by NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană at the Helsinki Security Forum - Northern European Security redone
Thank you, Charly. And the Helsinki Security Forum is an excellent addition to the discussion on European and global security and I'm very happy to speak with you today. I'm only sorry I cannot be with you in person.
As you know, these days, we are witnessing a disturbing deterioration of our security environment, which has changed radically since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia a few months back. We see conventional and non-conventional risks and threats multiplying, and the strategic picture becomes ever more complicated and a new European architecture unfolds. The damage to Nord Stream one and two pipelines, which occurred just a couple of days ago, international waters in the Baltic Sea is of deep concern, as the leaks are causing risks to shipping and substantial environmental damage. All current information indicates that this is the result of deliberate, reckless, irresponsible act of sabotage and we support the investigations underway to determine the origin of the damage and allies have been exchanging information including with Finland, Sweden, in this sense.
We are committed to prepare for, deter and defend against any coercive use of energy or other hybrid tactics by state and non-state actors alike. This comes in the wider context of President Putin's brutal and unprovoked war in Ukraine, which also has reached a turning point. It's more than an attack on an independent sovereign country, it is an attack on the international system that has kept our nation safe for so long.
We're also seeing the sham referenda coming into force, will not recognize them, and will continue to stay by Ukrainian friends for the long haul. Speaking of Ukraine, since February, NATO allies have provided billions of euros worth of weapons, ammunition and other support to aid Ukraine in its just fight for freedom. This is on top of the support we have been giving Ukraine since its independence in 1990s and especially since 2014, and we will continue our support for as long as it takes.
Russia's war underlines just how vital a strong deterrence and defence is. Russia is weakened, but still dangerous and we cannot let down our guard. We cannot assume it will not attack another country. Many assume that it would not launch a full scale invasion of Ukraine from the beginning. They were wrong.
This is why Finland and your neighbour Sweden, took the historic step to apply for NATO membership. To seek the protection of Article Five, when attack on one ally is an attack on all of us. NATO membership will make Finland safer, and Finland will make NATO stronger.
Finland in particular, brings huge expertise when it comes to national resilience. Lessons that deeply embedded within its society since the end of the Second World War. More widely having allies on all sides of the Baltic Sea will change the strategic environment in the region and make the defence of the Baltic countries easier, and the whole North more coherent. Your membership will change the configuration of what we know as NATO's Eastern Flank. Now stretching with the accession of Finland and Sweden from the barren Sea to the Mediterranean, to the Baltic and Black Seas, and a significantly longer border with Russia.
We must reflect this new reality in our policies, especially initiatives that focus on transport, communications that enable greater military mobility and readiness. So things like the Three Seas Initiative and the North South corridor become even more important. On the security and defence side, the need to ensure readiness also translates in better interconnectivity, and eluding all obstacles for military mobility, and the movement of people within our community. In addition, you have as Finland you have deep partnerships with many countries in Asia and Africa, in the developing world. You have a sterling reputation, your diplomacy is first act, your support and aid has changed destinies for the better in so many places. So you bring to the alliance not only your strategic depth, your armed forces, your society, but also your reputation, and your expertise. And this is something that all of us in NATO and in the world will benefit from.
So Finland and Sweden will make our alliance stronger, more resilient, and more integrated in the world around us. 20 allies already ratified your membership, and I very much looking forward to welcoming you into our alliance very soon.
Russia is the most significant and direct threat to Allied security, but it's not the only challenge. Terrorism, instability, China, disruptive technologies, climate change, all threaten our interest, our people and our values. We must be strong and we must be agile if we are going to continue to keep our people safe.
To guide us, we have the new Strategic Concept agreed by our leaders at the NATO Madrid summit last June. And the concept reflects the far darker reality we face today. It reaffirms our values, freedom, democracy, the rule of law and human rights, what the Washington Treaty is based upon. It also states that our main purpose and greatest responsibility is to enable our collective defence, to deter and defend against any threat from any direction. We do this with highly capable forces at a high state of readiness.
Since 2014, we have deployed battlegroups in the east of our lands. Now we are significantly increasing the numbers of troops, equipment, quality, and multidomain presence in the Eastern Flank. Today, as we speak, there are more than 300,000 soldiers by next year ready to move on short notice to respond to any contingency, to protect every ally. So our role has changed, and so has NATO and will continue to change to keep our people safe. And of course, we need to do this with partners. And of course, the European Union is the natural partner for NATO.
In recent years, NATO and the EU have taken this partnership to new heights. We work together on a growing range of issues from the Western Balkans to military mobility from maritime to cyber defence. Neither NATO nor the EU alone have the tools to ensure our security and our prosperity. But working together, we are a powerful force for good. In a key area for cooperation with the EU is creating stronger societies and as I said before, we can learn many lessons from Finland. Modern conflict is about far more than guns and tanks. We must be every bit as concerned with the protection of our critical infrastructure, including energy security, supply chains, healthcare systems, and resilient societies which are in fact, our first line of defence.
Strong societies are better able to deter, resist and bounce back from attack, be the physical or digital. This requires ever closer cooperation with the private sector. It depends on a thriving private sector for the capabilities we need from weapons and ammunitions, for satellite or cyber defences. Our societies also depend on industry to keep them running and keep them secure. We are driving this relationship through increasing spending commitments and through new instruments like the billion euro NATO Innovation Fund and DIANA, the Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic, because leveraging the pool of talent we have in the soon to be 32 nations is paramount in keeping our technological edge in the era of great power and fierce, great power competition.
We have the best academic institutions in the world. We have the finest researchers, the most creative companies and the best minds. And in free societies where people can challenge and question everything. We have a significant advantage in the development of new technologies. And in experimenting and innovating, and designing and co-designing a better future for us and for our societies.
One word on energy security. We have been too dependent on Russian oil and gas for too long. This is changing rapidly. This is also difficult. We have to be sincere and honest, this is not an easy transition. This is going to be a difficult couple of months ahead of us. But this is something that we need to do. And I know that after these difficult moments we'll be stronger together with a better economic development and environmental model in Europe, less dependent on blackmail and energy wars like Russia is waging against us. And also an invitation to diversify energy supplies and not be dependent and vulnerable to coercion, like we have been for so many long years.
Also, we have to make sure that we help Ukraine. We have to help Ukraine not only in defending its rights to be a sovereign independent nation and to choose whatever future they want to choose. But because this is something which is very, very important, not only for Europe, is also important for the rest of the world.
And we have to defend, like Finland has done in your glorious history, to defend every inch of allied soil, but also to make sure that we convince the rest of the world that being part of a democratic rule of law based and democratic future is the best way forward.
All the best of luck for your conference, the North is becoming very, very important. The changes and climate change will bring new challenges and opportunities to this part of Europe and of the world. And now we can count on Finland as a dear new allied member in NATO, to give us the kind of sophistication, depth and contributions that we know we can count from you.