by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at Keio University
Thank you, Professor Itoh, Professor Tsuruoka. Good morning to everyone. It is great to be here at Keio University. And to engage with all of you here at Keio University. Japan is an important global actor. Actively promoting peace. And supporting the rules-based international order. This is what NATO stands for too. And for almost 75 years, NATO has ensured peace in the Euro-Atlantic area. Allowing democracy, freedom and prosperity to flourish. But today, the global order that has served us so well for many decades is under threat. Moscow and Beijing are at the forefront of an authoritarian pushback. Russia’s war in Ukraine has shattered peace in Europe. North Korea continues to threaten international security through its reckless missile tests. And other global challenges are rising: From terrorism to climate change, cyber threats and nuclear proliferation.
This is our new security reality. A reality that connects all of us who support peace, freedom and democracy. And a reality that we need to face collectively. Europe and North America together in NATO, working hand-in-hand with our many partners across the globe. Including here, in the Indo-Pacific.
Last June, I was honoured to welcome Prime Minister Kishida to our NATO Summit in Madrid. It was the first time he and leaders from our other Indo-Pacific partners – Australia, New Zealand and South Korea – participated together in a NATO Summit. A testimony to our growing ties.
We may be oceans apart. But our security is closely connected. And we share the same values, interests and concerns. This includes supporting Ukraine.
Almost one year ago, President Putin launched a war of aggression against Ukraine. To take control of the country. And take away people’s freedom.
This war is not just a European crisis. It is a challenge to global security and global stability. In response, NATO, Allies, and our partners around the world, including Japan, have condemned this illegal and unjustifiable war.
And we have been providing Ukraine unprecedented assistance. I want to thank Japan for your substantial support. Yesterday, I visited Iruma Air Base, and saw for myself the Japanese cargo planes transporting life-saving aid to the Ukrainian people.
Our support makes a real difference for the Ukrainians. Helping them not only to survive, but also to push back the Russian invader and liberate their territory. Ukraine needs our continued support. For as long as it takes. Because if Putin wins, the message to Moscow, and Beijing, will be that they can achieve what they want through brute force.
This would make the whole world more dangerous. And us more vulnerable.
At the same time as we support Ukraine, NATO’s main priority is to protect our one billion people, and every inch of Allied territory. To do this, we have been strengthening our military presence, especially in the eastern part of the Alliance. We have more troops on high alert. Ready to move, whenever and wherever needed. Stronger defences are not to provoke a conflict with Russia. But to prevent a conflict. And preserve peace.
Meanwhile, Beijing is watching closely. And learning lessons that may influence its future decisions.
What is happening in Europe today could happen in East Asia tomorrow. China is not NATO’s adversary. But its growing assertiveness and its coercive policies have consequences. For your security in the Indo-Pacific. And ours in the Euro-Atlantic.
We must work together to address them.
Beijing is substantially building up its military forces, including nuclear weapons, without any transparency. It is attempting to assert control over the South China Sea, and threatening Taiwan.
Trying to take control of critical infrastructure, including in NATO countries. Repressing its own citizens through advanced technology. And spreading Russian disinformation about NATO and the war in Ukraine.
Moscow and Beijing are deepening their strategic partnership. The two countries train and operate more together militarily. Conducting joint naval and air patrols also in the vicinity of Japan. Their economic cooperation is increasing.
And China has not condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
A year ago, for the first time ever, China backed Russia's demand that NATO closes its door to new member states. But NATO’s door remains open. Soon two new countries – Finland and Sweden – will join the Alliance. This sends a powerful message. Violence and intimidation do not work. This is a more dangerous and competitive world. Our security is not regional, but global. So it is essential to have friends. Among NATO’s partners, none is closer or more capable than Japan.
I am glad that our long-lasting friendship is growing stronger by the day.
In the past, we have worked together on issues ranging from counter-terrorism to counter-piracy. Going forward, we will do more together. Yesterday, Prime Minister Kishida and I agreed a joint statement. It sets out our plan to step up NATO-Japan cooperation in areas like cyber defence, new technologies, countering hybrid threats, and upholding the rules-based international order. I also told him that I strongly welcome Japan’s historic new National Security Strategy. And I am glad that Japan is planning to reach the NATO benchmark of 2% of GDP devoted to defence.
This demonstrates that Japan takes international security seriously. It makes you an even more powerful partner for peace. So I look forward to further deepening our cooperation. In a more dangerous world, Japan can count on NATO to stand with you. To promote peace. Protect our shared security. And preserve a global system based on norms and values. Thank you so much.
Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary General, I am quite sure that everyone in this room has learnt immensely from the remarks, a lot to reflect. So now, let me turn into a brief panel discussion with Keio professors. So let me invite professors, [inaudible]. So presently, [inaudible] referred to the fact that today's event marking the preopening of [inaudible], the [inaudible], University Global Research Institute Center for Strategy.
And the professor [inaudible], is to be director of the new Center, and professor [inaudible] and myself, deputy directors. And also the hidden purpose of this panel discussion is to warm ourselves up and allowing students to think about questions. So each panelist has two or maximum three minutes for initial remarks for the first round, and then we will get back to the Secretary General for response, assuming that professors are kind enough to comply with time limits; hopefully, we will do a second round as well. So first, professor [inaudible], please.
Thank you very much. Thank you very much Professor Tsuruoka and thank you very much, Secretary General for your wonderful keynote speech. 25 years ago, when I was a graduate student here, I wrote my PhD dissertation on the origins of the NATO and after 25 years, I am now sitting here with NATO Secretary General on the NATO-Japan relations and I am really grateful that you have been devoting greatly to enhance the relationship.
You actually make my dream come true because it is really important for Japan to strengthen our cooperation with like-minded countries. I have one question. Last year was a turning point for me, for Japan-NATO relations because Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attended NATO summit meeting for the first time as the Japanese Prime Minister. Actually, I was in Madrid, there, to attend NATO's public forum.
I listened to your speech and I was really glad to see that AP4 was there to try to support NATO's activities in this region. I think that it is important for us and NATO to strengthen and enhance our deterrence towards China's unwelcoming certain military activities here, particularly in Taiwan, and also the [inaudible] islands.
So my question to Secretary General is what is the essential point for us to strengthen deterrence towards China's unwelcoming military activity here? It is essential not to repeat the tragedy, again, as we saw in Ukraine. So it is essential for us to strengthen our deterrence further towards those kinds of major activities. This is my comment and question to you.
Moderator: Thank you very much. Then, professor [inaudible], please.
First of all, I want to join my colleagues in welcoming you to Keio University. Thank you very much for being with us. I have been tasked to make some initial remarks on the issue of how the Russian invasion of Ukraine has impacted the way we think about security in this corner of the region, of the world. So allow me to make a couple of points very briefly.
My first point is that Putin’s threat to use nuclear weapons appears to have receded for the time being, but nevertheless, it has highlighted the significance of the role of nuclear weapons in international security. And I think what NATO and Japan, and the Japan-US Alliance, under different contexts face a common question, which is probably one of the most difficult questions regarding contemporary strategy, and that is, how should we deter? How can we deter or respond to nuclear blackmail by a major revisionist power? So that would be my first point.
My second point is that the sense of threat generated by the Russian aggression against Ukraine has spilled over to East Asia. It has heightened a sense of alarm against the possible common contingency. As you mentioned, defense experts in Tokyo and Washington are now debating about what lessons China will learn from Russia's aggression.
Prime Minister Kishida has remarked that Ukraine today, it could be East Asia tomorrow. And the recent national security strategy of Japan also mentions that the possibility, a similar situation of, from Ukraine could actually happen in the Indo-Pacific region, particularly in East Asia. So it appears that both NATO members and US Allies in East Asia are now discovering or sort of rediscovering the interconnectedness of European security and Indo Pacific security.
I think, moving forward, there are opportunities for Japan-NATO cooperation, you mentioned several programs. I wonder, what you see, as one of the most promising areas. You mentioned about cyber defence, joint emerging and disruptive technologies will be another area, and you also talked about space cooperation. What do you think are the most low-hanging fruit programs that you see as an opportunity to advance Japan- NATO cooperation? I would appreciate if I could get your thoughts on those issues. Thank you.
Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General:
Thank you so much for your questions. First, on China, which was the question raised by professor [inaudible]. I think that we will have to understand that for many years, China was not on the NATO agenda but especially at our summit, last year in Madrid, we agreed a New Strategic Concept, where we for the first time, addressed China, that was not the case in the previous Strategic Concept and that reflects that NATO has come a long way when it comes to recognizing, and also addressing the challenges that China poses to us.
We don't regard China as an adversary and we don't seek confrontation with China, actually, we don't see confrontation with anyone. NATO is a defensive Alliance. We will continue to engage with China on issues where we see common or potential common interest, on arms control, on climate change and other issues.
At the same time, we will be remiss if we did not expose the challenges that China poses to our security, to our values and to our interests. And that is exactly what is also reflected in the New Strategic Concept that we agreed last year. Because we all have to realize that China is becoming more and more an authoritarian power.
That is cracking down on human rights not only in Hong Kong, but throughout the country, which is investing heavily in new modern military capabilities, in long-range missiles that can reach all NATO territory, in more and more nuclear weapons, and advanced weapon systems, including by applying new disruptive technologies into their weapon systems, including artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and many of the other technologies, which are now used to develop even more advanced weapons.
Then we see their assertive behavior, not least in the South China Sea, where China tries to assert control of the South China Sea. Then we see the threats against Taiwan. All of this matters for our security. Also, because it matters, of course, for the security of the countries in this region, in East Asia, but it matters also for NATO Allies. Also, because we see that China is coming closer to us. We see them in cyberspace, we see them in Africa, in the Arctic, but also trying to control the critical infrastructure in Europe.
So this idea that we can say that China doesn't matter for NATO is wrong, it doesn't work. Security is global, security is not regional. And that is even more obvious when we address the threats we see in cyberspace, space, outer space. We also try developing new capabilities.
And also the war in Ukraine demonstrates how security is interconnected, demonstrates how what happens in Europe has a consequence for East Asia and also what happens in East Asia matters for Europe.
Because we have to remember that just weeks before the invasion, President Putin went to Beijing and met with President Xi, where they signed the Declaration, where they promised partnership without limits. And where China for the first time, actually called on NATO to close its doors.
And we see how North Korea is providing weapons to the Wagner group, which plays a key role in Russia's aggressive war against Ukraine.
So you are asking what should NATO do. Well, we have to make sure that we have credible deterrence and defence, we have to ensure that we invest in technology, as we do, and Allies have stepped up.
We have to protect our critical infrastructure’s resilience, but we also have to work more closely with our partners in the Indo-Pacific. That is exactly what we do.
Yesterday, I signed a joint statement with the Prime Minister Kishida, where we reiterated our strong partnership and we outlined where we can do more together. So working with partners around the globe, especially here in the Indo-Pacific is part of the answer to a more dangerous and unpredictable world.
Then, actually partly also on the second question, more specifically, you asked in which areas we could work together. While there are many areas, I mentioned, some of them, cyber, technology, maritime, arms control, and all these areas are areas where we now are stepping up and doing more together.
But I think also just the fact that we send a strong political message together, in itself, is a way to protect our values, democracy and rule of law, and the rules based international order.
Sorry, I have actually forgotten one specific issue, and that is nuclear. In Russia, President Putin's nuclear rhetoric is dangerous, is reckless. And I think being in Japan, you understand that better than anyone else. Russia must know that nuclear war can never be won, and should never be fought, and would have severe consequences. And we have, of course, clearly communicated this again and again to Russia.
We also have to fully understand that NATO cannot give in to blackmail because then we cannot support Ukraine. And NATO, and NATO Allies provide support to Ukraine but the first thing we did, on the day of the invasion, was to increase our military presence in eastern part of the Alliance, as a defensive measure to protect NATO Allies, and to reduce the risk of escalation beyond Ukraine, to send a clear message to Moscow, that we are there to protect every inch of Allied territory.
And we do that to remove any room for misunderstanding, miscalculation in Moscow, about our readiness to protect every Ally. As long as that is absolutely clear, then we preserve peace, we prevent conflict. That is the purpose of deterrence, and we have demonstrated the value of that in the in the midst of this Ukraine war.
Moderator: Thank you very much. Any further questions?
Thank you very much for your answers to difficult questions. Well, I was also glad to see that after seeing the result of yesterday's summit meeting between you and Prime Minister, it was written in a statement that you, I mean, NATO, basically welcomes Japan's intention to regularly participate in North Atlantic Council, as well as NATO's Chief of Defence meetings.
And I think this is a good thing to share, important information as well as to promote much closer cooperation between the two sides. And I think it would be [inaudible] to follow this course to try to institutionalize or to make these meetings more on a regular basis. So another question to you is how Japan and NATO can utilize the opportunity to much more institutionalize this Cooperation Framework, which you have been consolidating?
Thank you very much. I just have one very simple question. I think one of the strength of NATO is that you have 30 Member States, so to become 32. In the Western Pacific, we only have limited number of US Allies in the region, so in the case of a Taiwan contingency, I think we are going to need all the support from NATO. This is a sensitive issue so please, if you could respond with a general remark.
Do you think there is a possibility for NATO and United States and Japan to sort of start engaging in discussions about a Taiwan situation? Thank you.
Let me add one more a very quick question. So you talked about China's nuclear weapons, China's development and expansion of nuclear arsenal, it is something that NATO is becoming more concerned about.
What I am wondering is that yes, NATO's main job is to deter Russia but given the fact that China's nuclear weapons are there and it is expanding, do you see any NATO role in deterring China, in addition to deterring Russia? Thank you.
Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General:
NATO's role is to deter any potential adversary. There is not a nametag on NATO's deterrence. It is deterrence against attacks against NATO Allies, regardless from whom those attacks are those threats may come. So that is the message to any potential adversary. At the same time, NATO is a defensive Alliance, we don't see confrontation. And we have proven that for more than 70 years, our purpose is to preserve peace, prevent conflict. But we strongly believe that credible deterrence is the best and the most credible way to achieve exactly that.
Then, NATO will remain an Alliance of North America and Europe but this Alliance, also North America and Europe, we face global challenges and that is nothing new actually, as cyber terrorism has been there for many years and that is a global threat. Cyber, is by nature global. And, of course, we now also see all the challenges in the outer space, by nature global.
And then, of course, the fact that Russia and China are coming closer. And the significant investments by China and new advanced military capabilities, just underlines that China poses a challenge also to NATO Allies. So the message is again and again, that security is not regional, security is global, and security is interconnected. Therefore, it is important to work more closely with our partners in the Indo-Pacific.
And you asked me about whether we can institutionalize that. Well, in many ways, we have already institutionalized it, as you refer to the AP4, the Asia Pacific Four. That is one of the many NATO acronyms, but it is actually our partnership with our four partners in the Asia Pacific or Indo-Pacific: Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan. And we are strengthening that partnership in many different ways, partly through a practical cooperation on maritime, cyber, and other issues.
But also, by having political leaders, heads of state and government, ministers, military leaders participating more in NATO meetings, including in our governing body, the North Atlantic Council. And therefore, it was an historic moment when all the heads of state and government from the four Indo-Pacific or Asia Pacific partners participated at our summit in Madrid last year. And my intention is to invite all four of them also to the summit in Vilnius this year. And then, on top of the meeting at the summit level, we also have now more meetings at the ministerial level where we invite the foreign ministers and other representatives from our Asia Pacific partners. So we are stepping up also the institutionalized cooperation.
I guess that there are many more questions, but I will stop there, because then we have time for questions.
Moderator: Okay, thank you very much for the conversation. Now we turn to students, so please raise your hand if you have any questions, and microphone is coming. So from here.
Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General:
Well, in many ways, we have all of the institutions, as you refer to AP4, the Asia Pacific Four that's one of the many NATO acronyms, but it's actually our partnership with our four partners in the Asia Pacific or Indo Pacific; Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan.
And we are strengthening that partnership in many different ways, partly to a practical cooperation on maritime, cyber, and other issues. But also, by having political leaders, heads of state and government, ministers, military leaders participating more in NATO meetings, including in our governing body, the North Atlantic Council. And therefore, it was a historic moment when all the heads of state and government from the four Indo Pacific or Asia Pacific partners participated at our summit in Madrid last year. And my intention is to invite all four of them also to the summit in Vilnius this year.
And then, on top of that meeting at the summit level, we also have now more meetings at the ministerial level where we invite the foreign ministers and other representatives from our Asia Pacific partners. So we are stepping up also the institutionalized cooperation. I guess that there are many more questions, let’s stop there, because then we have time for questions.
Okay, thank you very much for a wonderful conversation. Now we tend to students, so the please raise your hand if you have any question. And microphone is coming. So from here, okay.
So thank you very much for coming to Japan and providing such a wonderful opportunity for us. And currently, I'm working on a dissertation on NATO's nuclear sharing arrangement. So if I may, I would like to ask a question on those fields. So, I guess for NATO, there are various factors to [inaudible] deterrence structure, conventional forces and nuclear forces. And I do suspect that nuclear deterrence is essential for NATO's deterrence structure and stability, considering that NATO is a nuclear Alliance.
However, while there are various nuclear capabilities which contributes to it, such as the US triad offer to NATO, and the new strategic nuclear forces provided by UK and France. Also NATO relies on the non-strategic nuclear weapons which are deployed to Europe.
Regarding that, what is the most central reason why NATO is still basing non-strategic nuclear weapons in Europe, and also maintaining this nuclear sharing arrangement within the Alliance? So yeah, so while it's like military utility might have decreased non-strategic nuclear weapons, NATO still like remaining that structure. So if I could get the insight on that task, why is NATO still maintaining that capability? And yeah, for its Alliances’ cohesion, thank you very much.
Thank you very much. So we correct I think, three questions. Sitting next. The lady.
Thank you so much for taking time for us and visiting Kayo. I'm Yoko [inaudible], student of the faculty of policy management. And when I look at news or discuss in class regarding NATO and Ukraine I always confuse, how can I deal with those issues as a student? So I would like to ask how, what kind of perspective we should have as university students to think those kinds of issues. Thank you. Regarding NATO and Ukraine, thank you.
Good afternoon. I have pretty much two questions. A good one and a bad one. Maybe you can choose. I'm [inaudible], I’m from Graduate School of Media and Governance, global governance. And I have pretty much only the two questions. Which one should I choose, good or bad one?
Perhaps just one question for you.
Yeah. What we'll need to do in case of military defeat of Ukraine?
So if Russia won?
Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General:
First, on nuclear and NATO's nuclear sharing arrangements. NATO's goal is a world without nuclear weapons. But as long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance, because we simply don't believe that a world where NATO and NATO Allies get rid of all their nuclear weapons, and Russia, China or North Korea, keep there's, that's not a safer world.
So the only way to reach a goal with fewer or even without any nuclear weapons is through balanced, verifiable arms control. And the challenge is that we have seen the demise of the global arms control architecture, and not least because of Russia's violation of, for instance, the INF Treaty that banned intermediate range, nuclear weapons, and missiles.
And also because China, which is now investing heavily in more and more nuclear weapons, including long range weapons, they partly do it without any transparency. Because the advantage of arms control is partly that you put limits on the number of weapons, but you also provide systems for inspection and transparency. And since China is not engaging in any kind of meaningful dialogue on arms control on nuclear weapons, we also have very little transparency. So this has made arms control, nuclear arms control, extremely difficult, and we are actually seeing it backtracking.
So all of this, of course, makes it important that we retain our nuclear deterrence, as long as we see other countries investing more in nuclear weapons, but again, we are always ready to have meaningful and verifiable arms control, but not unilateral NATO nuclear disarmament.
The nuclear sharing arrangements are a way of NATO, for NATO Allies to have extended nuclear deterrence, meaning that there are only three Allies; the United States, by far the biggest, but also United Kingdom and France that have nuclear weapons. NATO is very much in favor of non-proliferation. But for decades, we have had the nuclear sharing arrangements, meaning that the United States have some has some nuclear weapons in Europe. But then we have European Allies providing the framework together to ensure that is part of a credible nuclear deterrence, meaning that European Allies provide planes we have joint command and control doctrines.
So this is what we need to do together. The US contains the ownership to the weapons, but then we have all the structures around that, where the European Allies participate. And then you ask why do we retain that? The first of all, you need to understand that, since the end of the Cold War, NATO has roughly reduced this number of nuclear warheads in Europe by 90%. That is a huge reduction. But we retain the nuclear sharing arrangements, not least, because we believe that that's part of a credible nuclear deterrence that also involve the European Allies in the direct way, and also involve those Allies that don't possess nuclear weapons.
So to strengthen the kind of collective ownership, political ownership and commitment without having nuclear weapons, I think the nuclear sharing arrangements, which are well tested systems, are an important part of our collective deterrence, and defence.
And again, I think in the light of the war in Ukraine, we see the value of this, because deterrence is a way to prevent the conflict in Ukraine from escalating beyond Ukraine.
Then the second question was about how universities can work on NATO and Europe? And Ukraine, sorry. Well, I think first of all, it's extremely important that universities are extremely focused on what is going on there, there is a brutal war of aggression. And just to learn and understand more about the war, and why it happened, is important. I also know that there are many students, many universities, which are part of the political messaging of stepping up support to Ukraine, but of course, it's for every university and every student and every professor to decide exactly what they do as individuals.
I strongly believe in the academic freedom that university represents. So to also have discussions about how to best respond to the crisis or the war, is also part of what I think are important responsibilities for academic institutions.
Then, we have one clear message, and that is that President Putin must not win in Ukraine. And that's the reason why we are delivering unprecedented support to Ukraine. President Putin made at least two big strategic mistakes when he invaded Ukraine. The first and the biggest mistake was to totally underestimate Ukraine, the courage, the bravery of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the commitment of the Ukrainian political leadership, and the bravery of the Ukrainian people. He thought he was going to take control of Ukraine within days. Now, he has been there for almost a year. And what we have seen is that Ukraine has been able to push back the Russian invaders. First from the north, around Kiev, then in the east, around Kharkiv, and then in the south around Kherson.
This is, first and foremost a Ukrainian victory, they own those victories and what they have achieved. But of course, it is also connected to that second big strategic mistake that President Putin made and that was to underestimate NATO, NATO partners and Allies, including Japan. Our unity in imposing sanctions, our unity in providing support, humanitarian support, economic support, but also military support.
And we do that because we all realize that this goes beyond Ukraine. The war in Ukraine is a challenge for Ukrainians. But it's dangerous for all of us, and will become even more dangerous if President Putin wins, because that will send the message to authoritarian leaders, including in this part of the world, that when they use military force, they can achieve whatever they want. We are committed to stay by Ukraine for as long as it takes, to ensure that Ukraine is able to retake territory, liberate the land, win and prevail as a sovereign independent nation in Europe.
Thank you very much. So please, please raise your hand clearly. Okay, so perhaps this side.
Mr. Secretary General, thank you for coming to Keio University. I'm a master's student here. I have a question regarding Alliance management and your confidence in NATO's deterrence. So, 11 months has passed since the outbreak of the war. And I'm sure that NATO has went through a lot of struggle. Could you tell us what was the most challenging and stressful thing since the war broke out? And was there any time you lost confidence in NATO's capability and deterrence? And do you have any lessons that can be applied to future the US-Japan Alliance, or NATO-Japan relationship? Thank you.
Thank you for your time. I'm an international student learning politics in Japan and I have one question. What do you think about the argument, saying that it is NATO's expansion that triggered the war in Ukraine? And one would claim that NATO is a defensive Alliance, and if I were policymaker in Moscow, I would not be happy to see foreign troops stationed near Russia's borders. Thank you.
Thank you very much, Secretary General of NATO and Keio University Global Research Institute. My name is Monica [inaudible]. I'm from the Graduate school of Media and Governance. My question is regarding the Asia Pacific cooperation. From your remarks, you emphasize that security is not regional, but global. And that NATO is strengthening its cooperation with the Asia Pacific four. However, China also possesses challenges, not only in East Asia, but also in Asia, in general. And my questions would be; how is NATO cooperation with the Southeast Asian countries, and specifically on the cyber defence cooperation? Or whether NATO will expand its cooperation not only to the Asia Pacific four but also to the Southeast Asian countries? Thank you.
Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General:
The first question was about whether I, at any stage lost confidence in NATO's deterrence. And the answer is no, I never lost confidence in NATO’s deterrence.
Then, the question was, what was the most challenging moment? Well, I think that the most challenging and stressful moment is, was and still is when we see the suffering, the violence, the brutality of the war, and not least, how many civilians which are killed and wounded as a consequence of this war, and what we see are actually deliberate attacks on civilian infrastructure on homes, hospitals, and of course, to attack the power grid, the gas supplies, especially during the autumn when we went into winter.
That had one purpose and that was to ensure maximum suffering for the people of Ukraine, the civilians, to deprive them of water, heating, light. And of course, this is stressful for everyone. Then we may be shocked by the brutality. But we should not be surprised. Because the war in Ukraine is part of a pattern.
We saw the brutality in Grozny, we saw the invasion of Georgia in 2008 by Russia. We saw the bombing of Aleppo, the brutality of the warfare in Syria. And then we have to remember that the war in Ukraine didn't start in February last year. It started in 2014, when Russia illegally annexed Crimea, and, went into eastern Donbass, and since then there has been war in Ukraine.
What happened in February was a big escalation with a full fledge invasion. But the war has been de facto on the ground for many years, already. That's also the reason why NATO was prepared, because this is a part of a pattern. So we started in 2014, after the illegal annexation of Crimea, to implement the biggest adaptation of this Alliance in generations, with more combative troops in eastern part of the Alliance, with high readiness of forces, with new military domains in cyber and space, with increased defence spending, more exercises.
Again, not to provoke a war, but to prevent the war. To remove any room for misunderstanding, miscalculation that could lead to something similar against, for instance, the Baltic countries, which are also former Soviet republics, as we have seen against the Ukraine. So, no I have never doubted the strength of NATO's deterrence. But that's also because we have actually been able to adapt and to strengthen our deterrence in light of what we saw was coming.
And then we had specific intelligence. So not only was this part of a pattern, but in the autumn of 2021, months before the invasion, we actually had intelligence, and we did something we normally don’t do in NATO, we shared that intelligence.
So we warned against the plans of invasion. And we engaged actively with Russia to try to prevent the war in diplomatic and political efforts. We had meetings in Brussels with Russia, we responded to their demands, they had written demands, a treaty proposal from Russia. And we were ready to sit down, we actually proposed a series of meetings with diplomatic efforts to prevent the war. But President Putin, he just went on and invaded Ukraine.
And we were prepared. So we activated our defence plans the same morning and increased our military presence in the east again, to prevent escalation.
Then the next question was about whether the NATO expansion is the reason for the war. I accept the question, because many of you, some people are asking the question. But just the way of asking the question reflects a total wrong understanding of what it means to be sovereign, independent nations.
And that has been enshrined in treaties again, and again, also treaties which have been signed by Russia. And that is that every nation, big or small, have the right to choose their own path. And this idea that if free, democratic nations choose a path I don't like, I have the right to invade them.
If we accept that, then we move into a really dangerous world. Because then we move into a world [inaudible] and not a rules based international order. Because it happens quite often, I think, that the big countries don't like what smaller neighbors do. But if that gives them a right to invade them, then there is no rules based order at all.
So just this thinking that's it is a kind of aggressive thing that Lithuania or Latvia, small countries bordering Russia, that it is an aggressive action that they join NATO. Just that assumption is so fundamentally wrong. Because it's not NATO moving aggressively east. What happened after the end of the Cold War was that newly independent sovereign nations, through democratic free processes, decided they wanted to be part of NATO.
And should we say no, you don't have that, that freedom, because Russia doesn't like it. Then we will actually reintroduce a system of [inaudible] influence. And that's exactly what President Putin wants. He wants a different Europe. He wants a Europe where he controls neighbors, where he can decide what neighbors do or not do. And if they don't do as you want, you can invade them.
And you know, I'm coming from Norway, and Norway is a small country bordering Russia. And when NATO was established in 1949, Norway was the only country in NATO bordering Russia. And of course, Russia or the Soviet Union didn't like that. They said it was bad that we have NATO on Russia's or Soviet’s borders, but I am very happy that Washington, London, Paris, the big countries in NATO at that time said: “it's for Norway to decide, it is not for Moscow to decide what Norway can do.” So they accepted Norway as a member of NATO.
And in exactly the same way, we have accepted the free independent choice of free independent nations, to be part of NATO. And the NATO enlargement has helped to spread democracy, freedom, prosperity across Europe in a way we haven't seen ever before. That's the consequence of NATO enlargement. It is only Russia that interprets that as a threat, because President Putin is afraid of democracy, freedom. Because that will undermine his authoritarian regime.
And then I think it's very important to understand that what European Allies and European countries have demonstrated is that the message from President Putin, that he wants less NATO, he doesn't like NATO troops on Russia's border. And he doesn’t want more NATO enlargement, that was actually part or the explicit reason for invading Ukraine.
He is getting exactly the opposite. Because as a result of the invasion, NATO has increased its military presence on the borders of Russia to deter further aggressive actions by Russia. And Finland and Sweden, as a direct consequence of the invasion, and the messaging from Russia, that they don't want new NATO Allies, that they don't want NATO’s door to remain open, then Finland and Sweden said: “because Russia is now trying to close the door to NATO, we go in.”
So again it is extremely dangerous to accept that democratic free decisions of countries to join or to choose their own path, is an excuse for brutal use of force against those countries. So I accept the question, but the thinking is dangerous, because that will bring us back to an age we don't want to be in. Where big powers can decide what small nations can do.
Sorry. So first of all, we have four partners with where you have formalized partnership. We meet, we have programs, we have cooperation, and that is Japan and South Korea, New Zealand and Australia. Then of course, there are many other countries in South East Asia or in East Asia, which are important for NATO. But we so far have not established any formalized relationship with them. We are ready to engage with more countries, but of course, it has to be a mutual interest.
Then, of course, NATO Allies and especially United States, but also other NATO Allies, they have different kinds of relationships with more countries than just the four we have a formalized NATO partnership with.
I believe in this partnership, because I strongly believe that that it is of mutual benefit. And I mentioned already cyber, all the other areas where we can work together and we are more than ready to further strengthen and expand the partnership with countries in this region.