by NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană in the spring session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly

  • 30 May. 2022 -
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  • Last updated: 30 May. 2022 14:15

(As delivered)

Thank you so much President Connolly. Best regards from Secretary General Stoltenberg. He's today with our Spanish Allies celebrating the 40th anniversary since Spain has joined our great Alliance.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends and colleagues, it is wonderful to see you all again in person. I was always delighted to engage with NPA Parliamentarians, our indispensable link to our democratic societies and essential partners to strengthen our incredible Alliance. Let me also extend a special thanks to our Lithuanian hosts. You have done an incredible job in organising this event. And I know that this can be very challenging, when I was President of the Senate in my home country of Romania and hosted something like this, not easy, congratulations. And President Connolly, thank you so much for your leadership, sir. Like always your thoughtful opening remarks for our meeting today is inspirational and carving the course ahead. Also, thank you for receiving me and my delegation in Washington, D.C. just a few days back, together with the Congressman Mike Turner, also, Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, thank you for the meeting we had yesterday.

One word about our host and great Allies, Lithuania. This is a steadfast NATO Ally. And you show solidarity for our shared security in so many ways. Not only through the media and humanitarian support you are providing to our highly valued partner, Ukraine. And thank you so much also to Yegor and the Ukrainian friends for the very powerful messages they sent all of us because indeed, the courage determination, bravery, heroism has a sense of destiny that Ukrainian people have shown, is an inspiration and a moral obligation for all of us to continue to help our partner Ukraine. I will also to say a word, and welcome, I look forward to the meeting with the speakers of Sweden and Finland. We all in NATO agree the NATO enlargement has been a historic success and NATO's door remains open. And Secretary General Stoltenberg has said we are confident that we will be able to address all Allies' security concerns and welcome NATO's closest partners Finland, Sweden, in our family of free nations. We salute the decision of our partners to join our great Alliance.

Dear colleagues, we meet at a pivotal moment for our security. President Putin's war against Ukraine has shattered peace in Europe and shaken the entire international order. The bloodshed we thought Europe had banished to the history books is back. And Russia's brutality knows no bounds. It is destroying the lives and livelihoods of millions of Ukrainians. And it has lasting repercussions that threaten the peace and stability in Europe and beyond. Putin's war has triggered the largest humanitarian crises in Europe in decades. It threatens even greater humanitarian and food crisis well beyond Europe's borders. We must therefore also counter Moscow's narrative that sanctions are at fault. This is a lie. Sanctions are not the cause. Putin's war is and the perpetrators shoulder the full responsibility. It shows that the revisionist authoritarian regimes will not hesitate to use brute force to bring misery to others, to trample over the sovereign rights of other nations,  and tear up the international order.

But Moscow's invasion is not going to plan. President Putin did not bank on the bravery of Ukrainian people, the capability of Ukrainian forces and the formidable support that we all have shown in front of this atrocious war. Ukraine can win this war and we must continue to do everything we can to help Ukraine uphold his right to self-defence enshrined in the UN Charter. Over many years, and in particular since Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014. NATO and NATO Allies have trained tens of thousands of Ukrainian forces. Compared to 2014, Ukrainian forces are bigger, better led and better trained and equipped. And we see the difference this is making every day on the battlefield. In the last three months, we have significantly stepped up our support for Ukraine, providing billions of dollars of weapons and other assistance.

And we'd like to thank the national parliaments represented here for the indispensable role you played in making sure that we are up to the task. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for your leadership in this very important moment of European history. We must continue to step up and sustain our military support. Building on the work of Ukraine Defence Contact Group under US leadership, enabling us to meet Ukraine's needs more rapidly in the crucial next weeks. In addition, airlines have imposed unprecedented sanctions to hinder Putin's war machine in close coordination with our partners in the European Union and joined by global partners from Switzerland to South Korea. We must be prepared to stay the course and sustain our efforts applying maximum pressure on President Putin to end this war and to do all we can to support Ukraine for the long haul.

Looking at our own societies, I think we can be proud of how us as political leaders, but especially our citizenry, our businesses, our civil society, have reacted. We are witnessing a re-galvanisation of our belief in democracy, freedom and open societies. I would like to thank every single citizen from our family of nations for the effort to host refugees to fundraise money like the superb fundraising Lithuania just the other day. Congratulations to the people of Lithuania, congratulations to the people of our great Alliance. This is who we are. And parliamentarians like you, you continue to have a key role in encouraging strategic patience. Public support for the long haul and unity amongst our ranks. Let there be no mistake Putin is putting our societal and democratic resilience to the test. Whenever and however, this war ends, its consequences will be long term and far reaching. Not only for Ukraine, but for all of us. Not only for all of us in the transatlantic family of democratic nations but for the rest of the world as well.

NATO's main responsibility is to protect and defend all Allies and every inch of Allied soil. So we have significantly stepped up our deterrence and defence. Since the start of the year, we have doubled the number of multinational battle groups from the Baltic to the Black Sea. We have now over 40,000 troops under direct NATO command backed by significant Air and naval assets. We have 100,000 troops on high alert, ready to respond to any aggression. At the Madrid Summit, our leaders will take important decisions to enhance our force posture further on the whole of the eastern flank. This is deterrence and removing any shadow of a doubt and leaving no room for misunderstanding or miscalculation in Moscow. Not to provoke conflict, but to prevent conflict and preserve peace. These actions built on the biggest adaptation of NATO's collective defence since the end of the Cold War. Following Russia's first invasion in Ukraine in 2014, we have deployed battlegroups in the eastern part of our Alliance I personally had the honour together with the President of the Republic of Lithuania to visit the German-led multinational battlegroup here in Lithuania just a few months back. We have increased the readiness of our forces and established new defence domains including space and cyberspace. We have invested massively modern capabilities and increased defence spending. European Allies and Canada have spent an additional 270 billion US dollars on defence since 2014. This is increasing, because 2% target is a baseline. Not a ceiling. For all of this, we have to thank all of you. And as with Ukraine it is essential that we continue to stay the course and invest in our security.

But Russia's invasion of Ukraine is part of a bigger picture of a drastically deteriorated security situation where authoritarian actors like Russia, but also China are openly challenging core principles for our security and undermining the rule based international order. So we must prepare for this new reality of growing strategic competition and increasingly complex security threats. I know you have been discussing the many different challenges we face over these past days. I look forward to the decisions you will take at the end of this Assembly. At our Summit in Madrid next month we will agree NATO's new Strategic Concept, our vision for keeping our 1 billion people safe in this more dangerous world. Let me thank this Assembly again for your active participation in the process, including the recommendations you presented to the Secretary General all of us in the North Atlantic Council. I look forward to see President Connolly with us in Madrid at the summit.

Our world has changed radically since our current Strategic Concept was agreed in 2010. The Euro-Atlantic area is no longer at peace. It is Russia under Putin that walked away from all international norms and agreements including the NATO Russia Founding Act. We must fully take account of existing and emerging challenges from climate change to cyber, an increased competition for technological dominance, and security impacts of China's coercive approach. Our new Strategic Concept is an important opportunity to reinforce NATO's core values and purpose, including our democratic resilience to strengthen NATO as the organising framework of our collective defence, to reset our deterrence and defence for the long term and enhance the resilience of our societies. And to work more closely with likeminded partners from the European Union to the Indo-Pacific. In essence, to defend our way of life, and to defend our values, and to defend our freedom, and to defend our rule of law, and to defend the rights of today's and tomorrow's generations of our societies together with Ukraine, to flourish and prosper under democracy and not live in closed societies. For all of this, we need a strategy but also the resources and capabilities to match our ambition. 

To national defence spending I applaud the decision today in the German Bundestag for the fund to the Bundeswehr. To national defence spending, NATO's common funding is important. And especially in these trying and unpredictable times. We must match the level of political ambition that our leaders have set for ourselves and that is required of this great Alliance. More common funding helps us to exercise more together, to preposition equipment, and to ensure a better interoperability. And last but not least, we will uphold and I say it again, and will always say it, will uphold the values and principles that we hold dear.

Dear friends and colleagues. This is one of those moments in history. We are and we should continue to rise to the occasion and ensure that future generations can look back with pride and gratitude that we stood firm in defence of freedom, of rule of law, and rule based international order. I'm convinced that we will succeed and I'm convinced we will emerge more resilient. I'm confident that you'll be even more determined than ever before. So I continue to count on you as the voice of our one billion people, as the guardians of our democratic values. Your continued support for NATO sends the message a message heard loud and clear, of our unity, of our solidarity, of our strength. So thank you so very much. And like always we are deeply in gratitude for you. And these historic moments. This Assembly, Mr. President, is more relevant than ever, to the enduring success of the most successful Alliance in human history. Thank you all and I look forward to your questions.

NATO Parliamentary Assembly President Gerry Connolly: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Secretary General as always, you're so generous with your time. We have time for 18 questions and we're going to do them in groups of three. So the first three are Solomiia Bobrovska from Ukraine, Spilios Livanos from Greece, and Jean-Luc Reitzer from France. And I understand Jean-Luc this is your last session, so make your questions special. All right.

Solomiia Bobrovska: Thank you. May I?

President Gerry Connolly: Yes, Solomiia you have the floor. Again, I asked everyone if you can, please – we might make an exception for Ukraine – to keep your question to two minutes or under so that we can get through all 18. Thank you.

Solomiia Bobrovska: Thank you. One small comment. I hope while defending with common values and democracy we will not stay all the time long near the Open Door policy. Because I hope once we will not be killed while we will be staying on this Open Door policy. We can be tired and we can be killed as well. And each of us here even sitting among our delegation here in Vilnius now. My question is actually how from your perspective, how does NATO see the way to unlock seaports and to provide the freedom of navigation in that part of the Black Sea? Thank you.

Vice President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly Julie Dzerowicz: Thank you. Next we have Spilios Livanos from Greece.

Spilios Livanos: Thank you. On behalf of the Greek delegation, we want to really thank you, your honour, for a powerful and inspirational speech and we want to thank you, the Lithuanian state, for the hospitality and of course, Andronius for his passion and leadership all these days. Once more throughout this three day summit we have been hearing stories about brutal atrocities that have been taking place in [inaudible] Ukraine. As you mentioned in your speech, all Allied members who believe in democracy, freedom, rule of law, must unite and work together. And we must unite and fight for common interest. As you said, we must fight war, revisionism, occupation of a sovereign nation, violation of international law wherever it comes from. This is our fight. We must leave behind national or even personal aspirations and historically illiterate provocations amongst each other. In that respect, we must all join in enforcing sanctions, as you said, however harmful these may be for countries and our peoples, and accept as soon as possible Sweden and Finland, who enshrine our free and democratic values, in our family. The unanimous implementation of these actions will make all of us stronger and bring peace, freedom and security closer for the Ukrainian people and for us. How secure do you feel by your position? And talking about NATO enlargement in your speech, that in the Madrid June Summit, we will be able to have unanimity and common decision making in our association, having these two members inside and enforcing the sanctions? And second, if I have the time… I don't have the time. Okay, thank you.

Vice President Julie Dzerowicz: No you don’t, thank you Spilios. And then we have one more, Jean-Luc Reitzer from France, please. And please. Two minutes. Thank you.

Jean-Luc Reitzer: Thank you, Mr. President. On 21st February, our security environment was tragically upheaved by the unprovoked and unjustified aggression of Russia against Ukraine, to whom we express our empathy and our solidarity. France is standing next to Ukraine. Our new Minister of Foreign Affairs has arrived this morning in Kyiv to meet the President Zelensky. She will also go to Bucha where France is helping to collect evidence of the atrocities committed by the Russians. We work this morning again in order to reach an embargo on Russian oil. We wish, I wish that we reach this result in the best time possible. The European Union today has a much stronger position than usual. So how does complementarity between NATO and the European Union… How can it multiply our efforts in favour of Ukraine?

NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană: Thank you so much for the questions. On the Open Door policy, this has been one of the most successful policies in NATO's history. I remember together with the Baltic countries, my own country and others… I look to the transformation of our societies, of our economies. And look how right we were in trying to join to join NATO.

When it comes to the freedom of navigation, this is and will continue to be a cornerstone of NATO's policy. Of course, we are looking into the specific situation of the Black Sea because we see a de facto blockade of the Ukrainian ports. We also see an evolution or an involution in Russian policy in not only trying to blockade the export capacity of Ukraine of grains and others, but also to target civilian infrastructure targets just to create the economic pain on the innocent people of Ukraine even harder. So we applaud and we encourage the current diplomatic solutions which are tried, Secretary General Guterres of the UN visited, and there is an effort to be doing that. What I can say that on behalf of NATO Allies and [inaudible] states of Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey, that NATO will continue to defend its territory and the freedom of navigation.

Now on the question from Greece. As I said, we are confident that Sweden and Finland will be joining our ranks. We also respect the security concerns of Allies because that's how this organisation of ours works. Secretary General Stoltenberg, who is highly respected across the board, offered his good offices to make sure that we create momentum and we address the concerns. And as I said, I'm confident, we are confident that we'll be receiving Allies 31 and 32nd in our ranks in the near future. And I know they will be with us in Madrid.

On the question of Jean-Luc Reitzer, as you know, the Secretary General has personally asked me to pay particular attention to the relationship between NATO and the European Union. It's an indispensable partnership. And as the Strategic Compass position of the EU, which has been just adopted, has recognized, has mentioned NATO 29 times in the text as an indispensable partner, I’m convinced that, indeed, our Strategic Concept that will be adopted by our leaders in Madrid, we will recognise the essential role and indispensable partnership between the two organisations. I also have considerable hope that what we all are already doing between us and the European Union is going to be even more diversified in the future. We are working on the third common declaration of our leaders, of the two parties, we will have four new cooperation fields and we already prepare on this. We have resilience, we have specific tools between the two organisations; new technologies, it's a question which is vital for our economic preeminence in military space. And of course, the security effect of climate change. Thanking you for what you have done for this policy and for the French policy for our Alliance. We will be even more determined in this strategic partnership between NATO and the European Union.

Vice President Julie Dzerowicz: Next three questioners. I just want to introduce myself, I'm Julie Dzerowicz, Vice President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, and President Connolly has asked me to moderate this session. And before I name the next three, two minutes each please, just keep your time so we can get to all 18 questions. Okay, so our next few questioners are Mike Turner from the United States, then Zaida Cantera from Spain, and Alec Shelbrooke from the United Kingdom. Mr. Turner, over to you.

Mike Turner: Thank you, Madam President. Mr. Deputy Secretary General, thank you for your leadership, your leadership both in Romania, with the NATO PA, and also in NATO. Your voice has been one of great clarity as we've had this very difficult time. The Strategic Concept includes the statement that NATO will remain a nuclear Alliance as long as there are nuclear weapons. But I am very concerned that at times I think we don't spend enough time assessing the actual threat to our NATO Allies and to ourselves. We know that Ukraine today would not be facing this situation that it is if it had not entered into the Budapest Memorandum and surrendered its Soviet era nuclear weapons. We also know today that there would just be a much different conflict if Russia itself was not a nuclear state. We have watched while Russia has developed and fielded incredibly new weapon capabilities on the nuclear side, the Avangard, which is hypersonic, which is deployed; the Skyfall, which is a new killer weapon that can circle the Earth; Poseidon which is supposed to go underwater and then come up and annihilate a city. We know from listening to Putin and… you know, his foreign minister, they've made incredibly incendiary statements about the use of nuclear weapons that sound more like North Korea than a responsible member of the international community. You also have the concern of the moral depravity that can level a city like Mariupol is not a far trip to the use of a nuclear weapon. I'd like your thoughts as to what we need to be doing more in the areas of perhaps missile defence and in holding Russia accountable for what is unbelievably escalatory comments.

Vice President Julie Dzerowicz: Thank you. Zaida Cantera.

Zaida Cantera: Good morning. Thank you so much, Deputy Secretary General. Ukraine is 10% of world's grain or 30%... 50% of corn, most important of sunflower oil. And Africa and [the] Middle East import more than 50% of these products. More than 250 million Africans are going to be facing hunger according to the UN. So it's our duty to avoid this because a hunger crisis in Africa is a serious threat for Europe for the southern flank, more migratory pressure for the south of Europe, people coming through the Sahel to Europe, terrorism, trafficking in human beings, slavery – that's what lies ahead. So we are nations that aren't united. So bring this to the UN so that we might consider, and this is my question, a special mission in order to make sure that these commodities can be provided. Putin has no doubts: he wants to blackmail us. He is committing war crimes in Ukraine. Let's not be those who helped Putin to make others suffer hunger. Let's not submit to blackmail. Because otherwise, at the end of the day, this threat will become very material. And again, thank you so much to the people of Ukraine. And thank you all. Today is a very special day for us Spaniards: we are celebrating our 40th anniversary since we joined the Alliance that has increased enormously the safety of our country.

Vice President Julie Dzerowicz: And our final questioner is Alec Shelbrooke.

Alec Shelbrooke: Thank you, Madam Vice President, building on the comments from our colleague from Spain. This is a pivotal point. You've spoken about the need to make sure we have our forward defence presence, that we have the counter balances in place, that we're going to be supplying Ukraine, that we're not going to give into Russian aggression over lifting sanctions. But we are in a matter of weeks now to get the food supplies out of Odessa. And that is going to take a, for example, joint expeditionary force of the willing to patrol the seas with destroyers, with frigates and with minesweepers to get it out. And if we don't take that approach, we are making a simple choice. Are we scared of potential escalation and conflict and willing to let the world starve? Let the poorest starve, let the NATO Allies get large inflationary pressures, let a migration pressure lead through Europe? Are we willing to say that we value the world-based order, it will be the biggest humanitarian effort that has taken place in decades to make sure that we won't accept the blackmail from Russia, that we will step up and get the food out of Ukraine to not only make sure we get last year's harvest, but this year's harvest as well. We are at an absolutely world critical moment. And negotiations for the UN are absolutely vital, but they need to be backed up with a threat of military force to make sure that we get through and if that means that there has to be warfare and military engagement, so be it – otherwise we've already let Putin win.

Vice President Julie Dzerowicz: Thank you, Alec. Over to you, Ambassador.

NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană: Thank you so much. Congressman Turner, thank you for your question. As long as nuclear weapons will exist, NATO will remain as a nuclear Alliance. It is the ultimate security guarantee, and we are grateful to our American British and French Allies for providing this, and many other Allies being part of this effort. Of course, we also condemn the irresponsible rhetoric coming out from the Kremlin and from Russia, a responsible nuclear power with a long tradition of strategic dialogue with us in many ways, should be the first one to know that you have to show restraint and to be a responsible player with such a sensitive and important topic. Of course, as we speak about the adaptation of NATO: we will continue to modernize, we will continue to invest in a new architecture and missile and air defence systems, for the eastern flank but for the whole of the Alliance. And when it comes to the Russian missile threat in general, we take this very seriously and we prepare as we speak. Again, we don't see signs in military terms for Russia preparing to use nuclear weapons, tactical or others. But the very fact that they are using and abusing this rhetoric is escalatory and should be condemned, as we do by all of us. This is not the way a nuclear power behaves in international affairs.

Secondly, happy birthday to our Spanish Allies. We're so happy to have you in the Alliance. [inaudible] Of course, we will have as big topics the new Strategic Concept, a new posture on the eastern flank for the long term. We will have of course, as a first time ever, the leaders of our Asia Pacific partners coming to the top level, to the summit in Madrid. We are grateful to our Spanish hosts for organising a transatlantic dinner, speaking of NATO-EU, and of course, we are looking forward to welcoming the leaders of Ukraine and other important partners of ours in Madrid.

The fact that we are so concerned, as we should be, about Russia's aggression against Ukraine and against all of us and our values and strengthening the eastern flank – we should not forget for one second, that there are other challenges to our security coming from the south. Terrorism is still there, is getting traction as you mentioned. Social and economic conditions and fragility of many countries in that part are of concern to us. And this is why the summit in Madrid would also have this 360 degrees approach to our security geographically, but also across domains, speaking of cyber and space.

I mentioned in my speech that the Russian propaganda, for many years now, were very astute in basically reversing a truth and transforming their lie into an acceptable truth for people that are listening to their propaganda machine. And we are also concerned the fact that Russia is blocking the Ukrainian ports. Russia is blocking the Ukrainian ports to blackmail Ukraine, to blackmail us, and to blackmail the rest of the world. And we should be far more forceful in saying that they are the perpetrators, while trying of course to find solutions, diplomatic solutions and credible solutions, for the grains in the Ukrainian ports to be released and be able to reach those people.

This is not the only huge lie that Russia is probably is propagating as we speak. In the initial part of the war, they tried to say that this war is because of NATO enlargement. I've never heard such a blatant lie in my lifetime. Then they said that it's US leading this thing, another big huge lie. Now they're trying to put also our public opinions and saying that inflation, high energy prices are because of the sanctions. No, they're because of the war. So we have to find solutions. To mitigate the pain of many citizens in our countries, but also in the south. And I believe this battle of narratives, and a battle of humanity if you want that to have to show, and I'm convinced we'll find ways to support them. I've seen G7 taking decisions, I've seen the EU taking decisions, I've seen national governments taking decisions and we hope that this will be credible and fast because these people need our support.

To the Polish question, of course we have to find the practical ways to make sure that if there will be a way out for liberating Ukrainian imports from this blockade, that to do it in a way that will ensure safe passage to the merchant ships that will go across the Bosphorus then to the rest of the world. Some of the countries neighbouring Ukraine, from Poland to Slovakia to Romania to others, they're trying to substitute somehow this thing and there are attempts to move merchandise from Ukraine to the other ports on the Black Sea on the Alliance's side. But this is not enough, our infrastructure’s terrestrial, land and train and highways are not strong enough so we need to find a way for this.

When it comes to NATO per se, we also have a triple obligation at the same time to fulfil. Number one to keep 1 billion people safe, then to make sure that we don't escalate this war into a war between NATO and Russia, and thirdly that we continue to support Ukraine. Trust us, we'll find the way forward like we have done and as we are doing also on this very important topic. And Ukraine needs our help, will receive our help. And we'll make sure that this blackmail from Russia will not pay off.

Vice President Julie Dzerowicz: Thank you Ambassador. Our next three speakers are Attila Mesterhazy from Hungary, Sverre Myrli from Norway and Michal Szczerba from Poland. So, Attila.

Attila Mesterhazy: Thank you very much. Dear Deputy Secretary General, dear Mircea, thank you very much for your commitment, work and support. We do highly appreciate your help and support in this Assembly. I have a very short question to spare some time. How do you see the sanctions, the state of the sanctions, the current ones and the future ones, and the effectiveness of these sanctions? What should we do more to have more results on this industry? Thank you very much.

Vice President Julie Dzerowicz: Thank you. Sverre from Norway.

Sverre Myrli: Thank you so much. And thank you so much for your very interesting speech. This morning I have a question about Sweden and Finland. When does NATO expect that all the member countries and their parliaments, all 30 parliaments, will have ratified Sweden's and Finland's membership applications? And lastly, from your point of view, how will Swedish and Finnish membership in NATO affect or maybe change the role of NATO here in the Baltic Sea region? And in the high north? Thank you.

Vice President Julie Dzerowicz: Thank you. And lastly, we have Michal from Poland.

Michal Szczerba: Dear Julie and dear Deputy Secretary General, I just want to report to you that our Ukraine-NATO Interparliamentary Council was in Ukraine two weeks ago. We were in Lviv and it was an important signal of our Assembly’s solidarity just ahead of this session. And after this visit, we are more than sure that the outcome of the Russian aggression against Ukraine will determine how far the enemies of democracy will further go, and to restore stability in Europe Russia must fail. I would like to tell you that Poland has become the hub of international military and humanitarian support and it is facilitating deliveries coming from other parts of the world. In Poland, we host more than 3 million Ukrainians, and also solidarity of Polish societies, unprecedented. Polish defence support to Ukraine, it is almost 2 billion US dollars and is still ongoing. Our question is very simple. Will the next NATO Summit in Madrid, Madrid and the Strategic Concept, will clearly confirm the permanent deployment and obviously significant number of troops and equipment along NATO's eastern flank to ensure the capability and readiness to defend every inch of NATO territory? Thank you.

NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană: Thank you. Attila, my dear friend, thank you so much for your leadership for this great Assembly. I always enjoyed working with you, I know that we'll be working in the future. There is always a need for true leaders like yourself and I'm privileged and I think all of us are in your gratitude for what you have done for this for this Assembly.

Now in terms of the sanctions and effectiveness, of course, NATO is not executing sanctions as we speak, but we are watching with great attention the impact of sanctions, number one on the Russian economy. We anticipate that the second part of… The governor of the Central Bank of Russia herself said that she expects sanctions to have a stronger impact on their economy in the second part of the year. From our side what we see is that the ban of technological exports to Russia with military purpose all play a significant role. I speak here as NATO, we can speak of many other things. But the fact that they are using and depleting their ammunitions, precision strike and others, will have a big difficulty for them to replenish if we are and we will continue to do this, not only us but also our partners from the Asia Pacific, the ones with technological capabilities. So it is our expectation that sanctions will produce the impact. And of course, we're looking forward to see which will be the next discussion on sanctions.

Now, I was in Berlin at the foreign ministers meeting about the ratification of Sweden and Finland’s succession and it was a sort of a nice, interesting competition who would ratify first. And I've seen some Nordic and Baltic, sort of a nice, beautiful positive competition for that. On a more serious note, we also know that we have to shorten as much as possible the window between [when] these two countries have applied for membership and the full membership. You know that Article 5 will apply to Sweden and Finland only when the instrument of ratification will be presented to the State Department, that’s the last procedure. And we have 30 parliaments of NATO ratifying that thing. I was in Washington, as I mentioned, seeing President Connolly and Congressman Turner and other friends, also on the Senate side. I understand that also the US Senate, which has a role in this one, will ratify when the procedure will be completed before the summer break. So we have anticipation that this will be as compressed as democratically possible. And I have full confidence that this will be the case. And we look forward to welcoming this these two Allies inside our ranks.

Michal, thank you for your work as chair of this very important group. I attended many of your meetings. Continue to invite me, I will always say yes. Also, President, I will say that… And Ambassador [inaudible] is here in front of the Lithuanian Ambassador to NATO. And all of the countries on the eastern flank are making the case for the most robust possible posture of NATO on the eastern flank. And this is something that we'll do because as I mentioned, Russia basically annulled any restrictions that we self-imposed. And we'll be doing this on the way to Madrid and our leaders will decide. I will not get into the details because this thing is still ongoing, but I will mention a few things that are very important. Number one, the presence on the eastern flank has to be credible, has to be coherent across all domains, including in space and cyber. Should be flexible enough to respond to situations that in the future might vary. And also be sustainable for the long run. I think between these things we’ll find the right way forward. And we hear the strong message and the strong pitch of our eastern flank Allies for more to be done, more will be done, but to do it in a way that will make sure that this is credible, coherent, sustainable and flexible enough.

And the Madrid summit will be… You know, sometimes we always say it's a ‘historic moment’. I think this will be probably one of the most transformative summits in NATO's recent history. And I want to thank you again, this Assembly, for helping us with many suggestions in the Strategic Concept and many of your resolutions really informed us. So I want to thank you for putting a ‘peer pressure’, and I know we'll be up to the task in Madrid to do a very successful summit.

Vice President Julie Dzerowicz: Thank you, Ambassador, and thank you for acknowledging both Attila’s and Michal’s leadership, it's been extraordinary. Thank you. Our next three questioners are Andrey Mihaylov from Bulgaria, Njall Trausti Fridbertsson from Iceland, Osman Askin Bak from Turkey. So, Andrey.

Andrey Mihaylov: Thank you, Madam Chairman. Mr. Geoană, I would like to ask you to share your view about the risk in the Black Sea region, especially for Bulgaria and Romania, and in Western Balkans as well. So is it possible to counteract Putin's view to turn the Black Sea into the some kind of Russian lake? So what do you think about bigger naval NATO presence in the Black Sea? And the second short question is about what do you think about adoption of new anti-aircraft missiles in Serbia from China, is it [an] imminent threat for NATO? Thank you.

Vice President Julie Dzerowicz: Thank you. Next we have Njall.

Njall Trausti Fridbertsson: Yes, thank you, Madam President and from the Nordic countries balcony over here. Mr. Deputy Secretary General, it goes without saying that Iceland strongly supports Finland and Sweden's imminent application for membership in NATO. Finland and Sweden are important security providers in Europe. When becoming members of NATO, they will further strengthen the deterrence and defence of the Alliance. A question about the high north. We are all aware that the high north is becoming increasingly important in the strategic security and economic dimension. Therefore, we must anticipate that Russia will respond to current events in various ways, including the high north. With Finland or Sweden joining, seven out of eight Arctic states will be in [the] NATO Alliance, which I believe will directly affect Russia's calculus and possible responses in the region. While our common goal is stability, low tension and cooperation in the high north, we must consider the possibility of Russia deciding to employ a more confrontational force posture in the region as well in the Baltics. Can you elaborate on the possibility and NATO's role in the high north?

Vice President Julie Dzerowicz: Thank you, and finally we have Osman.

Osman Askin Bak: Thank you very much. Esteemed Deputy Secretary General, in these turbulent times, NATO has displayed an exceptional performance and NATO has substantial impact for the victory of Ukraine against Russian invasion. Turkish drones [inaudible] have been used by the Ukrainian military in defence against in against the Russian invasion. They have shelled Russian tanks, convoys and stopped them to move to the big cities. After that, I am sure that Russia will not win the war in Ukraine. I would like to draw your attention in different parts of the area which is Middle East and also Afghanistan, in Syria. Instability in Syria has exceeded 10 years recently, and environmental instability has emerged in Afghanistan as well. In both countries, we face a huge humanitarian problem including irregular immigration waves. And also Russia's position withdrawing, moving their forces from Syria is going to form a vacuum in Syria, so that means Iranian militias and other PKK militias, terrorists, will find safe haven place there. So what should be the international community to do to overcome international humanitarian problems and stabilise these countries? So this is another area, everybody's… We are all focusing on Ukraine and Russia and only suchlike but we should focus also and work on the southern flank, which is very quite important. So we should not forget this problem too. So I would love to hear your comments, NATO's approach on this issue. Thank you.

President Gerry Connolly: Thank you, Osman. Mr. Deputy Secretary General?

NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană: Thank you, Mr. President. To our Bulgarian friends and Allies, when I mentioned the fact that on the eastern flank we will be looking to… a credible and coherent posture, I was also referring to the Black Sea, which as we speak… This is [an] ongoing fight for the Snake Island, this is only 40 kilometres outside of the portal Constanza in Romania. So that's very close to NATO shores. We've seen how Russia has been abusing the occupation of Crimea illegally already to claim additional claims in terms of the sea. So what I can say, that when I say ‘credible and coherent’ it means also naval assets, including also intelligence assets, including also cyber assets, including also space assets. So we'll make sure and you can stay assured that not a single inch of NATO territory in any dimension would be at harm. So this is what our military leaders are doing, as we speak, and our leaders in Madrid will be doing just that.

Thank you for mentioning the Western Balkans, they continue to be important. And coming back again to the NATO-EU cooperation, this is an indispensable partnership to make sure that the whole of the region will go towards our European family because that's, I think, good for them and good for us. In terms of Serbia, of course, Serbia is a partner of NATO. We respect Serbia's position in international affairs; it's up in a way to them to decide what kind of a policy they would like to make. You know that about NATO, they are engaging in a partnership, they also have European Union ambitions. So in the end, it's up to Belgrade to basically calibrate its foreign policy and its defence issues. In terms of NATO, we are rock solid. We are robust, and we are exceptionally credible. So we don't see any threat to our interest, per se, but it's up to Serbia to decide which path it will choose for the future and for the people of Serbia.

Iceland, thank you so much for the question. I also didn't answer the Norwegian question about the implications of the membership for Sweden and Finland. Of course, when the process will be completed, for the Baltic Sea [it] will be an immense contribution to the stability of the region. And of course, NATO, as we speak, is not involved in the high north. As you know, our SACEUR, our Supreme Allied Commander, has an area of responsibility that he is supposed to defend and protect and he does that with all of us. So it's clear that Sweden and Finland will add two new additional voices in NATO in the high north. NATO is just responding to what Allies are asking us to do or not to do. So for the time being we are respecting the interests of countries in the high north to keep that region as much as possible free of military competition. We'll see how Russia responds, and then together we'll take the right decisions if they will try to basically elevate their posture in the future. This is up to us. For the time being we fully respect the position of almost all the Nordic countries and Scandinavian countries and Iceland and everyone else in making sure that we try to protect as much as possible the special status of the high north as an area where military competition should be avoided if it's possible.

To our Turkish friends and Allies, thank you so much for your contribution. Your country has been shouldering our interest in many regions, you have a unique strategic position. As I mentioned in the response to our Spanish Allies’ question, we are in the business of doing 360 degrees security for all Allies, from all directions, from all domains. We [are] also concerned that Russia remains active and sometimes corrosive also in Africa and in the Middle East. We see the decision of the Wagner group, we are seeing many things that they're trying to do. So look, please stay assured that we pay a totally holistic view of our security and own interests of all Allies that take into account by us, and the Strategic Concept will reflect just that – strong posture on the eastern flank, strong defence and projection of force and stability to the south, and also to the other geographies and domains of NATO.

President Gerry Connolly: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Secretary. Next three are Atis Lejins from Latvia, Theo Franken, Belgium, and Marja-Liisa Völlers of Germany. Atis.

Atis Lejins: Right. Thank you President. My question is very simple to the Deputy General Secretary. When will Ukraine receive what it needs most: multiple rocket launch systems? I mean, large artillery, long range artillery.

NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană: I think this was a very succinct and clear question, Mr. President. Should we go to the next one, I think?

President Gerry Connolly: I'm sorry?

NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană: To go to the next one.

President Gerry Connolly: Oh, yes. Yes. Sorry. Theo Franken.

Theo Franken: Yes. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you, Mr. Deputy Secretary General for your speech and your engagements for our security. One question. We're voting a resolution on the membership of Ukraine to NATO and European Union in, I think, half an hour or something. My question is, how realistic is NATO membership for Ukraine at the moment? And how about… which [trajectories] do you see in practice on membership? I think I'll be talking about this… Everybody's saying “yes, we're doing this” but yeah, in practice, it's quite complex, I think, thank you.

President Gerry Connolly: Thank you. Ms Völlers of Germany.

Marja-Liisa Völlers: Thank you. And thank you, Mr. Geoană for joining us today and giving this remarkable speech. I'd like to ask a short question, which is also part of something you briefly mentioned during your speech. At the moment, all of the attention is understandably focused on the war in eastern Europe. And we see our Alliance refocusing more towards collective defence. At the same time, and this is something you've just mentioned, we see the global competition, that distant partners such as Japan want to have closer ties to NATO. What are your views on that deepening of the partnership and how could it look like? Thank you so much.

President Gerry Connolly: Thank you. Mr. Deputy Secretary General.

NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană: Thank you so much. As I mentioned in my speech we salute the fact that under US leadership in Ramstein just a few weeks back a process of coordination amongst Allies and partners in support of Ukraine, for defence purposes, has been established. That's a very useful instrument. The second meeting took place just a few days back, and on, I think, on June 15 the third one will take place in Brussels. And of course, we follow very closely what individual Allies and partners are offering to Ukraine. We know also the Speaker of the Rada and also the head of the delegation here, they made very precise requests. And I think that most of the times Allies do meet those requests with celerity and with the speed of war. Secretary Austin would say “with the speed of war, not the speed of bureaucracies”. So I cannot prejudge what Allies will be deciding on [a] national basis, but I know that the message from Kyiv is very powerful, and I know that we'll continue to support them in the best possible way in their brave fight to win this war.

Now in terms of Open Door policy, the free sovereign right of nations to choose their destiny, their future and their alliances is enshrined in the UN Charter, it is in the Helsinki Final Act. It is still in the NATO-Russia Founding Act, in 1997 they recognised that right. And it's also in the dedicated article in the Washington Treaty of NATO. So for us, this is a sacrosanct principle. Of course, sometimes things are more complex strategically, politically, you need consensus in the Alliance, you need reforms and transformations in that country and as I mentioned, this is the right of Ukraine to choose its own path for the future. We heard over the last very dramatic three months since the war, Ukraine continuing to plea for its European and Euro-Atlantic path. This is something that all of us will continue to support. So in Madrid, the Concept and the discussions will indicate that Open Door is open. And Sweden and Finland hopefully joining would also reinforce this issue. The broader discussion is about what to do, of course for Ukraine, but also countries in difficulty like Georgia or the Republic of Moldova, where to find answers for each of these countries.

In terms of the Asia Pacific, the German question. In a way, like Germany, who decided to have this fund for the Bundeswehr and move to 2% of GDP for defence, Japan is doing just the same thing. Now they spend 1% for defence, they will be spending 2%. And this is why we have this close partnership with Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. The leaders will be with us for the Summit. We will be approving the package for a partnership between NATO and these four countries. Of course, a specific tailored approach individually, and together we'll be doing cyber, maritime security, space, innovation, things that they are very good at. So NATO will remain a regional Alliance, that's who we are – but the security challenges are global and NATO has to respond to the global challenges confronting all of us.

President Gerry Connolly: Thank you so much. Our last two questioners are Luca Frusone, and Rasa Jukneviciene from the European Parliament.

Luca Frusone: Thank you, President. Thank you, Deputy Secretary General. I'll be brief because my question was about the southern flank but answering to our Spanish and Turkish colleagues, you reassure me that we must continue with 360 degrees approach. And there will be a debate in Madrid on how to strengthen all the flanks of the Atlantic Alliance. So I don't want to force you to repeat yourself. Thank you.

President Gerry Connolly: Thank you, and Rasa.

Rasa Jukneviciene: Thank you. Thank you, President. Thank you, Deputy Secretary General for your inspiring speech and good messages for the future. The armed forces have a good practice, which is called ‘lessons learned’. In Bucharest in 2008, it was already mentioned, by the way, a huge geopolitical mistake was made when Ukraine and Georgia were not given the Membership Action Plan. It is obvious that it happened because of the wrong Russia engagement politics implemented by some NATO countries. It was a sign for Putin to act – Kremlin understood it as [an] informal partition of [the] European continent. Now, not invited to NATO, Ukraine is fighting for all of us and its armed forces will be one of the strongest, most capable in [the] European continent after Russians will be pushed out of Ukrainian territory. My question: when the time will come when NATO members will understand that we, NATO, need Ukraine [and] Georgia in the Alliance as much as they need us? Has NATO before adopting the new strategy in Madrid, admitted their mistakes and they will not be repeated? Do you see a possibility that Russian factor since now will not be the true reason for Ukraine, Georgia and other countries to seek protection from aggressive Russia?

President Gerry Connolly: Thank you. Last two questions, Mr. Deputy Secretary General.

NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană: Again to our Italian friends and Allies, we deeply appreciate the contribution of your country to NATO and also to the importance you attach to the southern flank. This is something that we also cherish. Italy is also bringing a lot of discussions on Women, Peace and Security, human security, cultural heritage. These are also topics that I didn't mention in my speech, I want you to stay assured that they are for us, existential and principle things like democracy and… things that bind all of us together. Thank you for your question and for Italy’s support for NATO.

In terms of the lessons learned. As I mentioned, and we all know, this war is so brutal, and it's shattering many of the taboos we had in Western Europe and also inside the Alliance, also in the EU. The process of learning the lessons is not over. We are still internalising this, we are still building our answers. For NATO, of course, the immediate answer was to bolster the eastern flank, to mobilise for the first time ever the NATO Response Force, to activate the graduate response plans for the eastern flank countries, including for Turkey for the first time ever, and to bolster our deterrence and defence. But of course the lessons are in process. And for me the lessons learned process will be probably simple: the regalvanisation of our democratic societies, our citizens, our businesses, our politicians, our leaders, our youngsters – we need to really reconfirm the fact that living in democracy is much better than living in autocracy.

Secondly, I strongly believe… As a Romanian, I lived half of my life in communism. Some of you have lived in communism. I cannot think of denying a European sovereign nation the right to fulfil their destiny and their dreams and aspirations. Sometimes it's more difficult, sometimes it’s less. But what I know that, one of the lessons learned, that we owe Ukraine not only our support today, and this will be continuing support for them, not only to rebuild the nation after the war, but also to make sure that they will become a prosperous, democratic and a European nation in the fullest sense of the term. How much and which form [of] lessons are still internalised by all of us. But this is a wake up call for all of us in European and world affairs, and I know that all of us together and individually as leaders will be up to the task. This is a moment of inflection in history. And we live history as we speak. And Ukraine is also a country that is showing to all of us what bravery and sacrifice in defence of your values and your sovereignty really represent. So I think this source of inspiration will be with us informing our decisions in the future.

President Gerry Connolly: Mr. Deputy Secretary General, thank you so much for your generosity and spending so much time with us, your leadership. And we look forward to working with you and seeking your help and guidance when we all gather again in Madrid next month. Thank you so much.