by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Munich Security Conference session ''Hand in hand: Transatlantic and European Security''

  • 19 Feb. 2022 -
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  • Last updated: 19 Feb. 2022 13:42

(As delivered)

Thank you so much Ursula for those kind words.
And thank you also so much for our very close cooperation over these years.
The relationship and the cooperation between NATO and the European Union has never been closer and that’s not least because of your commitment to bringing this relationship so close together and strengthening the transatlantic bond by working together with NATO.

And also many thanks to Minister-President Söder for your warm welcome here in Munich. And also for informing me that you have danced with President von der Leyen. I have never had the courage, but now maybe.
And many thanks to you, Wolfgang, for your outstanding leadership of the Munich Security Conference,
and for this prestigious award.
I am really and greatly honoured.

Ewald von Kleist championed the transatlantic alliance.
He saw the value of Europe and North America standing together to keep us all safe.

His message is as important today.
These are dangerous days for Europe.  

Russia has relentlessly massed troops in and around Ukraine,
in the biggest military build-up since the Cold War. 
We do not know what will happen.
But the risk for conflict is real.

NATO Allies continue their strong diplomatic efforts to find a political solution.

However, despite Moscow’s claims, we have seen no sign of withdrawal or de-escalation so far.
On the contrary, Russia’s build-up continues.

We continue to monitor very closely.
We call on Russia to do what it says, and withdraw its forces from the borders of Ukraine.

This will be an important first step towards a peaceful solution.

It is not too late for Russia to change course.

To step back from the brink.
Stop preparing for war.
And start working for a peaceful solution.

NATO remains ready to engage in a substantive dialogue with Moscow.

To take meaningful reciprocal steps that can improve security for all countries in

And for Russia too.

We have made written proposals to Moscow.

To reduce risks and increase transparency of military activities.
Address space and cyber threats.
And engage on arms control,
including on nuclear weapons and missiles.

This is a substantial agenda,
where we believe it is possible to find common ground.

So I have invited Russia and all NATO Allies to a series of meetings of the NATO-Russia Council.
And I reiterated my invitation in a letter that I sent to Minister Lavrov on Thursday.

The current crisis is about more than Ukraine.

There is much at stake.
Relations between NATO and Russia.
European and transatlantic security.
And ultimately the question of how we wish to organise relations between states. 

Moscow is attempting to roll back history.
And recreate its spheres of influence.

It wants to limit NATO’s right to collective defence.

And demands that we should remove all our forces and infrastructure from the countries that joined NATO after the fall of the Berlin Wall.  

But let me be clear.

There is no first class NATO members in the west of our Alliance.
And second class NATO members to the east.

We are all NATO Allies.

And we stand as one.
And we will always do what is necessary to protect and defend each other.

Moscow also wants to deny sovereign countries the right to choose their own path.
And their own security arrangements.

For Ukraine - but also for other countries, such as Finland and Sweden.

And for the first time, we now see Beijing joining Moscow in calling on NATO to stop admitting new members.

It is an attempt to control the fate of free nations.
To rewrite the international rulebook.
And impose their own authoritarian models of governance.

The current crisis demonstrates the importance of the transatlantic relationship for European security.

Two World Wars and the Cold War has taught us that there is no real security in Europe without a strong transatlantic bond.

Standing together in NATO, Europe and America will continue to keep the peace and protect our democratic way of life.
As we have done for more than 70 years.

NATO is a defensive Alliance.
We are not threatening Russia or anyone else.

But we will take all necessary measures to protect and defend all Allies.

This is why in response to Russia’s pattern of aggressive actions,
we have been strengthening our deterrence and defence across the Alliance.

To avoid any miscalculation or misunderstanding about our ironclad commitment to defend each other.

So if Kremlin’s aim is to have less NATO on Russia’s borders, it will only get more NATO.

And if it wants to divide NATO, it will only get an even more united Alliance.  

Over the last years, our security environment has fundamentally changed for the worse.  

Peace cannot be taken for granted.  Freedom and democracy are contested.
And strategic competition is on the rise.

This is a new normal.
And we must be prepared.
And do everything we can to keep the bond between America and Europe as strong as ever.

After the experience of horrors of war, Ewald von Kleist knew that Europe and America together was the guarantee of lasting peace.

It still is to this day.

By standing together, we can and will keep our people safe.
Protect our core values and principles.
And uphold the rules-based international order.

Thank you.


Chair of the Munich Security Conference Wolfgang Ischinger: Thank you so much, Jens, Mr. Secretary General. Thank you to both of you, Madam President and you, Mr. Secretary General for your presentations.

We've had a long standing tradition at the Munich Security Conference that at the Main Event on Sunday morning, the first question always goes to François Heisbourg of France. And now François has informed me, I think late last night, that he has actually tested positive. He was already in Munich, so he's now somewhere in quarantine, I guess. But he has sent me overnight the question he had intended to ask by raising his arm as the first one. So this is my privilege now to present his question as the first one. So François, I'm sure you're listening.

The question is actually asked of the President of the EU Commission, but I think it's also a question that you would want to respond to, and I quote: Are the European Union and its Member States ready to jointly and severally, together and separately, express their support of a possible candidacy of any of the European Union's Members to join the Atlantic Alliance? For those who are not so familiar with this, this is a question about, for example, Finland, a question for example of Sweden. So, Madam President.

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen: First of all, I think it's a very good sign, dear Jens, that Ambassador Ischinger asked this question to the European Union, President of the Commission. So it's not to me, or for me, to judge about internal issues of NATO. But of course, I'm very willing to answer this. Because indeed, I've been watching at my time as.. the five years as defense minister, being of course in the Alliance of NATO, how very close the cooperation, for example, with Sweden and Finland already is of NATO.

First and foremost, it is the decision of the people of Sweden and Finland what they want to do and which kind of alliances or partnerships they prefer. But then, of course, I've witnessed that there is a long standing, excellent cooperation between NATO and those members of the European Union. Many missions, they are participating in joint capabilities we’re developing. So you are always, of course, emphasizing, rightly so, that there is an open door policy at NATO. And therefore, now after having spoken for the members of the European Union, I throw the ball to you Jens, to speak about NATO itself.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Thank you so much, Ursula. And I think the fact that we can answer this question together just demonstrates how close the relationship is between the European Union and NATO. And also between Ursula and me.

As you said, Ursula, the thing is that it is enshrined in NATO's Founding Treaty, the Washington Treaty,  in Article 10, that we have an open door. That European countries can join NATO. But this is, an enlargement of NATO in the last decades has been a great success. It has helped to spread democracy, freedom throughout Europe and actually also paved the way for further EU enlargement, demonstrating how closely we work together. So in that sense, NATO's open door has been a success and NATO’s door remains open.

The important message is that it is for individual countries in Europe to decide whether they aspire for membership, they want to belong to NATO, or they do not want to belong to NATO. That's for them to decide. Therefore, we respect those countries that aspire for membership. We sit down and we look into how can we help them with reforms so they meet the NATO standard and can join at some stage.

But we also respect if they decide not to apply. So for instance, when Finland and Sweden have decided that they are not applying for membership, of course we respect also that decision.

I'm not speculating about the likelihood of Finland, Sweden, changing their mind. I think that's very much for Finland and Sweden to decide. That's the main point. And as a Norwegian, I will be very careful giving advice to the Swedes, and the Fins. So we trust the Swedes and the Fins. They decide. As long as they decide to stay outside, we are very happy to have a very close cooperation with both countries.

Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger: Great, thank you very much to both of you. Now, those of you who wish to ask a question there are two ways of doing that. First… by just waving and making yourself known to me or by using the electronic manner. I have a tablet here which would show me questions that are being typed electronically. So use the opportunity. Who wish who wishes to raise the first question? I think this is Nathalie Tocci, if I'm not mistaken. Natalie, microphone is coming.

Nathalie Tocci: Question to President von der Leyen. As your second keyword, you mentioned diversification. And it was the word that had disappeared from the European lexicon for a while. Energy security diversification had really not been talked about for quite some time. How do you square the circle, if there is a circle to be squared, between the return of energy security to the debate, through diversification, and your landmark, sort of, your trademark for this Commission, which of course is the European Green Deal?

President of the European Commission: Yes, thank you very much. I, of course, focus as your question should indicate, on our dependency, first of all, on Russian gas. Just to give you figures round about 24% overall in the energy mix of the European Union is gas. We import 90% of this gas. And 40% of this import is Russian gas. So quite a high dependency. It's very different from member state to member state. For example, as France is relying on nuclear energy, they are not at all dependent on Russian gas. Other member states, for example Italy or Germany, have a more intense dependency on Russian gas.

What we've seen over the last six months is that Gazprom has delivered always at the lowest level. They pay or deliver. So often they've chosen the payment instead of to deliver gas. And the storage is, of Gazprom in our storages, is a 10-year low this year. And this at a time as I said where we have skyrocketing prices and demand, it's a strange behaviour of a company who normally would maximize their profits by delivering more and storing better for winter to come.

Therefore, we have decided to do everything possible to get rid of this dependency. And we've reached out to our friends who are suppliers of LNG gas. First and foremost, the United States that really helped a lot also to reach out globally, but also to other suppliers of LNG.

Actually, it helps us that we've done our homework since 2014, the annexation of Crimea, because we've built LNG terminals, and more important, we have now a network of pipelines and electricity interconnectors throughout Europe, so that wherever you have the gas, you can display it all over the European Union. Partially also reverse flow, for example, to Ukraine, to support Ukraine with energy demands.

And now to the second part of your question. For the moment being, we won't be able to replace the Russian gas with LNG deliveries that we get from our friends all over the world. And we are supported actually also by buyers, like Japan or South Korea, who are willing to swap contract with us so that ships with LNG gas or de-routed to the European Union.

Now LNG gas remains fossil fuel without any question. The advantage is that the infrastructure that we use with the LNG, or any kind of gas, is over time suitable and fit for purpose for green hydrogen. And therefore now our work goes on. We had yesterday the EU-Africa Summit to.. into looking towards the Global South. They have in abundance sun, and wind, and hydropower. They need the infrastructure, but they are to have over time the development of a solid green hydrogen infrastructure using the pipelines we do have already in place, and thus giving a complete different business case to the Global South, our African friends for example. Of course, green hydrogen for the European Union too. And I can only say these renewable energies, they are clean and therefore good for the planet, but they are also home grown, and therefore good for our independence.

Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger: Thank you, Madam President. I see a couple of more questions before I go to you, let me use my privilege of being the moderator here to turn to Jens Stoltenberg again. Jens, you'll be leaving NATO toward the end of this year, as I understand. And I want to remind you that as the future Head of the Norwegian Central Bank, like all the other recipients of the Ewald von Kleist Award, you will have a standing invitation to the Munich Security Conference. It’s one of the reasons why Javier is always here each year. And I hope you'll be with us again.

Here's my question: Eight years ago, in 2014, NATO decided to define, as a collective goal, this famous 2% goal. Let's assume the worst case, namely that we're going to have some degree of military confrontation in coming days, weeks, months. As you prepare your own departure from NATO in coming months, would you think that the 2% objective, goal, which was a goal for 2024, 10-year goal, is going to be good enough? Or is NATO going to have to say: under these circumstances, we're actually going to have to, you know, take it up another notch?

NATO Secretary General: Well, I think what happens now just underlines how important it was, back in 2014, to make the decision to go to 2%. And then, I think we should deliver on that first. And then we can discuss the next steps after that. Because what has happened is that before 2014 defense budgets were going down across Europe and Canada, in almost all Allied countries, year by year. Because after the end of the Cold War, European countries thought that they could spend less on defence. And I was part of that myself. I was Prime Minister and Minister of Finance in Norway, and for many years, we cut defense spending.

But then, after the illegal annexation of Crimea and what happened in Europe in 2014, things changed. And the good thing is that all Allies actually realized that we need to do something different. And the most important different thing that we had to do, was to invest more. And since 2014, all Allies in Europe and Canada have increased defense spending every year. And they have, in total, added 270 billion extra for defense.

And of course this is not only about money, but it's about capabilities. Because with this money you can buy drones, and planes, and battle tanks, readiness, and exercises, and a lot of important stuff. The main reason to do this is not to provoke a war, but to prevent the war.

And I think that, what is happening now demonstrate that our strength, the fact that we can deploy more troops at high readiness to the eastern part of the Alliance, is the way to send a very clear message to Moscow that we are there to protect and defend our Allies. An attack on one will be regarded as an attack on all. And that's exactly the best way to prevent any armed attack on any NATO Ally. So, well, it just demonstrates that what the decision-makers in 2014 decided. They were wise and forward looking. And former Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, is somewhere in the audience, and he was responsible then, and many others have been part of that big transformation of NATO.

Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger: Thank you. Thank you very much. Now I think the first raised hand I saw was Dr. Chipman of IISS. John.

John Chipman: Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, in the last seven or eight years as IISS has transparently recognized in our famous volume the military balance. The Russians have massively modernized their conventional armed forces, introduced lots of technologies and much more professional army. But in that time as well they have been modernizing their nuclear weapons, adding more capabilities, changed their doctrine. And only in the next few days, we might see the formal change of the Belarus constitution that would permit the stationing of nuclear weapons in Belarus. Against that background, what would you judge to be the first two or three priorities of the NATO Nuclear Planning Group, and what place would nuclear strategy have in NATO’s new Strategic Concept?

And a caveat for the President of the European Commission. IISS, which is now happy to have a Europe office in Berlin, is working on the subject of green defense. And I wonder, as the President of a geopolitical Commission, what collaboration we would be able to have with the European Commission to ensure that militaries continue to green their operations while maintaining their effectiveness? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: Well, I think you're absolutely right. What we have seen over the last years is that Russia has invested heavily in modernizing their nuclear capabilities, they have changed a nuclear doctrines. And they have actually lowered the threshold for use of nuclear weapons in armed conflict. This is something of course we are taking very seriously. And therefore, I think it's important that we maintain our NATO nuclear deterrent, that we make sure that we keep it safe, and secure, and effective.

And also, I think it also demonstrates that what we are in favour of is balanced, reciprocal, verifiable arms control, also when it comes to nuclear weapons. But we are not in favour of unilateral nuclear disarmament from the NATO side. NATO's goal is a world without nuclear weapons. But the world where we get rid of our nuclear weapons and China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, and so on, they keep their weapons, that is not a safer world. That's a more dangerous world. So, yes, we believe in the world without nuclear weapons, but the only way to get there is through verifiable, balanced arms control. And that's exactly what NATO is working for.

President of the European Commission: Yes, thank you. So, John, I think whatever, if you look at the defense sector, whatever is rolling, flying, or swimming needs energy. Energy is the core of any kind of European Green Deal or Global Green Deal to fight climate change. And therefore, I was.. the other answer already, reflecting over changing our posture of energy supply. And whatever goes for fighter jets, as well as any kind of airplanes, goes for cars or armoured vehicles, you name it, that you have to change the approach of the energy you use. Not the dirty, carbon heavy, fossil fuel energies, but the renewables, clean ones and for example, the prospect of hydrogen is a highly interesting one to work with.

And therefore, there is quite a lot of [inaudible] in it. It is a fascinating business case. Because for us is important. We know we have to fight climate change, otherwise, we're all doomed. And therefore, if we invest in the innovation, if we invest in clean energy, if we invest in a different way to produce and to consume, we will be the innovators who export them these technologies. It's a big topic of innovation. And therefore, it is for us not only something which is so important for the climate itself, but it's a very clear business case. It's our new growth strategy.

Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger: Alright, I've seen a few raised hands. The one I know is Stefan Kornelius of Süddeutschen Zeitung. So Stefan, please.

Stefan Kornelius: Thank you. It's a question to the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. Since you're displaying unity between the EU and NATO on the stage, why did the EU not call for an earlier meeting on the Heads of States? That was now a special summit [inaudible] the African Union, a meeting just a few hours ago. But this crisis is boiling for, I don't know, two months at least. And we haven't seen Heads of States unifying, or at least finding some coherent strategy, on sort of the reaction of the day after.

President of the European Commission: So how are we working? Since many, many weeks, six to eight weeks now, we are preparing for this looming crisis, which is unfortunately, since then, always going in the wrong direction with a massive build-up of troops that has not stopped.

And of course, there is a very strong alignment between the European Union, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, on a regular basis. We have by now, in the last weeks, once or twice a week of VTC. Or yesterday evening, for example, a telephone call together. The countries, Joe Biden, Justin Trudeau, Boris Johnson, some of our leaders like Olaf Scholz, Emmanuel Macron, Mario Draghi, you were, of course yesterday, also you are on a regular basis in these sessions.

This is to align on a regular basis, on all the necessary steps we have to take. What are these steps? The Commission has developed a robust and comprehensive package together with the United States, UK and Canada of financial sanctions. That in case that Russia strikes, we will limit the access to the financial markets for Russia, for the Russian economy and export controls that will stop the possibility for Russia to modernize and diversify its economy.

And we have a lot of high tech goods, where we have a global dominance and that are absolutely necessary for Russia and cannot be replaced easily. We also prepare, in this group, for example, what is the state of cyber attack, robustness and resilience we have within our system, but also supporting Ukraine. We are preparing for potential refugees coming. We are preparing on all sorts of fields. I've been referring to the energy field. The other friends and allies goes on since weeks and weeks and weeks, and that's where the core of the work is. That's where the bulk of the results is coming from now.

Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger: Thank you very much. We have less than five minutes to go. I have one question on my tablet here, which is addressed to Secretary General of NATO, comes from Clemens Wergin, who is a journalist with Die Welt, a German newspaper. This goes to Mr. Stoltenberg. I'm quoting: How can the West counter, in the realm of informational measures, what seems to be Russian false flag operations in Donbass?

NATO Secretary General: To expose what they do. And that's exactly what we have done. Because we have been very open, transparent on the information we have received, intelligence and other types of information, both, about the Russian military build-up and it is, as I said, as Ursula has said, this actually started several months ago, this fall. And we all did then warn, both that we saw a build-up going, taking place but also of the plans of further building up. And what we predicted back then has actually happened.

Second, we have also been very transparent on the attempts by Russia to create a pretext, to create a situation that they will use as an excuse for attacking Ukraine. And we have seen some attempts. We have seen some very dangerous situations. And also what we see taking place now just adds to that picture of concern that they are trying to create a pretext for an invasion.

But the reason why we have been so transparent, the United States, other Allies and NATO, is that we believe that when we expose these plans, we make it harder for them to do what they're planning to do. So the reason to expose is to prevent that from happening, what they're planning to do.

We are extremely concerned because we see that they continue. They continue to build up, they continue to prepare. And we have never in Europe seen, since the end of the Cold War, such a large concentration of combat ready troops. And of course that sends a very, very ominous or dangerous signal to all of us.

Let me add one more thing, Wolfgang, and that is that, you know, what they do in Russia now is partly to amass the troops. But they've also put forward claims, demands not only to Ukraine, but also to NATO. They have demanded that we should leave our enshrined commitment to open door. And they have demanded that we should remove all NATO troops and forces from almost half of the member states. And then they have said that if we don't meet those demands, they have repeatedly said that there will be what they call military-technical consequences. So the danger is now the combination of this massive military build-up with the very threatening rhetoric, putting forward demands they know we cannot meet and say if we don't meet them, there will be military consequences. So this is a step change. This is a new normal that you have Russia which is openly contesting core values for European security. And then demonstrating their will to use force, or the threat of force, to get there. And that's the reason why this is so extremely important that we are united, Europe and North America, working closely with the European Union. But also that we actually have demonstrated our commitment with increased military presence in eastern part of the Alliance.

Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger: Thank you, Jens. I think we have a minute left. I saw a question from the very back of the room. If you can turn this into a very quick question, and if we can get a very quick response, then we're still good. This is Robin Niblett, I didn't recognize your face, so, Robin.

Robin Niblett: I want to ask a question that maybe mirrors what François Heisbourg asked at the beginning, which was interesting. He asked a question to Ursula von der Leyen whether she would support NATO enlargement. I suppose, I’d flip the question and say: is this not a time to be talking about accelerating Ukrainian membership of the EU? And as we have the two leaders of these two institutions side by side, one of the biggest threats obviously to Russia's interest, Ukraine, will be a much closer relationship with the European Union. So, Secretary General of NATO would you support an acceleration of the process of negotiation for enlargement to Ukraine to the European Union?

NATO Secretary General: It's not for me to decide. I actually tried to convince the Norwegians to join EU and I didn't succeed. So, I think I should be very careful giving advice to others.

But the principle still applies. That of course it is for individual countries in Europe to decide whether they want to belong to NATO, or they want to belong to the EU. And then, there is for the members of NATO to decide whether they can join our Alliance. And then for the members of EU to decide whether they can join EU. That’s the principle and that is what is contested now. Because [inaudible] absolutely possible to have different views whether NATO or the EU should have this or that new member, but this is not the issue. The issue is whether that is a decision to be made by those individual countries, and the members of the organizations, or whether Russia has a veto to decide what neighbours can do or not do. That's to re-establish sphere of influence. We don't believe in that. We don't believe in going back in history. We believe in free, independent nations making their own free democratic choices.

Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. It's reassuring to me, and I'm sure to many in the room, to see how well NATO and the European Union work hand in hand. Let me propose that we offer a round of applause to our two speakers.

And of course, most importantly, to congratulate Jens Stoltenberg again on receiving the Award.

Ladies and gentlemen, please don't leave the room because within literally seconds or a minute at maximum we're going to have Chancellor Scholz coming in and continuing the program. So stay put, if you could. Thank you very much.