by NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană at the AI & Cyber Conference titled “An Abundance of Potential”

  • 27 Sep. 2021 -
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  • Last updated: 28 Sep. 2021 12:44

(As delivered)

Mircea Geoană [NATO Deputy Secretary General]: Thank you so very much for inviting me and I listened with great interest to Minister Stoev's remarks, very insightful.  Mrs Passy.  Mrs Mihaylova.  By the way, say hello to Solomon Passy, my good friend, and to all my friends in Bulgaria.

Thank you for the invitation and it is, I think, a very important topic that you are debating these two days. Abundance of Potential, I would also add there is no scarcity of risks when it comes to new technologies. 

And the minister mentioned the OECD, also NATO enjoys a dynamic relationship with the OECD.  I will be visiting this organisation in the next few weeks and we are also looking very much in this triangle between NATO, EU and the OECD, on many things when it comes to new technologies. 

But first of all, let me start by thanking Bulgaria for the so many ways in which this important Ally contributes to our joint security. 

Bulgaria has increased its defence investment year on year, contributed to our missions and operations in Iraq, in Afghanistan and in Kosovo, and provided maritime assets to help keep the Black Sea safe. 

And as we see from this very conference, Bulgaria is also stepping up to face new challenges, not least the rapid shift to a digital age. 

Because new technologies are changing our world, our economies, our societies, our geopolitics, but also our security, at record speed. 

From the smartphone in our pockets and from the punch than the computer, it was a reference to the Sputnik moment that was putting a man on the moon, a few decades ago, things have evolved tremendously.

And sophisticated cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns threaten our economies, societies and democracies. 

And future conflicts will be increasingly defined by bytes and big data, as much as bullets and battleships. 

And also authoritarian regimes that do not share our values or play by the same rules, by the way, are aggressively vying for technological dominance. 

China and Russia are racing to develop new technologies, from AI to autonomous systems, to hypersonic weapons or robotics. 

So, technology is moving fast and we must move even faster to retain the technological edge that has helped keep us safe for more than 70 years. 

And this is good news that NATO is doing just that. 

At our Summit in June, Allies took bold decisions to tackle global security challenges together. 

We agreed a comprehensive new cyber defence policy for NATO; the Minister remembers the decision of our leaders at the Brussels Summit on cyber. It recognises that cyberspace is contested at all times.  Our leaders in Warsaw, at the Summit in Warsaw in 2016, declared cyberspace as a new operational domain for NATO.

Space has been declared an operational domain for NATO in 2019. 

So, we are acting in order to be ready at all times, to actively deter, defend against, and counter, all threats and actors. 

This means having the political resolve, technical capabilities and military planning in place, to keep our systems and societies safe. 

Just a month after the Summit in June, NATO Allies demonstrated this resolve, by standing in solidarity with each other, joined by our partners in the EU and Asia-Pacific, to condemn malicious cyber activities, including the Microsoft Exchange Server Compromise. 

As well as mitigating the risks, we must also seize the opportunities. So, at the Summit, through our NATO 2030 initiative, we took concrete steps to boost transatlantic innovation.

I'll make a small stop here.  I'm chairing the Innovation Board in NATO and the Secretary General asked me to be the champion of innovation.  And also, by the way, I'd like to thank Bulgaria for giving us, as part of our Innovation Advisory Group, Galia Angelova from the Bulgarian Academy for Sciences, also an expert on AI. And I understand she worked for the Bulgarian National AI Strategy.

For working together, in making sure that innovation ecosystem all across the Alliance, from the Allies that have massive technological and innovation resources, very endowed universities, a very deep financial and venture capital sector, also to the Allies that do not share the same volume or the same depth.

It's important for us to ensure that across the Alliance, across all 30 nations, irrespective of the GDP or the rankings in terms of innovation, that we keep that level of interoperability that is allowing us to work together, to defend each other and, in case of crisis, to fight together. 

This is why our leaders decided to launch a Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic, DIANA - the acronym, to create this innovation pipeline across the Atlantic.

Its aim is to encourage all Allies to work even more closely together with industry, with start ups and academia, to develop the next generation of technologies, in order to meet our defence and security needs. 

We also establish, as the Minister has pointed out, a NATO Innovation Fund, and I'm heartened to see the interest and the active involvement of Bulgaria, with other Allies as well, in this multinational initiative to invest in start-ups, developing cutting edge dual use technologies. 

We aim to have both of these initiatives in place by our Summit in Madrid, in 2022. 

These new initiatives open possibilities for cooperation with other partners, like the EU and the OECD that I referred to, who you will hear also, I understand, later today in your conference.  And they are an important opportunity also for Allied nations and for Bulgaria in particular, to strengthen your own innovation ecosystem and support the exchanges with innovators from across the Alliance. 

Our Chief Scientist in NATO has a core group of more than 5,000 engineers and researchers from all over the Alliance.  The depth, the sophistication of our triple helix of public sector, private sector and academia is unrivalled in the world. 

And our open societies, I always say this and I repeat this every single time, is that open societies, when people can think freely, when people can act freely, when people are not afraid of being the victims and not the beneficiaries of new technologies, is the place, is the ecosystem that will prevail in this very intense competition for the commanding heights of technology in the 21st century. 

Artificial Intelligence, because this is one of the topics of your conference, is probably the most pervasive, especially when it is combined with others, like big data, autonomy or biotechnology. AI will revolutionalise the way we defence ourselves, so it's a natural thing that NATO has AI as a priority. 

In October this year, Allies will agree our very first AI strategy, with robust principles for responsible use that will be at the core of this new strategy. There was a discussion before I joined your conference about the ethical norms, the moral norms, the democratic norms that should be at the heart of the usage of these new technologies.  This we're here in NATO, the organisation that is the setter of gold standards when it comes to defence and security, as the EU has the power of regulation, NATO has the power of setting standards of the highest possible level, in everything we do. 

This is why we're committed on AI to set the standard when it comes to the ethical use in the defence and security realm. 

And here, again NATO is working with our partners, I mentioned the OECD, the EU, but also the UN and also with leading Allied nations.

I know that we don’t have much time for my few words at the beginning of the conference and I understand there are some questions to be addressed to me, but let me also end by thanking again Bulgaria for this very initiative. Because our Alliance is blessed with committed Allies, with world class universities, with incredible researchers and creative starts ups.

I'm so heartened to see when, from our region, from Central, Eastern, South Eastern Europe, I'm seeing more and more of the unicorns, of the smart men and women that come with fresh ideas, and they are so successful. 

So, in a way, from Silicon Valley all the way to the Black Sea, and from the Baltic Sea all the way to this big biotech cluster around Boston, we are blessed with the most formidable, talented and bright innovators and people that know that we have to stay together and defend our interests and our values. 

We have to seize this abundance of potential, as you so rightly coined this conference.  Thank you so very much. I applaud your work. I'm happy that our Public Diplomacy Division in NATO is supporting this conference and count on me, on this great Alliance of ours, to be by your side any time there will be a need for us.

Thank you so much and I'm looking forward to your questions.