Special address

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

  • 24 May. 2022 -
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  • Last updated: 24 May. 2022 14:38

(As delivered)

Many thanks Børge.
It is great to be back here in Davos.
And to see you all in person, after two years without this gathering.

For half a century, 
the World Economic Forum has brought the global community together.
To exchange ideas, insights and solutions.
On some of the world’s most important, difficult problems.

Today we need this spirit of Davos even more.

President Putin’s war on Ukraine has shattered peace in Europe.
It is really a game-changer.
Not just for European security.
But for the global order.

NATO has two fundamental tasks in response to Russia’s aggression.
Providing support to Ukraine.
And preventing the war from escalating.

For many years, NATO and NATO Allies have supported Ukraine. 
In particular the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom,
and also Turkey.

Providing equipment and training for tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers.

We see the difference this is making.
Every day on the battlefield.

Since Russia’s invasion,
we have significantly stepped up our support.
With billions of dollars of weapons and other assistance.
To help Ukraine uphold its right to self-defence.
Enshrined in the UN Charter.

NATO’s main responsibility is to protect all Allies.
And prevent this war from escalating.
Causing even greater death and destruction.

We may have been shocked by Russia’s brutal invasion. 
But we should not be surprised.

This invasion was one of the best predicted acts of military aggression ever.

In NATO, we shared intelligence.
And we made the intelligence public. 
For many months.
To warn about Putin’s plans. 

Russia’s attack on Ukraine is part of a pattern over many years.
Where Moscow uses military force to achieve its political aims.
The destruction of Grozny.
The invasion of Georgia.
The annexation of Crimea.
The bombing of Aleppo.
And now, the war in Ukraine.

Since the first invasion of Ukraine in 2014, NATO has been adapting and preparing.
We increased defence spending and invested in modern capabilities
We deployed combat battlegroups in the eastern part of our Alliance for the first time in our history.
We increased the readiness of our forces.
And established new defence domains, including space and cyberspace.

When Russia invaded Ukraine again this year, NATO was ready.
We deployed additional forces to the east of our Alliance.

Today, we have over 40,000 troops under direct NATO command.
Backed by significant air and naval assets.

We doubled the number of multinational battlegroups.
From the Baltic to the Black Sea.

And we have 100.000 troops on high alert.
Ready to respond to any aggression.
And to defend every inch of NATO territory.

This is deterrence.
To remove any room for misunderstanding or miscalculation in Moscow.
Not to provoke conflict,
but to prevent conflict and preserve peace.

Last December, President Putin presented an ultimatum to NATO. He demanded a legally binding treaty.
To rewrite the security architecture in Europe.
To re-establish spheres of influence.
To force NATO to withdraw from the eastern part our Alliance.
And to end NATO enlargement.

He wanted less NATO on his borders.
And launched a war.

Now he is getting more NATO on his borders.
And more members.

Finland and Sweden’s decision to apply for NATO membership is historic.
It demonstrates that European security will not be dictated by violence and intimidation.

All Allies agree that NATO enlargement has been a great success.
Spreading freedom and democracy across Europe.

So I am confident that we will be able to find a way to address all Allies’ security concerns.

And welcome NATO’s closest partners into our family of free nations.

In the meantime, NATO is vigilant in the Baltic Sea region.
Allies have increased their presence.
We have stepped up exercises and deployments.

And for the first time ever, a US Amphibious Ready Group has been placed under NATO command.

Finland and Sweden’s membership would also strengthen the close bond between NATO and the European Union.

European security and transatlantic security are deeply intertwined. 
Today, close to 600 million Europeans live in a NATO country.
And 93 per cent of the EU population is protected by NATO.
The ever-closer coordination between NATO and the European Union has been critical for dealing with the current crisis.

As you just heard from Ursula von der Leyen,
NATO Allies and the European Union have imposed unprecedented sanctions on Putin’s war machine. 
Countries from Switzerland to South Korea have joined us and also applied sanctions.
And hundreds of international companies have pulled out of Russia.

These massive sanctions remind us of one of the important lessons from this conflict.

That we should not trade long-term security needs
for short-term economic interests. 

The war in Ukraine demonstrates how economic relations with authoritarian regimes can create vulnerabilities.

Over-reliance on the import of key commodities, like energy.

Risks created by exporting advanced technologies, like Artificial Intelligence.

And weakened resilience caused by foreign control over critical infrastructure, like 5G.

This is about Russia.
But also about China.
Another authoritarian regime that does not share our values.
And that undermines the rules-based international order.

International trade has undoubtedly brought great prosperity.
I, and many of us here today, including Børge Brende, have worked hard to promote a more globalised economy.

But we must recognise that our economic choices have consequences for our security.

Freedom is more important than free trade.

The protection of our values is more important than profit.

At the NATO Summit in Madrid next month, 
NATO leaders will make bold decisions.
To continue to strengthen and adapt our Alliance.
For this more dangerous and competitive world.

The conflict in Ukraine has underlined the importance of Europe and North America standing together in NATO.

And of working with our likeminded partners around the world.

To defend our values, and promote peace and prosperity.
In the spirit of Davos, I count on you too!
Thank you. 

President of the World Economic Forum Børge Brende: Thank you very much, Secretary General. I just wanted to follow up on your last points related to values. I think you said something to the effect of that we have to be willing to face the realities and pay a price for our freedom. And what have you done in the past, in hindsight that you would have done differently, and how will this affect future policy? Are you addressing the Nord Stream 2 indirectly?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Yes, not only indirectly but directly. I think we all have learned a lesson, that of course… And you and I we have actually been active in Norwegian politics arguing heavily and strongly in favour of free trade agreements, integration with the European Union and globalisation of the economy, and more global trade and more global economy. Free trade has brought a lot of prosperity and wealth, to all of us. But the problem is that it has a price because some of this trade, some of this economic interaction with authoritarian regimes is undermining our security. And then we have to choose security instead of vulnerability and overreliance on authoritarian regimes. So this idea that, you know, we should have free trade in natural gas meaning we can buy as much gas from Russia as you want, that's wrong. It's dangerous. It provides Russia with a tool to intimidate and to use against us and that has been clearly demonstrated now. I regret to say it because I remember back in the 1990s – I was Minister of Energy in Norway – we actually thought that we could expand the European gas market with supplies from Norway, from North Africa and from Russia together.

Trade with China, of course there are huge benefits. I'm not arguing against trading with China. But I'm saying that for instance, the control over 5G networks is of vital security importance, and we cannot say that in the interest of profits and free trade we just open up those networks, also for suppliers that actually are not reliable when it comes to our security.

And then, the more… NATO's technological edge that we will always be in command of the best and most advanced technologies, has been fundamental for our security. And now we see new and disruptive technologies, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, autonomous systems. This is integrated into all the new modern weapon systems. And if you just share that technology, we may earn some money – but we will also undermine our security. And therefore, freedom is more important than free trade, and protecting values is more important than profits. That's a lesson I think we all have to take into account, and meaning that it has to impact the way we organise our economies.

Børge Brende: Thank you. Secretary General, you also said that what Putin got as a result of his war on Ukraine was “more NATO”. Is this developing into like a Vietnam War situation for Mr. Putin? Do you think he regrets this?

NATO Secretary General: I would not speculate about his feelings, but he made a big strategic mistake. Because actually, I thought… I believe that one of the purposes, one of the stated purposes, actually, with this invasion of Ukraine was to get less NATO on Russia's borders. And in the legally binding treaty President Putin, Russia, sent to NATO in December they wanted us to sign it was clearly stated no more NATO enlargement. And now he gets more NATO enlargement and he has not achieved his strategic goals in Ukraine. The plan was to take Kyiv, to decapitate the government and to control the country. He has been forced to withdraw its forces from Kyiv and the north of the country. Russian forces have been pushed out of the Kharkiv region and the offensive in Donbas is moving very slowly. I'm not predicting the outcome of this war. No one can do that. But I'm only saying the obvious thing that Russia did not achieve its goals in Ukraine. This plan was a short military operation; it's a long, costly war for Russia. We welcome the fact that Finland and Sweden have applied for NATO membership. I'm confident that we will be able to address the concerns that have been expressed and that we will be able then to welcome Finland and Sweden as members of our Alliance.

Børge Brende: Just to follow up, Secretary General, on Finland and Sweden, two countries that you know very well and was neighbours of Norway where you were Prime Minister for a decade. You're saying you're welcoming them and I think that's very welcomed in Stockholm and Helsinki, but not in Ankara. So how will you solve the challenge from Mr. Erdogan?

NATO Secretary General: I spoke with President Erdogan on Saturday, and we are also seeing all the public statements. Turkey has expressed concerns related to terrorism, to their security interests, and then we have to do what we always do in NATO – and that is to sit down and address concerns when Allies express concerns. And I'm confident that we will be able now, as we've done so many many times before in NATO, to find a way to solve these issues and to agree and then to welcome Finland and Sweden as full-fledged members of our Alliance. I know Finland and Sweden well as a Norwegian, they will contribute to our collective defence, to our shared security. It will be of particular importance for the Baltic region.

But let me also highlight that, or say that I also recognise the importance of addressing the concerns that Turkey has raised. Turkey is an important Ally. Their strategic geographic location is important for the whole Alliance, bordering Iraq and Syria. They have been key in the fight against ISIS, Daesh. A Black Sea nation close to Russia in the Black Sea. And then of course, you have to remember that no other NATO Ally, has suffered more terrorist attacks than Turkey, and no other NATO Ally holds more refugees than Turkey. So we have to sit down and find a way forward. And I'm confident that we will do so. In the meantime, we need to make sure that we also address some of the concerns that Finland and Sweden has raised about this interim period. And that's the reason why we also have now increased our presence in the Baltic region: an amphibious ready group under NATO command and more presence in that region of Europe.

Børge Brende: Thank you. You also said, Secretary General, that of course you cannot predict the outcome of the war in Ukraine. I think many participants at Davos also will ask themselves the question: can this end in a full-fledged war between Russia and NATO?

NATO Secretary General: NATO Allies and NATO provide support to our valued partner Ukraine as we have done actually for many years since 2014. Stepped up now, of course. But our core responsibility is to protect and defend all NATO Allies, and therefore we need to make sure that this brutal, heinous war doesn't escalate to full-fledged war in Europe, between NATO and Russia. And that's the reason why we made it clear that we will support Ukraine to uphold the right for self-defence enshrined in the UN Charter. But NATO will not be part of the war. We will not send in NATO troops on the ground and be directly involved in the war. Support, yes, but not be directly involved. And also the reason why we so significantly have increased our presence, military presence, especially in the eastern part of the Alliance. There are tens… 30% more US troops in Europe now. We have 40,000 troops under direct NATO command in the eastern part of the Alliance, significantly increased over the last month since the invasion. And we have significant air and naval presence. This is not to provoke, this is to make sure that there is no room for any miscalculation in Moscow about NATO's readiness to protect every NATO Ally, so they don't think about attacking a Baltic country or another NATO Ally. As long as they are absolutely certain that the whole of NATO will come to the defence of any Ally – one for all, all for one the core of the NATO – then they won’t attack. So then we are preventing war and preserving peace. And that's the reason why we have strengthened our deterrence: to preserve peace.

Børge Brende: Thank you. Last question. We just heard the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, talk about Europe's and the EU’s response to the war by unity and support. How do you feel about the prospects for a closer cooperation between NATO and the EU on security and defence matters moving forward?

NATO Secretary General: So I strongly believe in cooperation between the European Union and NATO. And Ursula von der Leyen and I we meet regularly, I meet President Charles Michel, we meet at different levels and in different ways. I'm proud that since 2014, we have been able to lift NATO-EU cooperation to unprecedented levels. And when Finland and Sweden join, 96% of the people living in the European Union, they will live in a NATO, protected by NATO. And 96% of EU territory will be NATO territory. So we share much of the same population. We share the same neighbourhood, we share the same challenges. Of course, it makes all reason to work closer together, NATO and the European Union.

And we also see during this crisis how the EU has been instrumental in many ways, providing support, imposing sanctions and then also coordinating closely with NATO Allies, United States, United Kingdom and others. And I also welcome EU efforts on defence because as Ursula von der Leyen just mentioned, for instance, the fragmentation of the European defence industry is a problem for Europe and for NATO. In the United States, there are many battle tanks and one type. In Europe we have quite a few battle tanks and nine different types. No economy of scale, and a lot of extra costs for maintenance, education, and so on. And this is the case on almost every capability, that there is too much fragmentation. So the European Defence Fund, PESCO, all these initiatives by the European Union, will have to provide new capabilities, will have to overcome the fragmentation of the European defence industry, and will hopefully also help to increase defence spending. That's something NATO has asked for many years, we very much welcome it. The only thing we have to make sure is that the EU efforts do not compete with NATO or duplicate NATO, because NATO will remain the cornerstone for European security. This is about resources: 80% of NATO's defence expenditure comes from non-EU NATO Allies. It's about geography: Norway and Iceland in the north, Turkey in the south, and in the West, United States, Canada, and United Kingdom. They are of course, critical for the defence of Europe. And it's about politics, because any attempt to divide Europe and North America will not only weaken NATO, it will divide Europe. So we need Europe and North America together in NATO, strong transatlantic bond, working together with the European Union.

Børge Brende: Thank you very much, Secretary General, thank you for leadership and thank you for being here.

NATO Secretary General: Thank you.