Opening remarks

by the Chair of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Rob Bauer,the Norwegian Chief of Defence, General Eirik Kristoffersen and the Norwegian Minister of Defence, Bjørn Arild Gram at the meeting of the Military Committee in Chiefs of Defenc

  • 16 Sep. 2023 -
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  • Last updated: 16 Sep. 2023 18:03

(As prepared)

Chair of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Rob Bauer

Your Excellency, Chiefs of Defence, Strategic Commanders, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Mesdames et Messieurs,

Nous sommes honorés de réunir notre conférence annuelle ici à Oslo, à l'invitation des autorités norvégiennes.

We are honoured to convene our annual conference here in Oslo, at the invitation of the Norwegian authorities. 

We have for the first time at our table the new Chief of Defence from Tϋrkiye: General Metin Gürak. Metin, welcome to our club and we look forward to hearing your contributions and advice.

Then, on behalf of the whole Military Committee and Invitee Sweden, I want to thank our hosts for the incredibly warm welcome and the generous hospitality, the “gjestfrihet”, they have shown us since our arrival.  

We extend our gratitude to the Minister of Defence, Mr Bjørn Arnild Gram: we are honoured to have you in our midst today.
And to our brother in arms, the Norwegian Chief of Defence General Kristoffersen.
Dear Eirik,
Thank you for all you and your staff have done to host 1000 years of military experience here at this table. The Norwegian Armed Forces have always been a keen contributor to NATO’s missions and operations. And I know that you yourself are a staunch supporter and initiator of cooperation between Allies. To give an example: in the Military Advice that you published last May, the acronym “NATO” is listed 100 times in a 72-page document. I think that gives a fair impression of how closely “NATO” and “national” are intertwined.   

And that brings me to the theme of this year’s Military Committee Conference: never before have NATO and national defence plans been so closely interlinked.

The plans that Allies agreed in Vilnius will impact the development of all our armed forces for decades to come. We are taking bold steps to further strengthen our deterrence and defence posture.

The centrepiece of all this are the DDA family of plans. This includes the Regional Plans, which are geographically specific plans that describe how we will defend key and relevant places within our Alliance. The Regional Plans are underpinned by objective, threat-based Force Structure Requirements, which detail precisely which assets or capabilities are required in a crisis or conflict scenario.

Needless to say, these plans and requirements are living documents. They will be updated as the threats that face us develop. Meanwhile, we are decidedly turning them into action.

Today, we will discuss executability. And that includes:

More troops at higher readiness;

Capability building and development;

Adaptation of NATO’s command and control structures;

More enablement, which includes logistics, host nation support, maintenance, military mobility, and replenishment and prepositioning of stocks;

And crucially: it involves more collective defence exercise and training.

Because NATO and national defence plans are now so closely interlinked, it is crucial that we not only firmly move forward… but that we also closely consult each other every step of the way.

I am immensely proud of how the NATO Military Authorities have steered the process leading up to these plans. I say that specifically in the presence of our Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Chris Cavoli and our Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, General Philippe Lavigne.

Chris, Philippe: your inspiring, bold leadership plays a key part in making sure that this Alliance is ready to expect the unexpected: today, tomorrow and at any time in the future. On behalf of the Chiefs of Defence, thank you for all that you and your commands do.

This gathering comes at a time when the Rules Based International Order is under severe pressure. Around the world, and also in our own countries, people are growing increasingly divided and threat levels are going up.

Therefore, it is crucial that we, the NATO military leadership, continue to make sure that the men and women in uniform who serve our Alliance have what they need to protect all we hold dear.

Together, we are protecting much more than physical safety.  We are protecting freedom, democracy and the sovereign rights of nations and people to determine their own destiny.

Just like the Norwegian Armed Forces motto, we fight for everything we have and for everything we are: for alt vi har, og alt vi er.

We do that by coming together, finding compromises and moving forward as one. By putting the “we” before the “me”.

But let me stress here that that does not mean the “me” is not important anymore. Collective defence starts at home. Having a strong national defence is a key part of contributing to international defence.

In our “all for one, one for all” organisation, it is important that we work on the ONE as well as the ALL.

Every day we are in awe of our Ukrainian brothers and sisters in uniform. They are fighting a war on an unprecedented scale, in uncharted doctrinal territory. History books will show: Ukraine has transformed modern warfare. And they are moving forward every day. Every success is one step closer to victory.

Meanwhile, the Russian Armed Forces keep losing more and more ground and the whole of Russia is suffering under the impact of economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation. Russia is forced to cooperate with unreliable actors, growing ever more dependent. And yet: the Russian leadership still believes that it will outlast the collective resolve of the Ukrainian people and all those who stand with them.

Russia has been preparing for confrontation for years. And they are willing for their population and their economy to endure unending hardships in order to regenerate military capabilities. In addition, their misinformation machine is making widespread attempts at sowing discontent and divide within western democracies.

President Putin wanted NATO divided and made every attempt to do so. And yet here we stand: more united than ever.

United in our belief that the rule of law applies to all. That conflicts should be solved in the court room, not on the battlefield. And that self-determination is an unalienable right.

From the first day of Russia’s war against Ukraine until the very last, and also during the many many years after that, we will support Ukraine in its rightful choice for freedom and democracy.  And we will stand together to protect all we hold dear.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Once Sweden joins, we will have a band of 3.5 million brothers and sisters in uniform who protect our great Alliance. They see together what they cannot see alone. They do together what they cannot do alone.

The military profession brings immense opportunities. But it also requires immense sacrifices.

On behalf of the Military Committee, I want to express our deep gratitude and respect for the men and women who serve our Alliance.  We thank them for their courage, their professionalism, and their dedication.

I would like to now take a moment to remember the men and women who paid the ultimate price for our freedom. And all those who are dealing with the physical and mental effects of their time in service.

We honour their sacrifice. We respect their courage.

Please stand.

[Moment of Silence]

Now, I would like to hand the floor over to General Kristoffersen for his opening remarks.

Eirik, the floor is yours.


Norwegian Chief of Defence, General Eirik Kristoffersen

Thank you, Admiral Bauer, for your wise words.

It is my sincere pleasure to host the NATO Military Committee Conference here in Oslo, Norway.

We started yesterday with a opening ceremony, and today we start the Military Committee Conference.

I am very pleased to have both Finland and Sweden here. Finland as our newest member and Sweden which will soon become one. The integration of all Nordic countries in the NATO alliance is good for Norway and our neighboring countries and a strengthening for NATO. In the years to come we will develop new ways to defend and deter NATO´s northern flank together.

We meet here during times of war. Our Ukrainian friends are fighting for their homeland, for their freedom, for democracy, and for peace. Values we all share and hold very high.

There is a saying in Norwegian: Never again 9th of April.

Norway was attacked by Hitlers forces on the 9th of April in 1940. The attack took us by surprise, and we promised ourselves that we should learn. Two important lessons were drawn: Firstly, one should never take peace, freedom and democracy for granted. Secondly, one needs friends and allies to be able fight back, and secure peace. Allies are so much more than friends, something which is evident in NATO.

NATO is the cornerstone of Norwegian security policy and the foundation upon which we have built our Armed Forces. We are very grateful to be part of the world's strongest military alliance.

NATO is more united than ever. Our neighbor Russia and President Putin wanted to drive a wedge into our Alliance. By attacking Ukraine and the rule based international world order, he accomplished the opposite.

Ukraine's resistance and the will and capacity to fight back is has impressed us all. In Norway we have always placed much emphasis on the importance of the people's will to defend itself. That is exactly what we see the Ukrainian people do right now. And we stand by our Ukrainian friends.

During the last two years, the Military Committee has played a very important role in NATO´s military response to Russia´s attack on Ukraine.

I would like to sincerely thank Admiral Rob Bauer, the Chair of NATO´s Military Committee. Rob, your leadership have brought together the Chiefs of Defense's in finding the best military options and responses that our political leaders have demanded of us.

Thank you and welcome.


Chair of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Rob Bauer

Thank you. I now hand the floor to Minister of Defence Bjørn Arnild Gram.

Minister, the floor is yours.


Norwegian Minister of Defence, Mr Bjørn Arild Gram

Dear Chair, dear friends – dear NATO family.

Welcome to Norway, to Oslo and welcome to Holmenkollen.

The city of Oslo has a rich history, reaching more than 1000 years back – but it has not always been as peaceful as today. Like many other European Capitals, Oslo has seen its fare share of war and atrocities.

The city was burned to the ground in the 16th century by its own citizens and the attacking Swedes during the “Nordic 7-year war”.

We have stopped burning our cities when swedes are visiting these days. And now, they are even in the process of becoming our allies in NATO. Which we are very pleased with by the way…  


I would like to focus on four topics during these opening remarks.

Firstly; NATO’s key role in the High North.

Secondly; burden sharing and the need to remain committed to the transformation of NATO.

Then Ukraine –

Finally, the importance of securing full accession of Sweden.

NATO in the north

NATO is a cornerstone in Norway’s security policy today, as it has been since its foundation – and Norway takes active part in the shaping of NATO’s strategy throughout the alliance.

The relevance of the High North is steadily increasing as a stage for global competition.
A large portion of Russia’s nuclear capabilities are located at the Kola Peninsula, including its carriers. The importance of this capability has grown proportionally with the decline of Russia’s conventional capabilities.

The vast amount of natural resources in the High North is important to us all. Not only Norway and Russia.

We share a common responsibility to exploit and preserve these resources both in our time, but also for future generations.

In order to achieve that the baseline is security and predictability.

NATO is - and will remain the most important security provider for peace and stability in the area.

Our deterrence posture in the region will grow stronger as we are welcoming Finland and Sweden into the Alliance.
The Allies in the region have a particular responsibility for developing NATO’s deterrence in the High North.
Both in terms of troop contributions and posture calibrations.

The deterrence posture relies upon not only sea lines of communications, but strategic lines of communications.
This includes infrastructure in space and on the seabed floor. Such an effort is a huge undertaking for the Alliance in the time ahead of us and should not be taken lightly.

I am pleased to see that NATO is on the front foot in this regard.
A most welcoming step was the positive signals on the initiative made by Norway and Germany regarding protection of undersea infrastructure.

The development of the regional plans is progressing well and I would like to express a big thank you to SACEUR for your leadership in this matter.

With all of the Nordic countries together in NATO, we can better reap the benefits of our well-established cooperation by affiliating all the nations to Joint Force Command Norfolk. This recommendation is based on sound military advice from all the Nordic CHODs.  

Between the Nordic nations, there is a close dialogue on how the defence cooperation should develop to bolster not only the defence of this region, but also benefit the security of the alliance as a whole.

Joint Force Command Norfolk is on a path of becoming the HQ capable of taking charge in the north-western direction. We need to continue to bolster our effort to set the conditions for this to happen sooner, rather than later. Norway will do its part to ensure JFC Norfolk meet the requirements to command its regional plan. And SACEUR has to decide when the time has come.

Then burden sharing

Proper resourcing is essential for our collective defence modernisation effort.

Norway have committed almost our entire force structure at the Force sourcing conference.

We also support broadening the use of common funding to meet new requirements.

The Norwegian Government recognizes the importance of burden sharing in the alliance.

That is why we are committed to reach and sustain a minimum of 2% of our gross domestic product (GDP) on defence spending.

We will present a detailed plan to NATO after our new long-term defence plan has been approved by Parliament in the Spring of next year. 


We, as allies, stand firm together in the support of Ukraine against Russian aggression.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine must fail.
This is important for Ukrainian and European security.

Norway’s support to Ukraine’s defence remains steadfast, and we will continue to provide military and civilian support.

There is political agreement in Norway on a multi-year support programme for Ukraine, at approximately 7,5 billion Euro, distributed over five years.
This will be done through the Nansen support programme for Ukraine.

NATO must continue to stand together with Ukraine, opposing Russian aggression in whatever form it will take.

Hence Norway has decided on a long term commitment to help fund NATO’s CAP program as well.

Finally, Sweden:

We need to secure the full accession of Sweden. It is time. We have waited long enough.

This is crucial to Swedish security, to Nordic security and it will enhance the security of NATO as a whole.

With the Nordic countries united in NATO, the deterrence posture of the alliance will benefit the whole of Europe.

Norway is ready to provide support to our Nordic neighbours every way we can to make sure the transition to the alliance goes as streamlined as it should.

Together with our Nordic colleagues, we are ready to prepare a coherent defence planning for the whole Northern Europe, firmly based on the NATO-framework.

I wish you all the best in your fruitful discussions during the conference today.

Once again, welcome to Norway, welcome to Oslo, and thank you for your attention.


Chair of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Rob Bauer

Thank you for your inspiring words. We are honoured by your presence at this official opening.

I would like to thank the media for being with us for this official opening. At the end of today’s conference, General Kristoffersen and I will brief you on the outcomes of our discussions.

Minister Gram, General Kristoffersen and I will walk you out before returning to start our first session of the day.

Thank you.