Opening remarks

by the Chair of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Rob Bauer and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Estonia, Kaja Kallas at the meeting of the Military Committee in Chiefs of Defence Session, Tallinn, Estonia

  • 17 Sep. 2022 -
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  • Last updated: 19 Sep. 2022 09:42

(As prepared)

Chair of the NATO Military Committee:

Your Excellences, Chiefs of Defence, Strategic Commanders, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are honoured to convene our annual conference here in Tallinn, at the invitation of the Estonian authorities.  
On behalf of the Military Committee, I want to thank our hosts for the incredibly warm welcome and the generous hospitality they have shown us since our arrival.  
It is great to see, feel and experience, first-hand, the enduring spirit of the Estonian people.
The reverence for your history and the memory of all those who have fought and died in the name of peace, freedom and democracy is omnipresent… 
Estonia is a country that has resilience in its DNA. In fact, it is enshrined in your constitution that every citizen has a right and a duty to defend the independence of its nation. 
Estonia has not forgotten its past. But it is also fully embracing the future. 
As a 'digital republic', Estonia leads the way in cyber resilience and comprehensive governmental online services. 
The Alliance greatly benefits from Estonia's expertise in information sharing. Utilising freedom of navigation in the information domain.  
Connecting systems. Adapting, in order to enable online as well as offline resilience. 
Our Alliance is living proof that adaptation is never done… we have been doing so continuously for the last 73 years and we will continue to do so: together. Whatever the circumstances might be. 
This conference comes at a time where global security is under immense pressure… 
Russia's unprovoked war against Ukraine has ushered us into a new era for global security. 
We are all in awe of the immense courage of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the Ukrainian people, who outmanoeuvre their opponent time and time again. 
NATO Allies will support them for as long as it takes. 
Winter is coming. But our support shall remain unwavering.   
It is crystal-clear that this conflict is bigger than Ukraine.  
The entire international rules-based order is under attack….  
This, as well as terrorist groups who use asymmetric warfare and create local as well as global disruptions …
and China's immense military build-up and dangerous rhetoric… looms over all of us. 
NATO has a sacred task to protect the 1 billion citizens who live on Allied soil…
To always plan and think head. Be ready to expect the unexpected. 
This is what NATO's highest military authority will do throughout our sessions today.
For the first time in the history of the Military Committee, the Chiefs of Defence of Finland and Sweden will join us as NATO invitees. 
General Timo Kivinen and General Micael Bydén: we are proud to have you in our midst.  And we look forward to welcoming you to our Alliance, in the near future. 
Furthermore, I am pleased to also welcome three new Allied Chiefs of Defence:
•    Brigadier General Arben Kingji (Rbin Kenjē) from Albania. 
•    Major General Karel Řehka (Carl Jākah) from the Czech Republic. 
•    Brigadier General Zoran Lazarević (Soran Lasarahvitch) from Montenegro. 
We will also be supported in our deliberations by the newly installed:
•    Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Christopher Cavoli, 
•    and the Director General of the International Military Staff, General Janusz Adamczak.
We look forward to hearing your contributions and advice.
We all have an immense task ahead of us. 
Today, we will discuss how to implement the far-reaching decisions taken on NATO's deterrence and defence posture, by our political leadership at NATO's Summit in Madrid.
And how to operationalise NATO's deter and defend strategy. 
Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Cavoli, will provide us with his strategic considerations on our current and future posture… On the Eastern flank and across the whole spectrum of our 360 degree approach to security.
The Chiefs of Defence will discuss NATO's ongoing operations, missions and activities, including the NATO Mission Iraq (NMI) and Kosovo Force (KFOR). 
As stewards of the military profession, we will also look to the future of our forces by dedicating a special session today to diversity, and how it can help shape our future forces and increase our innovative capacity. 
Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, General Lavigne, will provide us with his insights on how we can promote cooperation across domains and service branches, and how we can transform our Armed Forces in the digital era.  
Ladies and Gentlemen, 
NATO is built on the promise of solidarity. But that promise would be empty if there was nobody willing to fight for it.  
Every minute of every day, our 3.2 million (soon to be more) men and women in uniform, show us what that solidarity means in practice. 
The sacrifices it takes… The opportunities it brings… And most of all: the immense importance of being in a band of brothers and sisters. The biggest in the world. 
On behalf of the Military Committee, I want to express our deep gratitude and respect for the men and women who serve our Alliance.  We thank them for their courage, their professionalism, and their dedication.
I would like to now take a moment to remember the men and women who paid the ultimate price for our freedom. And all those who are dealing with the physical and mental effects of their time in service. 
We honour their sacrifice. 
Please stand.

[Moment of Silence]

Chair of the NATO Military Committee:
Now, I would like to hand the floor over to Lieutenant General Herem for his opening remarks. 
Martin, the floor is yours.

[CHOD delivers Opening Remarks]

Chair of the NATO Military Committee:
Thank you. I now hand the floor to Her Excellency Madam Kaja Kallas.
Prime Minister, the floor is yours. 

Prime Minister of the Republic of Estonia:

Welcome / intro

  • Mister Chairman, Lieutenant General, Colleagues,
  • It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to the 2022 NATO Military Committee Conference in Tallinn.
  • I particularly welcome the Chiefs of Defence of Finland and Sweden to the conference. For years your forces have been training together with NATO forces and participating in crisis management operations. I hope for a swift military integration in the near future. Your accession to NATO will be an important contribution to the security of the whole Euro-Atlantic area.
  • I would also like to take a moment to honor the late Queen Elizabeth II whose wisdom and remarkable duty provided stability for 70 years. Her Majesty’s Armed Forces have been leading the enhanced Forward Presence in Tapa since 2017. We will be forever grateful for the UK’s presence in Estonia.


  • On 24 February, Europe entered a new security reality. Russia’s genocidal war against Ukraine, right on NATO’s doorstep, is the most serious security crisis of our generation.
  • In response, NATO has made a significant shift in mindset. At the Madrid Summit, Allies defined the Russian Federation as the most significant and direct threat to NATO’s security.
  • Russia’s aggression is a colossal strategic error as the spirit of Ukrainian population and its military cannot be broken. The recent operational defeat of Russia in the Harkiv oblast is sign of Ukrainian grit and astuteness as well as effectiveness of Western aid and advice.
  • The Kremlin’s tactics against the West has a single focus – to force us to negotiate. The Kremlin uses energy to blackmail us admitting they want to make Europe “freeze”. They have threatened with a global famine and they have threating with a nuclear disaster as well. The Kremlin likes negotiations because deals give them something they didn’t have to begin with.
  • That is why we cannot give in one inch, and we must be prepared to be in it for the long haul. If we do not counter Russian aggression and expansionism decisively, the whole international rules-based order will be under threat. That means that no country and no nation could feel safe.
  • The Alliance is not at war. But we are living in a time of war, and we must adapt accordingly.
  • No ally has remained unaffected by intensified hybrid warfare – we have seen an increase of disinformation campaigns and cyberattacks against Estonia and our Allies. These unfriendly activities below the threshold require our daily attention.
  • Putin expects our unity to fall apart over a hard winter. We cannot allow that to happen.
  • Over the last year, I have advocated for a long-term policy of smart containment towards Russia. This means four things.

Support to Ukraine

  • First, we have been on the right track by directly supporting Ukraine. The ongoing counter-offensive proves that military aid takes Ukraine closer to victory and peace. Our focus must be scaling-up our aid and weapons deliveries to push Russians out as soon as possible.
  • Estonia itself has contributed up to 0.8% of our GDP to assisting Ukraine and will continue to provide training to the Ukrainian soldiers for as long as it takes. Ukraine has not won this war until they say that they have won it.
  • And like we reaffirmed in Madrid, NATO’s door should remain open for European democracies who share the values of the Alliance.
  • Second, Russia has to be taken accountable for their war of aggression, aggression crimes, and war crimes. We need to ensure that the perpetrators will be prosecuted.
  • Third, we need to raise the cost of aggression. We have witnessed an era of tremendous change – historic support to Ukraine, huge sanctions, increases in defence spending, NATO’s new defence posture.
  • We must collectively continue to tighten sanctions and isolate Russia internationally.
  • The EU has adopted the seventh package of sanctions on Russia. However, Russia continues to gain benefits from oil and gas sales. We must remind ourselves that fossil fuel exports is the key enabler of Russia’s warfighting in Ukraine. An army without supplies and low on morale cannot fight for long.
  • We must move forward with these significant policy shifts until Russia will change its course.

The Madrid Summit

  • Fourth, NATO’s new forward defence posture ironclad.
  • In Madrid the Alliance decided to significantly strengthen its defense and deterrence in the Eastern flank. We have started this work and expect a significant progress to be made before the next Summit in Vilnius.
  • Adaptation towards forward defence posture means first of all, that we in Estonia need to increase our readiness. Since January, we have made significant investments to increase our ammunition stocks, improve existing capabilities and develop new ones, upgrade infrastructure to host allies and expand training areas. In addition, we are establishing a new divisional structure, which will create better conditions for a possible NATO’s response in our region.   
  • At NATO level, we expect to see practical steps taken to implement the new forward defence posture. This means having executable NATO defence plans in place and exercised. This means a stronger NATO posture in the land, sea and air domain. As a result of all the agreed new measures, NATO will deny any aggression against NATO territory.
  • To achieve that, we have raised Estonia’s defense spending up to 2.5% for the next year.

360-degree approach and innovation

  • Estonia fully supports NATO's 360-degree approach.
  • Terrorism is our common concern and we need to jointly address this most direct asymmetric threat to Allied security.
  • A stable NATO southern neighbourhood is also our immediate security interest. This is demonstrated by the fact that most of our military missions have been to Afghanistan, Africa and the Middle East.
  • The European Union is our partner and the EU’s efforts in the current situation are complementary to NATO. NATO’s cooperation with the EU has never been stronger than now – at a time of need. It is excellent that NATO-EU cooperation was also emphasized in both NATO’s new Strategic Concept and the EU Strategic Compass.
  • NATO plays an important role in driving innovation. The leading role of the free world in technology and innovation is of key importance if we are to maintain a society based on our values and principles.
  • Estonia together with the UK is set to create the DIANA European headquarters. The goal of DIANA, the NATO start-up accelerator is to support technology companies that contribute to defense. It will bring together talented innovators with new technologies end-users in the area of defense.

To conclude

  • Our strength lies in our unity. But it will be vital to keep up our unity over the upcoming complicated months.
  • Over the next two days, you will have a lot to discuss. I wish you successful deliberations at the 2022 Military Committee Conference.

Chair of the NATO Military Committee:
Thank you Prime Minister, for your inspiring words. We are honoured by your presence at this official opening. 
I would like to thank the media for being with us for this official opening. At the end of today's conference, General Herem and I will brief you on the outcomes of our discussions. 
Your Excellency, Madam Kallas, General Herem and I will walk you out before returning to start our first session of the day. 
Thank you.