Opening remarks

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at a joint meeting of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Subcommittee on Security and Defence followed by an exchange of views with Members of the European Parliament

  • 13 Jul. 2022 -
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  • Last updated 14-Jul-2022 10:31

(As delivered)

Thank you so much, and many thanks for the warm words as an introduction and thank you for once again inviting me to address this audience. It is always a pleasure for me as Secretary General of NATO to meet NATO parliamentarians, and for me these engagements are a way to actually make sure that we are constantly developing and strengthening the cooperation between the EU and NATO. So David, thank you so much, and also to the Vice-Chairs for inviting me. 

I understand that there are many questions so I will be very brief. But let me just say that, for me, it is particularly relevant to be here so shortly after the NATO Summit, we had a Summit in Madrid just a few days ago. At that Summit we reiterated the strong support in NATO to cooperation between the European Union and NATO. Both President von der Leyen and President Charles Michel participated in the meeting. And we all understand that EU and NATO, we are two different organisations but we share many of the same challenges, we share the same neighbourhood and we work more and more closely together. 

We also see that in light of the war, the crisis, in Ukraine, the economic sanctions imposed by the European Union, all the support to Ukraine provided by the European Union, works very well hand in hand with the efforts of NATO Allies also to impose sanctions, but also to provide significant military and economic support to Ukraine. And it really demonstrates the unity of the European Union and NATO.

Then, it will also actually raise the issue of a new joint declaration. I had the privilege of signing a joint declaration on NATO-EU cooperation with… two times actually, with President Donald Tusk and President Jean-Claude Juncker. And now von der Leyen and Michel and I have agreed that we should look into the third declaration. I'm not able to tell you exactly when we will be able to have a third declaration but it is something which is now supported by both the two EU presidents and me, so we will start to work on that as soon as possible. I think it's useful to have a declaration to outline the main priorities and also to ensure that the 74 projects we have already identified, that we are following up and implementing those. 

Then briefly on the Summit. It was a historic and transformative Summit. We made many important decisions but again, taking into account that we need time for the discussions and your comments and questions afterwards, I will just mention four of the main decisions and all are relevant also for Europe and the European Union. 

First, we agreed to step up the support for Ukraine. As you know, NATO Allies provide unprecedented levels of military support to Ukraine. Actually NATO Allies and NATO have been there since 2014 – trained, equipped and supported the Ukrainian Armed Forces. But of course since the invasion in February, Allies have stepped up significantly and we also agreed a Comprehensive Assistance Package also on how to help Ukraine to move from Soviet era equipment to more modern NATO standard equipment, and also how to provide more support also for the longer term, building defence and security institutions in Ukraine. The message was that we will provide support for as long as it takes. No one can predict exactly when this war will end. But what we do know is that the more we are able to provide support to Ukraine, of course the more we increase the possibility, the likelihood, of an end to this war which happens on acceptable terms for Ukraine. And that's our responsibility. to help them uphold the right for self defence and that's exactly what NATO Allies do. That was also the clear message from Madrid, at the same time stating that NATO is not part of the war: we support Ukraine, a highly valued partner, but NATO would not be directly involved in the fighting on the ground in Ukraine. 

Second, we agreed the biggest overall fundamental shift in our deterrence and defence since the Cold War across all domains – air, sea, land, cyberspace – because we live in a more dangerous world, and therefore NATO needs to do more for our core task: protection of all Allies. When it comes to the land domain, which has been perhaps the area where there has been most focus, what we do is based on, I will say, three main elements. One is more forward defence, meaning more troops, especially in the eastern part of the Alliance. We have already increased our presence after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We have doubled the number of battlegroups from four to eight. So now we have battlegroups not only in the Baltic countries and Poland, but those in Romania, Slovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria. And we have actually doubled the size of the battlegroups with more troops in each of the battlegroups. We have then agreed to further increase, more troops to conduct forward defence, forward presence, and also stated that we can scale this up to brigade level size, which is significantly more than the battalions that formed the original battlegroups in the eastern part of the Alliance. Then we will… And this is building of course what we have already done. As you know, now we have 42,000 troops mainly in the eastern part of the Alliance, under direct NATO command as a direct response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Then, this will be supported by more high readiness forces. And in the new defence plans and the work which is now going on and agreed by the Heads of State and Government, this is something we have to implement in the following year. The plan is to have around, or actually above, 300,000 troops on high readiness across the Alliance. These troops are not… Most of them will be in their home countries, but many of them will have pre-assigned territories they should defend. They will train, exercise there on a regular basis. And Germany has already announced that they will have a brigade in Germany, but that will rotate in and out of Lithuania. So they will know the terrain and know how to work with the home defence forces and be prepared to deploy there in times of crisis. So these are not permanently deployed, but they are pre-assigned earmarked forces, high readiness, that can be deployed to different parts of the Alliance – especially the eastern part of the Alliance – on short notice. So the second element is high readiness forces.

The third element is much more pre-positioned equipment. It's actually quite easy to move people, personnel. What takes time is to move heavy equipment, ammunition, fuel. So the idea is to have partly more forces in place, partly more high readiness forces, regular exercising and then pre-positioned equipment in place. And by having that we can reinforce quickly if needed. And that's the main elements of the defence concept agreed at the Madrid Summit. 

Then the third decision that I will mention for you is of course the decision to invite Finland and Sweden to join. That's an historic decision. And it was important that all thirty Allies agreed to invite Finland and Sweden. And now what remains… We have signed the Accession Protocols and now we need the ratification in thirty parliaments and as soon as that happens Finland and Sweden will be members of NATO. This is good for Finland and Sweden, it is good for NATO and it's good for stability throughout the Euro-Atlantic area. And it also demonstrates that NATO’s door is open. You have to remember that as late as in December, President Putin proposed to NATO a so-called ‘security treaty’ that we should sign, saying many things but among the things he wanted us to sign was first of all to guarantee no more new members of NATO – ‘sign!’. Second, that we should remove all troops and infrastructure from members of NATO that joined after 1997, meaning that all the members in the eastern part of the Alliance should not have NATO troops, no NATO infrastructure, introducing second-class NATO membership. Of course, we didn't accept this. He invaded Ukraine because he wanted less NATO on his borders. What President Putin is getting is more NATO, he’s getting exactly the opposite. More NATO military presence in the eastern part of the Alliance and two new NATO members. And NATO’s door remains open, demonstrated by Finland and Sweden.

The fourth decision we made was the new Strategic Concept. You can read it, it's a beautiful document. And you have your Strategic Compass, and of course they are again, different documents, but they reflect the same reality. And that's a good thing, reflecting of course that we very much share the same members. The important thing with the Strategic Concept is that we agree, as the Alliance, on the strategic direction of this Alliance in a more dangerous, more competitive and more unpredictable world. And I was present in Lisbon when we agreed the previous Concept that actually expired at the Madrid Summit a few days ago. At that Summit at that time President Medvedev was present from Russia, attended the NATO meeting and in the Concept we agreed that Russia was a strategic partner. That's not the case in the current Strategic Concept. There we actually address clearly that Russia poses the most direct threat to our security. And you also mentioned China – in the previous Strategic Concept China was not mentioned with a single word. Now we address the challenges that China poses to our interests, to our values, to our security, and also that China and Russia are working more and more closely together. We address cyber, climate change, technology and many other issues. 

Then I would like to say that… It is also important to say that the Strategic Concept, also, of course, takes a very clear stand on the importance of democratic values, of human rights and the rule of law, which are core values for NATO and I attach great importance to them myself. And as the President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly stated, Congressman Connolly, he attended the meeting. He stated very clearly the importance of this, and also democratic resilience, and this was addressed and also then reflected in the Strategic Concept. 

Then again, I promise to be short. Many other issues that I can address, I’m sure you have many answers and comments. So I stop there just by highlighting that it's good to see that two different organisations, NATO and the EU, we have more and more in common and we work more and more closely together. And that's good for EU, it's good for NATO and it's good for all of us. So thank you so much.