by NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană at the Leangkollen Security Conference in Oslo

  • 06 Feb. 2023 -
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  • Last updated: 06 Feb. 2023 14:40

(As delivered)

Thank you Kate, time goes fast. Thank you so much, also Anne Grete, to the Norwegian Atlantic Committee. It is a privilege to be again with you, such a distinguished audience.
It is also an incredible honour to speak in this great university, but also in this incredible room, surrounded by the works of the world-renowned Edvard Munch.

And if you look to the painting on that wall, an old man from the fjords and a young boy. That work is called ‘History’. The red cap worn by the old man represents freedom. The old man has struggled for many years and is telling this boy his stories, so the child can learn, learn the lessons of previous generations. And carry the torch, when he will grow up, to his children, and grand-children.

Here in Europe, we also wear our freedom with pride. It was hard won. Together, in this Alliance we defeated fascism and then communism. Our nations embraced democracy, liberty and the rule of law, and yes we have thrived.

Your prime minister just said that the new Iron Curtain is about to be re-installed in Europe. He also said, as a Norwegian, and many of the Allies, that the lack of freedom and dictatorship is an abstract notion for many. It is not for me. I lived behind the Iron Curtain for half of my life. And I hope the young ones will remember my speech.

So what we are now, in fact defending while helping Ukraine, we are in fact fighting for our values. And we are telling the stories of so many struggles, that have shaped us and represent what we are today, and what we will leave to the next generations tomorrow.
But the first time in many decades, our values, these values, are under attack.

We live in an era of strategic competition, and Europe finds itself at the centre of this struggle. Our next Summit in Vilnius in July will be vital. I would like to thank Norway for hosting the Foreign Ministerial meeting of NATO which will be an important preparation on the way to this very important summit. In Vilnius, our leaders will reconfirm what we have decided in Madrid, and will steer the course of action in the right direction and at speed of relevance. Our leaders will have a lot to discuss in Vilnius.

Of course, our first priority will be Ukraine.

President Putin's war of aggression against Ukraine is the biggest conflict in Europe since the Second World War. And a brutal and deliberate attack on the international rules-based system.

When Putin’s forces invaded almost a year ago, he expected swift victory. He didn’t get it, because, he made two strategic mistakes.
First, he underestimated the skill and bravery of the Ukrainian people. And also he underestimated our unity, our solidarity, and the strength of NATO and of our partners.

The United States of America has committed almost 50 billion Euros of military, financial and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.

The rest of the Allies here in Europe and Canada, including the European Union institutions, have committed over 60 billion Euros, including a significant contribution from Norway. I would like to thank Norway, and I am also looking forward to seeing the transcript of the Prime Minister’s speech in the parliament, for the multi-year contribution of your great country, to our friends in Ukraine.

Not to mention the economic and political sanctions.

This is truly transatlantic unity in action.

And our support is making a big difference on the battlefield. When this war ends, it will most likely end at the negotiating table. Most wars do. But Ukraine’s success then, when peace will be finally reached, depends on their strength now. So it is essential that we stay the course and support Ukraine for as long as it takes.

Jens Stoltenberg said quite tellingly, that since [inaudible] the more support to give to Ukraine now, the sooner the war would end. This is something that our Allies, I know, will reconfirm in Vilnius and the way forward.

The next priority will be bolstering our deterrence and defence. This is the mission of the Alliance.

While we support Ukraine, we must also continue to strengthen our own defences, to protect all Allies, against any threat, from any direction.

Even if the war ended tomorrow, things would not go back to how they were. Our security environment has fundamentally changed and we face a long-term adversarial relationship with Russia.

Yes, we need dialogue. Yes we need to see this war end soon. But the fundamentals of this relationship are altered, for the foreseeable future.
So we must retain the capacity and capability to defend the Alliance against all these challenges.

Progress is underway to rapidly scale-up our battlegroups on the eastern flank up to brigade level as needed. And put more troops at high readiness. And I applaud Norway’s contribution, to the German-led Battlegroup in Lithuania.

Also at NATO, I lead on innovation. We also need to innovate to stay ahead of our rivals. We can see this already in Ukraine.

Ukrainian forces used Google traffic to see the massing of forces before the attack. Also, our intel, said the same thing. They use natural language processing and technology to listen to unencrypted Russian communications. And by using what is essentially a dating app, they have cut the time for requesting an artillery strike from about half an hour to just a few minutes.

This is the fusion between bravery, intelligence, and technology and training.

Technologies can make the difference between winning and losing. We have to make sure that we have them and that we deny them to our rivals.
But we also need to find the right balance between high tech with high intensity weapons.

And this is where NATO is at its best.

The NATO Supreme Allied Commander, General Cavoli recently said, in Stockholm, if I am not mistaken: “if the other guy shows up with the tank…you better have a tank.

But the war has demonstrated the continuing importance of heavy weapons. Of tanks and artillery, missiles and drones. And we must balance digital warfare with kinetic warfare if we are to maintain our security.

And we should avoid a sort of a dichotomy relationship between conventional high-intensity and digital high-end warfare. No, it’s one thing. It is multi-domain. While running a tank, you also use technology, and sensors, and space, and cyber. And we have to make sure, and this is where NATO is at its best, that we don’t create false dilemmas, for appropriating the resources our tax-payers are investing in our defence.

We are working with the defence industry to ramp up production of weapons, equipment and ammunition. And this is again NATO’s role, to send a signal, a demand signal to the industry. Because for good reasons they say: Is this effort that you are asking from us, to ramp up productions, to hire people, to get loans from banks, to invest, sustainable? Or is it just a short-lived spike of demand?

This is again where NATO comes at its best. Through our new NATO planning processes, through our new Political Guidance 2023, through our innovation agenda. So all Allies can really find the right balance and the right kind of investments, and the right kind of communications and need for industry.
And by the way, this is not only the defence sector, industry sector, it is also technology sector. Because more than 90% of the technology we use in military purposes across the Alliance is produced by the private sector. By venture capital. So we need to stay in close touch with the industry and give them a clear demand signal.

We need to partner with big tech companies and start-ups to ensure we develop and adopt advanced technologies for military or dual use.
This is why we have set up DIANA, which is the defence innovation accelerator for the North-Atlantic. Where Allies are putting together test centres, accelerators, and try to find and spur this kind of innovation coming from start-ups.

We also have the Defence Investment Fund, which is the first ever multi-national sovereign venture capital fund. It seems like a contradiction in terms, it is not.
It is not a venture capital fund, that is for the industry to establish and invest where they see potential. What we are doing, we are congregating resources from sovereign nations into a small fund to put some [inaudible] money for the start-ups that will need a little bit of money, testing their technologies in our DIANA centres and thus making them cross the desert between the idea and the markets easier.

And then the real investment will eventually come. And I thank Norway for their strong support for both initiatives, including by hosting a test centre for DIANA.
In Vilnius, it will be important to demonstrate solid progress. We keep our deterrence credible and we keep our defence strong. This is the best way to secure peace in this more contested and competitive world.
Of course, all of this costs money. And I like the question, and the answer by the prime minister. And this brings me to one of the big priorities for Vilnius, which is defence investment.

One lesson that we can already learn from the war in Ukraine is that we need to invest even more in defence. The 2% of GDP target set in Wales almost a decade ago is increasingly seen as a floor, not a ceiling.

More Allies are already spending 2% or more, or are committing to spending at least 2%. Others will follow.

I welcome Norway’s announced increases, but it needs to go further.

I expect all Allies to meet their defence spending commitments. We need well-trained, well-equipped soldiers with modern capabilities, ready to deploy faster. And defend our democracy, our prosperity, our way of life, and our system of international [inaudible] in the world.

Another priority in Vilnius will be China.

Russia is our most immediate threat, but it is not the only one.  Beijing’s coercive policies and stated ambitions challenge our values, interests and security.
Beijing is substantially building up its military forces, including nuclear weapons, and without transparency. It is attempting to assert control over the South China Sea, and threatening Taiwan.

It is trying to take control of all critical infrastructure, including ports and airports. Repressing its own citizens through advanced technology and spreading Russian disinformation about NATO and the war in Ukraine.

We must not repeat the mistake we made with Russian energy with Chinese rare earth materials. To be dependent is to be vulnerable.
China is not an adversary. But they do not share our values. We need to stand united, as Allies and with our many global partners. Defending our values and the international rules is a collective effort.

Before I conclude, and saluting also the defence minister from Finland, a few words on Finland and Sweden.
So far, this has been the fastest accession process in recent NATO history. All 30 Allies invited them to join last June.

I have to say that Secretary General Stoltenberg invested tremendous political, diplomatic and leadership skills, in Madrid itself. I think he spent almost eight hours, in a busy summit anyway, with the three leaders from the three countries. And the memorandum of understanding is also a part and expression of our strong desire, and our Secretary General’s strong desire, [inaudible] to see the process completed.

28 Allies have already ratified their accession protocols.

But both Finland and Sweden are already sitting at NATO’s table and are closely integrated in our political consultations and military activities.

Their security has already been significantly strengthened, with several Allies providing security assistance, and assurances. So it is inconceivable that NATO would not act, even at this stage, if the security of Sweden and Finland were threatened.

Sweden and Finland have delivered. It is time to welcome them as full members of NATO. Their accession will make our whole Alliance stronger, and our people safer.

And as a guy coming from the Black Sea, I will say that it is not only strengthening, the accession of Finland and Sweden, not only  strengthening the Baltic and the North Sea and the High North coherence. It is obvious.
And by the way, this will be reuniting the Scandinavian nations after in 1949, when three, Iceland, Denmark and Norway decided to go [inaudible] NATO. And for the reasons we fully respect, Finland and Sweden decided to go a different path. Now the whole family is back in one room.

But it is not only about the North. The accession of these two countries is bringing coherence from the North, to the Baltic, to the Black, and to the Mediterranean seas.
This is giving us not only strength in the North, but amplitude and strategic power all over the place. And the reputation of these two countries, also the third nations that are not yet convinced by our rhetoric, I would encourage anyone from the global south to go and ask our Finnish and Swedish friends if somebody coerced them into joining NATO. Or if they really considered, as democratic nations, that their best place is with us.
The young child in Munch’s painting would now be a very old man himself, because history never stops. The struggle for freedom never stops.

Next year, in April, will be the 75th anniversary of NATO, the greatest Alliance in human history. NATO was an idea born from the fires of war and from violence and destruction and extreme ideologies, to ensure our peace and security.

Today, we are facing a resurgence of authoritarian, counter-propositions, to our values. It is up to our generation and the generations to come, to continue the struggle. To do whatever it takes to make our Alliance strong and our values, our freedom and prosperity protected, for generations to come.

Thank you all so very much.