become the second largest economy in the world. But it also has the second largest military budget in the world. And the ambitions which are stated are quite explicit. So we need to respond, adapt and engage with China.

Our world is increasingly complex and uncertain. If we are to keep our people safe, NATO Allies need to remain agile and ready to respond to threats from all directions.

From land, sea, air, space and cyber-space.

In 2014, Russia illegally annexed Crimea and we saw the rise of ISIS. NATO Allies responded. We have increased the size and readiness of our forces. We are delivering on our new NATO Readiness Initiative to field 30 air squadrons, 30 combat vessels and 30 land battalions within 30 days. And last year, we set up two new NATO commands – one right here in Germany, in Ulm, and another in Norfolk on the east coast of the United States – to improve our ability to move our forces rapidly across Europe and across the Atlantic.

Germany itself is doing more. It leads NATO forces in Lithuania. It supports our deployment in the Aegean Sea to deal with the migrant and refugee crisis and it’s the second largest contributor to our training mission in Afghanistan. We are grateful to Germany for their efforts.

Many challenges remain in Afghanistan. But as you have all witnessed and seen, we are now closer to a peace deal than ever before. All NATO Allies remain committed to the future of Afghanistan, safeguarding the gains we have made together, at such great cost, for almost two decades, and ensuring that it is never again a safe haven for terrorists.

In Iraq, all NATO Allies, as well as NATO itself, are part of the US-led Global Coalition Against ISIS. Today, thanks to our efforts, they no longer control any territory and we have liberated millions of people. But ISIS remains a threat, conducting terrorist attacks in the region and around the world. So at NATO, we have decided to enhance our mission in Iraq and we are looking at what we can do more, both in Iraq and the broader region.

As well as guaranteeing our security today, NATO is preparing for the challenges of tomorrow. We have updated our standards for resilient civilian telecommunications, including 5G. And we have declared space as a fifth operational domain, along with land, air, sea and cyber.

But of course, our freedom and security do not come for free. This is why all Allies have stepped up their investment in defence, with more cash, but also with new capabilities and contributions to NATO missions and operations. European Allies and Canada have increased defence spending for five years in a row. By the end of 2024, they will have added an additional 400 billion US dollars to their defence budgets. And Germany is increasing its defence spending by 80 per cent.

We invest in our defence not only because it is right and fair that we share the burden, transatlantically, for our common security, but because it is also in the national interest in each and every Ally to do so.  

Ladies and gentlemen, in a world that is constantly changing and increasingly challenging, the best way to maintain our peace and security is to stand together. The NATO Alliance is the most successful alliance in history, because we understand that we are stronger together than apart.

You are the future military leaders of our Alliance. So as Clausewitz encouraged you, encouraged all of us: be ambitious; be bold; be strong. And you will surely achieve your goals and defend and protect the supreme interests of your nations, and defend, protect and make this fantastic Alliance of ours in Europe for many more decades to come. You will surely achieve your goals. The very fact that you’re here in this incredibly important institution of high-level education is a proof of your ambition and of your talent, and of your future careers.

Continue to invest in yourselves. Continue to believe in our values. Continue to believe in freedom, in human rights, in the rule of law. These are the fundamental pieces of NATO. This is what the Washington Treaty is all about. It’s not only about common defence and Article 5, it’s about free nations coming together and solemnly swear to defend each at all odds.

It’s a privilege for me to be here today with you. And please count on me, or Secretary General Stoltenberg and all of us in NATO to be your faithful partners. It’s a privilege to be here. And I’m now ready to be cross-examined. My question . . . questions and answers [inaudible; 00:13:32].

Thank you so much for inviting me. It’s a pleasure and an honour to be with you. Thank you very much.