by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the event: NATO's outlook towards 2030 and beyond

  • 30 Nov. 2021 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 30 Nov. 2021 20:36

(As delivered)

Speech by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the event: NATO's outlook towards 2030 and beyond, organized by the Latvian Institute of International Affairs in co-operation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia and the NATO Public Diplomacy Division

Minister Rinkēvičs,
Dear Edgars,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is really great to be back in Riga, back in Latvia, for many reasons.

You are a staunch Ally,
You contribute to NATO missions and operations in many ways.
And you meet the 2% guideline.
And you host NATO battlegroup, here in Latvia.

It is really good to be here.
Not least because we have some real snow.
There are many nice things to say about Brussels but they don’t have the same kind of high-quality snow as we find here in Latvia. 
So that’s a good thing.

And let me also thank the organisers of this event today.
The Institute of International Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for hosting us and organising this event.

I am looking forward to delivering my speech because this gives me an opportunity to share with you some ideas on how to develop the next Strategic Concept of NATO.

Next to the Washington Treaty, the Strategic Concept is NATO’s most important guiding document.
The last one dates back to 2010.

Since then our security has changed beyond recognition.

Today we live in an age of systemic competition.
Russia and China are undermining the rules based international order.
The balance of power is shifting
Democracy and freedom is under heavy pressure.

The next strategic concept is an opportunity to set out how NATO will deal with this new reality.

Five elements are critical.
Protecting our values.
Reinforcing our military power.
Strengthening our societies.
Taking a global outlook.
And building NATO as the institutional link between Europe and North America.

Let me go through each of these in more detail.

First, we must protect the values that underpin our Alliance.
NATO was created to defend democracy, freedom, and the rule of law.
These values define who we are.
They are not optional.
And they must continue to guide us in a more complex world.

These values are under pressure.
Both from outside our Alliance and from within our own nations.

Authoritarian regimes are pushing back on the international rules-based order,
They promote alternative models of governance.

They use propaganda and disinformation to undermine our societies.
And malicious cyber tools to interfere in our elections.
At the same time, there are extremists and political groups within our own countries that do not respect our democratic values. 

We saw a stark example of this on 6 January when US Congress was attacked with the aim to impede a peaceful transition of power.

Worldwide democracy is in decline.
And there is less trust in democratic institutions.

So more than ever, we need to demonstrate the strength of our democratic model.
And protect our values.
Abroad and at home.
Second, we must reinforce our military power.  

The 2010 Strategic Concept stated that “the Euro-Atlantic area is at peace”.
But today, we can no longer take our peace and security for granted.
The Russian regime is aggressive abroad and oppressive at home.
Its military build-up on Ukraine’s borders is of concern.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Communist Party is using its economic and military might to coerce other countries and control its own people.
Expanding its global footprint from Africa to the Arctic, in space and in cyber-space.
In addition, cyber-attacks are becoming more frequent and sophisticated.
Terrorist threats persist.
Nuclear weapons are proliferating.
And climate change is driving instability and fuelling crises.

To keep our people safe in today’s unpredictable world we must continue to strengthen and modernise our deterrence and defence.

We need to ensure our militaries are ready and prepared for any threat.
With the right equipment.
The right training.
And the right skills.

But to ensure our security it is not enough to have strong militaries.
We also need strong societies.

And this brings me to my third point.

Societal disruption can be quick and easy.
It only takes a click of a button to shut down our networks. 
A social media message to disinform  citizens.
And a pandemic to paralyse our societies. 

In today’s interconnected and digital world,
our nations may be more prosperous.
But they are also more interdependent and more vulnerable.

Our competitors or potential adversaries are exploiting this.
They are investing heavily in our critical infrastructure as a way to interfere in our societies.
And using our dependence on essential supplies to further their interests.

In Europe, we need the gas to flow from Russia to keep warm.
And prevent an energy crisis.
And we need the rare earth supplies from China to use our smartphones and computers.

To make our societies stronger,
our people and our institutions must be able to better resist and bounce back from attacks.
Our infrastructure must be more resilient.
And our supply chains more diverse and secure.
This must be a collective effort.
All Allies have a part to play.
Because we are only as strong as our weakest link.

Fourth, a global outlook.

NATO is, and will remain, an alliance of Europe and North America.

But our region faces global security challenges.
They require global awareness and global reach.

We cannot confine security to specific regions.
What happens far away, matters for us right here.

In fact, many of today’s threats are not restrained by geography, or lines on a map.
Cyber and terrorist attacks,
aggressive actions in space,
the use of hypersonic glide vehicles and
intercontinental ballistic missiles,
and climate change,
are truly global challenges.

Dealing with them requires working closely with like-minded partner countries around the world.
This is not just ‘nice to do’.
It is an absolute necessity.

We should intensify our cooperation with NATO’s partners in the Asia-Pacific.
Australia, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.
We should engage more also with other countries in Asia, Africa and Latin-America.

And we should further strengthen our cooperation with the European Union.
And all our partners in Europe.

We cannot ensure our security without working with others.
But together, we can shape the strategic landscape for the better.
Compete in a more competitive world.
And defend the rules-based international order against those that seek to undermine it.

Fifth, we need to build NATO as a strong institution.
NATO is a powerful idea.
Nations across Europe and North America coming together to defend one another.
And ensure our freedom and security.
‘One for all, all for one’.

But NATO is more than an idea. 
It is an idea nested in a strong institution.
This creates patterns of cooperation.
Cultural and personal links.
Integration on a scale that is hard to undo.

It has kept us all safe for over seven decades.
Never have so many people been so secure and so prosperous for so long.

We cannot predict the future, but we will learn the lessons from the past;
A strong alliance between Europe and North America is indispensable to our security, freedom and prosperity.  

So we must continue to invest in NATO.
Politically, militarily, and financially.
To make it even stronger.
So it can continue to withstand any crisis, and any changes in political weather.

Today, I look forward to also hearing your ideas for the next Strategic Concept.
And what you think should be NATO’s priorities going forward.

Thank you so much for your attention.


Secretary General, Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m Margarita Šešelgyte, from the Institute of International Relations and Political Science, Vilnius University, and I will be moderating this short session. Secretary General, thank you very much for your thought-provoking and very comprehensive speech. It just shows that despite all efforts of NATO to reinvent itself, to reform, the security challenges are increasing every day. You have mentioned cyber, China, challenges to democracy, and there always have been many challenges, security challenges around and NATO was able to adapt. And that’s why NATO remains the most successful Alliance in the history, most long-lived Alliance in the history. I remember in 2008, a political scientist, Peter van Ham, was attributing the success of NATO to ‘Madonna Curve’, as he said, referring to pop diva Madonna, who throughout her career was able to reinvent herself on a number of times. As he said, “Able to adapt to new tasks but sticking to the true principles.”

And looking at the Strategic Concept of NATO, is there any Madonna Curve . . . Madonna Moment in the new Strategic Concept and what it is?

JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]:

I don’t know. First of all, because I am not here to tell you exactly what is going to be in the next Strategic Concept, that’s for 30 Allies to discuss and then finally to decide, when we meet at the next summit in Madrid in 2022, next year.

But I am absolutely confident that when we agree the next Strategic Concept, it will once again demonstrate NATO’s ability to change, to adapt. Because, as you said, NATO is the most successful Alliance in history for two reasons. Partly because we have been able to stand together, despite the fact that we are different. We are 30 nations from both sides of the Atlantic with different histories, different culture, different political parties in power, and sometimes we also disagree. But we have always been able to unite around our core task: stand together, protect each other – one for all, all for one. That’s reason number one why we are successful.

The other reason is that we have been able to change. For 40 years we did one thing: we deterred the Soviet Union. And then the Soviet Union disappeared, or it was dissolved, the Cold War ended and people said, “Either NATO has to go out of business or out of area”. And we went out of area.

And then we helped to end two ethnic wars in the Balkans.

After 9/11, we have been on the frontline fighting terrorism.

And now, after 2014, we have changed again and reinforced, implemented the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War with the battlegroups in the Baltic countries, we’re tripling the size of the NATO Response Force, with increased defence spending, and also modernising the NATO command structure.

Now we need to change again. Partly, we continue to see a more assertive Russia, but also because we see more and more threats and challenges in cyber, in space. And the previous Strategic Concept, there we talk about Russia as a strategic partner. We don’t mention China with a single word. And we hardly mention cyber, hybrid and climate change.

So I’m confident that NATO will change – meaning that we will demonstrate the ability to once again adapt to a more complex, a more competitive world. And again, the environment we operate in is changing, NATO is changing, but the main idea is the same. And at this, we are safer together, North America and Europe, when we stand together than when we try alone.


Thank you. You have mentioned China, and it is very interesting because tensions in Indo-Pacific are increasing and the waves are coming to this region as well. Me being from Lithuania, I can feel these waves coming. And the question is: is China enough military and enough close to NATO to react to what’s happening in China and around?


So first of all, China is not an adversary. And the rise of China also poses and provides opportunities for NATO Allies, for our economies, for our markets. And the rise of China has also helped to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. And of course, this is important for all of us.

And we need to engage with China on issues like arms control. I spoke with the Chinese foreign minister and that was one of my messages, that China should actually be part of future arms control arrangements and, for instance, on climate change.

But at the same time, we need to realise that yes, China is, in many ways, far away, but China matters for our security. They will soon have the biggest economy in the world. They already have the second largest defence budget. They have the biggest navy. They are investing heavily in new, modern military capabilities, including hypersonic glide vehicles, expanding significantly their arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles. And of course, this is a global issue – it can reach all NATO territory. And then we also see that they are operating in cyberspace, in space – that matters for what’s going on the Earth. Also in this region, North America and Europe.

So this idea that, in a way, we can confine our security to only the Euro-Atlantic area, that doesn’t work anymore.

We are an Alliance of North America and Europe, but this Alliance, this region, is faced with global threats and challenges and the rise of China is one of them.

And therefore, we also need to work with partners to address that, including in the Asia-Pacific region.


Can China be a new Madonna Curve for NATO?


To be honest, I don’t know exactly what you mean by this ‘Madonna Curve’, but . . .


NATO’s ability to reinvent itself, to refocus.


Yeah, but I think that, I think of course NATO has to be focused, but I think the challenge now is that we cannot focus on one threat or one challenge. We don’t have the luxury of choosing. There are so many things at the same time. And we need to be prepared also for the unforeseen. So I remember the Cold War and there were many things that were dangerous and we disliked with the Cold War. But it was, in a way, a kind of clear and stable threat: it was the Soviet Union.

Now, there are many threats and challenges at the same time. Some are visible and clear and some are more covert and disguised. And we have the whole space and cyberspace domain. And we have, also, many different types of terrorists. So it’s this combination of many things at the same time. So I don’t think there will be one Madonna, there will be many. And that’s exactly what we need to address.


Thank you. Thank you very much for your answers. I don’t want to misuse my role as a moderator, I want to open the floor for the questions from the audience. I see one, two . . . probably we’ll take three, because we have, like, ten minutes. So, here Sandra, can you please introduce yourself? Do you have a microphone? A microphone is needed there.

SANDRA FERNANDES [University of Minho, Portugal]:

Thank you very much. Do you hear me?




Good morning, Mr Secretary General, it’s a pleasure to meet you in person. I’m Sandra Fernandes from Portugal, from the University of Minho. I would like to ask you a question about smallness in NATO. Smallness doesn’t mean the same thing for all small Allies and partners. And for a country, as Portugal, with the geopolitical refocus on the East, on the Indo-Pacific, there is a lost of geopolitical purpose, somehow, in the Alliance.

And I would like to ask you, how do you see the capacity of the next Strategic Concept to mobilise traditional Allies who are there, on the same ground and values, but who would try, as an EU member state as well, to build capacities. But as a small member state with small companies, Portugal is not very competitive and is focussing on niches. Is that enough for you, as a contribute, and how do you see other small member states contributing to the next Concept? Thank you very much.


Thank you. Shall we go one by one?


Yeah, OK. It’s nothing wrong by being small. There are many nice small countries in NATO, including my own. So, and the beauty of NATO is that we actually bring together 30 Allies, some small, medium-sized, others big. And we sit around the same table and make decisions together. And I value very much the contributions, also, from the smaller and medium-sized Allies. And more than that, I also know that, for instance, the biggest Ally, the United States, they value the fact that they in NATO have 29 friends and Allies.  Because when they face a more competitive world, when they see also the rise of China, they realise that NATO is not only good for Europe, but NATO is also good for North America and the United States. Because that together we represent 50% of the world’s GDP and 50% of the world’s military might. Then I strongly believe that also small nations can be competitive, and small nations have  excelled and demonstrated their capacity, both in the defence domain but also in other domains. Of course, they cannot be competitive in all areas, in all industries, but they can specialise and they can be part of a broader effort. And one of the things we’ve actually tried to do with, for instance, the increased focus on technology, we have established something called DIANA – an accelerator for innovation –, and a new Innovation Fund is also to help and stimulate smaller Allies to be part of this huge technological development which is taking place.

I have to be brief, because I understand there are more questions.


Two questions at least. We have somewhere there, yeah..

GARNETT GENUIS [Member of Canadian Parliament]:

Hi there. It’s a pleasure to be here. My name is Garnett Genuis, I’m a Member of Parliament from Canada. Two quick questions. Number one, if NATO is to be a community of values, is it necessary to have a mechanism for expelling members who fall below a certain democratic threshold?

And secondly, you spoke about responding to global threats and yet still being a Euro-Atlantic Alliance. Is there an argument for NATO simply stepping beyond its Euro-Atlantic identity to become a truly global Alliance, admitting members in the Indo-Pacific and changing its orientation in that respect? Thank you.


I think it’s important to distinguish between becoming a global Alliance and having a global approach.

NATO will remain an Alliance of North America and Europe, and I will not recommend any change in that. And I don’t expect Allies will agree to anything else. And we will remain, as it’s in the Washington Treaty that NATO is an Alliance for Europe and Canada and the United States. And I don’t expect any change in that. So NATO will remain an Alliance for European nations and for Canada and the United States.

But this big region, the North Atlantic region, is faced with big global challenges. And that’s actually nothing new. International terrorism after 9/11 brought NATO to the border of China in Afghanistan and we have been there for 20 years.

Cyber attacks are global. So, when we say that also the rise of China is a global challenge, it’s not fundamentally anything new for NATO. So it is this . . . we will not become a global Alliance, meaning having members from all over the world, from Asia or Asia-Pacific or Africa, and then extend, in a way, the reach of Article 5.

But yes, we will be an Alliance that has to address global challenges and have a global approach, meaning also working with Allies far away: New Zealand, Australia, Japan, South Korea and many other, Colombia is a supporter of NATO in Latin America.

So, no, we will not become a global Alliance, we will remain an Alliance of North America and Europe with a global approach, working with global partners all over the world, if that makes any sense for you.

Then, NATO doesn’t have any mechanism to expel members, and I will not recommend that to be introduced in our founding treaty, in the Washington Treaty. Second, even if I recommended it, it will never happen, because we need consensus to do that. And I don’t think that will promote our values.

I think, it’s better to use NATO as a platform, also to have honest and frank discussions when we are concerned about whether all Allies meet the democratic standards. It’s better to then sit there, addressing those issues in an, in an open way, and raise our concerns. I have raised my concerns when I travelled around to some Allied countries about to what extent they live up to our democratic values of the rule of law, individual liberty. If these countries were expelled, then that platform would never, would no longer exist. So I think it’s better to keep NATO with all the members and then to raise our concerns and our issues on democratic standards within the Alliance.


Thank you, Madam President?


Thank you and hello. First, I want to congratulate you on steering NATO and us all through an unpredictable period with a Concept, which prepared for a much more predictable world. And my question comes from that. Next Concept – we have to take into account that there is even less visibility and that the risks we face are far closer linked civil society, breaking our societies by misinformation, also economical attempts to take over our capabilities to decide, politically biased capital – all this.

Where should NATO draw a line in taking these developments into account, but also saying, “We will deal with the basic job of NATO, these elements are for some other bodies to look at”? Thank you.


Thank you so much. It’s great to see you again. And first of all, I think you point out something which is of great importance and that is that: before, security was very much about military threats and also military responses to military threats.

Now, security is much more complex and it is much more about covert and overt aggressive actions, against cyber, hybrid is . . . are examples of that. And we also see, as I mentioned in my speech, the importance of our infrastructure, strong societies. We had a big discussion about 5G that started as a kind of only financial or economic issue, then Allies realised that that also had some serious security consequences. Energy supplies, the same. So there’s a much more blurred line between civilian and military threats and challenges, and also then civilian and military responses.

And therefore, NATO does not have all the tools in the toolkit to address all these different challenges and especially those who are a bit mixed.

There are many reasons, many things that means for NATO. It partly means that we need also to address, for instance, resilience – strong societies. And we are stepping up. And this is, of course, a national responsibility to make sure that you have reliable infrastructure, that your societies are strong. But it is also a collective responsibility, and it’s enshrined in Article 3 of the NATO Treaty. So building resilience, developing guidelines, setting standards, using NATO as a platform is part of the response to that.

Another element of that response is to work with the European Union, because the European Union has many of those tools. And then, when we work together, of course, we are much stronger and we have much more tools in our toolkit together. And for me, it was a great privilege to travel together with Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission to Lithuania and Latvia on Sunday. To be honest, it’s actually the first time ever a NATO Secretary General travels with a President of the European Commission. And for me, that just demonstrates that we have been able to lift, over the last years the NATO-EU cooperation, to unprecedented levels. I’m proud of that. It’s a great thing. We should continue. We should push and we should do more together, NATO and the European Union. Because we live in the same neighbourhood, we face the same threats and the same challenges. More than 90 percent of the people living in the European Union, they live in a NATO country. So we are there together.

But, of course, also more than 60%. . . how should I put it? So, almost 60% of NATO’s GDP is outside the European Union. So we need also NATO policies on these issues to encompass all NATO Allies.

But we need to work with the European Union. And that’s something I look forward to and we was working on a Joint Declaration, a 3rd Joint Declaration with the EU presidents to chart a way forward.

Then I see that a lot of protocol people are now very nervous, so I feel this is going towards an end, but it was great to see you.


Thank you. Thank you very much, Secretary General, indeed, for a very open speech and very open answers. Maybe my questions sometimes were too, you know, too academic.

JENS STOLTENBERG: Advanced, advanced! Yeah.


Academic. But I wish you lots of success with the Strategic Concept and lots of Madonna Moments for NATO . . .



. . . in the future. Thank you. Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: Thank you so much.