by NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană at the Tag der Industrie Conference 2021
MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us. We’ve just been hearing about the importance of forging a more sustainable industrial development policy and we have a very timely discussion for you now. We know that NATO members have been meeting to reassert the importance of the Alliance and also reinvigorate the transatlantic bond. And we have a conversation now with the Deputy Secretary General of NATO, Mr Mircea Geoană, who is joining us from Brussels. And he will be in conversation with Mr Wolfgang Niedermark, who is a member of the executive board at the Federation of German Industries. Before Mr Niedermark leads this discussion, Mr Geoană will get us underway with a statement. So, Mr Geoană I’ll hand the screen over to you now.
MIRCEA GEOANĂ [NATO Deputy Secretary General]: Thank you so much… and thank you for the kind introduction. Wolfgang, thank you. And BDI for hosting this Industry Days. And the title of our conversation today asks how a more global NATO can provide security in the future. And I’m here to say that this is the business of our Alliance. We’ve been providing for more than seven decades security for, now, close to one billion citizens in 30 NATO nations, quite effectively. We’ve done this in the past and we are now preparing to do the same thing for the future. And it’s a great pride for anyone working for NATO, or living in a NATO nation to . . . to know that we are the most successful alliance in history. And this was reaffirmed solemnly by our leaders just two days ago. Which are the key ingredients to our enduring success? First, it’s our unity, the fact that we are a unique organisation, a group of 30 nations across the Atlantic, in Europe and North America. Secondly, our ability to adapt to a rapidly changing world and oh, yes, this is a rapidly changing world we are living in. And also our values, because that’s, in the end, the values we all share are the glue of what we are. And this was basically in a, if you want, in a nutshell, the political and . . . and instrumental decisions that our leaders have taken at the Summit. This was a very important summit for our Alliance. Sometimes we call it a pivotal moment for our security, now and in the future, because a time when we face growing global competition and complex threats to our security is here, including Russia and China’s challenges to the rules-based international order, brutal terrorism, sophisticated cyber-attacks, disruptive technologies and, indeed, climate change. So at the Summit, we agreed on a very ambitious agenda through the NATO 2030 initiative, that Secretary General Stoltenberg initiated, in order to continue to keep our people safe and free, now and in the future. Faced with a more competitive world, we agreed to enhance our unity and cohesion. Strengthening NATO is the unique and indispensable forum for Europe and North America to ensure our shared security, deciding, consulting and acting together. And reinforcing our military posture by continuing to increase the readiness of our forces, modernise our capabilities and invest more in our collective defence. In a complex world, we agreed to broaden our approach to security. And I think this is also important for the private sector and industry because the definition we used to have on security has now broadened and the pandemic has only added new ingredients, new dimensions, new complexities to this very definition of security. So we will work together to set national goals, to increase the resilience of our societies, of our infrastructure and supply chains. And Germany – a huge powerhouse economically and export-driven economy – you’re also very much keen to . . . to be part of this conversation. We launched a new Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic to boost transatlantic cooperation on new technologies. I’m chairing the Innovation Board in NATO and I know the importance of being able to adopt new technologies. And many of the new technologies are now produced and conceptualised in the private sector, so we need to work as NATO, both with industry, but also with academia and our fantastic innovation ecosystems. We also decided to create a multinational opt-in Innovation Fund to support start-ups working on emerging and disruptive technologies. We heard around the NATO table at the Summit a number of nations already expressing interest to contribute to this new Innovation Fund. Also something which is very much in the news – and this is something that was part of the discussion between the US President in Cornwall, at the G7, here at the NATO Summit, the US-EU high level discussions and also, I’m convinced, at the Geneva talks between President Biden and President Putin – cyber is one of the most complex, controversial and competitive domains in today’s world. This is why Allies agreed at our Summit on a new cyber policy to ensure we have the capabilities and the political mechanisms and consultations that allow us to effectively prevent and respond if needed to malicious cyber activities. An important part of the Summit agenda was also further work to strengthen the resilience we have in the Alliance. Some of you might know that we have been embarking on resilience indicators for the last five, six years. And now we are stepping up our game. And of course, resilience is mostly a national or, in the case of federal countries like Germany, also a state level prerogative. But we believe that doing also things collectively, learning from each other, investing in our common resilience is something that is useful. And that’s why our leaders decided to further boost our work on resilience. Because resilience is our first line of defence. 90 percent of military transport and 70 percent of military communications depend upon robust civilian infrastructure and services. We need to make sure that our societies, our supply chains, our infrastructure, our telecommunication systems are more resistant to hostile pressure and able to recover rapidly from shocks. Resilience is also key to pushing back on potential adversaries who use a broad range of military, political and economic tools to try to weaken our societies and undermine Allied security. NATO already plays an important role in bolstering resilience, including by setting minimum standards of resilience for Allies. Hence, they, we, together with nations and here in NATO, will take a broader, a more coordinated approach to resilience and have agreed to develop national resilience plans based on clearer and more measurable Allies-wide resilience objectives. Also, Allies have agreed to designate a senior official in national governments, to drive forward national efforts and to enhance and streamline consultations within NATO. We also agreed to set the gold standard on addressing the security implications of climate change at our Summit. I’m personally very happy and Secretary General Stoltenberg is very proud of the fact that our leaders approved an action plan to look into, on the one . . . on the one side, how can we mitigate, anticipate and react to the security implications of climate change and also to make sure that our militaries significantly reduce military emissions and contribute us to the important goals set internationally. In a more contested world, we agreed to step up our support to upholding the rule-based order, another very important deliverable of our Summit, because we decided – and leaders approved – to significantly boost and deepen our existing partnerships. And I will say that NATO’s strategic partnership with the European Union is of the most utmost importance to us. I’m also dealing on Sec Gen’s behalf on NATO-EU, and we know that we will be doing more things together. We also need to embrace and work even closer with our partners in the Asia-Pacific, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. And to continue to harness and broaden our existing partnerships all over the world, we have more than 40 nations, partners, of NATO, but we need to explore even new engagements in Africa, in Latin America, in Asia. We also substantially need to step up our training and capacity-building support for partners. This is a way to increase stability on our borders. And finally, this is probably the most strategic decision of our leaders at the Summit: they agreed and we agreed to develop NATO’s next Strategic Concept. I would like to thank Germany and Thomas de Maizière, who was one of the two co-chairs of the reflection process that, in a way, helped us and the Secretary General and our leaders to move forward on this new, next Strategic Concept of NATO. This is why we need to recommit to our values, to reflect on the fundamental changes of the past decade in the strategic environment, to underpin our high level of ambition. This is why our leaders and Allied leaders agreed that we need, also, something that I know is always a complex conversation, but we need the right resources, both in continuing to increase national defence spending, but also to do more in terms of common funding across all three NATO budgets: military, civil and infrastructure. This could help support, for instance, more joint training and exercises, stronger cyber defences, cutting-edge capabilities and capacity-building, capacity-building for our partners. So this is NATO 2030, an ambitious agenda to ensure that our Alliance stays stronger, more ready and more united, fit for the challenges of today and future proof for those of tomorrow. So we are looking forward, happy, a little bit tired after a very complex summit, but we look forward to rolling up our sleeves and putting this new agenda into action. And we are convinced that by the Madrid Summit of 2022, we’ll be able to deliver all the decisions that our leaders have decided to entrust us with. So thank you so much for having me and I’m looking forward to your questions.
WOLFGANG NIEDERMARK [Federation of German Industries]: Yeah, thank you very much, Deputy Secretary General, Mr Geoană. It’s really a pleasure. Thank you for joining us here for this Tag der Deutschen Industrie. I can really reassure you that we are pretty much on the same page about the size of the challenge. We cannot dig deeper in every aspect you have just described. But of course, we are well aware in the business community about the new global competitive environment. It was the BDI who came up with a paper two years ago when we named this competition with China as a systemic rivalry. We know that. Of course, it creates a certain dilemma for our multinational corporations in Germany, in Europe: how to deal with a potential bipolar world. We don’t want to shy away from addressing this conflict, but of course, we need to find answers. How to still cooperate with our partners in autocratic systems in Russia and in China in particular, but still see this systemic rivalry, which you are also addressing in your new strategy. So what is your explanation to the companies in this situation? How can we cooperate and still, yeah, follow the same strategy but still have our licence to operate in problematic partner countries?
MIRCEA GEOANĂ: Thank you for that question, and this is, again, a very important conversation, and the rise of China is probably the most consequential transformation of global affairs in decades, if not centuries. So this is why NATO, in our previous Strategic Concept of 2010, there was not one single word about China. Even Russia was considered as a potential partner of NATO. So recognising that the rise of China is both an opportunity – a massive country with a big economy and, of course, business opportunities, this is something which is absolutely, you know, self-evident. But also the rise of China is also posing concerns, security concerns, many actions that they are taking, not only in China or around China, but also here in Europe and around the world in Africa, are subjects of concern. There should be a form of adaptation to this new geopolitical reality, also from NATO, also from the EU, also from individual nations, including . . . including Germany. I do believe, and this is, I think, the key in which we should read the final communiqué of the NATO Summit, that there is a possibility that competition and cooperation can really work together. Because competition it is. It’s competition for political influence. It is competition for markets. It’s competition for technological edge. It’s competition amongst values between democracies and, let’s say, authoritarian regimes. But this should not preclude cooperation. And I think this is the art of our leaders and our organisations and of the world, to find the right balance between competition, which will be intense – is intense, will become even more intense – and cooperation on the other side. So that’s why the language that you have seen in our communiqué, which is of course, more ample than in London in 2019, when we were speaking about challenges and opportunities, now it’s a little bit more specific, it’s not very far from what, as we have mentioned, Wolfgang, the BDI, but also the European Union was trying to describe China as a competitor, as a partner and as a systemic rival. So China is a big transformation and we have to find the right . . . the right issues. And I think engaging with China, convincing China to be part of the arms control architecture around the world is important. Already they are contributing to climate change. We are withdrawing from Afghanistan. I think all of us are interested, including China, including Russia, for Afghanistan not to fall again into the situation that was a safe haven for terrorists. So there is also responsibility with power. So I believe . . . and, also, the voice of Chancellor Merkel, including at the Summit, was like always: a voice of reason, a wise leader, and I think we . . . I think we found the right balance in our decisions and our deliberations at the Summit on China.
WOLFGANG NIEDERMARK: That’s exactly our [inaudible].We . . . that’s the same challenge for our companies, you need to find a balance. It’s a balancing act. Sometimes it will be a dilemmas. We are well aware that we are heading to, especially in the realm of what you address as rapid new technologies, the . . . the environment we are in when it comes to hybrid threats, which is affecting not only the classical military [inaudible], but also the companies, especially the multinational companies. You would be happy to hear that German Industry has launched a transatlantic business initiative last week, in order to discuss these challenges with our transatlantic partners, which [inaudible] is a prerequisite to deal with all these issues. And then it’s good to hear, one . . . one of our realms we are discussing in this transatlantic business initiative is joint concepts for data transfer, data protection, innovation and so forth in the digital world. And perhaps, I don’t think I have time that you can go into detail on this innovation fund, but I want to tell you that we are really interested in [inaudible] these efforts and supporting it and fuelling it with technology and capital. And perhaps that is another field where we can join forces between NATO and the business community in Europe and the transatlantic.
MIRCEA GEOANĂ: I think you are very much right. As I mentioned, I think in my . . . my first intervention, I’m chairing the Innovation Board in NATO. So we’re working a lot on new . . . on new technologies. And today, more than 90 percent of the innovation on technological transformations, including for military and security purposes, what we call dual-use technologies, are produced, invented and financed by the private sector. So for us, it is vital to engage with industry, it’s vital to engage with academia, it’s vital to engage not only with the big technological companies, but also with the smaller start-ups. And if you want, the DIANA Accelerator and the investment fund is also a way for us to . . . to be part of this conversation. I’ll be more than happy to engage institutionally with BDI on these topics. We are doing this almost . . . almost daily. And why not think one of the next innovation boards for have . . . for having a conversation on what . . . what can be done and we’ll be more than happy to engage in this. I’ll mention one thing also, which relates also to, if you want, to arms control and to a predictable international environment, which is also very important for business. You cannot thrive, you cannot do business if you don’t have security and predictability. So this is why I believe that NATO and the EU and countries in Europe and North America [inaudible] should also try to find the new ways in which we can find the international law, norms and ethics that will . . . will be, in a way, regulating and . . . and enshrining norms and rules globally for AI, for data, for quantum, for biotechnology, for space. And this is where NATO is. We do not have the power of regulation like the EU, but we have an immense power, which is the power of standardisation. Once NATO decides on a standard on anything related to security, it becomes automatically, even for our competitors, a gold standard. And I will encourage you to look into our AI strategy that my colleagues from . . . from the specialised components of NATO have been producing. And this is about AI in conflict and warfare. So you will be seeing there how much of our values, of our ethical norms about making sure that there is a predictable use of new technologies in . . . in defence and security is very much present. This is why NATO-EU is vital in terms of cooperation, on resilience, on new technologies, on space, on climate change, on the rise of China. So I do believe that there is so much synergies between us and the private sector and academia, but also between NATO and the EU. And I salute the fact that you have this council, transatlantic council – I salute, even if it’s not our direct business here in NATO, that the EU and US decided to have this Trade and Technology Council. I think the more we harness the synergies of the transatlantic world, the better chances we’ll have to have an international global system of norms, giving predictability and also assurances for private sector foreign investments and for exports that will be done properly and not being abused or misused by benign players.
MODERATOR: Indeed, and I think a synergy is a good note there, perhaps if I can jump in. Apologies, Mr Niedermark, we are indeed running out of time. So I think that’s all we’re going to be able to get to. But I think we also covered a lot of ground. So thank you both, Mr Geoană, for making time and Mr Niedermark for leading that discussion. We hope you enjoyed it as well. And we’re going to stay with the transatlantic theme, if you will, in a conversation coming up with Jay Timmons, who is the president of the National Association of Manufacturers in the US. So thank you again.
WOLFGANG NIEDERMARK: Thank you very much.
MIRCEA GEOANĂ: Thank you for having me.