by NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană followed by Q&A session at the 2023 Spring Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NPA)
Many thanks. I would also like to thank our Luxembourg hosts, the president of the Luxembourg delegation. Dear NATO Parliamentary Assembly, I was and I still am one of yours. I know the importance of this assembly. I served in my nation's delegation a few years back. It's always great to get back to my preferred Parliamentary Assembly, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.
It's also a great pleasure to be back in Luxembourg. The country that is a staunch Ally, a founding member of this Alliance. And when your Prime Minister was saying with great pride that Robert Schuman, the founding father of one of the most beautiful political projects, the European Union, was born here, I can also say as a Romanian, that I’m very proud that for eight centuries Luxembourgish is still being spoken in Romania, my country. Because for eight centuries you've been part of my nation's birth and in beautiful Transylvania, so thank you Luxembourg, for having this European project at heart way, way before Robert Schuman was born.
We also had Prime Minister Bettel in Brussels, meeting with our Secretary General.
Luxemburg, your [inaudible] may be small, but you are a country with a great impact. You lie at the forefront of innovation. I'm very grateful personally for your contributions to space surveillance and satellite capabilities. Also, aircraft transport, cyber, new tracker transport aircraft. And also thank you Luxembourg for hosting one of our elite agencies, the NSPA, the NATO Support and Procurement Agency.
I'm very happy and I know that Oleksii Reznikov, when he visited with us, he asked NSPA to help Ukraine establish a procurement agency for the Ministry of Defence in Ukraine and for the government of Ukraine. We just did that.
And when I'm visiting Capellen, I see the new site. So that's a new contribution from our great Ally, Luxembourg. Thank you so very much for all of that. Not to mention your contributions in the battle groups in Lithuania, my home country of Romania, and also in many, many other fronts.
So we will be discussing, dear friend Francois, we spoke about 2%, and that we're very proud and grateful for what Luxembourg does for our Alliance, now and in the future.
Welcome Finland! It is great to have you here. I do have friends. And I look with great anticipation for our Swedish future Allies to be joining our great Alliance. An Alliance which is becoming stronger. An Alliance with an eastern flank which comes from the Barents Sea to the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea and Mediterranean, an Alliance that is becoming stronger and more united as we speak.
Finland's entry into NATO makes all of us stronger and more secure. It was a beautiful day, a sunny day, and a truly historic day last month, when we raised the Finnish flag in NATO HQ. And I very, very much look forward to seeing the Swedish flag risen soon in the beautiful headquarters that we have in Brussels.
Finland's accession to NATO was a direct response to Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine. And you heard from our Ukrainian friends, how important this continues to be. And this is why we must continue to support Ukraine. We all know – we as political leaders – know how high the stakes are. Because if Putin wins, it would be an immense tragedy for the heroic people of Ukraine.
But it also would make Europe less secure and would send a message to other authoritarian leaders, that they can achieve their goals by using force. This will make not only us in Europe or across the Atlantic, but the whole world more vulnerable. This is why we also stepping up our support for partners at risk from Russian aggression.
Supporting the Republic of Moldova, supporting Georgia, supporting Bosnia-Herzegovina, in many areas like resilience, cyber crisis management, and secure communications. Also partners to the South face complex broader challenges, including deteriorating security situations. Threatening terrorist groups, irregular migration and malign influence. And yes, the security implications of climate change.
We also have to make sure that we increase and strengthen our support for the resilience of our partners in the South. This is also strengthening the overall security of our Alliance in a true 360 degree approach. We still need Allies to step up funding for our partners in the South. We have to deliver on what we promised, that our leaders promised, in Madrid for Mauritania, for Jordan, for Tunisia. We have still financing gaps to be filled in.
I am using this lecture to send a message through you to your capitals that we need to be up to the promise we made to our partners in the South and by Vilnius to be able to deliver upon those promises.
One of the lessons from Ukraine is the importance of providing support to partners sooner rather than later. Ally support for Ukraine since 2014 has played a key contribution to enabling the brave and committed Ukrainian forces to repel the Russian invasion. And over the last year, Allies have provided $150 billion to Ukraine, including 65 billion Euros of military aid, training, equipping nine new Ukrainian armoured brigades, putting them in a strong position to continue to retake occupied territory.
At the NATO Summit in Vilnius we will welcome President Zelenskyy to our Summit and send a strong message of our continuous support. We are working on a strategic multi-year assistance program for Ukraine. To help Ukraine transition from Soviet era doctrines, equipment and training to modern standards. I have to say how much I appreciate the ingenuity and the capacity to learn fast, adopt, and even innovate the kind of support we are giving to our Ukrainian friends.
The aim of these reforms is to make Ukraine stronger, to adopt NATO standards, our military technology, continue reforms and also make Ukraine fully interoperable with NATO forces. We will need Ally support in funding these critical efforts in a sustainable way over the next period of time.
The Vilnius Summit will also be about further strengthening our own deterrence and defence. Since 2014, when Putin illegally annexed Crimea, our Alliance has implemented the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence in generations.
We've increased the readiness of all forces, deployed combat ready troops to the east of the Alliance. For the first time, we activated our defence planning and European Allies and Canada have spent an additional $350 billion on defence. This meant that when Mr. Putin launched his fully-fledged invasion last year, we were ready.
Within hours we activated our defence plans, put 40,000 troops under NATO command, backed by significant air and maritime power. We strengthened our forward defences from the Baltic to the Black Sea. This is to send a crystal-clear message to whom it may concern that we'll defend every square inch of NATO territory – that there can be no risk of misunderstanding or miscalculation. Our security environment is fundamentally changed. High intensity warfare is back in Europe.
Global competition is rising. Authoritarian regimes are challenging our values, our interests and our security. And the threats are multiplying.
From terrorist to cyberattacks to nuclear proliferation to climate change. We have entered, my dear friends, the new era of strategic competition.
NATO is up to the challenge. We will train and exercise more together. Place more forces on higher readiness and strengthen our command and control structure. I expect Allies to support the plans, forces and structures set out by our Supreme Allied Commander General Cavoli at the Vilnius Summit this coming July.
Our upcoming defence ministerial in mid-June, cher Francois, will prepare the important decision to be taken at the Summit. We are also working to ensure that NATO continues to have the capabilities we need. Ukraine is using up ammunition faster than we currently produce it, depleting our stockpiles. So we must ramp up production, invest in our production capacity.
I'm looking forward to the NATO Industry Forum this fall in Sweden to continue our discussion with industry, with start-ups, technology and make sure that we are up to the task. Through the NATO defence planning process, we are increasing our targets to give the defence industry the clear and long-term demand signal. They need to increase production.
I'm very glad to see that several Allies, including the US, Norway, France and others have already signed new contracts with the defence industry. In Vilnius, we also look at ways to further strengthen the resilience of our societies and our critical infrastructures because the war has also underlined some key vulnerabilities, principally our dependence on Russian oil and gas.
Allies are now diversifying their supplies and investing in renewable sources. This is good for our security and good for the climate.
We're also welcome again, in Vilnius, European Union leadership and our Indo-Pacific partners, at the highest level. Because security is indivisible. What happens today in Europe, can happen tomorrow in Asia. We need to be careful not to swap one dependency on one authoritarian regime for another. Most notably China.
Chinese rare-earth materials are present everywhere in our societies, our economies. We cannot give authoritarian regimes the chance to exploit our vulnerabilities. And undermine us. But let me be clear. China is not our adversary. We still trade with China. We engage with them on issues such as arms-controls or climate change. But we have to be clear-eyed that China does not share our values of freedom, democracy and human rights. And that poses a challenge to our interests and to our security. China's increasingly close relationship with Russia is also a serious cause for concern.
As are its attempts to control key industrial sectors and our critical infrastructure.
Let me also talk about the need for us to work more with the private sector. Because one of the fundamental issues in the great power competition era is how to maintain our technological edge. Technology has always been central to our ability to defend our citizens. Things have changed. Once, in the 60s or the 50s, governments were producing 90% of all technology used for our defence and national security. Today is just the opposite! 90% of everything we use in national defence and security is produced by the private sector.
So in order to be able to compete, we will need to do more with private sector. In NATO, I chair the Innovation Board, and I see first-hand how every single piece of new technology can be dual-use. How artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotechnology can offer transformational progress, but also on the other side of the same coin pose great risks for freedom and to our societies.
That's why NATO has established DIANA, the Defence Innovation Accelerator for North Atlantic, to bring together defence personnel with the best and brightest start-ups, researchers, technology companies, to solve critical defence and security challenges. And the brand new NATO Innovation Fund, the world's first multi-nation sovereign VC fund, to nurture and develop new technologies and also bring trusted capital in order to protect our people, our nations and our values.
We have developed Principles of Responsible Use for emerging technologies, such as AI, we will do the same for quantum, will do the same for biotech, will do the same for every single new piece of technology, that can be used also for defence and security. Because we are democratic societies, and we owe this to our citizens, we owe this to our freedom. And making sure that we use responsibly new technologies is something that NATO takes very seriously.
And the Secretary General and all of us, his team, we're working very hard on that.
And also, to make sure that we help industries and institutions who develop this technology that it is in line with international law and our values. If we not do not set the rules of the road, others will.
So NATO and Allies are doing a lot. We need to but of course, all of that comes at a cost. And so at the Vilnius Summit, we expect Allies to agree an ambitious new defence investment pledge with 2% of GDP as a minimum to be invested in our defence. I know there are specific cases that were amply clear today. But this is something that I think we should all be aiming for.
Because if Wales was an aspiration towards 2%, in the new political context and new strategic reality, we have to get to the next level. And I'm confident that all will find the appropriate ways to be part of this new pledge in Vilnius. Last year, we marked the eighth year in a row of increases in defence spending, and yes on new technologies. We are moving in the right direction, but not as fast as the dangers we face demand. We need to do more. We do need to move faster.
So I know as a political person myself that investing in defence when you have competing priorities, the prime minister said it right away, this is not easy. But this is the time when political leadership matters. Not every decision we make as political leaders are easy or helping in the polls.
But we have to do the right things for our nations, for freedom, for our security for our Alliance. And this is a worthwhile investment. Because without security, there is no peace. Without security and peace there is no prosperity. Without security, peace and prosperity there is no freedom.
This is the time to invest in our values, in NATO, and of course, in other many ways. So I count on your support. And I hope my message was pretty much crystal-clear that we need your help.
My dear friends, former colleagues from the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.
This is a time when history is made. This is one of those times in history that will shape generations to come. And our generation, again, will be called to be facing history and be up to the challenge. Madam President, dear friends. Many thanks. And looking forward to welcome Madame la Présidente to Vilnius to represent this wonderful body that I cherish so much, and we appreciate so intensely. Thank you so much. We'll be in touch.
President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly Joëlle Garriaud-Maylam (France) [interpreted from French]: Many thanks, Deputy Secretary General. Your presentation was extremely clear, and very hard-hitting; many thanks for what you've said. So now quickly – immediately, rather, – question and answer session. One minute per question, please. And we'll group them in four. Mike Turner first, from the US, and Zaida Cantera, Michal Szczerba and Nicu Falcoi. Mike, you have the floor.
Head of the US Delegation Michael R. Turner: Thank you, Madam President. Deputy Secretary General, thank you for being here. Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for your work with the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, and in recognizing the work that this group does.
I appreciate your reference to the 2% and the need, especially in this environment, for everyone to be working toward increasing our capabilities and our resources. Our commitment is – as you acknowledged - one that has not been imposed upon our members but was actually agreed to by our members.
I wonder if you could for a moment speak about the need for missile defence. The head of the Ukrainian delegation held up a piece of a Kinzhal missile, and that missile was taken down by a Patriot system operated – skilfully – by the Ukrainians. But as we see in this conflict, we know that, even more, we're vulnerable as an alliance to missile attack, and missile defence is an area where we could grow on our capabilities. Thank you.
President of the Parliamentary Assembly Garriaud-Maylam [translated from French]: Thank you very much. Zaida Cantera has the floor.
Head of the Spanish Delegation Zaida Cantera: Thank you very much. I will speak in Spanish. [Interpreted from Spanish]: Thank you very much. My question has to do with the southern flank. In Mediterranean countries, in the south, we continue to see how North Africa, the MENA region, is beginning to become more than a hotspot - terrorist groups, population, demographic explosion, Wagner Group and underground paramilitary actions with China's help, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. What we need is activity to counter that with its 360-degree vision to comply with the Strategic Concept. Thank you very much.
President of the Parliamentary Assembly Garriaud-Maylam [translated from French]: Michal Szczerba, Poland.
Deputy Head of the Polish Delegation Michal Szczerba: Thank you very much Michal Szczerba for Poland. Deputy Secretary General, the Strategic Concept of 2022 rightly described Russia as the greatest threat to the Alliance. In our view, the Vilnius Summit would be the right place for leaders to begin the process of reviewing and redefining the Alliance’s future political approach to Russia.
The Summit communiqué should reconfirm that military adaptation is not limited by any previous agreements NATO had with Russia. The NATO-Russia Founding Act is not a relevant document in the current situation and shouldn't be seen as such in the future. I would like to also say that we should focus on strengthening NATO-Ukrainian political dialogue, and the Polish delegation is supporting transforming the NATO-Ukraine Commission into the NATO-Ukraine Council, a body that could allow for joint consultation and decisions, including a crisis management mechanism, could fit the bill. Thank you very much.
President of the Parliamentary Assembly Garriaud-Maylam: [translated from French] Thank you, Michal. Speaking next, for Romania, is Nicu Falcoi.
Member of the Chamber of Deputies Nicu Falcoi: Thank you. Nicu Falcoi for Romania. Mr. Deputy Secretary General, for many years the Republic of Moldova has been a priority target of the Russian Federation to restore its influence over the government of the Moldovan state. 2022 was challenging, but Moldova made determined steps towards European integration and strengthening its defence and security institutions. In the face of the hybrid war waged by Moscow, NATO and the European Union have provided much-needed support. However, Moldova needs even more assistance from us.
Considering the need to step up the support for partners, such as Moldova, a country on the front line of hybrid action on behalf of Moscow, NATO is preparing a series of decisions for the upcoming Vilnius Summit. In this regard, what are the priorities of the Alliance for the Republic of Moldova, and what recommendation do you make to the Allies to contribute to a package of assistance for this country? Thank you very much.
President of the Parliamentary Assembly Garriaud-Maylam [translated from French]: Thank you, Nicu. The floor is yours.
NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană: Thank you, thank you all. Chairman Turner, dear Mike, thank you so much also for the wonderful hospitality in Washington extended to our delegation.
As we speak, NATO and our military commanders, General Cavoli, General Lavigne, have been presenting to Allies the most comprehensive upgrade of our defence planning, force and command structures in generations. And obviously, inside this multi-regional, 360-approach, air and missile defence is critical. And the lessons learned from Ukraine and Russia capabilities, even with this great news that our Ukrainian friends are bringing to us of the effectiveness of Patriot batteries, is an invitation for Allies to do more. And I know we'll be doing more. And as we speak, there is work on air and missile defence. The new DDA [Concept for Deterrence and Defence of the Euro-Atlantic Area] will be approved by all leaders in Vilnius. And then as we go towards the implementation of the plans we’ll be going to the next level. And I know that many suggestions from many Allies - our Baltic friends are coming with proposals, with rotational air and missile defence, other Allies have capabilities on their soil together –, under the wise leadership of General Cavoli, our Allies will be moving into the next generation of air and missile defence. This is something for sure.
Muchas gracias por la pregunta, señora Presidenta. [Translated from French:] I am a firm proponent, within the Alliance, of the need to ensure that what we do on the eastern flank, which is absolutely essential, does not overlook all threats – including asymmetric threats stemming from the south, admittedly, but also from space and from cyberspace.
It is the duty of the Alliance to address threats coming from the south, too. I mentioned indirectly in my speech the need not just to make political statements in support of our partners to the south, but also to do practical things in support of them. I mentioned the example of the defence capability package that our leaders have decided, including [Prime Minister] Sánchez.
We are not yet there in terms of the commitment, financial commitment. I also believe that we have to work much closer with the European Union and other allies to making sure that we have a clear, synergistic approach. Because the competition with China and Russia in the south is intensifying. And as a politician myself, I know that we have to step up our game and do a better job together. So let me say that what we have decided in the Strategic Concept is for us compulsory, and we are engaging – I’m personally engaging – with all our partners in the MENA region, in the Gulf region, and hopefully we'll be able to engage with our new partners in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is something that we are working on as we speak.
To our Polish friends and Allies: As you know, we'll have an informal foreign ministers’ meeting in Oslo. This is a new kid in town. Because in the NATO 2030 [agenda], we decided on four new political avenues for NATO: One, to add a third foreign ministers’ meeting to the two regular ones we had before. We have three defence ministerial meetings. And the one in Oslo, like the first one in Berlin, will be an informal one. So I can say that I expect our foreign ministers to amply discuss, in a more informal setting, also the future of the relationship with Ukraine. Our leaders in Vilnius, of course, will take the appropriate decision they will be deeming necessary.
There are also a proposition which is debated, as we speak, in NATO – and I know your country is very active and many others are also active – in trying to see if we can upgrade the political instrument, which is the Commission, that we are happy we revived after too many long years of intermission. It’s not up to me to say what Allies will decide; this is a decision of Allies. I know one thing: That for the comprehensive assistance package for Ukraine, which is the NATO instrument to help, that we have a seamless interoperability with our Ukrainian friends, also there we need more money. So yes, we'll be discussing about what comes next.
But I think we have to focus now in winning this war for Ukraine, and Ukraine should win this war. And secondly, making sure that we put in place reforms for the longer term that will make sure that, even if Ukraine wins now – and they will win – in the future, Russia might come back. So the real target here is not only to prevail in this war – we will – but to make sure that down the road, if Russia will have the same instinct, imperialistic instinct, come back against Ukraine or anyone else, that we’ll be ready and make sure that Ukraine is a truly resilient, professional, and highly-performing society and military.
[In Romanian:] Thank you very for your question, Nicu, and to the Romanian delegation. [Continuing in English:] The Republic of Moldova, together with Georgia and Bosnia, as I mentioned, is of a top priority for NATO as well. Of course we are respectful of Moldova's neutrality by constitution. This is something that we fully respect. And just, I think, last week, the Chairman of the Military Committee Admiral Bauer was visiting Chisinau. I’m planning to visit Chisinau. We have been sending to Chisinau, at the beginning of this year, our elite unit, which is the resilience assistance team, and we are now producing recommendations for the Republic of Moldova to strengthen their resilience across the board.
And something I would like to mention, because this is something which is also very, very important – is that Moldova, like Bosnia, is a joint partner of NATO and EU, and I welcome the fact that President Maia Sandu will be will be hosting the European Political Community summit in Chisinau. I'm very happy, as a Romanian and as a NATO leader, that the European Union has been offering to Ukraine, to Moldova, and also hopefully to Georgia and to Bosnia, the European membership or perspective.
So what's happening today in Moldova is short of a military intervention by Russia, but it's a full-fledged hybrid warfare. It is our interest and obligation to help Moldova, to help Georgia, to help Bosnia and making sure that if they decide freely that they want to come towards democratic, free Europe, then I think it's an obligation to help them go in that direction. And this is what we do in NATO, in the EU, NATO and EU, and also I want to welcome what Romania does for Moldova. Because, as the only neighbour to the west of the Republic of Moldova, Romania is doing a great job in supporting this very important, vulnerable partner that we have.
President of the Parliamentary Assembly Garriaud-Maylam [translated from French]: Thank you very much. We'll move on to the second set of three questions: Canada, then Theo Franklin for Belgium and then Gerry Connolly from the US and Alec Shelbrooke from the UK. Julie, you have the floor.
Head of the Canadian Delegation Julie Dzerowicz: Thank you very much, Deputy Secretary General, for being with us today. We had two NATO Parliamentary Assembly committees come to Canada about a month and a half ago. And what we heard there from some academics is that most of the world, of course outside of NATO countries and maybe the 50 countries that support Ukraine, is hostile to the democratic values that we believe in, and it's the worst that it's been in seven years.
We've also heard stories from NATO parliamentarians who had visited the Global South, and the fact that the Russian and Chinese narratives have taken hold and in many places are very much believed. Do you believe that there needs to be a collective narrative put forward by NATO in Vilnius in order to counter the very effective narratives by the Russians and the Chinese? And the second question I have for you is: You had mentioned that nuclear proliferation is an ongoing threat. What additional actions do you believe that NATO needs to take to ensure arms control and non-proliferation? Thank you.
President of the Parliamentary Assembly Garriaud-Maylam [translated from the French]: Thank you, Julie. Theo Francken.
Head of the Belgian Delegation Theo Francken: Thank you very much for your interesting and inspiring speech. I have a question on the south, actually, like my colleague Zaida. It's on Iran: the Islamic Republic of Iran is a big threat to world peace. They're organized organizing terrorist attacks in Europe, they're kidnapping people, there’s a Belgian citizen who has also been kidnapped, is now more than one year in an Iranian prison. We don't get them out because it's very, very difficult. A lot of European countries are in the same situation. They are fighting proxy wars in the Middle East and destabilizing the whole region. And now they are delivering weapons to Russia. And for me, this is really a game-changer. I also made a report on Iran [and] presented yesterday.
But my question is: What will NATO do, for example, to get IRGC [the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] being put on the terrorist list as a terrorist organization, or enhance and increase sanctions against Iran. What is the position? Thank you very much.
President of the Parliamentary Assembly Garriaud-Maylam [translated from French]: Thank you, Theo, Gerald Connelly has the floor.
Member of the US House of Representatives Gerald Connolly: Thank you, Madame Chair. And Mr. [Deputy] Secretary. General, thank you so much for being here. You've always been a great friend to the Parliamentary Assembly, and we appreciate it.
You had a comprehensive presentation today but you didn't directly address one of our primary issues and priorities that were presented in Madrid in the seminal Strategic Concept, and that is creating an operational advocacy and resource centre within NATO on democratic resilience. And I just want to emphasize, you know, that is a major priority for us, and when we receive you or the Secretary General, we want to hear about it. And I just want to assure you that if we don't do this, we will erode support for NATO, even in my country. This is a moment to be proactive and if we fail to meet this moment, I fear that just not liking Russia, a military alliance against Russia is not, long-term, going to be sustainable in terms of public opinion. Thank you.
President of the Parliamentary Assembly Garriaud-Maylam [interpreted from French]: Thank you, Gerry. And now Alec Shelbrooke from the United Kingdom.
Head of the UK Delegation Alec Shelbrooke: Thank you, Madame President. We’re having a lot of conversations about accession to NATO. I’m seeking clarification from you, Deputy Secretary General, on territorial integrity. It's not clear within the Treaty as to what “territorial integrity” should be. Is it just about being attacked, or is it about making sure that a 1955-style Germany agreement can come in. So my question is: What will countries need to have full territorial integrity before they can accede to NATO? Or how are we defining when a country is able to have the protection of Article 5?
NATO Deputy Secretary General Geoană: Merci, thank you so very much.
On the Canadian question: I vividly remember the Summit in Madrid. And I think it was the Belgian Prime Minister who started the last session. And also I think, Prime Minister Trudeau continued and many other leaders – President Biden, President Macron… There was a very robust discussion about how can we do a better job, not only to communicate to the Global South. Because the narrative is one issue. But beneath that there is something far more complex, and I think we have to really understand that without changing ourselves, the way to engage with our partners and our – hopefully – friends from the Global South, the balance of power which is now to be established will be more difficult to be established according to our values and to our interests.
I don't have a miraculous panacea for this thing, but I think that we have to start sharing more information about what to do with these nations. We work in silence. I do a lot of work on southern partnerships in NATO. I really engage politically as much as I can. And you see I'm doing this with you, all of you, today. But there are many things that happen bilaterally, many things that the EU is doing. We have to think together. When China goes and takes over, let's say, very important critical, let's say, rare earth materials, in Africa, let's say, they come with an economic compact that our private sector cannot compete with. Because our private sector has bottom line and profitability indicators, shareholders are asking this from the companies. So together we have to find a way to make sure that we make a counter-proposition. Of course, alerting these countries of the risk of depending too much on Chinese debt and things like that, but I think we have to come with a better offer.
My dear friends, in NATO countries today, other than 1 billion people who have more than 50% of global GDP together… For me, it's a little bit counterintuitive. And if we add also our friends, some of them were in G7 and in Hiroshima our Japanese and other friends, I think we’re closer to 60% of global GDP. It’s just a matter for us to get ourselves in a better position, to come with a fresh proposition. To have more humility and listen to them, not to preach on them. That's important, too: Tone matters.
But I will say that this is something that I know that our leaders in Vilnius, this is in the eastern flank, there will be lots of Ukraine there. There should be. But I anticipate that our leaders will be discussing about the overall aggregated issues.
On nuclear proliferation and arms control: This is very high on our agenda, too. Of course, there is a need for Strategic Dialogue to be continued. We encourage – I encourage every single time when I meet my Chinese interlocutors – I encourage China to get into this conversation on arms control. That's a must. I think all our nations, big or small, nuclear or non-nuclear, we should also be talking to China to encourage them to be a responsible global player in arms control and nuclear counter-proliferation. That's a must. So we are keeping this very much close to our heart and of course, when political conditions will be met, we'll need to move forward on that.
On the Belgian question on Iran: NATO is not imposing sanctions. NATO is not declaring one organization or another as being on a terrorist list or not. We see with great concern the connection between Iran and Russia in helping in that war against innocent Ukraine. I think that's a very severe gesture from Iran.
In the regional we just received, I think a few months back, the foreign minister of Iraq. NATO Mission Iraq is very much welcome in Iraq. And we are doing a lot of work to try to help strengthen Iraq according to their own wishes to do to be doing this. So engaging also the broader region is also very, very important and of course, respecting the rules of engagement of each of our organizations.
It’s not only kidnapping, it's also cyber-attacks: my Albanian friends here in the room probably remember that Iran – and this was a collective attribution by NATO countries – crippled Albania’s police and judiciary institutions because they were trying to organize an opposition meeting of Iranian opposition in Tirana. So that's a very serious multifaceted issue that we have to deal with together.
Congressman Connolly, dear Gerry, the fact that I didn't mention [it] in my speech doesn't mean that we are not taking very, very actively and seriously your common, let's say demarche, for us to be addressing the issue that you hold so much dear. I remember you making the case to President Biden and to our leaders in Madrid. I know that also Joelle and others will be doing this as well. What I can say is: Of course, we depend on consensus in the organization, this is something that we will always need to respect. But if we go and think also of the 75th anniversary Summit in Washington of next year, rule of law – freedom, democracy and rule of law – this is a fundamental building block of our Alliance, and I know that together, all of us will be able to find a way forward on this topic that is very, very important. For the time being, I have to say I don't have consensus in my organization. But I think [that], together, we should be continuing to work in that direction, [to] find the appropriate way to move in that direction. And you know, for me personally, this an issue that is very, very close to me, and we will have to work harder to find the right conditions into this.
And to our UK friends: NATO enlargement is a political decision, it’s not a technical decision. And in the history of NATO enlargements, from Türkiye and Greece to Spain and Portugal, to [Czechia], Slovakia and Hungary, then the gang of seven in the second round, and then the others coming, now Finland, hopefully Sweden soon, there's always been a combination between the level of reforms and readiness of a candidate country and the political readiness inside the organization to welcome that country. That's something that we should not be shy, as politicians, to be recognizing. So it's not up to me to say which will be the ideal situation after this world ends.
I know Ukraine will prevail. I'd say that, sooner or later, we'll have to come to the conversation about security guarantees for Ukraine. I cannot prejudge; it’s above my paygrade to tell you when and how because our leaders, you in the national parliaments, you will be ratifying. So this is a political conversation as well as a practical military or other consideration. So I trust that the Open Door policy, which is enshrined in the Washington Treaty, will continue to be a reality. And as soon as conditions will allow, we’ll be coming to such conversations. Now, let's help Ukraine prevail in this war. This is fundamental. And I know that, together with our brave, heroic friends, brothers and sisters in Ukraine, we'll be doing that. And then we'll be discussing more about these things, I’m convinced, in the future.
President of the Parliamentary Assembly Garriaud-Maylam [interpreted from French]: Thank you very much. There are seven further requests for the floor. Ante Bacic for Croatia, Audronius Azubalis for Lithuania, Njall Trausti Fridbertsson for Iceland, Andrea Giorgio Orsini for Italy. Please be brief, very brief, so we can take all questions. Thank you.
Head of the Croatian Delegation Ante Bacic: Mr Deputy Secretary General, thank you for your speech. Your message was very clear. In my country, Croatia, we have a particular sensitivity regarding the problem of mines and explosives that were left behind after we liberated our country. As soon as the aggressor was defeated, we established a huge national anti-mine campaign which we’ll hopefully bring to an end in 2026. But despite this immense effort since 1996, the mines have claimed more than 200 civilian lives, among them some 65 mining tactic technicians alone.
In the case of Ukraine, for a number of reasons, de-mining will be at least a dozen times more devastating effort in this regard. In this regard, how realistic option would it be [for] the EU and NATO [to] join their efforts in order to help Ukraine with this worst humanitarian problem once when the war is over and of course, to use the experience and expertise of our member countries who had the same problem in the recent past and now have the people, experience, technology and industry in demand? I think we have to plan and prepare ahead. Thank you.
President of the Parliamentary Assembly Garriaud-Maylam [interpreted from French]: Thank you very much. Be brief, please. Thank you.
Head of the Lithuanian Delegation Audronius Azubalis: Thank you, Madame Chair. Mr Deputy Secretary General, from your remarks I understood that political decisions regarding Ukraine [will be made] just after the victory. But let me disagree: The upcoming NATO Summit in Vilnius provides an invaluable opportunity for the Alliance to deliver on the political track of NATO-Ukraine relations. Security guarantees that are not underpinned by tangible modalities, political modalities, would only generate uncertainty, would not fundamentally address the problem of a gray zone in Europe, and would risk replicating the [inaudible] Bucharest Memorandum. Thank you.
President of the Parliamentary Assembly Garriaud-Maylam [inaudible], s’il vous plait.
Head of the Icelandic Delegation Njall Trausti Fridbertsson: Hello. Yes, I know, Madame President, it is quite difficult name. My name Njall Trausti Fridbertsson and thank you, Madame President and Mr Deputy Secretary General. Our Science and Technology Committee has a report on the protection of critical maritime infrastructure, which I had the pleasure to draft. And Russia’s brutal, unprovoked war against Ukraine also has implications for the High North: Many of the submarine cables connecting Europe and North America are located in the North Atlantic Sea. We can see the northern part of Europe is also becoming increasingly important for the production of renewable energy that needs to be transported to other parts of Europe. Furthermore, we are seeing increased activity from Russian ships in our region.
My question is to you is: How the Alliance and member states strengthen and improve the protection of our critical maritime infrastructure in the sea and in the High North?
President of the Parliamentary Assembly Garriaud-Maylam [interpreted from French]: Thank you. Andrea Giorgio Orsini from Italy.
Deputy Head of the Italian Delegation Andrea Giorgio Orsini: Thank you, I will speak in Italian. [Interpreted from Italian]: I wish to go back to what the Spanish colleague mentioned regarding the Alliance's southern flank and since we have very little time available, I will ask a very clear question. We are currently devoting all of our priorities to the eastern flank, to Ukraine, given the emergency we face. But what we're seeing is that when dealing with the Ukrainian situation, we have plenty of trouble in replenishing our munition stockpiles. Ukraine uses more ammunition than what we can produce, which means that we have a clear issue when it comes to our availability of ammunition. And therefore, given the current situation, is our deterrence capability on the southern flank credible, given the strong presence of Russia and China in Africa were there to be an emergency regarding the Alliance on the southern flank? Thank you.
NATO Deputy Secretary General Geoană: Okay, thank you so much for the questions.
On the Croatian question: That's a colossal task, de-mining Ukraine and making sure that we can help Ukraine rebuild its economy, and also its institutions. And in the Comprehensive Assistance Package for Ukraine, the CAP, we have a specific chapter dealing with this. But of course, NATO alone will not be able to be doing this. I know that individual Allies, including your country, are helping as we speak Ukraine do this. I know that Italian Allies are offering de-mining in the Black Sea, because they there are not only land mines, it’s also Black Sea mines that [are] also very dangerous. So what I can say [is] that probably this will be one of the most massive efforts in helping Ukraine in the long term from NATO, from individual countries, from the EU, and from others. That's a colossal task, and the experience that you have from previous conflicts would be very valuable, and we are ready to learn and eventually leverage what Allies can offer individually as well.
On Lithuania: I didn’t say that Vilnius, dear Mr Chairman, Vilnius will just be a repetition of the Bucharest Summit declaration. Our leaders will decide what will be one of the steps towards moving Ukraine even closer to us. I'm a political person, and I see a reality in the Alliance: We don't have consensus now to move now towards that direction, but I see consensus in the Alliance forging, forming, for us to be moving in practical terms, through CAP, in political terms, through – if it's possible, why not upgrade the [NATO-Ukraine] Commission into a council, or things like that. It’s on the table. So I know that this will be a very important conversation in Oslo just, I think, next week, our foreign ministers, your foreign ministers, and of course our leaders will be deciding. You know Jens Stoltenberg and myself are pressing for Ukraine getting closer to us. And of course, the lesson of the Budapest Memorandum, not Bucharest, is also of course relevant to our Ukrainian friends and to us, so we have to make sure that we are looking in that part as well.
To our Icelandic Allies: Thank you so much for what you do for our Alliance. It’s very clear that, also after the sabotage acts against Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, there is a need for increased vigilance and resilience from NATO. As we speak, we are establishing a task force in NATO on undersea critical infrastructures. I think we have seen Jens Stoltenberg and Ursula von der Leyen on an oil rig somewhere in the North Sea. And together with the EU. We established a joint task force on resilience, including on issues like this. We are working in this task force not only with governments and our defence, our intelligence, but also with the private sector.
I remember chairing a council in Brussels, and we invited the CEO of the Norwegian oil and gas company, the CEO of the Swedish electricity company, and the chief engineer of Google, the largest owner of fibre optics under the seat belt cable system for data transmission in the world. So I can assure you that we are taking these very things very seriously. Of course, the High North, it’s beyond SACEUR’s [Area of Responsibility], but we are also concerned about increased Russian activity in that part. So we are doing our best. There was a question about I think, also on the Black Sea side, there is also lots of potential undersea infrastructure that can be developed, and I think NATO can and should play a role in that direction.
[Interpreted from Italian]: Thank you very much for the question from our Italian friends and Allies.For us, it's not a matter that we do east or south, or space or cyberspace, or technology or resilience, or climate change and security. It's all of them at the same time. I know it's a colossal task for all of us. But I wanted to reassure and reconfirm our strong interest in investing in our partnerships to the south. The more resilient our partners to the south are, the most secure Europe.
We all agreed on the Strategic Concept last year. You see that we put Russia and terrorism as the number one, on equal footing. Cooperative security is also part of the core tasks. So what I'm saying [is] that we are investing a lot of political energy [into] how we get a little bit more cash, and also to have more synergies with other efforts, individual national efforts, EU, NATO or whoever else, World Bank, just to make sure that we have a comprehensive package to assist our friends and partners to the south. So for us, it’s not an either-or. It's [the] eastern flank, southern flank and the new definition of security in one comprehensive package for all of that.
President of the Parliamentary Assembly Garriaud-Maylam [interpreted from French]: Mr Deputy Secretary General, we’ll take the last two questions. The first one is from Türkiye, Ahmet Conkar, and the second one from Philippe Folliot, France.
Deputy Head of the Turkish Delegation Ahmet Berat Conkar: Madame President. Thank you very much, [Deputy] Secretary General. for your presentation. The security situation in NATO's southern borders remains complex and volatile. Ongoing conflicts and political instability continue to pose significant challenges to peace and stability in our region. Factors such as terrorism, sectarian tensions, proxy wars, further sharpen the security concerns.
What concrete steps is NATO taking to enhance regional security in light of the ongoing geopolitical challenges in our vicinity, particularly regarding the developments in Syria and the increasing threat of terrorism? How can NATO ensure effective coordination and cooperation with Türkiye, a key NATO Ally in the region, to address these security concerns and prevent any further destabilization? Thank you very much,
President of the Parliamentary Assembly Garriaud-Maylam: Phillip Folliot.
Member of the French Senate Philippe Folliot [interpreted from French]: Mr Deputy Secretary General, the shock of the war in Ukraine found an answer in a new Strategic Concept of our Alliance. Some of the aspects of that illegal and unjustified aggression have stunned us. Russia did not do great on cyber. I suppose it is due to the inventiveness and the resilience of the Ukrainian forces, but t's also most probably due to the support provided by our Alliance. The Centre of Excellence on cyber defence and cooperation at NATO accepted, through unanimity voting, to have Ukraine join as a participating and contributing nation in 2022. This became a fact last week. We welcomed that. Don’t you think we could also support Ukraine by opening our doors to other centres of excellence in the EU and, in the case of a positive answer, which centres of excellence, DSG?
Thank you and the colleagues that have been leading and participating in the Parliamentary Assembly delegation, I know there are rules in your country about a limited period of time serving in the parliament from various political parties. Türkiye is a very important Ally, that’s an understatement. Strategically speaking, there's no other Ally that have been suffering more terrorist attacks than your nation. And of course, not only when it comes to Türkiye, but to all the Allies, fighting terrorism is a very important task, and this is why we appreciate very much your contribution and your continuous political encouragement for NATO to do more. And, of course, we'll be we'll be looking into this.
On the southern part, I mentioned, this will be probably critical for the balance of power and shape of the world order that is now under strain. Let me also make use of my answer to you that I do hope that together with our Swedish invitees, the new Turkish Parliament will be able to find the right, appropriate, mutually-acceptable conditions to have 32 Allies around the table.
[Interpreted from French] With regards to the Centres of Excellence of NATO: They are top-quality, high-level centres. The Cyber Centre of Excellence is in Tallinn. And I welcome the fact that Ukraine has been welcomed into that Centre of Excellence, and I welcome the fact that it could join all those Centres of Excellence that would welcome Ukraine provided that Allies agree. I think it would be very important for Ukraine to be involved in those Centres of Excellence. And allow me just say to our Canadian Allies that we do appreciate very much the offer by Canada to have a Centre of Excellence of NATO on climate change and security. It's probably not something that Ukraine could join immediately, of course not. But it means another addition to a wonderful network of Centres of Excellence. And actually, it's General Lavigne who manages those Centres of Excellence, and I would welcome the fact that Ukraine could join into these Centres of Excellence to benefit from the resources of our Allies through Centres of Excellence.
President of the Parliamentary Assembly Garriaud-Maylam [interpreted from French]: Thank you very much Deputy Secretary General for your detailed answers. Thank you to all of my colleagues for having been concise in your questions. We managed to stick to schedule, which is quite something. Do allow me now to ask Nicu Falcoi to come and replace me during the debate on resolutions. Thank you very much, Nico. And thank you to all of you, and see you in a minute.