Opening remarks

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

  • 10 May. 2023 -
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  • Last updated 11-May-2023 14:19

(As delivered)

Chair of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Rob Bauer

Secretary General, Admirals, Generals, Ladies and Gentlemen, good morning.
Mesdames et Messieurs, bienvenu à la cent-quatre-vingt-neuvième session du comité militaire des chefs d’état-major de la défense.
Welcome to this 189th Military Committee in Chiefs of Defence Session.

Secretary General, dear Jens, we highly value your presence at this meeting.  It is a testament to the unique nature of our political-military Alliance.
At this headquarters, on a daily basis, the political and military level find consensus on how to best keep 1 billion people safe.
Together, we make sure that political will is matched with military capabilities.
The role of this Committee is crucial: our unfettered advice to NATO’s political level helps ensure that what is politically desirable is indeed militarily feasible.
Secretary General, your leadership in these challenging times for global security has been unparalleled.
Please know that we consider you to be a general amongst generals (and admirals). You have our full support.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Alliance has entered into a new era of collective defence.
We are collectively defending not only the physical safety of our 1 billion people and 31 nations, but also the democratic values we all hold dear.
The fact that we are able to cooperate with so many different Armed Forces, with so many different capabilities and cultures is truly unique in the world.

We have today for the first time in person and as an Ally:  General Timo Kivinen from Finland.  Timo, we could not be happier and prouder to now officially call you our brother in arms.
But, as your President says: Finland’s membership is not complete without Sweden.
We are all eagerly looking forward to giving General Michael Bydén the same warm welcome. And Michael: long engagements make happy marriages.

For the first time, we have in person at our table as Chief of Defence: General Carsten Breuer from Germany – welcome; General José Nunes da Fonseca from Portugal; and Lieutenant General Gábor Böröndi from Hungary. All, welcome.

Let me also welcome our Strategic Commanders who will be supporting our meetings today: General Chris Cavoli, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, and General Philippe Lavigne, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation.

Today’s discussions will first focus on Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.  Russia is in the 15th month of what they thought would be a 3-day war.
Goliath is wavering.
And that is because David has shown immense resilience and tactical brilliance, supported by 50 nations around the world.

We look forward to hearing from the Ukrainian Military Representative to NATO, Major General Serhii Salkutsan, what his latest appreciation is of the situation on the ground and how Ukraine continues fighting for what is rightfully theirs.
I received a letter yesterday from the Ukrainian CHOD, our friend General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, that even his participation via BICES-VTC was impossible due to the complex operational situation defending against the Russian aggression.  Our best wishes are with the Ukrainian defenders, and we are focused to receive Valerii’s insights through his MilRep.

In the following session, we will focus on our planning for deterrence and defence, a process [of] unparalleled integration of NATO and national military planning. 
I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the tremendous work done by SHAPE and the Joint Force Commands Brunssum, Naples and Norfolk.
Together, they have pulled off a herculean task, 18 months ahead of schedule.
This has also been possible thanks to all the work put in by your national teams, who have committed significant time, manpower and resources to this endeavour.

Today, we will discuss the development of the Regional Plans.
These are geographically specific plans that describe how we will defend key and relevant places in our Alliance against the two threats described in the Strategic Concept and the NATO Military Strategy, being Russia and Terrorist Groups.
The Regional Plans will require an improved NATO Force Model to produce more troops at high readiness across our Alliance.
It is important to note that readiness and effectiveness is about much more than numbers.  You need speed and scale as well as flexibility and a wide range of capabilities.
Which is why we also strengthen our command and control capabilities directly corresponding to our New Force Requirements, which will set the number and types of equipment and organisations that we require, across all regions and all domains.

For the first time since the end of the Cold War, we will have objective, threat-based capability targets to offer to Nations.
These targets will have a significant impact on future investments and developments of Allied Armed Forces. 
That is why it is important that they receive support from both the military and political level as we move to, through and beyond the Vilnius Summit.

And with that, Mr Secretary General, I kindly invite you to provide your opening remarks.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

Thank you so much Chair.
Good morning to all of you, and welcome to the NATO Headquarters.

Admiral Bauer, Rob, you mentioned that we have entered a new era of collective defence. And thanks to the work of this Committee and our military leaders across the Alliance, NATO is prepared.

In fact, the transformation of our Alliance over the last decade has been nothing short of remarkable:
Since Russia illegally annexed Crimea and entered into eastern Ukraine in 2014, we have increased the readiness of our forces, we have deployed combat-ready troops to the east of the Alliance for the first time in our history, and European Allies and Canada have spent an additional 350 billion dollars extra on defence.

When President Putin launched his full-fledged invasion of Ukraine in 2022, we were therefore ready.
Within hours, we activated all our defence plans, we put 40,000 troops under NATO command, backed by significant air and maritime power, and we strengthened our forward defences from the Baltic to the Black Sea.
These actions reduce the risk of miscalculation and escalation beyond Ukraine by making crystal clear that we will defend every inch of NATO territory. 

So this has been a decisive decade for our deterrence and defence thanks to you, Allied Chiefs of defence.
So let me thank you all for your service, your leadership and you also, Admiral Bauer, for leading the Committee through very demanding and challenging times with a lot of decisive decisions.
As we prepare for a more dangerous future, we must redouble our efforts to keep our one billion citizens safe, and to uphold the rules-based international order.

High-intensity warfare is back in Europe. Global competition is rising, authoritarian regimes are challenging our values, interests and security, and other threats are also multiplying:
From terrorism to cyber-attacks; from nuclear proliferation to climate change.
So we need to step up for this new era of strategic competition, and NATO is rising to the challenge.

Through the work of our Strategic Commanders, General Cavoli and General Lavigne, we will ensure our Alliance remains ready to protect every inch of Allied territory, and to tackle multiple threats across multiple domains.
SACEUR’s package of proposals include strengthened and updated regional plans detailing how we will deter and defend NATO Allies against any aggression. They provide a much more precise requirement for what is needed to help transform our militaries so Allies will know exactly what forces and capabilities are needed, including where, what and how to deploy.
We will train and exercise more together, place more forces on higher readiness through our New Force Model, and strengthen our Command and Control structure – the backbone of our Alliance.

I expect Allies to support these regional plans, forces and structures at the Vilnius Summit in July. And for this, we need the right resources.
So I also expect that when our heads of state and government meet in Vilnius in July, they will agree a new defence investment pledge, with two percent not as a ceiling we strive to reach, but two percent of GDP as a minimum that we have to invest in our defence.

I also expect that leaders will endorse a new NATO Defence Production Action Plan to ensure that NATO continues to have the capabilities we need. We need that investment and production capacity now, and for the longer term.

We are moving in the right direction, but not as fast as the dangerous world we live in demands.
All of this requires political courage and the continued commitment of our military colleagues.
I count on all of you to support SACEUR’s proposals and set the stage for a successful Summit in July.

We have a busy agenda, and a burden of responsibility to keep our one billion people safe in a more dangerous world.
NATO has ensured our security for almost 75 years. And with you and your leadership will continue to do so also in the future.

So thank you again, I look forward to a fruitful discussion. Thank you.

Chair of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Rob Bauer

Secretary General, thank you for your inspiring words.  It’s an honour to have you at our table.
And as you rightly said, SACEUR’s proposals are crucial for the future of our Alliance.

In fact, we have come to refer to these documents, together with the SSPs, as “the family of plans”.  Which is fitting, because just like families, they are truly interconnected.
And these plans support and enable the work of the enormous band of brothers and sisters in uniform who defend our great Alliance.
Let us recognise their service and sacrifice, for they are defending the democratic values and the rule of law on which our societies are built.
Together, more than 3 million service men and women uphold NATO’s defensive shield.

On behalf of the NATO Military Committee, I want to express our deep gratitude and respect for their courage, their professionalism, and their dedication.
Our thoughts are especially with the loved ones of those men and women who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.
And with 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.
At the end of our committee session, SACT, SACEUR and I will brief the media on the outcomes of our discussions and answer questions.
I would now ask the media to depart the room.  Thank you.