Keynote speech

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Berlin Security Conference

  • 01 Dec. 2022 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 05 Dec. 2022 11:06

(As delivered)

Thank you so much General Wolski, Reinhard.
It is good to see you again.

And ladies and gentlemen,
It is always a pleasure to be back in Germany.
And thank you so much for inviting me to the Berlin Security Conference.
And I am also delighted, of course, that Norway is supporting this year’s Berlin Security Conference.

Germany is a key NATO Ally that makes significant contributions to our Alliance.
Your leadership is more important than ever, as we face the most serious security situation in decades.
And we need to stand together and act together in the face of these extremely challenging security challenges.

President Putin’s war of aggression has shattered peace in Europe.
With long-lasting shockwaves for global security.

I am coming from our Foreign Ministerial meeting in Bucharest,
where we pledged to maintain our strong support for Ukraine.
And it was a clear and strong message from all Allies that we will sustain our support,
and to continue to bolster our defences in a more dangerous and competitive world.

Thanks to the heroic resistance of the Ukraine people,
and the unprecedented support from NATO Allies, 
Ukraine has made significant gains.

But we should not underestimate Russia.
Russian missiles and drones continue to rain down on Ukrainian cities, civilians, and critical infrastructure.
Causing enormous human suffering, as winter sets in.  

I welcome Germany’s strong support for Ukraine.
With significant financial, humanitarian and military aid. 
Including advanced air defence systems.
And training for Ukrainian soldiers.

We see the difference this makes every day on the battlefield.
And it is important to further step up and sustain our support. 

Yes, our support comes with a price.
These are tough times for many around the world. 
Including here in Germany. 
With rising costs of living, food and energy prices.

But the price we pay is in money.
While the price the Ukrainians pay is in blood.
If authoritarian regimes see that force is rewarded we will all pay a much higher price.
And the world will become a more dangerous world for all of us.

There can be no lasting peace if the aggressor wins.
If oppression and autocracy prevail over freedom and democracy.
So the best way to support lasting peace is to support Ukraine.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine did not come as a surprise.
Months before the attack NATO shared intelligence showing that Russia was planning to invade Ukraine.
And despite all our efforts to find a diplomatic solution Putin went ahead with his plans.

NATO was well prepared.
Within hours after the invasion we activated our defence plans.
And deployed thousands of troops to the Eastern part of the Alliance.
Supported by substantial air and naval capabilities.
To send a clear message to Moscow.
And prevent escalation of the war beyond Ukraine.

Germany’s decision to substantially increase defence spending is historic.
With investments in new fighter jets, helicopters, ships, and submarines.  

This is truly a Zeitenwende.
A turning point that reflects our changed security environment.

Germany plays a critical role in the strengthening of our deterrence and defence.
Leading our battlegroup in Lithuania. 
Assigning a combat brigade to reinforce if needed.
Providing more jets for our air policing.
And strengthening our air defences.

All these efforts need to be stepped up and sustained. 
We need a strong and ready Bundeswehr with high-end capabilities across all domains.
We need a strong and robust defence industry that can deliver on the requirements, based on clear and sustainable demand signals. 

This matters for Germany’s security.
It matters for Europe’s security.
And it matters for global security. 

The war in Ukraine has also demonstrated our dangerous dependency on Russian gas.
This should lead us to assess our dependencies on other authoritarian states, not least China.
For our supply chains, technology and infrastructure.

We will, of course, continue to trade and engage economically with China.
But we have to be aware of our dependencies.
Reduce our vulnerabilities.
And manage the risks.

So ladies and gentlemen,
As Europe’s largest economy and a responsible global actor, 
I count on Germany.
As I count on all Allies.
To stay the course on Ukraine.
To further strengthen our collective defence. 
And to bolster the resilience of our societies.

So thank you.
And I look forward to your questions.
Thank you so much.


Thank you very much, indeed, Mr. Secretary General, for sharing your oversight and means and ways ahead for NATO and us. Ladies and gentlemen, Secretary General Stoltenberg was so kind to give us some minutes for questions and answers. There's microphones in the in the hallways. And so for most of us, this is a rare chance to ask. Microphones are being brought to you, I would kindly ask to introduce yourself with name and professional activity. And to ask one question, please, the floor is open.

Hello, I'm Nicolas (inaudible) representing parliament of Georgia. First of all, thank you your introductory speech. And thank you for your support towards Georgia. Actually I have two questions: The first question is, do you think that it was a mistake not to grant Georgia MAP in 2008? And my other question is, how do you see the role of Georgia in Black Sea security in a short term period? Thank you.

Microphone please.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
First of all, Georgia is a highly valued partner for NATO. And we are actually stepping up our cooperation with Georgia. That was a clear message from the summit of NATO leaders in Madrid in June and it was reiterated at the foreign ministerial meeting I just came from in Bucharest earlier this week. And where also the Georgian Foreign Minister participated. And it was a clear message that we need to do more together with the Georgia.

We have strengthened our political cooperation, our practical support, and also realizing of course, that is, reflecting the fact that the whole Black Sea region is of great strategic importance for the Alliance. NATO, in general, has increased its presence in the Black Sea region. Both of course, because we have three littoral states, Türkiye, Bulgaria and Romania as members, but also, of course, because both Ukraine and Georgia are close and valued partners. And we will continue to step up and not least in face of the aggressive policies of Russia, we see the importance of working with partners like Georgia.

Thank you. Next question is at the eighth row (inaudible).

Thank you very much for your comments. Secretary General. My name is Robert (inaudible), I would like to ask you, what are your views on strengthening the resilience also in our societies, in our western societies, to keep up the activities of NATO in this brutal war?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
The resilience is a very important part of our security, we cannot have strong defences without having strong societies. Therefore, resilience has been on the top of the NATO agenda for a long time. But of course, in the security environment, where we face more hybrid threats, where we also see the vulnerabilities and the challenges in cyberspace, resilience has become even more important.

So therefore in NATO we have developed the resilience guidelines, we have focused on how to protect critical infrastructure. And as (inaudible) just mentioned, also the challenges faced related to undersea infrastructure, pipelines, cables.

So we need to focus on resilience. This is also linked to how we engage economically with authoritarian powers. Free trade has served us all well. I still believe that we benefit from free trade. But we need to realize that when we engage economically with authoritarian powers, like Russia on gas, or like with China on some critical commodities, rare earth minerals, for instance, it has consequences for our securities.

So these decisions cannot only be made based on commercial considerations, you have to take into account the security consequences or for instance, being dependent on Russian gas, or over dependent on some specific commodities for… from China. So resilience is about many aspects, including trade and economy.

Thank you very much (inaudible).

(Inaudible). You spoke about the (inaudible) of rockets and missiles, and strengthening the air defence. Would we need to look at hitting not only the flying missiles, but hit the launching places from where they come?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
NATO's is not party to the conflict in Ukraine. We have no troops, and we have no presence in the air of Ukraine. What NATO does is that we support Ukraine in its right for self-defence, right, which is enshrined in the UN Charter. And then we provide support to Ukraine, with weapons that help them to defend themselves. And that includes, of course, also, air defence systems, artillery, HIMARS, and also a lot of advanced weapon systems.

And I would like to praise and commend Germany for being one of the Allies that is providing the most when it comes to different types of weapons, ammunition and military support to Ukraine. And we have seen that this has made a huge difference on the ground. By being able to push back the Russian troops, the invading forces. First in the north, around Kiev, then in the east around Kharkiv, then in the south around Kherson.

It's not for us to decide. What matters is that we enable the Ukrainians to defend themselves and the message from NATO Allies is that we will sustain, step up and ensure that Ukraine gets weapons, ammunition and that we are ready to support them for as long as it takes.

I think, the gentleman here, then Walter, than the gentleman, there and then two gentlemen in fifth and sixth row.

Claus Whitman, former Brigadier General. I teach contemporary history at Potsdam University and this semester recent history of Ukraine. Sir, apart from air defence and artillery, it is clear that Ukraine also needs armoured combat vehicles. And since the German government does not want to go it alone. (Inaudible). The European Council on Foreign Relations has made the proposal that 13 European (inaudible) nations get together and act as a kind of consortium and deliver armoured vehicles together. What do you think about that proposal?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
So, NATO Allies and partners have delivered armoured vehicles and Allies – just at the meeting we had this week, I think it was Slovakia that announced that they were going to deliver more armoured vehicles – and we are also delivered a lot of advanced weapon systems. And we see that this is making a huge difference on the battlefield every day. I will not go into the exact specifics of the types of weapons we are considering but Allies are constantly considering different types of weapons.

We are also in close dialogue with Ukraine. We had Minister Kuleba at the meeting in Bucharest, we meet in this what we call the Rammstein format led by the United States. And all in all, I think that what you have seen is an unprecedented level of military support.

President Putin made two big strategic mistakes when he invaded Ukraine. The first big strategic mistake was to underestimate Ukraine, the courage, the commitment, the bravery of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the Ukrainian people, Ukrainian political leadership. The other big strategic mistake he made was to underestimate NATO, NATO Allies and partners in our unity and our resolve to provide support to Ukraine.

So yes, I absolutely understand the need to discuss and to address the specific systems. But we have provided already a lot of advanced systems, including armoured vehicles, and thirdly…

One more point on this is that it is important to discuss what kind of additional systems we should provide. And there is a constant discussion and dialogue with Ukraine on that. But I think as important as delivering new systems, it is extremely important to make sure that the systems we have already delivered function.

Because we have actually delivered a lot of systems. And they need as you know, they need ammunition. They need spare parts, they need maintenance. So one of the huge challenges to ensure that all the systems which are already in place are actually functioning as they should. That's a huge logistical challenge. I'm not saying not new systems doesn't matter. But I'm saying to ensure that all the systems which are in place function is extremely important. And we are focused on that too.

Okay. First, Bob Walter, then the gentlemen here, then the two gentlemen, five, six and Dr. (inaudible) with the last question. I guess, because we have to close the session. So 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, please make it short.

Okay. Secretary General, thank you for your address. Robert Walter, I am from the European Security and Defence Association, and also president of Eurodefense, United Kingdom. We have seen the Ukraine crisis create unprecedented cooperation between NATO and the European Union, because there is a common threat assessment in both organizations. And I think, and I would like your comments on this, that this is an opportunity. You are originally from Norway, I am from the United Kingdom – for the European nations in NATO to build a stronger European pillar, using the resources of the member states of both the European Union and of NATO and the EU institutions themselves. And put us beyond criticism, if by chance there should be a change of administration in the United States in two years time.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
So first of all, I strongly welcomed stronger NATO EU cooperation. And over the last years, we have been able to lift NATO EU cooperation up to unprecedented levels, on a wide range of issues from cyber, maritime, resilience and in many other areas we work together in in the Balkans, you have the NATO presence in Kosovo, we have the support in the EU diplomatic efforts. And also as you alluded to, of course, the way we work together in providing support to Ukraine demonstrates how strong and how important the NATO-EU cooperation is and this is something I have personally also strongly worked for all of my years as Secretary General. So that's obvious.

Then I also welcome more EU efforts on defence, as long as that doesn't duplicate NATO efforts, because we need to realize that NATO remains the bedrock for European and transatlantic security. And if, as long as European efforts on defence means things like for instance, increased defence spending, any meaningful increased European efforts on defence has to come with increased defence spending.

There is one organization that has been calling for increased European defence spending for decades. And that is NATO. So of course, we welcome that, that Germany and other European Allies spend more on defence. Good. If it means that European Allies are providing more capabilities, more battle tanks, more ammunition, more readiness forces, also great. It's absolutely in line with what NATO has been asking for many years. And we see that Allies are spending more, European Allies are spending more, and they're also providing new capabilities, we strongly welcome that.

And also, if European defence means that, for instance, you're addressing the fragmentation of the European defence industry, it's a great advantage for all of us. As you will, we all know, the United States that have very many battle tanks, one main type, in Europe, we have quite a few battle tanks, and seven different types. So of course, the cost per unit, there is no economy of scale, maintenance, spare parts, or education. All that becomes extremely difficult when we have this fragmentation. So all of these are extremely good initiatives when it comes to European defence efforts.

What we must prevent is duplication and competition. So for instance, to have another intervention force, we have an intervention force, and that is the NATO Response Force.

And every time Europe needs that force, we are there. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Kosovo. You have to remember that the Libya operation, that was not a NATO operation originally. It was a European initiative. And after some time, when they came to NATO, and asked us for help, and then we supported the Libya operation. So I'm only saying that we have an intervention force, we have a command structure, and we should do NATO command structure, NATO readiness force, so we should do nothing that is duplicating and competing with that.

And then more fundamentally, we need to realise that 80% of NATO's defence spending is coming from non-EU Allies. So of course, we welcome the efforts of the EU members and I call on them to do more every day. But it represents 20%.

And then, and then one more thing on this is that yes, of course, there may be elections in both Europe and in North America, where you elect people who are not enthusiastically in favour of NATO. That has happened before it may happen again. But if you're concerned about that, you should not do anything which is weakening the institutionalized bond between Europe and North America. If you reduce the transatlantic idea to a kind of bilateral personal relationship, then we are vulnerable. But if we have strong institutions – and that institution is NATO, because that's the only truly transatlantic institution – then we can weather the storms.

The reality is that yes, we had President Trump and there were questions asked. But NATO survived, we actually strengthened the presence of NATO troops in Europe over those years. So any indication that Europe can go alone, can just weaken the transatlantic bond. So I strongly believe in NATO, I strongly believe in Europe and North America working together. I don't believe in Europe alone as I don't believe in America alone. I believe in Europe and North America together in NATO. And we need to safeguard that. Thank you.

Congratulations for your speech. I am Colonel (inaudible), Defence Attaché from the Republic of Cyprus. And from my country, we strongly support this cooperation with Europe, for Ukraine. My question is, as we have occupation from an Ally, NATO Ally, Türkiye, that is a candidate country in Europe, 48 years now. Do you think that it's time to support Cyprus problem for the reunification of Cyprus after 48 years? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
So we strongly support the UN and efforts to try to find a negotiated and peaceful solution. I think that's the only way to address the challenges and unsolved issues in Cyprus. And that's also why we welcome those efforts. We have had different initiatives. And I think that remains the only way to solve the challenges and the conflict in Cyprus.

The gentleman, I think row five and six please. There's one and then you close the session.

Thank you, sir, very much for a very good speech [inaudible] from corporate defence and aerospace. I've spent about 40 years in the Norwegian armed forces and it's understandable that we're now focusing on the current and the mid-short term issues.

But what are your thoughts for a new security architecture in Europe, considering that, maybe overdramatizes it a little bit, but the one we have is actually in shambles, where the CFE and a lot of the other treaties basically have been pushed aside. And as some have commented on, both today and yesterday, we don't necessarily cooperate the way we used to, and what is then the future for us, thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
One important element, part of a European security architecture is NATO. And if anything, the war in Ukraine has just highlighted, demonstrated the importance of maintaining NATO as a pillar of European security, with North America, with Canada, with the United States. We see all the support they provide to Ukraine, we see that NATO has been able to significantly increase its military presence in eastern part of the Alliance, to prevent escalation of the war.

So I'm fully aware of that NATO is not the whole European security architecture, because you have institutions as OSCE and so on. But an extremely important part of any meaningful European security architecture is NATO, and NATO is more vital and stronger, more agile than it’d been for decades. Because the war didn't start in February this year. The war started in 2014. That was when Russia annexed Crimea, and actually started to control parts of eastern Donbass.

Since then, NATO has under…we have implemented the biggest reinforcement of collective defence. The biggest adaptation of our Alliance since the end of the Cold War, with battlegroups in eastern part of the Alliance with increased defence spending, with higher readiness, and more US, North American presence.

We have a US led battle group in Poland, we have a Canadian led battle group in Latvia. So you have more North America and Europe now for many, many years.

I say this, because sometimes you speak about European security architecture, something abstract, and something else…for academics, so it's very good. But it's very much about NATO. And NATO is there more than we have seen for many decades.

And then of course, there are also other elements, and that includes not least Russia, how to relate to Russia, and that has been shattered by the war in Ukraine.

For many years, NATO strived for a more constructive relationship with Russia, for dialogue with Russia. I was Prime Minister when President Putin and Medvedev attended NATO summits we had just came from Bucharest as I told you, when I was there at the summit in 2008, President Putin was there. In Lisbon, Medvedev attended. That world doesn't exist anymore. Because with the invasion of Ukraine, that whole idea of a meaningful dialogue with Russia is uncharted. Also, it has been smashed and destroyed by Russia.

At the same time, we need to maintain military lines of communications to prevent escalation, to prevent incidents. We saw the incident in Poland, we need to do whatever we can to have incidents accidents that can’t spiral out of control. So we need major lines of communication.

I see General Breedlove is here in the audience. He was active, speaking to Russian counterparts when he was SACEUR or the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO. And we need to have that lines of communications. And of course, we also need to continue to engage with Russia on issues like arms control.

So the one part, NATO is as strong as ever. The other part of the European security architecture, this cooperation with Russia, is not functioning. Russia has walked away from the meaningful dialogue, but we need a minimum of a contact, military lines of communications, and for instance, to address issues like arms control.

Okay, so closing question by Dr. [inaudible] please.

I am representing the Federation of German Defence Industry and Security Industry. Secretary General, the question I have is regarding the Green Deal of the EU. The Green Deal has turned out to be a very powerful transformation agent for our societies. And it means that on the one hand, ministries have to become Climate Neutral, companies like our member companies have to become ESG, you have to get ESG conformity which we are really doing. However, we are producing weapons and our financial sector, categorizes weapons, even if they are in order to help our armed forces to fulfil their NATO tasks, tend to categorize those weapons as non-sustainable. What can NATO do in order to bridge this kind of gap?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
So you're raising a very important issue. And that is that I have also the defence industry represented by you and others they have raised to me several times. We had the big conference in Rome, some time ago, I had meetings with a lot of defence executives, actually, in Brussels just a couple of weeks ago. And they raised exactly the same issue that they have problems with getting financing, investments, because they don't fulfil this ESG guidelines, and there also been some questions about the EU taxonomy.

We have engaged with the European Union, on those issues, raised our concerns, the European Union is now looking into it, working on it, and some actions have been taken to make it easier for the defence industry to get finance.

This is partly about government regulations. But it's also very much about what private financial companies decide themselves without any government regulations. So I think this is partly to address governments, we are doing that as an Alliance and the European Union, they are very much aware, and they're working on the issue to try to avoid that kind of, as I say, unintended effects.

And we need to also to then address the financial sector. Because it is absolutely meaning… there is no meaning in saying that we should make it harder, more difficult to invest in defence industry. We need those capabilities. Of course, it's always nicer to invest in health and infrastructure and education. But when there is a full-fledged war going on in Ukraine, the way to save life is to give them ammunition, to give them air defence. And that's the brutal reality, like it or not.

If you look at opinion polls, people understand this. They don't regard defence industry from NATO Allied countries as something which is not sustainable. The reality is that the only way to sustain peace is to invest in defence. And rest assured, we are working hard on that.

And of course, we have seen a transition where the defence industry was state owned, then many of them have been more private owned. But of course, you cannot end up in a situation where the defence industry is not able to get private capital and then end all as state owned again. Because the private financial market has some idea of what is sustainable. So they just have to change the idea of what is sustainable and make it easy to invest in the defence industry.

Mr. Secretary General, thank you very much indeed for your briefing and frank answers to the audience of the Berlin Security Conference and we wish you good luck and Godspeed for the Alliance ploughing forward and the cohesion of the Alliance. Thank you very much indeed.