by NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană at the conference on Developing NATO Partnerships in a Changing Security Environment
Ministers, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends.
(speaks in Romanian)
I am so delighted to speak to you on this Moldova ‘NATO Day’. I only regret I could not join you in Chișinău. But I will visit soon. I know some wonderful NATO colleagues are there with you for this very important conference, I’d like to thank them and the NATO Information and Documentation Centre and the staff of our Liaison Office for organising this great event. And many thanks to the Ministries of Defence and Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Moldova for their support. (speaks in Romanian)
This is just one of several NATO Days, dedicated to raising awareness and understanding among the Moldovan public of NATO and our cooperation with the Republic of Moldova.
This year’s conference is taking place at a critical moment.
President Putin’s war against Ukraine rages on. Russian missiles and drones continue to strike Ukrainian cities, civilians, critical infrastructure, causing enormous human suffering, as winter sets in.
It is a horrific conflict. For Ukrainians, first and foremost, fighting for their country and their freedom. And paying too many times, with their own lives.
But also, this war is also having consequences for the security and the economy of other countries in the region, not least the Republic of Moldova. I have to mention –yes, I have to mention, the global repercussions of Moscow’s food and energy wars.
Faced with the biggest challenge to our security in decades, NATO is responding with speed and unity. To support Ukraine. To protect all Allies. Yes, to assist our partners.
First, our support to Ukraine.
Just over a week ago now, NATO foreign ministers met in Bucharest and agreed to step up support for Ukraine.
We made clear that our continued military support is essential to help Ukraine defend itself. In particular, when it comes to additional air defences.
We also announced additional contributions to NATO’s Comprehensive Assistance Package for Ukraine. Providing the country with much needed non-lethal aid, including fuel and generators.
We’ve been providing Ukraine significant support since the illegal annexation of Crimea back in 2014. And we have stepped up since the invasion in February with unprecedented assistance.
Ukraine can count on NATO’s continued support for as long as it takes. We will not back down. Because if we do, then the lesson learned by President Putin and other authoritarian leaders is that they can achieve their goals by using brute force. So they will be emboldened to use even more force once again.
That will make our world more dangerous and all of us more vulnerable. This is why we cannot let Putin win.
Second, on protecting all Allies. This is NATO’s core business.
Since Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, NATO has implemented the largest reinforcement of our collective defence in a generation.
Now, we are doing even more, to prevent the conflict in Ukraine from escalating, and to protect and defend every inch of Allied territory.
We have doubled the number of battlegroups in the east of the Alliance from four to eight. We have also increased our ability to reinforce them up to brigade level. And we are putting more troops on higher readiness, so they are ready to respond, whatever and whenever needed.
And finally, on partnerships. And specifically on the NATO-Republic of Moldova partnership.
One of the lessons from Ukraine’s heroic resistance against Russia’s invasion is that our support to partners makes a difference. And that more needs to be done to support other partners facing Russian pressure. The Republic of Moldova is of course one of them.
Our partnership is strong. And it is growing even stronger at this challenging time.
We were very pleased –I was personally pleased to welcome Minister Popescu at the NATO ministerial meeting in Bucharest last week. It was the first time ever that a Foreign Minister the Republic of Moldova is taking part of such high level NATO meeting. Of course, we are happy to welcome our counterparts from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Georgia, and this is something that tells a lot about the implications, also in the strategic thinking in our partner nations of the implications of Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine.
Let me tell you that NATO Allies expressed their admiration for the people of Republic of Moldova and for your generosity in hosting so many Ukrainian refugees.
In Bucharest, we discussed our shared security concerns, and ways to strengthen our cooperation even more. Allies agreed to step up our tailored support, including on capacity-building, reforms, and training to improve your security and defence institutions.
In the past months, we have already started work to help the Republic of Moldova assess and strengthen its resilience, including to hybrid challenges like cyber attacks or threats to critical infrastructure and of course, the massive Russian disinformation campaign.
And at request of Chișinău, NATO will be providing additional practical support to the modernisation and strengthening of Moldova’s defence and security institutions.
This builds on the support NATO has been providing to the Republic of Moldova for many years. Almost since Moldovan independence 3 decades ago. Our cooperation is, and has always been, in full respect of Moldova’s constitutional neutrality, but as President Maia Sandu and Minister Popescu have said also, at the NATO meeting, being neutral doesn’t mean that you have to be weak in defence. So this is where, taking the request from the Republic of Moldova very seriously for additional support to strengthen its legitimate national security interests.
The Republic of Moldova first joined the North Atlantic Cooperation Council back in 1992 for the Partnership for Peace just after the programme was launched. We have been working together through various programmes and initiatives. Just to mention a few.
The Defence Capacity Building initiative offers a tailored package of support to defence reform and the transformation of Moldova’s military.
NATO’s Building Integrity programme has supported the Ministry of Defence to improve governance and to reduce the risk of corruption in the security sector.
The Defence Education Enhancement Programme supports your military education institutions. This has enabled hundreds of Moldovan citizens who obtained Bachelors’ and Masters’ degrees to follow other professional courses.
The Science for Peace and Security Programme has sponsored a number of projects, including a Moldovan Cyber Incident Response Capability and of course, the work on the Women, Peace and Security agenda.
Another NATO-sponsored project safely removed and destroyed more than 1,200 tons of dangerous pesticides, helping Moldovan agriculture to move on. As part of the support measures agreed in Madrid, we will look at what more we can do in this area.
And this year, NATO and the Republic of Moldova have also launched a multi-year training programme to support professional development of civilian personnel in defence and security sector institutions.
But now, looking ahead, NATO fully supports Moldova’s European integration. Cooperation with NATO will help Moldova implement the necessary reforms on the path to EU membership.
These are difficult times for Europe, and also for the people of the Republic of Moldova. But as demonstrated by your European Union candidate status, it is also a time and a huge opportunity to secure Moldova’s future in a democratic and secure European community.
So NATO is supporting the Republic of Moldova, just as Moldova supports NATO and contributes to Euro-Atlantic security.
Moldovan soldiers are serving in KFOR, NATO’s peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, to help maintain stability in the neighbouring region of the Western Balkans.
In the current security context, our partnership is even more important. So NATO is stepping up our support for the Republic of Moldova. Because our partnership helps make you safer, which in turn, makes us all more secure – today and for generations to come.
Thank you so much and I wish you an excellent conference and as I said earlier, I look forward to visiting Chișinău, a place I love and I like.