by NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană at the Road to Warsaw Security Forum 2020 conference

  • 18 Nov. 2020 -
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  • Last updated: 18 Nov. 2020 15:33

(As delivered)

NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană: Thank you so much, Kristine, good to see you again.

And good afternoon to everyone. And of course may thanks to the Casimir Pulaski Foundation and the German Marshall Fund for inviting me to address this Road to Security Forum. We always respond with great pleasure to invitations from our Polish friends. It's also a pleasure, despite the fact that we have to meet virtually hopefully next year we'll do to do this in person. But let me also thank the host country Poland, strong and steadfast member of our alliance. Just a few months ago, on the other side of the building of NATO Headquarters, we marked the 40th anniversary of the Solidarity Movement. And on that occasion, I unveiled a Solidarność sign at the NATO headquarters in Brussels and I invite especially the young ones, when they visit and when you visit us when we'll be able to travel, please do come and see this symbol, not only of Polish history, but also an event that had a huge impact, an enduring impact, on the whole of nature and on the whole of the democratic world. It is our unity and our solidarity that makes us credible and strong. Poland, like al Allies, must continue to nurture this bond in words and in deeds.

Dear friends, our world is changing rapidly. And there are fundamental geopolitical shifts and also considerable technological advances. There is also a widening array of security threats and challenges, including terrorist and nuclear proliferation, hostile cyber activity, climate disruptions and now we see also pandemics. So that's a pretty complex picture. There is also the more traditional and ongoing threats of Russian military and hybrid activities. Along the Alliance's eastern flank, Russia continues his attempts to establish a sphere of privileged influence. We see this through his military buildup and exercises. We see this in Belarus. We see also in the protracted conflicts in the territory of our partners like Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova.

By the way of Moldova, we congratulate Maia Sandu, for her historic victory just the other day. I look forward to continuing our partnership with the Republic of Moldova.

And, of course, speaking of partners, NATO is working very closely with all these partners, and I mentioned here, our partners from the east, building their capacity to better resist Russian pressure. In these very complex and unpredictable times, strong transatlantic cooperation is indispensable to keep us safe and free. This is true today. This will be true in the future. That's why it is so important that we all work together. Also, on  broadening the lenses a little bit. It's vitally important for us to continue to further strengthen the ties between Europe and North America. And to reinforce our strong institutional bonding, starting with NATO. This is why Secretary General Stoltenberg is leading this initiative called NATO 2030, as we speak; the North Atlantic Council finished the first conversation on this topic. And this is why we are looking into the future, not only to our exceptionally bright past of 71 years because NATO has, and should, and will continue, to protect our almost 1 billion citizens, in the coming decade, and far, far beyond. This is what I would like to do in a few minutes I have with all of you, is to highlight three issues that will impact, that will have a definite and defining impact on how the Alliance adapts towards 2030. And that will require creative, forward looking and realistic thinking from all of us.

The first one is innovation and new technologies.

Because NATO's ability to innovate, is what has guaranteed our military superiority, our technological edge. This is the essential part of deterrence and defence. We have done this brilliantly over the last seven decades. But now our dominance is the political West is being challenged. Because other nations like China or Russia that do not share our same values, the same values like we do, are developing new technologies from hypersonic missiles to autonomous systems to artificial intelligence or cyber warfare. And we risk, if we're not careful, and don't work together, we risk a second Sputnik moment where we suddenly find that we have been outpaced.

This is something that will not allow to happen, and will not allow it to happen. But for that we have to redouble our efforts to maintain our technological edge, because we can and we have already, new cutting edge capabilities in nature. But we also have something even more important: the ecosystem of innovation, the best universities, the best scientists and engineers, and certainly Eastern Europe has a huge contribution, critical skills and intellect. And I think this is something that we have to cherish and nurture all across the Alliance. And of course something probably even more importantly, and when I speak to our Polish friends or friends from former communist Europe, living in open societies where people are free to challenge and to choose to explore and innovate. This is something that is a hugely competitive advantage in comparison to our rivals. And this is something we should continue to nurture. We have an abundance of World Class academic institutions, finest researchers, creative startups, a mature, and well resourced financial ecosystem. These are the driving forces of the innovation ecosystem. And, of course, speaking of talent, we see amazing positive experiences in the Baltic region, in Poland, in my country Romania, we see from the Silicon Valley to, let's say the eastern flank of NATO, we see a huge potential to deepen our transatlantic cooperation on innovation.

The second issue that I would like to highlight -  is also a buzzword that is not just a buzzword – it’s not just a nice headline in our speeches, and this is resilience.

Because a strong military and political alliance is essential but it's not enough. Because we need to build strong societies, able to prevent, to endure, to adapt and bounce back from whatever happens to them. And of course, NATO allies have already agreed high standards for resilience in areas including the continuity of government, secure transport communications, including 5g energy security, food and water supplies. And I like to thank our Polish friends, because at the Warsaw NATO Summit, five years ago, 2016, our leaders were anticipating something that we have today unfortunately in abundance; the need for NATO to look into resilience, the baseline requirements for resiliency in NATO are today, world class indicators of performance, and we are looking forward to working also with other institutions, and nations that are developing their own national resilience indicators. Because as I mentioned before, resilient societies, are our first line of defence. Our security and prosperity depend on them. We need robust supply chains and civilian infrastructure, because if we speak of large operations, around 90% - nine zero percent - of military transport relies on civilian ships, railways and aircraft and businesses. And we need to protect the undersea cables and the overhead satellite systems on which our civilian and military communications rely. Because as I mentioned countries like China investing aggressively in ports, in airports, in critical infrastructure, in ownership in critically creative and innovative companies, and our telecommunication networks remain vulnerable to attacks from the outside, or from being compromised from within.

So in taking our efforts forward to boost resilience. We are working closely with the EU, with the private sector, with civil society, with academia, and ultimately with nations because, in the end, resilience is a national responsibility, but is also a collective effort.

And here NATO brings a lot to the table and will continue to do this.

And my third and final issue for today's conversation is about partnerships and working more extensively and more effectively with like-minded partners globally, is key to ensure we remain competitive in a more competitive and complex world.  Because none of our countries, even the biggest ones, can deal today alone with the challenges we are faced with.

So we need to work together and find common solutions.

A very obvious partner for NATO is European Union. We are the two sides of the same coin. We are living in the two sides of Brussels. And we do hope that our strategic partnership that was launched again, a few years ago, will be reconfirmed, will be strengthened and will reach its full maturity. Because we are indispensable partners when it comes to security peace and prosperity in Europe because we are covering, in a complimentary way, and this is what we should stay in the future as well, a much broader array of issues of interest of our citizens and of interest to the rest of the world.

And the level of cooperation between NATO and EU has reached unprecedented levels, we have today a common agenda of 74 concrete points to work on. Right now, we are working together to counter disinformation, defend against cyber activities, enhance military mobility. And we have to work closely together, also on defence, making very clear and keeping in mind that over half of the NATO citizens do not live in the EU, but 90% of the EU citizens live in NATO countries as well, These are factors that we have to look into realisticall, ambitiously, but also in a sense of common purpose and common values. So let me try to conclude because I think the question part, and hopefully the answers part, will be more interesting. Let me say this, Poland has an important voice in the debate about the future of our alliance. And as we are entering a discussion about NATO2030 and beyond, as we are approaching the next NATO summit or leaders meeting of early next year, as we are entering a new cycle of politics and geopolitics and geo-economics and hopefully this pandemic will be will be behind us. We need places like the Warsaw Security Forum devoted to the transatlantic cooperation, an excellent platform to discuss ideas and solutions to make NATO, even stronger. So thank you so much for inviting me and I look forward to be with you, accompanying the road towards the Warsaw Security Forum in the period ahead.

Thank you so much and Kristine thank you for being together and say hello to everybody we know together.

Kristine Berzina (Moderator): Absolutely. And thank you very much for your introductory remarks, you have set out a tremendous task that NATO needs to do. Not only in the next few years, but generally. Looking at new innovation and technology threats, looking at all of the vulnerabilities that we have at home, in our own societies, in our infrastructure as you mentioned significantly the telecommunications infrastructure, NATO is going to need additional resources it needs to think about what is available to the Alliance itself, but also what's in each member state, in each ally to make it more possible for allies to tackle these threats, you very nicely you mentioned the role of partnerships as your third set, of the EU, but what additional capabilities, what additional resources will NATO need in the next 10 years and beyond to tackle all of these new threats and also continue being such an important security guarantor on the old issues that are so important to us. Are there new partnerships that NATO should seek to establish, what other things can NATO allies provide.

NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană: Well, thank you Kristine, but I mention NATO2030, and I mention this reflection process which is, in fact, a process of anticipation. Because we will be living in very uncertain times, in the future, and this is no sign that these things will slow down. The acceleration of history, the acceleration of tendency, the ever widening of the very definition of security. And the pandemic has brought the few new dimensions to already a very complicated canvas, even before that. So, NATO like always in our history; I mentioned the ingredients of our success.

One is values, because they're enduring, and this is what keeps us, the glue that keeps us together at a sort of ideological, philosophical, democratic level.

The other one is keeping your innovation, technological edge because you have to be superior to your potential rivals and adversaries.

But the third one is also the capacity to permanently adapt to be agile. To be able, despite our 30 nations, is that the easy proposition? 1 billion people that's a lot of people, but we are in a way, forced to show our agility and adapt to a changing context.

You mentioned new technologies. That's something that is 90% produced in the private sector today. So, the way in which we were used, in the last decades, to procure innovation and to end to fund innovation for the military purposes was mainly governments. We remember all of us that the internet was born out of the Pentagon works and we remember that many things we see just last Sunday, a joint venture between a private American company and NASA to really send people again on a station orbit.

So, we have to learn how to embrace this ecosystem of innovation in a far more modern way. And during the innovation body NATO, I know that this is critically important, is not always easy. But the idea that we basically harness the talent and the private sector and venture capital and transfer, you know, intellectual, and practical solutions to our security challenges is one important thing.

The second thing that you mentioned, even the 1 billion people, even the fact that the NATO allies together. We have more than 50% of global GDP, as we speak. Even if we have a meter of superiority, which is unrivalled, even we have challenges that are trying to catch up with us, we are significant. But in order to be able to compete, also in the realm of global competition, and also to making sure that our liberal democracies, our way of life will be protected against a counter proposition which is coming from, very big and influential nations around the world.  This is where we need all our partners, all our like-minded nations, to come together to work with us to work with European Union, because they have a number of instruments that we don't have, we have some instruments that they don't have. So I think the whole political West, in a way, should be aggregated in a proposition, that is, is very important.

And the third one which is something I believe you mentioned and that it's a very relevant question and a very complex answer to give, is how to keep our political unity, how to manage. Because when the definition of security is shifting, automatically, you introduce another level of complexity for the political dialogue on making sure that we see eye to eye on a broader range of issues. And we have sometimes, you know, things that are not politically easy, we see even divergences inside the Alliance we've seen them recently, we've seen them before. So I think keeping this alliance politically coherent, politically resilient, getting back to the source of our strength, to the need for NATO also in the future, this is, if you want, the magic formula for keeping NATO relevant, for keeping our public opinions, believing that NATO is a useful organization, during peace, security and a decent life for all of us, for the young ones. That's why we started with this NATO Youth Summit just a few days ago by Secretary General Stoltenberg. And this is why we have to also talk to audiences and to places and platforms that are not usually our natural place to be. So a long answer to a very complex question which is very much on our minds as we speak.

Kristine Berzina (Moderator): That's great to hear that it's really lovely for you to also talk about the young leaders and young voices, because that is where we're going to next we have collected a few questions from young leaders in partner countries and among the Alliance and we're going to play those for you right now, and you'll be able to approach these diverse sets of questions next so if we could play the video of the young leaders questions please.

[Video playing]

My name is Iryna Krasnoshtan, I'm from Ukraine. I'm an alumna of New Security leaders Programme. NATO has launched its 2030 reflection process, in your opinion, the world in 2030 would it be a more secure, and more insecure place, and why.

Good afternoon, my name is Malgorzata Zacheja and I’m from Poland. I'm part of the Academy of Young Diplomats Programme. My question is related to the coronavirus pandemic. As we entered the second wave of, COVID-19, what are some measures that NATO offers its allies in fighting the virus globally. Have they changed from the first wave, and if so, how. Thank you very much.

Hello, and chindobre. My name is Stefan Raab from Germany. I'm part of the programme European Academy of Young Diplomats and my question relates to the Arctic. Currently climate change is a quite controversial topic, and there are lots of geopolitical interests within the Arctic, but there's also a chance to overcome them. Therefore, my question relates to that rather remote area. Do you consider the Arctic as a window of opportunity to overcome global rivalry between East and West. Thank you.

Kristine Berzina (Moderator): So those are the three very small questions. Very easy to solve immediately but maybe you could give us a taste of how, you know, you and NATO see 2030, and the security will increase or decrease the second question, we had is on the pandemic and what NATO is doing to solve the pandemic globally and a third is on the Arctic and then what is the role of the Arctic for you.

NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană: First of all, thank you so much. It really is so, so, so wonderful to see brilliant young leaders, engaging in such conversations and there's no greater pleasure than to try to, to be up to it.

Now, coming to Iryna to your question about the world we will be living in, probably nobody knows for sure.

And there is probably one certainty that we'll be living in an uncertain world. And this is why, being able to be resilient to shocks, to unexpected Black Swans or whatever colour future challenges might look like.We witness this tragedy of the pandemic. Something else might come. The world is becoming very complex. So I think the art of what NATO has been doing, and also, the measure of our success over time as I mentioned before, is the capacity to always broaden the conversation about the definition of security at one specific point in time, anticipating things that might arise, and be prepared, sorry to say, for the worst. Because that's the essence of a political, military alliance like NATO. So, I mentioned resilience earlier. I strongly believe also coming from our region, and knowing that there are some structural weaknesses and there are some problems that we see as we speak. We see sometimes how fragile we are to disinformation and fake news. We see also the fact that sometimes there is, you know, discontent about the way in which capitalist and representative democracies do work for the citizens. These are issues, it’s not for NATO to solve those, but I'm saying that this trepidation of the world is also trepidation of the very system we believe in. So permanent investment in our fundamental values, in our capacity to be ahead of the curve, and be ready. This is, I think, the way we should go about it. Including new technologies that will be basically changing not only the way in which we work, we live, human species or climate change, I'll come back to that, but also the way in which we define security, and this is one of the most important, and exceptionally rapid transformation that we are witnessing as we speak. This is probably the most condensed period of modern history that we have ever witnessed. So, buckle up. Good news that NATO is here and we're here to stay.

Now when it comes to to the pandemic. We have to recognise that the first moment of the impact of the pandemic there was a sort of a tendency for nations to withdraw towards, let's say, more narrow definitions of national interest. And, of course, after that, we started to realise that we cannot do it alone. And then nations including NATO allies rediscovered the fact that NATO has instruments and strategic airlift, that we have capacity of logistics, that our military medical staff and our logistics are just the best thing in the world. And we have seen, you know, more than half a million of our troops in NATO countries coming to the rescue being together with the civilian response and to the other heroes, on the thing. What we are doing now we are preparing for the second way we have a stockpile, we have developed an operational plan for doing this, we'll see how things… will distribution of the vaccine. Thanks God, the good news on that front. So, I just want to reassure you that we are on top of our game and we are ready to play the part the nations will ask us to be playing, in making sure that we continue to be useful, practical and show solidarity amongst ourselves and our partners, and our partners as well.

Now, speaking of the question of the Arctic that's a sort of very important question because on the one side it tackles on climate change. At a NATO we look at climate change, also from a security perspective. Because, floods, you know, melting of the ice or on the other opposite,  lots of wreckage. Lots of tension. Lots of competition for water resources, for food supply. All these things are very important. But NATO has taken, and our military colleagues, our military commanders are working as we speak on something which is a 360 degree analysis, all threats coming from all directions, geographical directions, including the North. The east of course continues to be important. The South is very important, but also the outer space. NATO has declared space as an operation domain. From cyberspace. From New technologies. So, the Arctic is becoming, or becoming again, a place of great power competition, a place where we see Russia, placing, you know, fresh equipment investing in their capabilities for up north. We also see China coming closer to this, we also have a number of NATO allies. NATO doesn't have as we speak, a policy for the Arctic, but we have many important allied nations that are part of that conversation. So, I do believe that the Arctic, the 360 degrees analysis about security will continue to be our game. We're seeing the future of things evolve. But let me assure you because you put this question from Germany, that we are very much interested in making sure that the east, the north or the south, and of course, everything in between is very much on our front burner, and we are ready to making sure that our security is covered from all directions from all possible threats or enemies or rivals.

Kristine Berzina (Moderator): Thank you very much. I think that's a good look at the way that NATO is relevant and is essential for the many of the challenges that we are facing. And you've also done a very extensive job of showing the unpredictability of the challenges we would face. If you had a 30 second answer, what is the thing that you think is on the horizon that we're not thinking about enough, that I mean we've done a big thing, but what is the one thing that we should think about more that we haven't done thus far.

NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană:I think we have to pay a lot of attention to the intersection between artificial intelligence and data between quantum computing and biotechnology. I think that the intersection the transversal connections between these things that usually we treat them separately. I think there is a possibility for a combination between these three, and other technological revolution main vectors, to interact in ways that we could be even surprised by the speed of the transformation that they will bring. They would bring opportunities like always, innovation and breakthroughs in science is always good. But being in the business of preparing for the worst, we have to look to the other side of the of the coin. So this is where if you want my, my, not concern, but I think where we could see the fastest, most complex and far reaching consequences of breakthroughs in some things that will change dramatically the way in which human species operates works and sees also national security and international security.

Kristine Berzina (Moderator): Thank you very much. That's a very sobering final comment at the same time it's also something for all of the allies and especially the young people who are inventing things and studying within universities to think carefully so that we do have the solutions and capacities to take these on as an alliance on both sides of the Atlantic and globally with available partners.

Thank you very much, Deputy Secretary General for joining us today for this conversation for sharing your thoughts and for inspiring our thought.