by NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană at the Hudson Institute in Washington D.C.

  • 11 May. 2022 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 12 May. 2022 18:02

(As delivered)

Kenneth R. Weinstein (Hudson Institute): …NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană to Hudson today for a discussion entitled NATO and Russia’s War on Ukraine. These are, of course, momentous times in history and especially in NATO’s history. Not too long ago, as we all recall, following transatlantic disputes over burden sharing and the value of Article 5, with no less a leader than French President Emmanuel Macron declaring NATO ‘brain dead’, some thought that NATO’s time may have passed.

Seeing what he perceived to be major tensions at the heart of the Atlantic Alliance and thinking a weak Western response would result, Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine only to find a massive and largely united transatlantic Alliance. As we head into the historic Madrid summit, seven and a half weeks away at the end of June, we see a reinvigorated NATO with member countries proudly aiding Ukraine, spending more on defence, especially Germany after the Zeitenwende, the US bringing new capabilities into the region, with Sweden and Finland on the verge of major decisions to ask to join the Alliance. And at the Madrid summit as well, we will see the first new NATO Strategic Concept unveiled since 2010.

What are the priorities for the Alliance? What is NATO’s role in Ukraine? What are the broad outlines that we’re likely to see in the NATO ’22 Strategic Concept? I can’t think of a better interlocutor than Deputy Secretary General Geoană to be with us today. He is, of course, the first Deputy Secretary from one of the former Warsaw Pact nations. He’s well known here in Washington: friend of Hudson Institute; former Romanian ambassador to the US; former President of the Romanian Senate; Chairperson of the OSCE. Dr Geoană founded and served as President of the Aspen Institute, Romania. It’s just an honour and a pleasure to welcome you to Hudson Institute. Thank you so much for being here. And also thank you to your colleagues in NATO for bringing this event about.

NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană: Thank you so much, Ken, I would like to thank the Hudson Institute for welcoming me and then hosting me again. I remember with great pleasure our encounter two years ago. So I’m very pleased to be at the Hudson Institute today. Your institute does impactful research, including on matters that have great relevance to NATO and to the transatlantic partnership. So it’s truly an honour to speak to all of you today. And like always, it’s a pleasure to be in the US, it’s a pleasure to be in Washington – my younger years, as ambassador here, and every time I come back to Washington, it’s like coming back home. Thank you for hosting me again.

But this time I came ahead of an important NATO summit, but also in the midst of the most transformative situation in European geopolitics, security and history in more than a generation. I was here to meet US officials to discuss the current, indeed very challenging, security context and how to see how Europe and North America, in NATO, together can better deal with the more dangerous security environment in Europe but also around the world.

I tell my interlocutors, just like I’m telling all of you today, that US leadership in NATO has been outstanding and it remains indispensable for our collective security. But even the US alone cannot tackle some of the global challenges we face. Geopolitical competition is fierce; brutal terrorism persists; cyberattacks are more complex and sophisticated; new technologies pose opportunities but also dangers; energy is a weapon of war; and climate disruptions are crises multipliers.

To deal with these challenges “it’s good to have friends”, as NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg said in his speech to the Joint Session of Congress in 2019. In the NATO family, the US has 29 – possibly more – of its best allies and friends, and a very broad network of close partners also round the world. The support for the transatlantic bond is very strong. And I’m very happy to notice that in the US public opinion, NATO is high in the public opinion surveys. In 2021, 85% of the citizens polled in the US believed the relationship between North America and Europe is important to deal with security challenges – that’s significant. That’s bipartisan. And this goes across political families or political cycles. That’s the glue of our Alliance.

And NATO embodies this bond. It is a unique forum that brings our 30 nations together to consult, decide and act on security issues that affect us all. Our unity, as Ken has said, is our greatest strength. And we know that in the long history of NATO since 1949, not everything has been like in paradise, there were crises, we’ll have probably crises in the future. But I say as a guy who has been working on these things for all my life, basically, I’ve never seen NATO as united as today. I’ve never seen NATO more united as we see it today. And I can assure you, on behalf of the Secretary General and myself and our team, that we are determined to maintain this impeccable unity for the long haul.

We are united in NATO in condemning President Putin’s ongoing war of aggression in Ukraine. Also, with many of our close partners from Finland, Sweden to Australia and Japan. And the meeting in Ramstein that took place a few days back is an indication that 40-plus countries there – it’s not only the NATO Allies, it’s America’s allies, it’s our closest partners from all over the world. We are collectively doing all we can to pressure Putin to stop the war. He started it. He must end it. The tough sanctions that the US and Europe and others are imposing on Russia are taking a toll on the Russian economy and Putin’s war machine. But the war is not over yet. Russian forces are conducting a military offensive in the east and continue to strike other parts of the country, causing continued suffering and also significant economic disruptions. The images and reports from Bucha, from Mariupol and other towns are testimony to the brutality of the conflict.

We also are united in supporting our Ukrainian friends and partners. With humanitarian, with financial and yes, indeed, military aid. Since the start of the crisis, NATO Allies have provided and committed billions of dollars for military equipment that Ukrainian armed forces need. I’m very happy to see the bipartisan support for Ukraine continuing to build in Washington and in US Congress. The $40 billion approved by Congress just a few hours ago is a testimony of the strong support that the US, us in NATO, and friends and partners around the world are giving to Ukraine.

The Ukrainian military is fighting a remarkably heroic and professional fight. And we are proud that we have been training the armed forces of Ukraine since 2014, since the illegal annexation of Crimea. And of course, there is a big difference of morale. Ukrainians are fighting bravely to defend their land. And the Russian troops are the lowest morale probably in the history of fighting and war fighting in Russia, ever. I do not remember, or have recollection, of a moment when Russian military and the troops were with so low of a morale like they have today.

But we have to continue to help Ukraine. And this is something that we are determined to help them, because they defend their rights, their freedom and their sovereignty. And because the values they are so bravely fighting for are also ours, are the glue of our Alliance, and they are the foundation of our prosperity, our democracy and our way of life. We are committed to sustaining our support so that Ukraine can prevail. It must prevail. It will prevail. The US-led contact group to support Ukraine is an important platform to coordinate the international community’s security assistance to Ukraine now and in the long-term.

At the same time as we support Ukraine, NATO has a responsibility to ensure this war does not spread, because this would lead to more suffering, to more death and more instability worldwide. So we are more united than in protecting one another and defending every inch of NATO territory with more troops, with planes, with ships, other equipment. For the first time in the history of NATO, defence plans for eastern flank countries have been activated. For the first time in the history of NATO, the NATO reaction force, response force has been activated. For the first time in the history of NATO, we are seeing a surge of support and investment by major European Allies, as Ken said, in supporting the sacred mission of NATO to defend every inch of NATO territory. Now there are more than 100,000 US troops in Europe, as well as high-end capabilities such as Carrier Strike Group. We have now eight NATO multinational battlegroups in the eastern part of the Alliance, both North Americans and Europeans contribute. There is no doubt that our commitment to Article 5 – one for all, all for one – is ironclad.

Let me say here that in NATO’s perspective, we are doing three things, three big important things at the same time as part of a unique strategy and philosophy to approach this conflict. Number one, as I mentioned, we continue to support Ukraine. Ukraine will prevail. The second part, we are defending Allied territory and we are doing this with a significant transformation of the very way in which we imagined the defence of the eastern flank countries. And we anticipate – I’ll get back to this later – that in Madrid our leaders will decide a strengthened posture on the eastern flank and a new quality of our presence on the eastern flank. And also, at the same time, NATO is also the risk owner. And we have to make sure and we are very attentive in making sure that as we support Ukraine, as we bolster defences in NATO, we do not run the risk of escalation in a war between NATO and Russia. This war is bloody enough, difficult enough. So this is, if you want, the way in which we see the balanced approach between these three components of our strategy.

But as I mentioned, our unity, our continued unity, is key for the future. Not only to keep 1 billion people safe in NATO, but also to uphold the rules based international order that is increasingly under pressure. Because the war that Russia started against innocent Ukraine is not only inflicting so much suffering and losses to Ukrainian people that defend bravely their land, but it’s also a major shock to the global system, to the international system, to the balance of power internationally. So this is why in NATO we are looking at this conflict as the most severe security crisis in Europe for generations, but also as a catalyst. It was an amplifier to already existing tensions and global competition between great powers.

This is something that leads me, like I did here in Hudson two years ago, to the subject of China. Russia is not the only country undermining our democratic values and principles. We’ve seen, on the eve of the Winter Olympics, for the first time ever, Beijing joining Moscow in calling on NATO to stop admitting new members – effectively violating the right of a country to choose its own path and security arrangements. And the authoritarian regimes in Moscow and Beijing are seeking to rewrite the international rules and shape the security landscape in their own interest. China is not an adversary to NATO, but its military modernisation, its heavy investment in nuclear missiles and hypersonic missiles and its coercive diplomacy has security implications for all NATO Allies. So we have to stand up and stay strong to uphold our values and our way of life. Not only NATO Allies together, but also like-minded democracies around the world, notably those in the Asia-Pacific region, the four highly-valued partners of NATO, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. We have to do more, and all together.

But of course, doing more costs more. And the good news is that 2021 was the seventh consecutive year of rising defence spending across European Allies and Canada, amounting to a total of $270 billion extra since 2014. Figures are going up and Ken has mentioned the significant transformation in Germany and other leading Allies in Europe in terms of contributions to defence, contributions to European defence, contributions to transatlantic defence. This is welcome and we know that this trend will continue.

Of course, as Ken has said, in a few weeks’ time only, NATO leaders will meet at our extraordinary summit […]. This is one of the most important summits, we anticipate. When we say it will be a historic summit, it will be a historic summit. We will agree to redouble our efforts to invest more and more quickly in our defence. And I also know that more announcements will be made by the time of the next summit in Madrid in June by many Allies. And many Allies are understanding that if you want to be strong and to have strong defence, you have also to contribute to the strength of that defence.

At the summit our leaders will endorse NATO’s next Strategic Concept – our roadmap for the Alliance for the next decade. This was the title of my intervention here at Hudson Institute two years back, speaking of the decade ahead. We are now at the moment to really craft and design the future of our Alliance in the new Strategic Concept. It will be an opportunity to reiterate the very strong bond between Europe and North America in NATO. And as Ken has said, NATO’s last Strategic Concept from 2010 refers to Russia as a strategic partner – it sounds like from a different world. It only briefly alludes to cyber challenges, dominant today, to disruptive technologies, dominant today and tomorrow, and, of course, to climate change, which is the issue of our times. And the old Strategic Concept of NATO doesn’t mention China at all.

So the world has drastically changed. And the next Strategic Concept must reflect this new, more dangerous security reality. This will not be a snapshot of today’s world, it’s like a film, developing film, anticipating trends, taking into account the realities today, but anticipating the challenges and the threats coming towards us tomorrow. It must set out how we will deal with all these challenges together. Of course, it might deliver a response on how we relate to Russia in the future, not only today. It must reset our defence posture in a changing environment where cyberattacks, armed drones, global warming pose a significant threat to the 1 billion people we protect. It must also take account of how China’s growing influence, its heavy investments in defence and technology, as well as its coercive policies, affect our security and democratic way of life.

In Madrid, for the first time, we’ll have the leaders of the Asia-Pacific partners of NATO. That’s significant in itself. Of course, we will welcome President Zelensky at our summit and, of course, we’ll be talking about the partnerships of NATO for the future. We have 37 today, partner nations of NATO around the world. We have a very important discussion among the foreign ministers of NATO on the margins of the summit on what we call the South. As we are focussing on the big challenges that Russia poses to us from the East, as we are looking to the new challenges coming from cyber, from space, from hybrid, from disinformation, from new technologies, we should not forget that also the South, in the broadest sense of the term, is a place where geopolitical competition is so intense. And this is a place where NATO has an obligation. And the Madrid summit, also by the geography of the summit and the Spanish hosts of our great summit, of course, we all pay attention. In NATO’s jargon, this is 360 degrees approach, across all domains approach. This is what NATO is: comprehensive, robust, agile, and also reconfirm the Open Door policy in Madrid. This is part of the UN Charter, the right of nations to choose their path. This is part of the Washington Treaty. This is part of who we are.

So I’d like to thank, again, the Hudson Institute and your excellent president, Ken, thank you so much for having me. And this is something that I know will not be my last appearance at your great institution. Thank you all so much.

Kenneth R. Weinstein: Thank you, Mr Deputy Secretary General, for… You describe NATO as comprehensive, robust and agile – and I’d say your remarks were comprehensive, robust and agile as well. A lot of food for thought for all of us. I’ll start with some questions and then open it up to the very distinguished audience here, which consists of people who know far more about NATO than I do. Let me begin with the Ukraine question, first of all, and then we’ll… I want to turn a bit to the Strategic Concept and the general direction of it. So yesterday, as you know, Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, testified that Russia can’t accomplish its war aims in Ukraine, but the war will continue, could become more unpredictable and escalatory. Is that the consensus at NATO headquarters? How do you see the direction of the war likely heading at this point?

NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană: I’ve met Director Haines during my visit in Washington, and I have to say that the analysis in NATO is almost perfectly aligned to what we see from the intelligence community, from D.C.. And I think Director Haines, she’s very much right. There is a growing gap between the level of political ambition for Ukraine and on Ukraine from President Putin and the capabilities on the ground. And Director Haines, she’s right in saying that as this mismatch, this delta between ambition at the political level and realities on the ground is increasing – because it is increasing – the more room for ad hoc solutions, for improvisation and eventual escalation would arise. So I think she’s very much right. And we share the view that Director Haines shared with the US Congress just the other day.

Kenneth R. Weinstein: And as you at NATO think about the ad hoc potential and the danger, how do you prepare for such eventualities? Is there…?

NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană: Of course, there are things that we do and we don’t speak about, but it is the nature of the Alliance to always plan for contingencies. In military terms, we do not see today Russia having military capabilities to do anything hostile against NATO. We even see a sort of a self-imposed prudence from Russian forces, from the massive NATO build-up on the eastern flank. This is an indication of the fact that, at least for the period of time, their military strength is much, much weakened. But on Ukraine, there is, you know, potential for escalation, despite the fact that the morale of the Russian troops is very low, despite the bravery of the Ukrainian army, this conflict probably will continue for some time. So this is where we are looking very much into this. We talk to the Ukrainians. We also know their assessment. We have our own assessment. But speaking of NATO Allies and NATO territory, we don’t see a risk to our territory and populations in the near or even mid-term future.

Kenneth R. Weinstein: One of the things you mentioned in your talk and you just alluded to it now, you know, the NATO frontline states. And one would expect in the Strategic Concept that’s going to be released, that there will be an increasing shift of focus towards the frontline states in terms of both deployments of troops, deployments of equipment, and we’ve seen some of this already. And, you know, obviously coming from one of the frontline states, Romania, playing a critical role in Black Sea security, wondering if you might give your thoughts on the shifting deployments that we are likely to see.

NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană: There are two dimensions to this conversation. The first thing is what we do today, what SACEUR, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe is doing today. And as I mentioned, for the first time, we have now under his command more than 40,000 US troops under SACEUR’s command on the eastern flank, distributed according to his assessment of the necessities, according to the strategic and tactical contour of the eastern flank, including in my home country, Romania. US is also [] very, very significantly present in many, many places and we know these numbers are public. We also see more than 100 fighter jets, of all quality, under NATO command. We see significant maritime presence under NATO command. We see also four new battlegroups that have been established after the war that Putin started against Ukraine. We already have four battlegroups in the Baltic countries and Poland. I visited, the Secretary General visited all of them. Exceptional constructs. And now we have four more new battlegroups in Romania and Bulgaria, in Slovakia and Hungary. And this is, again, something which is strengthening this issue.

The second dimension of this evolution in NATO’s posture – and I would say defence doctrine for the eastern flank – is that in Madrid, our leaders will decide upon the advice of our military leaders and our defence ministers in June. Just prior to the summit we’ll have the last discussion after the leaders decide what’s the new generation of the force posture and deterrence and defence in the eastern flank by NATO. I cannot prejudge what the leaders will decide, but we can say that what we have, at least now, from SACEUR and our military leaders, and what we have the sense, political sense, in NATO today, that we’ll be moving from what we have today, a tripwire – so a light presence that will trigger if an eventual aggression will take place, the reaction of the rest of the Alliance coming and supporting the Allies at risk – for something which will be forward defence. Which would mean that we will be putting there a robust, coherent and credible presence on the ground. I’d like to mention this is not about the numbers. Numbers are always important. But what I think that the new approach of NATO will be that we’ll have something that is coherent and robust and permanent and sustainable for the long run. So we are speaking not only of more presence there, we are speaking, for the first time, all these battlegroups, all the success of the battlegroups will be under NATO command. Command and control will be under NATO, bringing coherence.

Then we’re speaking of a new architecture and air and missile defence systems. And that’s significant, because as we see weakness in the Russian military, we also see in Russia high-end capabilities and this is something that we have to make sure that we defend and protect our territory and our populations. Then, something we have not seen that well integrated in Russia is the dimension of cyber. We will integrate cyber into this new philosophy of posture on the eastern flank. We also introduce space into this posture. We’ll be thinking and acting in prepositioning equipment. So for us to be able to beef up [if] the case might arise. So what I’m saying, that this is a new generation of the posture. We are not anticipating, you know, a massive increase in the number of troops. But we see the level of the credibility of the deterrence and defence will be at the top level.

I also come from Romania and I know how much my country and all of our countries struggled to get into NATO, how much we benefit from joining NATO, how much European Union followed our NATO membership. And this is something that I think fellow Romanians and fellow Slovaks and fellow Poles and Lithuanians and whoever, we discovered the importance of being in NATO. But there is also something else which I think is happening today. The seven countries from the second round of enlargement – the Baltics, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia at that time – we entered NATO 18 years ago. We have come to age. And also NATO has come to age. And the fact that Russia basically annulled, in a way, our arrangement to Russia in 1997. So what I would say, that the quality of defence and deterrence for the Eastern countries will be no different from the quality of defence from Western Europe. In itself, that’s a massive transformation. In itself, this will trigger even more convergence and interoperability inside NATO. So this is one of the most transformative decisions our leaders will take in Madrid.

Kenneth R. Weinstein: I’m very glad to hear that. I think all of us who grew up . . . who are approximately the same age and remember the old Warsaw Pact and it’s still… I find I have to pinch myself when thinking of . . .

NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană: And seeing me in this position here.

Kenneth R. Weinstein: But not just seeing you folks in this position and others, but it is the commitment to NATO, the willingness to take action, the willingness to put money into equipment which we don’t see, and which we haven’t seen in a number of the Western European countries, to put it politely. Let me ask you one more question before we open it up to the audience here. At the end of the day, we’ve seen, obviously, an incredible NATO response, a great American response in Ukraine. But deterrence did fail in this case, and it wasn’t NATO’s responsibility, but deterrence did not work. And there was some talk about a move towards the concept that has become very important with regard to Taiwan: deterrence by denial. Are we going to… deterrence through denial, is that… Do you see that as increasingly critically important to NATO moving forward?

NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană: You know, this fantastic transformation of world affairs is very dynamic. And also the response that we have in NATO, US, individual Allies and our partners – free-loving, democracy-loving nations around the world. Our response is also dynamic. You just cannot decide that in one point in time you do this and then the situation evolves and you’re stuck with something that is not dynamic. Coming back to Director Haines and the way in which the US and us in NATO used intelligence for the first time, declassified intelligence, for strategic communication purposes. This is new. Signalling. It’s a form of deterrence. It’s a form, also, of combating the corrosive narratives coming from the other side. So what I’m just trying to say that, as we are moving forward, the sanctions, the first time ever, such massive, comprehensive and evolving system of sanctions have been introduced. This will have consequences. So even if people might say that some of the things that we have done have not deterred Putin from invading Ukraine, but deterred Putin to do anything against NATO. So I’m saying that everybody is internalising now this issue.

And, probably, if there is something that Mr Putin, I think, starts to realise, it’s that almost everything he intended to do with invading Ukraine turned to the opposite of his original intention, every single thing. He really believed – and some of his entourage really believed – that Ukraine will basically surrender or, even worse, welcome them with open arms. Look at the fierce resistance. Look at the bravery of these people. Look at the way in which they fight for their sovereignty, their identity, and for the right to choose their future. Incredible. Is this what Putin believed? No way. It’s probably also the explanation why the first part of the military campaign by Russia was so poorly executed and so poorly planned. The second thing, he believed – because there were signs – of some disunity in the West, some, you know, issues that were there. And they believed their own propaganda that the West is on decline, that we are weak and we cannot get our act together. Look at the West, look at America, look at all of us, look at NATO, how we are working now today, the opposite of what he intended. He also believed that his economy is insulated from sanctions because they learned something from after Crimea, from the first… These sanctions are biting and these things will continue. He believed, and he asked, no NATO presence on the eastern flank. I don’t know about Sweden and Finland, they will decide democratically what they do, but this is something that is indicative, that… I would say that this is probably the most significant strategic blunder in the recent history of Russia as a nation. And of course, this is not something to rejoice from, because there’s still danger in this. But I’m saying that theories of unintended consequences was proved remarkably well during this period of time.

Kenneth R. Weinstein: Thank you. Let me open it to questions from our audience. Let me first turn to Hudson Senior Fellow, Bill Schneider.

Bill Schneider: Thank you very much for your splendid remarks. And your remarks have stimulated two related questions, if I may. The first deals with war aims, particularly of the Alliance. There has been some discussion coming out of elements of European leadership, as well as elements of the US government, who believe that it may be more important to avoid humiliating President Putin than it is to achieve victory as winning, as Secretary Austin had suggested. And the second question, if you care to respond, is… deals with the existence of the China-Russia ‘no limits’ treaty. You mentioned China separately, but I don’t think you engaged the issue, the significance for NATO of China-Russia collaboration. Thank you.

NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană: Thank you so much. And as I mentioned in my remarks, our moral, political and strategic obligation is to help Ukraine prevail in this war. How you define victory, that’s a military component to that, but also it’s a political component to that. And we trust President Zelensky’s wisdom and way, impeccable way, he has led his nation during these very difficult times, for indicating also to us where he believes that a moment for political settlement solution with Russia might arise. It’s not us dictating that, it’s President Zelensky telling us where he believes that point would arise. Of course, we hope that this point in time will come sooner rather than later, because there’s so much suffering, so much, so many losses. Economic losses, human lives, innocent people. Innocent Russian lives. Innocent young conscripts or whatever, young militaries from Russia that were not knowing where they were going. So we are not in the position to say exactly how you define success, but I know that it will help Ukraine to prevail in this conflict and it’s up to them to tell us and decide for themselves when is the time, they believe, a political solution should be tried at least, and eventually reached.

Now, I mentioned the ‘no limit’ treaty. That, of course, has significant consequences. And we are not treating Russia and China in an identical way. Russia is a threat, a military direct threat to us. And this is something that will be reflected in the Strategic Concept. And this is something that is of a quality, a complexity of its own. But we are watching very carefully the way in which China reacts to this crisis, supports in which ways Russia. If they would eventually choose to support the Russian military, that’s already something very severe. If they choose to bypass sanctions imposed on Russia, that’s already very severe. So we have the feeling that the jury’s still out, but we do not believe that this partnership, strategic partnership, between Russia and China will weaken. We believe – and we make the assumption – that they will try to cooperate in the future, because the… Even if the interests of the two countries are not identical, there is some underlying competition and tension there. They have a common interest to weaken America’s leadership in the world and to have an old order which suits their autocratic vision of society. And this is something we take very seriously. But as I mentioned, China is important. Russia-China is important, but we treat China differently, it’s not an adversary, we are not seeking confrontation with China. We are a defensive Alliance. And basically, most of China’s security and even economic global posture is putting or might put security challenges for us as an Alliance. That’s the balance of what we try to do in NATO.

Kenneth R. Weinstein: Peter Rough, Hudson Senior Fellow.

Peter Rough:  Hi, sir, great to see you again and it’s been a delight watching you over the past two years in Brussels help lead the Alliance. My question is about, I suppose, relations in Brussels. Of course, Brussels is headquarters of NATO, but also synonymous with the European Union. And as you finalise your Strategic Concepts, the EU has rolled out its Strategic Compass. So I thought perhaps you could talk about how these two documents might intersect and how EU-NATO relations are proceeding at present. Thanks.

NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană: Thank you. That’s a very important question. On behalf of the Secretary General, I pay special attention to the NATO-EU strategic partnership. We have a strategic partnership between the two organisations. And as we speak, we are preparing the third joint declaration that will be adopted probably after the Madrid summit. That will indicate, also, the future course of NATO-EU strategic partnership. We anticipate that on top of things that we already do – military mobility, coordination on fighting disinformation, many things that we do together – that four new domains of cooperation between NATO and EU would be identified and then implemented: resilience; emerging disruptive technologies; space; and climate change and security. I think all four of them indicate the synergies that we should have as a mantra of NATO-EU partnership. They have their instruments. We have ours. And we believe that together we can be much stronger. And of course, we are paying great attention and we are respectful of the US-EU track, which is also something which is an interesting dynamic.

You mention the Strategic Compass of the EU. We’ve been constantly briefed by our EU friends on the evolution of this concept. I think we had just last week Stefano Sannino and Charles Fries, two architects of this document which was adopted by European leaders, briefing NATO Allies in NATO headquarters on this one. There’s also interesting evolution in the Strategic Compass of the EU. So if you look to the draft versions. The one… draft zero and then the final one, you’ll see a significant shift, also because of the Russian aggression against Ukraine. And we have now NATO mentioned in the Strategic Compass of the EU 29 times. That’s significant. Of course, that quantity shows everything. And strategic autonomy of European Union is only mentioned once. Having said that, we encourage synergies between our two organisations. We believe that together we are stronger.

We also, at the same time, are very, very dedicated to the idea that the transatlantic Alliance and the things that we do in NATO are basically irreplaceable. So we encourage a stronger European Union, a stronger European security approach, more investment for European Allies. But the principle in the Strategic Compass of the EU that we have one set of forces. So there’s only one German army, one French army, one Italian army. And we have to make sure that those things remain interoperable under NATO and if the EU decides for them to be used.

I also plan to do the same thing and to reciprocate. Secretary General Stoltenberg issued a draft zero of our Strategic Concept just last week. Tomorrow I will be chairing the first council meeting where Allies will have a look at this document that has been prepared for months and months ahead of that, and we’ll be going to Berlin for the informal foreign ministers meeting of NATO over the weekend and our foreign ministers will be looking into this and slowly preparing their way to Madrid. So I believe that there is a synergistic and constructive approach now between NATO and the EU, something we welcome, and I think our European Union friends and partners understand, especially in these very difficult moments, how indispensable the transatlantic bond is for European security and for EU security, for that matter.

Question: As the Alliance properly focuses on, you know, the war and the summit and the South and all the other challenges, as you mentioned, looks forward. It sort of… I’m reminded of our very intense last summer, in August, when I was at NATO. And also, the sort of, the Afghan crisis, which now, of course, seems like ancient history, but is sort of still there. And, of course, you did this very important lessons learned exercise, but I’m just wondering whether – and, of course, Putin in a sense rescued the Alliance from some of the, sort of, you know, the grouchiness or the leftovers of that period. Is there anything that… any comments you might have on what, you know, sort of, the consequences, the long-term consequences, the implications of that Resolute Support Mission, etc., the whole Afghan experience might have on the Alliance going forward? Because that is also out there, even while everyone is, obviously, fixated on the way ahead. Thanks.

NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană: Thank you so much. And thank you for your important role in those very important and delicate moments. It was the American chargé in NATO just… the very complicated days when Kabul fell and the last part of our presence in Afghanistan moved… moved to the consequences that we know. NATO is an organisation that has both agility, but also a powerful collective memory. We never… a good or less good experience, it remains with us. It’s part of the beauty and the resilience of NATO over time. So I think the lessons learned from Afghanistan, not only operationally but also politically, are to stay with NATO. The Strategic Concept will also reconfirm the importance of cooperative security and making sure that that task of NATO is not, basically, undermined. We don’t know what the future would bring to us. So I think that this is something that we keep in mind. I mentioned the South and counterterrorism. And the fact that we have now a big arc of instability all the way from Southeast Asia to Northern Africa, all the way to the Gulf of Guinea. So this is why NATO will maintain its ability to conduct operations outside of NATO territory. We’ll make sure that the lessons learned from Afghanistan are there with us. And something I would like to mention about the fantastic camaraderie and sense of common belonging and sacrifice that all NATO Allies, but also many other partners of NATO have done over 20 years in Afghanistan, almost 20 years in Afghanistan. We try to retain something of the spirit of cooperation and the sense of doing something important, with our veterans, with our partners, and just to maintain and retain some of this fantastic glue that so many nations contributing to Afghanistan are doing. So the answer is, we are not in any way forgetting the lessons from Afghanistan. We need to analyse that and make sure that NATO retains its capacity to eventually, if conditions require, to act in remote places, if there would be a need for us to do that.

Kenneth R. Weinstein: Let me ask you one last question. As, you know, I mean, the responsibilities now in NATO on this time of crisis, on NATO, are so massive. So, as you mentioned, it runs the range from terrorism to climate change to how to deal with strategic competition with China and also, obviously, the situation with Russia. As you look, I mean, one of the issues that is getting significant attention in the Indo-Pacific is the whole question of supply chains, supply chain resilience. Dependence on China is critical for a number of European countries. And I’m wondering how NATO is thinking this issue through, and how that discussion dovetails with the one we have here in the United States?

NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană: Thank you for that question, Ken. And I have to say, without a doubt, you know, any inclination to advertise Jens Stoltenberg, my boss and our leader, that we are so lucky to have somebody of his tremendous political experience and a sense of anticipation. And the fact that he was asked to stay for one more year at the helm of this Alliance is a testimony of the fantastic leadership skills.

So we started a process, way before the war that Putin started against Ukraine, which was called NATO 2030. It was, in a way, preparing the new Strategic Concept, anticipating the transformation of world affairs and the very definition of security. It’s not only great power competition, something we know from history, Thucydides Trap, these things are documented, this is not new. Competition is not new, it will exist as long as nations and individuals exist on this earth. What was new is the confluence of so many different factors: technological revolution, climate change, space, cyber.

So what we started, two years back, in NATO 2030 – and it’s an ongoing process – we, our leaders, decided that resilience is important back in 2016 at the Warsaw NATO summit. And at the summit of NATO in 2021, our leaders approved a new quality of our resilience efforts in NATO. We also have stepped up our game when it comes to cyber. We declared space as an operational domain of NATO in 2019. For the first time ever, I will chair on May 18th – and I talk to Anne Neuberger from the White House, running cyber and technologies for the administration, and I’d like to thank her for what she’s doing – the first Cyber NAC, so the top people running cyber in capitals will be meeting for the first time on cyber.

In the fall, we’ll have, for the first time ever – and I was at the White House speaking about this – first time ever of the National Resilience Coordinators in national governments in NATO. For the first time ever, we are introducing an annual meeting of national security advisers, because this broad definition of security, energy security, all these things sometimes are not only with foreign ministries or ministries of defence, they are cross-cutting across agencies and governments. We introduced, for the first time, in NATO 2030 an additional foreign ministers informal meeting, like the one in Berlin we’ll have in few days, because we felt that NATO has three defence ministerial meetings per year and only two foreign ministers, and we felt there is a need for one more political discussion.

So what I’m saying, there was in some sense anticipation. So it seems broad, it seems complicated – it is complicated. I run the Innovation Board in NATO, Jens Stoltenberg asked me to be a champion of innovation in NATO. Not easy, but I do it because I like it and it’s very important. So what I’m saying is that all these strands of work are not isolated strands, they are part of a common strategy. And, in fact, it reflects these two major things. Number one: great power competition era, this is here to stay with us. And secondly, a much broader definition and complexity of security as you knew it. And on both things, NATO is playing its part.

Kenneth R. Weinstein: Great. I want to thank you, Deputy Secretary Geoană, for being with us here today. As, just as you said, you know, we’re blessed to have someone of Secretary General Stoltenberg’s calibre at the head of NATO. I know all of us here at Hudson in Washington feel that we are blessed to have someone of your calibre as Deputy Secretary General, not just because of your provenance from what is now a frontline state for NATO, not just because of your dedication to NATO’s mission, your incredible intellectual insight, which we’ve all seen, but because of your moral clarity on these issues. And it’s always a pleasure and an honour to welcome you to Hudson Institute. I want to thank you today. I want to thank the NATO folks in Brussels for helping arrange this. I want to thank the Hudson Institute public affairs team as well. Thank you so much.

NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană: My pleasure.