by NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană at the Romanian Military Thinking Conference
Thank you so very much and I thank General Petrescu and the Ministry of Defence of Romania, for inviting me for this very important conference today.
The implications of the conflict in Ukraine and NATO's new strategic concept have a direct impact on the security of the vital Black Sea region.
I hope that next time around I'll be able to be with you in person.
Romania is a highly valued NATO ally.
Romania makes important contributions to our shared security, including at this pivotal time.
Romania hosts one of NATO's new battle groups in the Black Sea region and other one in Bulgaria. You lead by example on defence spending, and Romania hosts the key site for NATO's ballistic missile defence.
Last month, Secretary General Stoltenberg and I had the pleasure to welcome Prime Minister Nicolae Ciucă to NATO HQ and in two weeks’ time, Romania will host the meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers in Bucharest, we look forward to being again back in my country.
So, we thank Romania for its strong political, military and diplomatic leadership to strengthen NATO and we thank you for your continued support for our partner Ukraine, and for the security and stability of the Black Sea region as a whole.
Russia's brutal war of aggression against Ukraine rages on.
But we see the Ukrainian forces making progress, pushing back the invading Russian forces in the East and in the south of Ukraine.
Russia's partial withdrawal from Kherson demonstrates the incredible courage of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
And it shows how vital it is to continue our support to Ukraine.
President Putin is responding to his failures on the battlefield with more indiscriminate attacks on Ukrainian cities, against civilians, and civilian infrastructures, and with dangerous nuclear rhetoric.
So, we must stay the course for Ukraine’s sake, but also for ours.
NATO will not be intimidated or deterred, we’ll support Ukraine's right to self-defence for as long as it takes.
At the same time, we continue to strengthen our own defences to keep ally territory and our 1 billion people safe.
The Black Sea region has been the focus, the bastion, and the launching pad of Russia's aggressive build up and actions for more than two decades now.
Russia's irresponsible and hostile behaviour in the broader Black Sea region has deeply affected the security of the Alliance.
It has also hampered economic development and exacerbated instability in the region.
From frozen conflicts to the full use of military force, from repeatedly restricting freedom of navigation in the Black Sea to cyberattacks, Russia has used all tools in its conventional and hybrid toolbox.
And it has turned parts of the Black Sea into a war zone.
So, what happens in the Black Sea does not stay in the Black Sea.
We see the global repercussions, including the heavy disruption of food supplies.
By blocking Ukraine imports for months, Russian forces have prevented grain from being exported from Ukraine, causing the worst global food security crisis in years.
I want to thank Romania, for making the conditions for exports of Ukrainian products to the global markets through its ports and its territory.
Access to the Black Sea is not only a critical enabler of Russia's brutal war against Ukraine today, with missiles fired from Russian ships, submarines and warplanes in and over the Black Sea hit targets deep inside Ukraine.
It also enables Russia to project power from the Black Sea towards the southern Caucasus, Iran, Iraq and Syria, the eastern Mediterranean, North Africa and the Sahel, Western Balkans, and the Republic of Moldova.
This is why we reaffirm the strategic importance of the Black Sea region in NATO's new strategic concept that our leaders endorsed in Madrid in the Summit last June.
NATO has been strengthening our collective deterrence and defence since 2014 in response to Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea, with more troops backed by significant air and sea capabilities, and the defence investment pledge to spend 2% of GDP on our defence.
At the Madrid summit in June, we decided to do even more.
We doubled our battlegroups in the eastern part of the Alliance from four to eight, and we'll continue to reinforce them up to brigade level as needed.
We are also increasing the number of high readiness forces across the Alliance to well over 300,000 troops.
We are further reinforcing NATO's presence from the Baltic to the Black Sea, including here in Romania.
Fighter jets from Canada help to keep your skies safe and thousands of French, Belgian and US troops are in Romania to deter aggression, our increased presence sends a clear message.
NATO is ready to defend Romania and all NATO allies and to protect every inch of allied soil.
At the same time, we are also preparing for a world of increased strategic competition and instability.
So, at the Madrid Summit, we also agreed NATO's new strategic concept.
The concept describes the security environment facing the Alliance, reaffirms our values, and sets out NATO's core tasks, and key purpose of ensuring our collective defence.
Our new strategic concept makes clear that Russia poses the most significant and direct threat to our security.
And that China's coercive policies challenge our security, values and interests.
It describes climate change is a defining challenge of our time.
And it reaffirms our commitment to counterterrorism, as well as cyber and hybrid threats.
We are facing the most dangerous and unpredictable security environment in a generation, and probably one of the most transformative times in human history.
So I have a busy agenda ahead the road to the NATO summit in Vilnius.
An important stop will be in a few days in Bucharest for the foreign ministerial.
I know that NATO and I myself can count on Romania, to continue working for a stable and secure Black Sea region and beyond.
Just as Romania can count on NATO, to remain strong, to remain ready, to remain responsive, to support our partners, protect our people and defend our democratic values.
Thank you so much for having me.
And I wish you a great conference,
General Petrescu, our respect.
And thank you so much for the leadership you're providing to our great armed forces.