NATO2030: future-proofing the Alliance

Remarks by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Munich Security Conference 2021 (online event)

  • 19 Feb. 2021 -
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  • Mis à jour le: 22 Feb. 2021 16:07

(As delivered)

Speech by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Munich Security Conference Special Edition

Thank you so much, Wolfgang, for that kind introduction.

I am really delighted to be part of this special edition of the Munich Security Conference.
At an important juncture in transatlantic relations.

We have heard from President Biden and from European leaders.
And I look forward to hosting them at our NATO Summit in Brussels later this year.
To set a new transatlantic agenda. 

In recent years, we have seen differences between Europe and North America.
With serious questions asked about the strength of our Alliance on both sides of the Atlantic.
And competing visions of the transatlantic relations.

We now have a historic opportunity to build a stronger Alliance.
To regain trust, and to reinforce our unity.
Europe and North America working together in NATO, in strategic solidarity.

Because we are facing great challenges.
The rise of China.
Sophisticated cyber-attacks.
Disruptive technologies.
Climate change.
Russia’s destabilising behaviour.
And the continuing threat of terrorism.   

No country – and no continent – can go it alone.
On the contrary, we must do more together.
And we have to demonstrate our commitment to transatlantic solidarity not just in words, but in deeds.
That is why, under a banner of NATO 2030, we are working on an ambitious agenda for the future of our Alliance.

First, we must reinforce our unity.

That unity derives from our promise to defend each other.
We must strengthen our commitment to our collective defence and fund more of deterrence and defence on NATO territory together.

This would incentivise allies to provide the necessary capabilities, and contribute to fairer burden sharing. 

NATO is the unique platform that brings Europe and North America together every day.
Allies should commit to consult on all issues that affect our security.

We should update NATO’s strategic concept, to chart a common course going forward.
And reaffirm the fundamentals of our Alliance.

Second, we must broaden our approach to security.

Our potential adversaries use all the tools at their disposal - military, political, economic –  to challenge our institutions, weaken our societies and undermine our security.

Of course, to keep our people safe, we need a strong military.
But we also need strong societies.

As our first line of defence, we need a broader, more integrated and better coordinated approach to resilience. With concrete national targets, for communications, including 5G and undersea cables, energy and water supplies.
And a joint assessment of any vulnerabilities.

We also need to invest to maintain our technological edge, ensure our forces remain interoperable, and develop ethical standards on the use of new, disruptive technologies.

Broadening our approach to security also means addressing the security impact of climate change.
I believe NATO should set the gold-standard on how to reduce the emissions of our militaries, contributing to the goal of Net Zero.

And third, Europe and North America must defend the international rules-based order.
Which is being challenged by authoritarian powers.

China and Russia are trying to re-write the rules of the road to benefit their own interests.

The rise of China is a defining issue for the transatlantic community.
With potential consequences for our security, our prosperity and our way of life.

This is why NATO should deepen our relationships with close partners, like Australia and Japan, and forge new ones around the world.

Only through concerted action can we encourage others to play by the rules.

Defending our rules, defending our rules based order, starts by defending our values at home.
We must recommit to our values, strengthen our democracies and protect our institutions, because ultimately, this is what makes us who we are.

For over 70 years, NATO has secured peace in the Euro-Atlantic area.
Despite evolving challenges and changing political winds, our transatlantic relationship has not only endured, it has flourished.

This is a testament to the values we share, and to NATO, the embodiment of our transatlantic bond.

We all have a responsibility to seize this moment.
To strengthen that bond.
And to keep Europe and North America together, in strategic solidarity.

Thank you.

Wolfgang Ischinger: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary General. I know you are familiar with our Munich Young Leaders Group, and you will probably not be surprised that we have young leaders even at NATO. The first question therefore will be asked by one of our young leaders who happens to be working at the Polish mission to NATO. This is my friend, Dominik Jankowski, so Dominik, why don't you go ahead and ask your question.

Dominik Jankowski, Poland: Secretary General, in…(inaudible) great power competition. NATO needs friends and partners but the alliance will face old and new friends. How should NATO adapt its military posture until 2030 in order to deter the challenges and threats of today and tomorrow? 

Wolfgang Ischinger: Secretary General, please. 

Secretary General: Well NATO has already implemented the biggest reinforcement of our collective defense in Europe with the new battle groups in eastern part of the lines, including in Poland. We have increased the readiness of forces, and allies are, after years of cutting defense spending, all allies are now investing in more. We need also to make sure that we maintain our technological edge. So anything we can do on innovation, on understand the full impact of artificial intelligence, quantum computing, autonomous weapon systems for our security is of course also about our collective defense in Europe. I think the most important thing is that we stay committed to Article 5 and send a very clear message to any potential adversary that an attack from one ally will trigger the response from the whole Alliance. That's exactly what we can do by further strengthening our collective defense in Europe.

Wolfgang Ischinger: Thank you very much. Second question comes from another young leader Kati Piri is actually a member of the European Parliament. She's from the Netherlands. Kati, your question please.

Kati Piri, Netherlands: Secretary General, this information has emerged as a crucial challenge to our democracies, certain state actors, including Russia and China have made use of the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic to actively undermine faith in NATO and the European Union, governmental institutions and the democratic system. Now what actions should NATO member states take to ensure the integrity of their democracies? And what additional action could be taken at the level of NATO?

Wolfgang Ischinger: Secretary General, please.

Secretary General: Well, I think the use of disinformation is just one example of how our adversaries are using the whole range of the tools for their disposal: military means, economic means, political means, but also disinformation. And of course we need to respond to that by focusing more on the resilience of our societies. Strong societies are less vulnerable to disinformation. That's exactly why in the NATO 2030 agenda, resilience is the first line of defense and something we are focusing on as we prepare for the upcoming summit later on this year with all the NATO leaders. But fundamentally, I think that the best way to respond to disinformation is to make sure that you have it free and independent press. Journalists that ask the different and difficult questions, that are able to check their sources, and make sure that disinformation never prevails. The truth will prevail as long as we have free and independent press.

Wolfgang Ischinger: Thank you very much. I think we have time for one or two brief additional questions. Let me ask one on the relationship between NATO and the European Union. I know, Jens, that you've been very very strongly engaged in creating better institutional and operational links between the two organizations. Describe to us, if you could, in a few words, how you see this going forward and could close NATO-EU cooperation also provide the kind of framework for all of us meeting the challenge of China? Because I'm not so sure everybody will want to have only NATO as the organization responsible for ending this relationship and maybe only the European Union will also not be sufficient to cover the whole ground. Please.

Secretary General: Over the last years, we have been able to lift the cooperation between NATO and the European Union up to unprecedented levels, and I really welcome that. And that's because of the political will from the European Union side, and from the NATO side. We work on issues like cyber, fighting terrorism, exercises, maritime security, and on many other issues. And I think that in the future we will need even more cooperation, NATO and the European Union. You mentioned the security impact of the rise of China, and you are absolutely right, neither NATO nor the European Union has all the tools we need to address the consequences of the rise of China, we need to work together. Resilience, technology, also areas where there is obvious need for more cooperation between EU and NATO.

And I also very much support and welcome the efforts by the European Union on defence because I really believe that more EU efforts on defense can provide new capabilities, can try to reduce the fragmentation of the European defense industry, which will be good for all of us, and can also increase defense spending. So this is something I support and encourage and welcome very much. Increased defense spending for instance in Europe is something that NATO has been calling for many, many years, now actually it happens. But, EU you cannot replace NATO. EU cannot protect Europe. This is partly about resources, 20% of NATO's defense spending is coming from EU NATO allies. It's also partly about geography, Norway and Iceland in the north or Turkey in the south, or in the west United States, Canada and United Kingdom – these countries are of course important for the defense, the protection of Europe.

And thirdly, it's about politics, any attempt to weaken the transatlantic bond will not only weaken NATO, it will also divide Europe, so we have to have Europe and North America together in NATO, that's the best way. And especially in light of the rising challenges related to terrorism, cyber, but not least, the changing global balance of power with the rise of China. And we are very much together. You have to remember that more than 90% of the people living in the European Union – they live in a NATO country. So we really have to work together, and we have a unique opportunity now to strengthen that cooperation, a new transatlantic Chapter. I think the message in this conference today has been exactly that, a positive message about working together, and as Secretary General of NATO I welcome that very much.

Wolfgang Ischinger: Jens, I think I have time for one last question. Normally, when we meet at the Munich Security Conference, you would be talking to an expert group of foreign ministers and national security advisors. Today, of course, this program is being broadcast to the wider public. So I'm going to ask you a question that I think is of interest to the wider public. Our previous speaker spent a lot of time talking about climate change, the challenge of it. That is one of the biggest challenges for the global community, any role for NATO in climate change?

Secretary General: Yes, absolutely. And again, our NATO 2030 agenda is how to make climate change and the security impact of climate change an important, more important issue for NATO. In my previous capacity, before I became the Secretary General of NATO, I had the privilege of being the UN Special Envoy on climate change. And therefore, I see very clearly the relationship between climate change, and security. We often say that global warming, more extreme weather – that's a crisis multiplier, and crisis creates threats, and therefore climate change matters for our security. 

NATO has at least three things we should do. First, we need to fully understand the security consequences, assess, map, analyze the security consequences, we should be the organization bringing Europe and North America together to have the expertise, the knowledge on the security consequences of climate change. Second, we need to adapt our missions and operations. We know that a lot of military infrastructure will be directly impacted by global warming, rising sea levels. So this will have direct consequences for how we invest where we can have our bases, especially naval bases, but also for instance we have now, we are increasing our training mission in Iraq, in Baghdad last summer it was more than 50 degrees Celsius for many, many days.

Of course, this will impact the way we organize our missions, equipment, uniforms, ice is melting, it impacts how we can operate in the High North. So climate change is directly impacting our missions and operations we need to adapt to that. And thirdly, NATO should be part of the solution. We have a responsibility to contribute to reduce emissions, and therefore I think that our militaries, NATO should aim of becoming part of the net-zero goal. And this is therefore one of my proposals for the heads of state and government that actually we should make climate change an important issue. Reduced emissions from military operations is a way to address climate change, but actually less dependence on fossil fuels would also make our military operations more resilient and reduce vulnerabilities. So security and climate goes hand in hand as we address it in NATO.

Wolfgang Ischinger: Thank you very much Mr. Secretary General. This last issue, of course, leads us wonderfully into the next segment. My job now is to say thank you to you. See you at our next in-person Munich Security Conference, over to Natalie.