by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Raisina Dialogue 2021 conference

  • 13 Apr. 2021 -
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  • Last updated: 13 Apr. 2021 13:37

(As delivered)

Dr. Saran
A very warm welcome to the sixth Raisina dialogue.

This time we are in a conversation with the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who's been at the helm of affairs since October 2014. Prior to that, he has served as the Prime Minister of Norway, and has indeed also been the UN Special Envoy.

Mr. Stoltenberg has been a strong supporter of greater global and transatlantic cooperation, and today we are going to hear from him on the international order, and thereafter we will talk to him on how do we protect and strengthen the global order in the days ahead.

I’m delighted to welcome you, Mr. Secretary General.


Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
Thank you so much, Dr. Saran and many thanks to India's Ministry of External Affairs and Observer Research Foundation for inviting me to address the Raisina Dialogue.
I would have loved to be with you in person today.
Because over the years, I have been to India many times.
And every time, I have been impressed by the hospitality and the beauty of your country.
India is a pivotal player in the Indo-Pacific region.
It is also an important and active international actor.
You are one of the largest troop contributors to United Nations peacekeeping missions. Currently, a member of the UN Security Council.
And you will hold the G20 presidency in 2023.  

So India truly matters on the global scene.
And it is a great pleasure to join the Raisina Dialogue, for the very first time.

I will address the global challenges we face.
And make a case for greater cooperation with countries that share our values.

NATO is the unique Alliance of Europe and North America.
For seventy years, NATO has deterred aggression and secured peace across the Euro-Atlantic area.
It has been a pillar of the international order based on respect, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Today, NATO has 30 members.
Representing one billion people.
Half the world’s economic might.
And half the world’s military might.

NATO’s success over the decades has rested on our ability to change when the world around us changed.

After the Cold War,
We ended ethnic wars in the Western Balkans,
And helped spread democracy by welcoming the countries of Central and Eastern Europe to NATO.
Since 9/11, we have been on the front line in the battle against international terrorism.
And we adapted again in 2014, after Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.
By implementing the biggest boost to our collective defense in a generation.

Today, NATO continues to adapt.
To ensure that we continue to keep our people safe and free.  
Because we live in a more unpredictable world. 
Where the security challenges we face are more global.
From cyber-attacks,
to brutal terrorism,
disruptive technologies,
nuclear proliferation,
and climate change. 

But also mounting authoritarianism.
Growing competition. 

The rise of China is a defining global issue,
which has implications for all of us.
And which NATO cannot ignore. 

There are opportunities that come with China’s rise.
China has lifted millions out of poverty.
Brought economic growth and prosperity.
And it is an important trade and investment partner to many NATO countries.

China will soon have the biggest economy in the world.
It is a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
So it is instrumental in dealing with issues of our time.
From global governance,
to international trade and climate change. 

That is why at NATO, we engage with China.
In the past, we have cooperated in fighting piracy off the coast of Somalia.
And there are areas where China can play a constructive role to our mutual benefit.
From peace and stability in Afghanistan,
to negotiating arms control arrangements.

But we must be clear-headed about the challenges that come with China’s rise.   

China is matching its military power to its economic power.
It has tripled its military expenditure over the last decade.
It now has the world’s second largest defense budget.
And it continues to invest massively in military modernisation.

At the same time, China does not share our values.
It persecutes ethnic and religious minorities, such as the Uighurs.
Suppresses human rights in Hong Kong.
And it is using new and advanced technology to monitor and control its own people,
creating state surveillance without precedent.

We have also seen more assertive moves by Beijing,
to challenge the rules-based international order.
It is openly threatening Taiwan.
Coercing neighbours in the region. 
And hampering freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

China is also investing heavily across Europe and… around the world.
Acquiring, building and managing critical infrastructure and strategic resources,
to create dependencies.
So China’s rise has real implications on our security,
including at home. 
NATO is, and will remain, a regional alliance for Europe and North America.
But China is coming closer to us.
And this requires our collective attention and action.

NATO is a key platform to forge convergence on responding to the security implications of a rising China.

This is one of the reasons why we are addressing how to further strengthen the resilience of our societies and our infrastructure.
So that we can reduce vulnerabilities stemming from foreign ownership, coercion or manipulation.

We are also investing in emerging and disruptive technologies.

And we want to engage even more closely with our friends and partners around the world.
Because that is the best way to protect the rules-based international order.
Secure our societies.
And ring-fence our democracies.

We already have an extensive network of partnerships, including in the Asia-Pacific region.
We have formalized partnerships, strong political dialogue and wide-ranging practical cooperation,
with countries such as Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

And I see real potential in stepping up our dialogue with other countries that share our values and interests.
Including India.
You are at the forefront of many of our shared security challenges.

From Afghanistan, international terrorism, to maritime security.
And you are the world’s biggest democracy.
Committed to upholding the rules-based order.
So we can do more together.
And take concerted action.

To address global challenges that are far greater than any country or continent can tackle alone.
But also to safeguard our values of democracy, freedom and the rule of law.
And protect our way of life.


Dr. Saran
Thank you Mr. Secretary General for that very wide ranging address that, in some ways, covers most of the questions that we will be discussing during this dialogue and have been discussing over the past days.

You touched on some very important questions. I'm going to come to those but first let me ask you on the health of the NATO today. You know there is hope that with the new administration in the US we will see a reinvigoration of the Transatlantic Alliance, we will see new energy, we will see new direction. How do you foresee NATO evolving in the coming years? What are its key challenges, roles, and what are likely to be the changes that we might witness?

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
We have now a unique opportunity to open a new chapter in the transatlantic relations, in the cooperation embodied in NATO between North America and Europe.

And therefore I also, of course, welcome the very clear and strong message from President Biden, but also from his whole administration. Secretary Blinken was just here in Brussels at the NATO foreign ministerial meeting. Secretary Austin, the Defense Secretary, participated in our defense ministerial meeting last month. And they all conveyed the same message of reinvigorating the transatlantic bond, strengthening alliances in NATO but also with other allies and partners around the world. And I think the combination of this clear message from the United States combined with the upcoming NATO summit in Brussels later on this year, with all the heads of state and government gathering together, meeting together, and also what we call at NATO, NATO 2030, which is a project we have launched to make sure that NATO is future proof, that we continue to adapt with a forward leaning, bold, ambitious agenda to be agreed by heads of state and government, later this year.

And that NATO 2030 agenda is about how to adapt NATO to a wide range of different challenges to a more complex and challenging security environment.

So it’s about deterrence and defense. It's about broadening the security agenda, covering issues like resilience, our critical infrastructure, technology, climate change. But also strengthening the way we consult within the Alliance, also when we see differences between the Allies. And then of course also building partnerships with other partners around the globe.

So, for instance, one example is technology, where it has always been an advantage for us that NATO Allies have been leading when it comes to technology. We need to invest, we need to make sure that we uphold that technological advantage. We are focused therefore on also the need to invest in new and modern capabilities, research and development. And we also look into how we can further strengthen the transatlantic partnership on developing technology.

We know that India is leading and is a very advanced country in many technologies. So we also see the need for working with partner countries and friends and allies all over the world, as NATO continues to adapt.

Dr. Saran
Mr. Secretary General, you know, we have spent a lot of time at this dialogue this year to engage with some of the most important threats we believe the international order faces.

One is the threat to democracy. One is the menace of disinformation, fake news. Synthetic truth, and how it's manipulating social cleavages and disturbances. Bio threats, the pandemic tells us a story that maybe this might just be an accident but in the future, we need to prepare a new framework and a robust response mechanism to bio threat.

What do you believe is going to be the role of your organization, in helping us defend democracy against misinformation, protecting us from health and bio terrorism, and perhaps also in the future, emerging new technologies that might challenge some of our assumptions around liberalism itself.

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
So NATO has an important role to play, addressing all those challenges. And I think we all have to realize or to understand something which has been going on for some time now, but which I expect to be even more important and accelerate as we look into the future, and that is that we are faced with many different threats, and also that there is a more blurred line between peace and conflict.

In old times, the only thing we were afraid of was in a way, regular military armed attack. Now we see many more different kinds of threats. We see cyber, we see hybrid, we see that economic coercion, disinformation, and all them together, and the combination of military and non-military means of aggression, all of that together, blurs the line between peace and war, but also means that we have to defend ourselves, protect our members, Allies, and the rules based order against much more multifaceted and complex security threats.

So therefore, for instance NATO has significantly stepped up what we do in cyber, in the cyber domain, with a new Cyber Command, and also stating that cyber can trigger Article Five of the collective defense clause of the Alliance.

The pandemic demonstrates in one way, what kind of potential threat we also can face in the future. As this is not a man-made pandemic but it illustrates a type of threats that could also be something we have to be prepared for in the future.

Regarding the COVID 19 pandemic, of course, NATO's main task has been and still is to prevent the health crisis, the pandemic, from becoming a security crisis. So for us it has been extremely important to make sure that our missions and operations are up and running. That the readiness of our forces is intact. And we have been able to do that.

At the same time, I also welcome the fact that NATO, our militaries across the Alliance, also partly coordinated by NATO structures, have been able to provide support to the civilian efforts to cope with the pandemic. Across NATO, but also across the whole world, we have seen military forces setting up field hospitals, transporting patients, equipment, helping to control borders, and now also supporting the rollout of the vaccine.

So, it demonstrates again that the role of NATO and our militaries and our armed forces, they have to address many challenges and need to work more closely together in managing all these different challenges in a more complex security environment.

Dr. Saran
In your address to all of us today you mentioned China a few times. You also invoked the Indo-Pacific.

And I want to pose a question to you around both of these invocations. The first of course is that, how does an Atlantic alliance ready itself, and make itself prepared to be an actor in the Indo-Pacific age? If global politics is going to be implicated by what happens in the Indo-Pacific region, how is NATO going to be an actor in that distant geography? How are you preparing yourself to play a role?

And the second follow up question on China and the Indo-Pacific. Perhaps your assessment of the Chinese opportunity as well as a threat, leads me to ask you this question. That because of the deep integration of Europe and America with the Chinese economy, are you going to find it more difficult to prepare yourself to face up to China as a threat? Does that complicate the texture of the relationship? Is that what is different between the Soviet Union, as the adversary, versus the China, as the most dominant actor in this particular century?

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
First of all, I think it's important to highlight that we will not change our mission, our core task, our responsibility. NATO is a North Atlantic Alliance in North America and Europe. We will remain a regional alliance for North America and Europe. And our responsibility is to protect Allies, to defend our values and our Allies.

At the same time as a regional alliance, we face more global challenges. So therefore we need a global outlook, we need a global approach. We have seen this for some time. We have, for instance, faced international terrorism for decades. And that brought NATO to Afghanistan. Not because NATO is an alliance covering the whole world, or Asia, or Central Asia and Afghanistan, but because to make sure that we are able to protect ourselves. Protect our countries against new attacks. Like we saw in 9/11, we had to operate in Afghanistan, we have been there for many years and the main purpose is to prevent Afghanistan from again becoming a safe haven for international terrorists, planning attacks on many countries but including also, of course, NATO allied countries.

So, there is no contradiction between remaining a regional alliance, but having a global approach to, for instance, address international terrorism or cyber and other global challenges.

Then, since the Indo-Pacific is becoming more and more important, of course, we also see the value of strengthening our partnership and cooperation with countries in the Indo-Pacific region. We already have formalized strong partnerships with like-minded democracies in the region, including South Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

But we also strongly believe that we can work more closely with countries like India, a like-minded democracy, sharing the same values and standing up for the rules based order.

Regarding China, I think it is very different from what we have seen before and therefore I'm always a bit afraid of… I think, I will not compare that with what we did during the Cold War because we don't regard China as an adversary. And we also see real opportunities in the rise of China. Economic opportunities and also the need to engage with China, addressing many global challenges and issues.

But then we need to combine that understanding with the fact that we see a more assertive China, violating international or undermining the rules based order, threatening neighbors, and, of course, China is a country that doesn't share our values. They don't believe in the same democratic values as we do. And this is not only something I say but as stated clearly themselves. And we have seen the way they oppress minorities, democratic forces, and therefore we need to stand up for our values, and again, we do that as 30 Allies, but we also welcome when we work together with countries in the Indo-Pacific region, and also welcome the fact that several NATO Allies, the United States, United Kingdom, France, they have a presence in the region, and they have developed and strengthened their strategies when it comes to the Indo-Pacific region.

Recently also, the Netherlands and Germany, presented strategies for the Indo-Pacific. For instance, Germany has also announced that they are planning to send some naval forces to the region. So, again, we will remain a regional alliance, responsible for protecting the members, but we need a global approach, because our region is, of course, infected or is impacted by the possibilities but also the challenges we see emanating from the Indo-Pacific region.

Dr. Saran
Mr. Secretary General, let me ask you my final question. There are two parts.

The first of course is on India. Many years ago, during the time, when Ambassador Brengelmann used to be part of the organization, we were talking about hosting a track-two conversation between NATO and Indian think tanks and strategic community. It didn't happen, but it's been many years. And do you think we have missed out on some time in terms of deepening the relationship? How do you see this India relationship progress? Where do you think is the bottleneck, or what is preventing us from having a more robust conversation and engaging on crucial questions?

You yourself mentioned that we are at the frontline of your security in some ways. What's happening in this part of the world is going to implicate European security. But do you think it is time now to have a deeper and more sustained conversation with India? So that's the first question around India.

The second is how deeply engaged is a military alliance, like NATO, with the economic policy questions that define the future of European trade, European investments, American postures around trade and economics, are you consulted? Do you engage with the Economic community that is a creating a new framework for the 21st century, partnerships, and growth agendas?

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
So first of all it's never too late to deepen dialogue and to work more closely with India and to strengthen the cooperation between India and NATO.

And you asked me whether I believe in that and I believe in that. I think that absolutely makes sense and therefore we should look into how we can consult more, have more dialogue, also coordinate, and sometimes also act together.

And one start of this dialogue is the fact that you invited me for the first time, and the Secretary General of NATO for the first time attends the Raisina Dialogue.

That also sends a message about, at least from my part, an interest in sitting down with India and consult and discuss and deepen the dialogue.

I say this also because India is really a major player, not only in the region but on the global scene.
A growing economy.
An important voice.
And India is a country which believe in the same values: freedom, democracy, the rule of law.
And India is a country that stands for the rules based order.

These are the same values that NATO believes in, the same values that NATO has enshrined in our founding treaty. So therefore, it just makes it even more important that we sit down and see how we can work together, consult, deepen our dialogue.

Not least because we see that these values are now threatened. We see a rise of authoritarianism, countries that are not sharing our values, China, Russia, also, to some extent working together, undermine the rules based order, which has served us well for so many decades. And therefore, we believe, and also as part of the NATO 2030 project, that we should strengthen dialogue with partnerships, with cooperation, with also countries in like-minded democracies, including of course like-minded democracies in the Indo-Pacific region.

NATO is of course, NATO is both a military and a political alliance. And especially in a time where we see that there is more and more blurred lines between military threats and non-military threats, and means of aggression, I think it's important to understand that, of course, NATO, we work with partners, we have political dialogue, political cooperation, without being part of military operations and missions.
Sometimes we had to deploy troops and forces to military operations and missions, like we did in the Balkans to help end the ethnic wars in the 1990s.

Or as we do today in eastern part of our alliance to deter any potential adversary from thinking that they can violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a NATO country, as we for instance have seen against the Crimea and Ukraine.

Or as we have done in Afghanistan, helping to fight international terrorism. But often we don't… Very often the main tool of NATO is not a military operation, but political dialogue, partnerships, capacity building, different kinds of political cooperation.

So there is a huge potential for NATO to work with India in different ways, learning from each other, sharing experiences without being part of an integrated military cooperation. There are many ways to work together, which doesn't directly involve, I will say, military operations and missions.

So I think it's important for me, as Secretary General of NATO, to convey that, yes, we are a military alliance but we are also a political alliance, and we speak about partnerships. This is a very important part of our political dimension.

Dr. Saran
Mr. Secretary General, thank you so much for your time, for your address, and for answering the questions. We hope we will be able to physically host you in New Delhi next year, and engage with you and continue this conversation that is going to be increasingly important in the days ahead.

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
Thank you so much for having me. It has been a great pleasure to join you, and I very much would like to visit India again in person.
So thank you so much for having me.