by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the SAMAK Nordic Summit in Helsinki

  • 28 Feb. 2023 -
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  • Last updated: 02 Mar. 2023 15:04

(As delivered)

Thank you so much.
Dear Sanna,

It is great to be back in Helsinki and great to be at the SAMAK meeting.
I feel among friends, I feel among colleagues and I feel that I am attending a kind of family gathering or my political family.
And it has been some years since last time, so it is really great to see you all.

I attended my first meeting of this forum, the Nordic Social Democratic Parties and Trade Unions, when I was the newly elected leader for the AUF, for the Young Social Democratic Party in Norway in 1985. That was at Bommersvik.

And it was Olof Palme that welcomed us all there.
I think it was Kalevi Sorsa from Finland, Anker Jørgensen from Denmark, Jon Baldvin Hannibalsson from Iceland, great guy.
And of course, Gro Harlem Brundtland.

Since then, together with Guðmundur, we have attended different summit meeting for almost 30 years. Then I had a break for almost 10 years now.
It is great to be back.

Really, I was very pleased when I was invited. Normally, we spend a lot of time considering whether I have time.
But actually, I have decided that we just need to find the time to go to the SAMAK meeting in Helsinki and to meet with all of you.

So thank you so much for inviting me.
It is also fitting that we are meeting today in Helsinki.
A city that has helped to shape the foundations of European security.

The Helsinki Final Act helped reduce Cold War tensions.
By encouraging cooperation.
And embedding the principles of freedom and human rights.

35 countries from North America and Europe signed the Helsinki Final Act.
The Soviet Union included.
Committing to settle disputes peacefully.
Respect sovereign borders.
And refrain from the threat or the use of force.

President Putin has now shattered these principles.

We may be shocked by the brutality of the war in Ukraine.
But we should not be surprised.

This is part of a pattern of Russian aggression over many years.
In Grozny.
In Georgia.
In Aleppo.
In Crimea and Donbas.
And now, a full-fledged invasion of Ukraine.

NATO Allies shared precise intelligence about Moscow’s plans for an invasion many months ahead.

We made every effort to engage in diplomatic and political dialogue with Russia to prevent the war.

But despite our calls,
President Putin chose to attack.

One year on, Putin is not preparing for peace.
He is preparing for more war.

So while the fighting continues,
we can already now draw some lessons of the war.

First, we must sustain and step up our support to Ukraine.

Russia is launching new offensives.
Mobilising more troops.
And reaching out to North Korea and Iran to get more weapons.
We are also increasingly concerned that China may be planning to provide lethal support for Russia’s war.

So we must give Ukraine what they need to prevail.

I welcome the significant support Nordic countries are delivering to Ukraine.
This is making a difference on the battlefield every day.
And I thank all the Nordic countries for their support.

Together, NATO Allies are providing well over a hundred billions euros to Ukraine.

We must now urgently deliver on our pledges of training and heavy weaponry.
So that key capabilities can reach Ukraine before Russia can seize the momentum.

I hear concerns that our support increases the risk of escalation.

But as long as our biggest neighbour is willing to invade another country, there are no risk-free options.
So let there be no doubt,
the biggest risk of all is if President Putin wins in Ukraine.

If he wins,
it will show authoritarian leaders that aggression works.
And force is rewarded.

That will make the world more dangerous.
And us more vulnerable.

So supporting Ukraine is not only the morally right thing to do.
It is also in our own security interest.

We do not know when this war will end.
But when it does, we must ensure that history does not repeat itself.
President Putin cannot continue to chip away at European security.
We must break the cycle of Russian aggression.

Meaning, we must enable Ukraine to deter and defend against future aggression.
We must put in place long-term arrangements for Ukraine’s security.
Because Ukraine’s future is in the Euro-Atlantic family.

The second lesson is that we must continue to strengthen our deterrence and defence.

As Nordic countries, and in particular, as Nordic social democrats, we have tried to live peacefully alongside our largest neighbour for decades.
At the end of the Cold War, many of us in this room believed we could build a better relationship with Russia.
Me included.
And I still believe it was the right thing to do.
To seize the historic moment to build better security in Europe together with Russia.

But President Putin chose to walk away from cooperation and dialogue.

He has left a trail of broken promises.
Shattered fundamental principles of global security.
Attacked neighbouring countries.
And tried to undermine our own democracies.

The latest example is Russia suspending the New START Treaty limiting nuclear weapons.

You have to remember this is actually the last main arms control arrangement.

Not many years ago, Russia violated the INF Treaty banning all intermediate range weapons that led to the demise of that treaty.

Now the last important arms control arrangement is the New START. President Putin made it clear few days ago that Russia has suspended their participation in the New START agreement.

Over the last years, Russia has violated key arms control agreements.
Dismantling the whole arms control architecture.

So we have to recognise that the end of this war will not be a return to normal in our relations with Russia.
There is no going back.

In a more dangerous world, we can no longer afford to treat defence as optional.
It is a necessity.

Yes, I know that it is hard to spend more on defence.

Because when you spend more on defence, it is less for something else.
It is less money for education for infrastructure, for health.
For all other things, we feel it is more meaningful to invest in than defence.
So when we spend more on defence, there is less money for other important tasks.
But nothing is more important than our security and that is the reason why we have to invest more on defence.

I also, therefore, welcome the fact that almost all NATO Allies have now plans in place to spend 2 percent of GDP on defence.
And that an increasing number of Allies see 2 percent as a floor not a ceiling for defence spending.

The third lesson is that we need to strengthen the resilience of our societies.

Military forces are necessary to protect our security.
But they are not enough.
Strong societies and robust economies are our first line of defence.
So we must secure our cyber space, supply chains, and critical infrastructure.

The war in Ukraine has demonstrated the danger of being over-dependent on authoritarian regimes.

Not so long ago, many argued that importing Russian gas was purely an economic issue.
It is not.
It is a political issue.
It matters for our security.

Europe’s dependency on Russian gas made us vulnerable.

We should not make the same mistakes with China and other authoritarian regimes.
We must not become too dependent on products and raw materials we import.
Or export key technologies that could be used against us.
And we must protect our critical infrastructure at home.

Of course, we should continue to trade and engage economically with China.
But economic interests cannot outweigh our security interests.

We know that Beijing is watching closely what happens in Ukraine.
The price Russia pays.
Or the reward it receives for its aggression.

What is happening in Europe today could happen in Asia tomorrow.
Our security is not regional, our security is global.

Let me end with a few words about Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership.

First, I would like to commend and praise Sanna Marin and Magdalena Andersson, for their political leadership.

They actually demonstrated political leadership, courage, when they led their countries to make the historic decision to apply for membership in NATO.

Then all NATO Allies made an historic decision, when we decided to invite Finland and Sweden to join at our Summit in Madrid in June last year.
So far, this has been the fastest accession process in NATO’s modern history.
Finland and Sweden applied in May, last year.
All NATO Allies invited you to join at the Madrid Summit in June.
And 28 of our 30 Allies have already ratified the accession protocols.

Completing Finland and Sweden’s accession to NATO is a priority for NATO.

I had good discussions with President Erdogan in Ankara recently.
And we are making progress.

I have made clear that both Finland and Sweden have delivered on their commitments in the Trilateral Memorandum agreed with Türkiye at the NATO Summit.
And that the time has come to finalise the ratification process.

I am glad that President Erdogan agreed to restart discussions.
And I will convene another meeting of the Permanent Joint Mechanism at NATO Headquarters next week.

I also expect that the Hungarian parliament will complete ratification shortly.

Finland and Sweden’s applications to NATO have already strengthened your security.
You are sitting at NATO’s table.
And integrating into our political and military structures.

NATO has increased its presence in the region.
We are exercising more together.
And many Allies have given Finland and Sweden security assurances.
So it is inconceivable that NATO Allies would not act if your security was threatened.

So friends,

NATO is a big family of 30 free nations across Europe and North America.
Soon to be 32.

We represent half of the world’s military might and half of the world’s economic might.
And we provide security guarantees like no other.
One for all, and all for one.

Bringing the Nordic family together around NATO’s table will make Finland and Sweden safer.
Our Alliance stronger.
And the whole Euro-Atlantic area more secure.

So I look forward to welcoming you both as soon as possible.
It is time to finalize the process and to have Finland and Sweden as full members of our Alliance.

I look forward to our discussion and to continue to be together with this great family.

Thank you.