by NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană at the NATO-Industry Forum (NIF) in Rome, Italy

  • 18 Nov. 2021 -
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  • Last updated: 18 Nov. 2021 12:12

(As delivered)

MIRCEA GEOANĂ [NATO Deputy Secretary General]: Buona sera, you know, the worst thing I believed until tonight is to sit between a smart group of people and their dinner – something is even worse than that: to stand between a smart group of people and cocktails. So, buona sera. Prima vorrei ringraziare i nostri Alleati italiani, per l’impeccabile ospitalita.’ Grazie mille. Egalement je voudrais remercier le General Lavigne, Camille Grand, mes amis et nos leaders, pour le co-parrainage tellement important de l’évènement étendard de l’OTAN. It’s my first NATO Industry Forum. Last year I had the same job, but there was a pandemic. And I’m very convinced to continue to be here. Listen, Secretary General Stoltenberg will be speaking in a few minutes from now with a cocktail. Tomorrow we’ll have the big speech, it’s not my intent now to take anything away from what our Secretary General would say. But let me say just a few words.

First of all, I want to thank you, because this is a moment of inflection in human history. And we are so proud of our Alliance, we always say this is the most successful alliance human history. That’s huge. But if we want to make sure that we continue to do our job, to continue to defend and protect one billion people from 30 Allies, to project stability and security around the world, we have to be able to continue to transform ourselves. I also say in my speeches, I will say it tonight as well, that NATO has adaptation in our DNA. This is true. But probably we’ve not seen in human history in the last decades, I would argue in the last centuries, a more transformative and complex moment like the one we are living today and probably tomorrow too. Great power competition. An acceleration of technology transformation that is changing not only defence and security, not only the economy, not only our politics, but human society at its very core. We never had such a complicated, complex and transformative moment, probably in many, many, many decades and centuries.

When I got this job two years ago, Secretary General Stoltenberg asked me, he looked at me – this guy’s come from Romania, I used to be an engineer, then I became a lawyer, then I became a diplomat, then I became an ambassador, then a politician, and here I am in NATO – he says, ‘Mircea, I want you to chair the Innovation Board in NATO.’ I said, ‘What? Yes, we have an Innovation Board in NATO and I’m proud to chair this board across the enterprise with General Lavigne and his wonderful people, with Camille and my colleagues from the Emerging Security Challenges Division, NCIA and everyone else. And we are in the business of making sure that these new technologies are also becoming applicable, useful to you. To our militaries, to our nations, to Allies, to the Alliance in general. So all these things that we are discussing and you are discussing these two days are very important to us.

Speaking of disruptive technologies, by the way, we just adopted, our defence ministers adopted, the first AI Strategy. And this will continue with many other such policies. And this is something that we’ll do. Speaking of . . . of talent, we are working as we speak – and at the last Innovation Board, I think, of last Monday, together with the advisory group that is advising us from Allied nations – we discussed the Human Capital Policy in NATO. And that’s why I was listening very attentively to the last panel on these issues. Let me also say that we need to nurture more. And this event is a great catalyst – what we call the innovation ecosystem across the Alliance. As we speak through the NIAG, through CNAD, through NATO Industry Forum, the chief scientist of NATO – we have thousands and thousands of researchers, of engineers, of entrepreneurs, big and small companies, that are in what we call an innovation ecosystem. But I think we have to do more and we have to do better. And I’m asking you to help us. Making sure that we nurture talent from the triple helix, which is public sector, private sector, academia – and I would say even the fourth helix, which is the thirty Allies.

My job, as chair of the Innovation Board is not only to help NATO become more agile, more innovative and adopt faster new technologies for the purpose of security and defence together, of course, with our military leaders and all of us, and with Allies, of course, with nations. But our job – and this is my . . . my quest for you and a challenge for us – is to make sure that we ensure interoperability amongst all Allies, big and small, founding Allies or newer comers into the Alliance and make sure that that ingredient, indispensable ingredient: that we exercise together, that we plan together, that we fight together, the case may . . . may be – is kept. And this huge transformation of warfare and security and the definition of security is also bringing challenges to making sure that not today, but tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, we’ll be able to do these things together. That’s why I believe that these solutions should be filtered, of course, as Allies would eventually agree, into our defence planning processes, into the way in which national sovereign governments in Allied capitals are appropriating money. And I think a common understanding of the challenges and opportunities is something that we need. And this is something that is very important for . . . for our Alliance in the future.

And the last point I would like to make is about something that probably would sound a little bit different from the discussion which is more practical in such . . .  in such important conferences. This is not only stiff global competition that we are faced with. This is not only new Sputnik moments that can pop up from our competitors. This is also a struggle for the way in which our free, democratic, open societies are organised and will be able to resist this global competition. I come from . . . I lived half of my life in communist Romania. I hate dictatorship. I hate the feeling of not being free and being afraid to speak up my own mind, I hate it. But we also have to recognise that our way of life, our prosperity, our rule of law nations, the values which are the foundation of the Washington Treaty 72 years ago by our leaders, are also under intense pressure. There are other regimes that are telling that they’re authoritarian top-down fusion between private sector and state is better, more efficient, and that the West is basically losing steam, or even that we are on decline. We are not. As long as we keep this ecosystem of freedom, of rule of law, entrusting our military leaders and also making sure that we strengthen our democracy and our way of life.

So NATO is not just a military . . . political military alliance, it’s also the bedrock of democracy, of freedom, of liberty, of prosperity. We are the first line of defence when it comes to our way of life. That’s what NATO is all about. This is what NATO will continue to be. And this is what big, important conferences and fora like NATO-Industry Forum will be called to help us maintain that magic, that unique composition of who we are, at a moment of intense challenge and global competition. Again grazie mille, thank you all. Enjoy the cocktails now and we’ll see you tomorrow.