Opening remarks

by the Chair of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Rob Bauer and NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană at the start of the Military Committee in Chiefs of Defence session

  • 18 Jan. 2023 -
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  • Last updated: 18 Jan. 2023 12:09

(As delivered)

Chair of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Rob Bauer

Deputy Secretary General, it is both an honour and a pleasure to have you in our midst.  
Chiefs of Defence, especially our new Icelandic colleague, Mr Allansson,
Invitees Finland and Sweden, 
Strategic Commanders, 
Military Representatives, 
Ladies and Gentlemen, 
Mesdames et Messieurs, bienvenue à la cent-quatre-vingt-huit-ième session du comité militaire des chefs d’état-major de la défense, qui prend place en personne.
Welcome to the 188th Military Committee in Chiefs of Defence Session in person. 

One year ago around this date, COVID was still menacing our societies which caused us to convene this meeting virtually. 
It took place on the same day of what would turn out to be a historic and last NATO-Russia Council. 
Back then, we were still able to sit around the same table.  
And even though diplomatic efforts were fully underway, the Russian leadership regrettably chose to go down a path of relentless destruction.
Russia is fighting a brutal, senseless war in Ukraine. And by weaponising energy and food, they are hurting millions of people around the world.  
This means that now, one year later, the world is a different place. 
Unfortunately, we are seeing the dawn of a new era of collective defence.  However, it is an era that NATO is ready for. 
We have shown the world that we are capable of quickly scaling up our presence whenever and wherever necessary. 
But most importantly: we have shown the world that we are above all a defensive political-military Alliance. 
Everything we do, is for the defence of the 1 billion people who live on Allied soil.  To uphold the values we hold dear.  And to protect the international rules-based order. 

NATO is a unique organization.  
On a daily basis we bring together 30, soon 32, nations to find consensus on thousands of pieces of policy.  
This happens on both the political and the military level. 
And crucially: these two levels interact frequently to make sure that what is politically desirable is militarily feasable. 
That is why it is so crucial to have at our table today our Deputy Secretary General Mr Mircea Geoanã, to join us for the official opening. 
Mr Deputy Secretary General, we look forward to hearing what you have to say. May I kindly invite you to take the floor. 

NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană

Thank you so much CMC, Admiral Bauer. 
Good morning to all. Bonjour à toutes et à tous.
It is a great honour to address the Military Committee in Chiefs of Defence Session. Your meeting today takes place at a critical time for Euro-atlantic security. 

As the Chair rightly pointed out, our world is a different place than it was just a year ago. 
The rules-based international order is under great strain. 
Our security is at stake. 
Democracy is under attack. 
And our economies and our people are impacted.

The war in Ukraine is front and center. 
Nearly a year ago, President Putin started his war. 
To take control of Ukraine and take away people’s freedom. 
But he underestimated the skill and bravery of the Ukrainian people, armed forces and leadership. 
He underestimated our unity and our solidarity with Ukraine. 
He underestimated our countries’ reaction.
We have been providing unprecedented assistance to support Ukraine's right to self-defence.
And this has made a difference on the battlefield. 
This support is critical to shape Ukraine’s future.

Now, as Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg emphasises, underestimating Russia is dangerous. 
Putin is preparing for a long war. 
He has already mobilised over 200,000 more troops, many of whom are in training. 
He is scaling up Russian military production.
And sourcing more weapons from other authoritarian regimes, including Iran. 
But perhaps most importantly, we have no indication that Putin’s goals have changed.  

So we must be prepared for the long haul. 
2023 will be a difficult year. 
And we need to support Ukraine for as long as it takes.  

At the same time, we need to deliver on the decisions our Leaders took at the Madrid Summit last year. And strengthen our defences to face any threat, from any direction.
Progress is underway to rapidly scale-up our battlegroups on the eastern flank up to brigade level. 
And put more troops at higher readiness. 
We are also moving ahead to deliver the new Force Model, and the new plans to defend key and relevant places in the Alliance in all strategic directions. 
And we are also making progress to get the right command and control arrangements. 
Your continued leadership and support are key to implement these decisions, especially as we look to our next Summit in Vilnius this July. 
Let me very briefly mention three points, and you will be discussing at length all these topics and more, which we believe will be essential in view of our Summit in Vilnius. 
First: we need to invest more in defence.
The 2% target set in Wales almost a decade ago is increasingly seen as a floor, not a ceiling, for our defence investments.
We need well-trained, well-equipped soldiers with modern capabilities, ready to deploy faster whenever and wherever needed.
For this, Allies must continue to make progress, including with commitments beyond 2024.

Second: we need to ramp up our industrial capacity to manufacture weapons and ammunition. 
And work closely with the defence industry to replenish our own stocks. 
It matters for Ukraine and for our own deterrence and defence. 
This will be an important topic of discussion at the upcoming NATO defence ministers meeting in February in this very room.

And finally: while learning the lessons from this war, we also need to prepare for potential future wars and continue to transform NATO for the digital age. 
Our Alliance must retain the military capacity and capability to defend the Alliance against all challenges, now and in the future, including in multi-domain operations. 
It is essential that we better harness the opportunities that come with new technologies, including Artificial Intelligence and big data. 
And there is much work underway at NATO to sharpen our technological edge. This, in turn, strengthens and bolsters our deterrence and defence. 
And like I mentioned with the defence sector and defence industry, our cooperation with the drivers of innovation in the private sector also on technology is essential. 

So we have a busy agenda ahead of us. I look forward to continue working with all of you to keep NATO strong and our people safe. 
I would like to say, to thank also CMC Admiral Bauer, for his superb leadership at the helm of this very important and distinguished group.
Thank you so much for having me today. 

Chair of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Rob Bauer

Thank you for your inspiring words.  It is an honour to have you in our midst. 

Dear Chiefs of Defence, this meeting will focus on how we can ensure our Deterrence and Defence by increasing readiness, developing capabilities and interlinking national and NATO military planning ever more closely.
It is crucial that we continue to provide the political leadership in the North Atlantic Council with our unfettered military advice. 
Being honest about our strengths as well as our weaknesses.  That is what Allies do.  That is what friends do.  
And it is crucial, in order to perform our sacred task to always be ready to expect the unexpected.

I want to note that this requires a resilience that goes far wider and deeper than the military alone.  
The war in Ukraine has proven that defending your nation is a responsibility that lies not just on the shoulders of those in uniform. 
A ballerina of the National Opera of Ukraine is fighting in the trenches right now. 
Deterrence and defence require participation from all parts of our societies.
The war has also shown us that you have to be able to fight tomorrow’s battles as well as yesterday’s battles… today.
Modern warfare is just as much about bits and bots as it is about mud and blood.  
We are all in awe of the effectiveness and professionalism of our Ukrainian counterparts, who manage to outmaneuver their opponent time and time again.   Crystal clear in their devotion to their country, the Ukrainians are fighting to protect not just what they have… but who they are.

This morning, we learned that 18 people – including 3 members of the Ukrainian government and several children – were killed in a helicopter crash in Brovary, a town in the Kyiv Oblast. Many more were injured.
Even though the cause of the accident remains unclear, it is yet another stark reminder of the senseless destruction and immense grief that this war causes.
This war could end today, if President Putin decides to stop it. But until it does, we will continue supporting Ukraine for as long as it takes.

Now, let me briefly touch upon the upcoming sessions of today and tomorrow. 
After this official opening we will have a Question and Answer session with the Deputy Secretary General, to discuss key strategic issues and the work that needs to be done in the run up to the Vilnius Summit in July. 

The Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, General Lavigne, will provide us with his insights on “Balancing Capacity and Capability”, but also on Lessons Identified from the war on Ukraine. 
The Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Cavoli, will provide us with his strategic considerations on our posture.  Not only on the Eastern flank, but across the whole spectrum of our 360 degree approach to security.

A separate session is dedicated to Readiness and Sustainment – elaborating on risks and mitigation measures.  For this session, the Assistant Secretary General for Defence Policy and Planning and the Assistant Secretary General for Defence Investment, will provide their insights to our committee.

Tomorrow’s sessions will include discussions on NATO’s Operations and Missions KFOR and NMI, for which we will welcome our Operational Partners around our table. 

We will dedicate a special session to discuss the military situation in and around Ukraine, and I am particularly grateful that the Ukrainian CHOD General Valerii Zaluzhnyi is planning to join us via VTC. 

And then we will say an official farewell to our Portuguese colleague and friend Admiral Silva Ribeiro.

Ladies and Gentlemen, dear colleagues, NATO is founded on the promise of solidarity.  But solidarity would mean nothing if there was nobody willing to fight for it.  
Values and principles are empty words, if nobody is willing to defend them. 
Our men and women in uniform are all part of an enormous band of 3.2 million military brothers and sisters.  With the upcoming accession of Finland and Sweden, it will be around 3 and a half million.
They see together what they cannot see alone. They do together what they cannot do alone.

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]

Thank you.  I would like to now thank the media for being with us for this official opening.  At the end of our committee session tomorrow afternoon, SACT, SACEUR and I will brief you on the outcomes of our discussions and answer your questions.  
I would now ask the media to depart the room.  
Thank you.