by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the first Strategic Concept seminar: Deterrence and Defence in the XXI century

  • 13 Dec. 2021 -
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  • Last updated 16-Dec-2021 15:53

(As delivered)

Thank you so much, Sarah.
It is great to see you all.
Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It’s great to be at this first of four seminars on NATO’s next Strategic Concept.
We may not be in London as planned,
but as NATO always does, we are able to adapt. So we have adapted and now we have the seminar in this room.

I would like to start by thanking Minister of State James Cleverly and the United Kingdom for hosting this important seminar.

And also our co-hosts,
Minister Mariusz Błaszczak from Poland,
And Secretary of State Francisco André from Portugal.
I am very grateful to you all.

Second only to the Washington Treaty, NATO’s Strategic Concept is key to our success.
It sets out a shared vision of the threats, and challenges and opportunities that we face.
It helps us prioritise and chart our future adaptation as an Alliance.

The 2010 Strategic Concept has served us well.
But times change.
For example, our current Strategic Concept states that “the Euro-Atlantic area is at peace”.
But today we cannot take peace for granted.

We live in an age of systemic competition.
Democracy and freedom are under pressure.
Authoritarian regimes are pushing back on the international rules-based order.
Promoting alternative models of governance.
Using propaganda and disinformation to undermine our societies.
And malicious cyber tools to interfere in our elections.

The Russian regime is aggressive abroad and oppressive at home.
It has massively expanded its military presence from the Barents Sea to the Mediterranean.
Its military build-up on Ukraine’s borders,
with around a hundred thousand troops, heavy armour, drones and missiles,
is of great concern.

Any Russian aggression will come at a high price.
With serious political and economic consequences for Russia.

Meanwhile, China is using its economic and military might to control its own people and coerce other countries.

It is expanding its global footprint.
And it is investing heavily in new technologies.
Like Artificial Intelligence,
and hypersonic gliders, which we saw successfully tested this summer.

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.

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

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

To do this, three things are key.

  1. Strong, capable forces.
  2. Robust, resilient societies.
  3. And a global perspective.

First, a capable and effective military.

Military readiness has always been central to NATO’s mission.
And it always will be.
We currently have battle groups in the Baltic countries and Poland.
And 40,000 troops in the expanded NATO Response Force.

We need to build on this progress.
Increasing defence spending.
Investing in major equipment and new technologies.
And making sure we have the right forces,
with the right skills,
in the right place,
at the right time.

We must continue to invest in the capabilities to deter and defend ourselves on land, in the air and at sea.
But we must also be able to do so in cyberspace and in outer space.
Areas that will be of critical importance in future conflicts.

The next Strategic Concept should also reaffirm the central role of our nuclear deterrent.
And our nuclear-sharing arrangements.
The nuclear weapons we share in NATO provide European Allies with an effective nuclear umbrella.
And they are an important signal of Allied unity against any nuclear-armed adversary.

NATO’s long-term goal is a world without nuclear weapons.
But as long as nuclear weapons exist,
NATO will remain a nuclear Alliance.

The new Concept should also highlight NATO’s long-standing commitment to arms control, disarmament, and non-proliferation.
This is a vital for our deterrence and defence.
And it must continue to be so in the future.

Second, to have a strong deterrence and defence we need strong societies.

Societal disruption can be quick and easy.
It only takes a click of a button to shut down our networks.
A tweet to spread disinformation to our citizens.
And a pandemic to paralyse our economies.

Our competitors or potential adversaries are exploiting our digital dependence.
They are investing heavily in our critical infrastructure,
from ports and airports to power stations and 5G networks,
as a way to interfere in our societies and undermine our security.

And they are using our reliance on essential supplies,
Such as gas and rare earth minerals,
to further their economic and political interests.

To make our societies stronger,
our infrastructure must be more resilient.
Our supply chains more diverse and secure.
And our people and our institutions better able to resist and bounce back from attacks.

We need to use NATO to better coordinate military and non-military responses to hybrid attacks.
And come together to quickly assess, attribute and act,
so we can better defend, deny and contest attacks on our security.

The need for national resilience is rooted in Article 3 of the Washington Treaty.
All Allies have a part to play.
As does NATO.
Ensuring minimum standards of resilience among Allies.
This is a collective responsibility.
Because we are only as strong as our weakest link.

To build strong societies, it is especially important that NATO and the European Union work closely together.
Building on our respective strengths.

Finally, the third thing we need to maintain an effective deterrence and defence,
is a global awareness and reach.

NATO is an alliance of Europe and North America.
But our region faces global challenges.

Many of today’s threats,
from cyber-attacks and hypersonic gliders,
to international terrorism and climate change,
are not restrained by geography or by lines on a map.
And of course, the rise of China also has a clear impact on our security.

So in a more competitive world, a global approach is not just a ‘nice to have’.
It is also an absolute necessity.
We must be prepared to defend against all threats and all challenges.

This means retaining a global reach,
with the capability to deploy military force wherever threats to our people and our territories may arise.
And it means working closely with like-minded partners across the globe and in Europe,
including with the European Union.

We live in a time of uncertainty.
We cannot predict the next crisis.
So we need a strategy to deal with uncertainty.
We have one.
‘One for all, all for one’.
Thirty nations from across Europe and North America,
committed to defend one another.

But NATO is more than a commitment.
It is an institution with deep patterns of cooperation between our countries.
As well as cultural and personal relationships.
And it has kept us safe for over seven decades.

Never have so many people been so secure and so prosperous for so long.

We must continue to strengthen NATO.
So it can withstand any crisis,
deter any foe,
and resist any changes in the political winds.

Stronger, capable armed forces.
Robust, resilient societies.
And a global approach.

Europe and North America together in NATO.
This is how we will deter and defend against any threat in the decades to come.

Thank you.