with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Council on Foreign Relations

  • 21 Sep. 2023 -
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  • Last updated: 28 Sep. 2023 08:19

(As delivered)

Mike Froman, President of the Council on Foreign Relations: Well, good morning, everybody. My name is Mike Froman. I'm President of the Council on Foreign Relations, and I'm delighted to welcome you to today's Russell C. Leffingwell lecture featuring NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

I want to begin first by thanking the Leffingwell family for their generosity in endowing this annual lectureship, especially Tom and Ted Leffingwell Pulling who are joining us virtually today. This lecture was inaugurated in 1969, named for Russell Leffingwell who previously led CFR, first as a charter member of the Council. He was President of the Council, a very important role in 1944 to 1946, and Chairman from 1946 to 1953. And the lectureship is for a distinguished foreign official who was invited to address our members on a topic of major significance. Previous speakers have been the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, Indian Prime Minister Singh.

And in addition to his roles at CFR, Russell Leffingwell was also Assistant Secretary of Treasury during the Woodrow Wilson administration, where he helped lead the bond issues that financed the US military efforts in World War I. Then there was a robust debate about European security and America's commitment to it. And today, we see both the strengthening of the Alliance and the testing of that Alliance by the war in Ukraine, and we're privileged to have a firsthand view of that today with Secretary General Stoltenberg.

It's been a very important few years for NATO expansion to Finland and Sweden and more countries living up to their 2% defence commitment goal, more energy and coherence than has been there for a number of years. And that's really due to two men, Vladimir Putin and Jens Stoltenberg. Vladimir Putin couldn't be with us today. We're delighted to have Secretary General Stoltenberg.

We're also delighted to have Jane Harman presiding at this event today. Jane was a nine term member of Congress, including being ranking member of the Intel Committee and on the Armed Services Committee, the author of eight important laws, key laws, I'm sure many others as well, including the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act. And her highest and most distinguished role, of course, was being president of a think tank, the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC. She has been a great source of wisdom and support for me personally in government and outside and it's great to have her back on the CFR stage. I turn it over to Congresswoman Harman.

Congresswoman Jane Harman: Thank you, Mike. Thank you. So, so first, back at you, Mike, I have belonged to CFR for three decades. And I want to congratulate CFR in making a stellar choice of Mike Froman as the new president. I am also delighted to welcome a man I have come to know in conferences all over Europe, at NATO in Washington, etc. His tenure has just been extended for one more term. I don't know if that's good news or bad news to him. But I'll tell you, I wish he would follow the 'Hotel California' rule – I'm from California – which is, 'you can check in anytime but you can never leave'.

So a bit of personal history, in a hurry. In 1995, I was in my second term in Congress serving on the Armed Services Committee. And my daughter – my son, Brian, is in the front row – his sister, Hillary, called. She was a senior at Princeton, and she was writing her honors thesis on the future of NATO. She said, Mom, tell me about this, I have to think carefully about the future of NATO. To which I responded, honey, I haven't been thinking about the future of NATO. And you know, I should have been, but when the Cold War ended, NATO had a new mission. And to remind, there were a number of studies including one by the late great Madeleine Albright. But NATO really came into its own – this future, post-Cold War NATO – following the Russian invasion of Crimea, and following – guess who joined NATO that year, six months later? Jens Stoltenberg.

So he has said that, you know, on his watch, NATO has implanted the biggest reinforcement of its collective defence since the Cold War. Before coming to NATO – Mike did not mention this – you were UN Special Envoy for Climate and you were Prime Minister of Norway, among other things, so you bring enormous experience and there is so much to ask, and so much for the audience, both here and virtual, to ask and we'll get your questions in. My first question is, what is your agenda this week at UNGA?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: First of all, let me just thank you for inviting me. It's a great pleasure to be here and to meet this Council and this audience, and also to meet with you again, Congresswoman. Because you're right, we have met many places across Europe, I think this is actually the first time we do something together, here in New York. And that's one of the reasons actually why I'm here, is that UNGA week is a perfect platform to engage and to meet and to have a wide range of meetings. And that's exactly what I've done.

Of course, the main purpose, the main task for me during this week, is to mobilise support for Ukraine. So that's what I've done in almost all of my meetings. The good news is that I see that across NATO, and also with partner nations, they realise that to support Ukraine is something we do because it's our security interest to ensure that Ukraine remains as a sovereign independent nation. It will be a tragedy for Ukraine if President Putin wins, it will also be extremely dangerous for us, it will make the world more dangerous and us more vulnerable. Because then the message to President Putin, but also to President Xi, is that when they use military force, when they violate international law, when they invade another country, they get what they want.

So if the United States is concerned about China and wants to pivot towards Asia, then you have to ensure that Putin doesn't win in Ukraine. Because if Ukraine wins, then you will have the second biggest army in Europe, the Ukrainian army, battle-hardened on our side, and we will have a weakened Russian Army. And we have also now Europe really stepping up for defence spending. That will make it easier for you to focus also on China and not only… Or be less concerned about the situation in Europe And opposite if Putin wins. So it is in the security interest of the United States to ensure that Ukraine wins and make it easier to deal with China.

Congresswoman Harman: So we'll talk about China in a moment and some of the things you're doing to pull in Asian countries. But let's talk about Ukraine a little bit more. Ukraine wants to be a member of NATO. There was a meeting and I think the words were 'Ukraine's future belongs in NATO'. What does that mean? And how should Ukraine think about NATO? And how does Ukraine think about Ukraine's membership in NATO?

NATO Secretary General: So first of all, Ukraine, of course, very much want to join NATO. They have stated that very clearly. The sentence you just quoted means that Ukraine will become a member of this Alliance. And that was stated very clearly at the Summit in Vilnius, the NATO Summit in Vilnius in July. But, to be honest, the most important thing we did was not to state that, because NATO has said that before. The most important thing we did in Vilnius was actually to move Ukraine closer to that goal, to move them closer to NATO membership.

And we did that by deciding three things, which move them closer to become a full member. One, the first thing we did was to remove the requirements for a Membership Action Plan. Because for many, many years, it has been a requirement to join NATO that before you are invited you are part of what we call a Membership Action Plan, some kind of preparations for becoming a member at a later stage. Meaning that it's a two step process to join NATO: first Membership Action Plan, then invitation. We said in Vilnius, there is no need for a Membership Action Plan. So this two step process has been turned into a one step process. So you can go direct from where we are today with Ukraine to an invitation. That's actually also the same we did with Finland and Sweden, but different from what we have done for the past decades with all the other new members. So that's the first good news for Ukraine on membership.

The other good news was that we agreed a very comprehensive programme for ensuring that the Ukrainian armed forces are fully interoperable with NATO. And we set aside around roughly 500 million euros for that annually. And by ensuring that Ukrainian forces can work together and are fully operational with NATO forces, moves them in very practical terms closer to NATO. That also reflects the fact that they have now a lot of NATO weapons. So when we train them on HIMARs or on Patriots or on Leopard battle tanks or soon also F16s, of course that moves Ukraine closer to NATO in very practical terms.

And the third thing we did was to establish something called the NATO-Ukraine Council, which is a council that can make decisions, can organise different joint activities, and is an extremely important tool to integrate Ukraine and NATO even closer. So, yes, we said that Ukraine will become a member. But I will say it's even more important that we actually charted the way how to achieve that goal. So Ukraine is closer to NATO membership now than ever before.

Congresswoman Harman: Well, two sticking points on that, and then we'll turn to – I'd like to turn to Sweden. One is that Ukraine is in an active war against Russia. So if Ukraine were to join NATO now, wouldn't that trigger Article 5? That's one question. Second question is about corruption, not that Ukraine is the only country on the planet, certainly, in its neighborhood, to have some corruption. But Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been eliminating corruption in a very brave way, firing a number of generals, etc. So is the corruption problem is still a sticking point? And what about the fact that there's an act of war going on?

NATO Secretary General: Well, the fact that it's an active war makes it impossible to just invite them tomorrow or today. So in one way or another, we need to deal with that situation. And of course, it's easy to foresee a membership when this war ends in one way or another. So that's also the reason why I think even those who are most eager to have Ukraine as a member, as soon as possible, realise that this is not something that will happen now.

But at the same time, we need to in a way look beyond the active war, which is ongoing. Because when this war ends in one way or another in the distant or the near future, we need to ensure that history doesn't repeat itself. Because we have to remember that this is a pattern of Russian behavior over many years. First, they annexed Crimea, and we said that was unacceptable. And then a couple of months later they went into Donbass in 2014. And then we had these Minsk Agreements with the ceasefire and the ceasefire lines and so on. They violated them again and again, over the years. And then suddenly, we had a full-fledged invasion in 2022 last year. So it has been step by step trying to take more and more territory from Ukraine. And the war didn't start in February last year, it started in 2014.

So if there is… When there is an end now to the fighting, we need to ensure that this is a real end, it stops there. And therefore, it means that there has to be a framework in place to guarantee the security, the territorial integrity, the borders of Ukraine. Of course, NATO membership is one way of achieving that. There are also ideas of more bilateral arrangements, but in one way or another, there is a need for guarantees. So there is a link between the membership issue and how to envisage an end to the war and to secure an enduring and lasting peace after the war.

Then, on corruption. President Zelenskyy has been very tough on that, also before the war, a little bit before the full scale invasion, that was one of his top issues when he was elected. He has and his administration has made progress. And many of the programs that we are conducting are also related to what we call a transparency and better governance and reform of the defence and security solutions to fight corruption. But I'd like to say one more thing. And that is that the best proof that our aid, our military support actually makes a difference and ends up at the frontline is the military progress the Ukrainians have made. There's no way that they could have been able to push back the Russian invaders – first around Kyiv and then in the north, and then in east around Kharkiv, and then in the south around Kherson, and now also conducting a full scale big counter offensive – if all this support has just disappeared in corruption. They are shooting down Russian drones, they are liberating territory with the equipment we provide. So the proof is in actually the actions.

Congresswoman Harman: And I would add to that, I think our military has been very careful to track where that equipment goes. And it's not part of the corruption enterprise at least, hopefully, is not and won't be.

But okay, let's turn now to Sweden. It was impressive, certainly to me and I think all of us, that Finland, which had been neutral for so many years – 'Finlandisation' was the term, which the Finns hate, but anyway, but that was the term – and has a 800 mile border with Russia wanted to be admitted and was admitted to NATO recently. Sweden, too, wants to be admitted. My impression is that the Turks have backed off their objection. But now Hungary is objecting. What is that about?

NATO Secretary General: Well, first of all, it is a great historic achievement that Finland is already a member and Sweden will soon be a member of NATO. And we need to put this in perspective. We have to remember that in December 2021, so a couple of months before the invasion, President Putin put forward what he called 'security treaties'. He wanted the United States and NATO to sign documents that were sent to Brussels and to Washington. There were several demands. They demanded that we should remove all NATO infrastructure from the eastern part of the Alliance. They demanded some buffer zones, especially in the Baltic region, meaning that most of the Baltic countries could not be protected with NATO forces. And they demanded as a kind of ultimatum for not invading Ukraine, that NATO should guarantee no further enlargement. That was about no further enlargement with Ukraine, but also Finland and Sweden. It was not possible, so we actually were able… Actually we invited Russia to a dialogue, we said it's not possible for us to accept those ultimatums. But we made a real diplomatic effort to see if it was possible to sit down and find a diplomatic solution to the crisis that was scaling up in the fall of 2021.

But the declared purpose of the invasion of Ukraine was to stop further NATO enlargement and to have less NATO, with its buffer zones, and the movement of NATO infrastructure from all those countries that joined NATO since 1997. So one of the main purposes was then to have less NATO: less NATO members and less NATO presence in the eastern part of the Alliance. President Putin has got exactly the opposite. Because the day of the invasion NATO activated its defence plans, meaning we handed over more authority to our Supreme Allied Commander, SACEUR, General Cavoli, and he used that to deploy more forces in the eastern part of the Alliance. So there are more NATO forces, more NATO infrastructure, more NATO planes, more NATO ships, more NATO troops in the eastern part of the Alliance now than ever before. The other thing was that Finland and Sweden applied. They applied in May and already in June they were invited. So that's extremely quickly. So I was quite impressed by the speed of…

Congresswoman Harman: Well, I think NATO has a good leader!

NATO Secretary General: Okay, that's… This was the Allies. Allies made this quick and perfect decision. And then we had the ratification process, and then Finland joined in April last year… No, this year. And that's the quickest ever accession process in NATO's modern history. Then, Sweden has not yet been fully ratified. But if we get all this in place, let's say this fall, it will still be the second quickest ratification process, membership process, in NATO's modern history. So it's not that slow, it's still quite fast.

In Vilnius President Erdoğan agreed to a statement where it's stated clearly that he will submit the ratification papers to the Turkish parliament. And he also stated clearly that he will work with the parliament to ensure ratification. And he also stated in meetings with me, with the president… No, sorry, Prime Minister Kristersson of Sweden, and also publicly in different press conferences that this will happen as soon as possible, meaning that when the Turkish parliament, the Grand National Assembly, convenes later this fall, I expect that will happened then. And that's what I assume, and that's what I expect, and that will be in line with what President Erdoğan has said.

Congresswoman Harman: And Hungary is not a problem?

NATO Secretary General: Oh sorry. Hungary has stated that they will not be the last. And if there are two who have not ratified and Türkiye ratifies, then I think the problem is solved.

Congresswoman Harman: Good work. So at Vilnius, among other things, you invited four countries from Asia, the Asia-Pacific – Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea – to attend and they did attend. And you have made the point that… And you just made it again, and you made it in a Foreign Affairs article – you have to shill for the local place – that there's a global threat from Russia, not just a threat in Europe and a threat to the existing NATO countries. So you've done outreach to these four countries, you have considered setting up a liaison office in Japan. Can you explain why you're doing this, and where this is going to go with this initiative?

NATO Secretary General: We are doing this in NATO because we realise that security is not regional, security is global. This idea that you can have some kind of a European or transatlantic security regardless of what happens in Asia is just wrong. For many reasons, not least because we see that Beijing and Moscow are coming more and more closely together. Just weeks before the invasion, China and Russia signed this agreement stating that the partnership is without any limits. We see how Russia and China are conducting more air and naval patrols together, exercises, and how they support each other diplomatically, politically and in many other ways. And the reality is that China is propping up Russia's war efforts by… or supporting the war efforts by propping up their economy, and also by spreading the false narrative, the Russian false narrative of what this war is about, and of course, the war of aggression against Ukraine.

So what happens in Europe matters for Asia, what happens in Asia matters for Europe. That's also the reason why countries like South Korea, Japan are extremely concerned about the war in Ukraine. Because they know that if President Putin wins, it lowers the threshold for President Xi to use force. And they watch this very, very closely. NATO will remain a regional alliance, meaning that NATO will remain an alliance of North America and Europe. And if there is an enlargement, it will be European countries. So NATO will not become a global Article Five collective defence organization.

But this North Atlantic region – which is quite big, 1 billion people – faces global threats. That's actually nothing new. Terrorism is global, it brought NATO to Afghanistan, on the borders of China. Then piracy was something we fought not so many years ago and brought us to the Horn of Africa, with our naval forces. Cyber is, by nature, global. Space is becoming more and more important for our security, all the satellites and all the things which are up there, which are so fundamental to our lives here at Earth. So we have faced global threats and challenges for many years, it has adapted NATO for many years. Then China also matters for our security in the North Atlantic region. So therefore, we need to work with our partners in that region – Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand. The leaders participated for the second time at the NATO Summit in July this year in Vilnius, and we are working on how we can do more together with them, ranging from cyber to exercises and many other things.

Congresswoman Harman: I've just pointed out too that you also have liaison relationships in the Middle East, and you have one in the global south with Colombia. But one more question about what you're trying to do in Asia, especially with this office in Japan. Rumor has it that the President of France is not happy with this idea. Is that true? What are his objections?

NATO Secretary General: We have not yet established that office, we're looking into it. We're working on how we can have a liaison office in Tokyo. As you said, we have liaison offices in many other places in the world, it's nothing new. And again, it doesn't mean that NATO will become a global Article 5 Alliance. It means that we realise that Japan, Asia is a highly valued partner for us. We need to work more closely together and just to facilitate practical cooperation, and also political dialogue, it's helpful to have a liaison office in Tokyo.

Congresswoman Harman: So that was an answer about Macron?

NATO Secretary General: No, I didn't… Well, I think I will make my work as Secretary General more difficult if I told you everything about every Ally.

Congresswoman Harman: As a recovering politician, I give you a pass. But also the NATO force was… A huge part of the force in Afghanistan was from members. So NATO has been very much present outside of the European region.

So one more question for me, and then we'll take all of your questions. Last time I was in Brussels, I remember going to the new… It's not new anymore, cyber command – or I think that's what it was called – centre at NATO, which is very impressive and long overdue. NATO has made major moves on technology. And you mentioned that what we call the new domains, cyber and space – and the US needs to shore up its assets in space, something I care a lot about. But my question is… Well, let me back up. I mean, my background is in intelligence and security. And I have watched our intelligence agencies do something unprecedented in the last months as the Ukraine war has progressed, and that is to selectively declassify some of our intelligence, which, of course, was very accurate, and very helpful. What do you think of that practice of selectively declassifying?

NATO Secretary General: I think it was very much absolutely the right thing to do. It was a way to warn the Russians that we knew what they were planning. So when the war or when the invasion happened, we were well prepared, and we knew exactly what to do. And we, as I said, we activated our defence plans and we deployed more forces in the eastern part of the Alliance. But the fact that the United States, but also some other NATO Allies and NATO, declassified intelligence was a way to tell the Russians that…'don't do it'. And then they decided to invade, regardless. But this declassification of intelligence also made it easier for us to prepare and to increase awareness around this among our own nations and Allies. So I think that was absolutely the right thing to do.

Congresswoman Harman: Well, I agree with you. I think it's, in hindsight, a bit of a shame that Zelenskyy didn't absolutely believe it, that it would happen, because we could have prepositioned some equipment earlier and maybe had an even more impressive rebuff to the Russian advance.

OK, people, now it's your turn. I know some people in this audience, but I'm just going to recognise you by hand so I don't embarrass myself. And we have people listening in, and Sam is going to tell me when some of the folks on the line want to speak. We'll start with the man right here in the third row. Please identify yourself. A mic is coming. Stand up. There we go. Short question, so we can get to everybody.

John Hess: John Hess Secretary General we know each other from Norway years past. Thank you for the outstanding leadership. Energy has been fundamental to the political and economic relationship between Europe and Russia. 40% of Europe's gases, you know, and 30% of the oil, Russia supplies to Europe has been ripped apart. So as you look forward, when Ukraine prevails, will that relationship be restored? Or do you think it's going to be fundamentally changed forever? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: So first of all, I had to tell her I have a lot of these Hess' cars. In my… I think I have like 20 of them, my son wants to take them away when they move, and I kept them. So these are… these are great cars  then on energy. It is fundamentally changed. The big policy is that many experts warned against being too dependent on Russian gas. But then the Europeans thought it was absolutely okay. And they were wrong.
And we cannot repeat that mistake by once again, being too dependent on gas from or energy from Russia. This is also a lesson to be learned when it comes to China. We need to find a balance between continuing to trade and engage with China – there is no way to not trade with China – but not to be too dependent on rare earth minerals and key commodities. So that's one of the big challenges where you have to find that balance. But now we're not to turn back. And the only reason why we'll not turn back is that there is an energy transition going on. So at some stage… so I'm from Norway, we are big oil and gas producers, Hess has been big in oil and gas. But we had to just realise that there is a transition. So we cannot go back to being so dependent on fossil fuels.

Congresswoman Harman: Okay, the woman here in the white jacket.

Cynthia Roberts: Thank you, Cynthia Roberts. You frequently point to the great strides that NATO is making in collective defence capabilities, particularly on the eastern flank, but you rarely speak about – you do speak about it – but rarely talk about modernizing, or changing or improving NATO as a nuclear alliance. And I wonder what's your perspective on this given Putin nuclear threats, and also that the US, as you know, in 2020, decided to deploy the W76-2 low yield SLBM to bolster as it said, in the press briefing, especially extended deterrence missions. So do you think NATO needs to do more in the nuclear area? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: NATO as long as there are nuclear weapons, NATO will remain the nuclear alliance. We have stated actually, that our goal is a world without nuclear weapons. But of course, a world where NATO gets rid of its nuclear weapons and China, Russia and North Korea retain their weapons it's not a safer world, so So any attempt to reduce the number of nuclear weapons has to be balanced and verifiable. So therefore, NATO is in favor of arms control. We supported strongly New START and the other INF and other arms control agreements that has reduced and even have abolished the different types of nuclear weapons systems. And everyone regrets strongly that Russia has walked away from the INF Treaty and other agreements and yes, we need the balance.
That doesn't mean that NATO necessarily mirror exactly what Russia does. So when Russia started to deploy this new SSC-8, which are intermediate range nuclear weapons violating the previous INF Treaty, we didn't respond by deploying exactly the same weapons, but we ensure and there are constantly adapting, and that our nuclear deterrence remain safe, secure and effective. And we have exercises in NATO has actually also, for the first time actually been more transparent and open about nuclear exercises and make the necessary investments in our nuclear capability to ensure that it is safe, secure and effective. I think one of the main challenges we face in the nuclear domain is that for for decades, it was mainly the United States and Russia that had nuclear weapons. We had those we had the UK and France, but of course, the big numbers were in the Russia and the United States.
And they also had these different agreements of ceilings under arms control arrangements. Now, most of those arrangements are not effective anymore. Russia has suspended the START agreement, violated the INF agreement and then China with zero transparency, no agreements whatsoever. So I think the next generational arms control agreements on the nuclear weapons has to be in one way or another an agreement that also includes China. And that's the big, big challenge.

Congresswoman Harman: I would just add to that, that Russia and Korea and North Korea just met in Russia is going to transfer it seems some nuclear technology in North Korea, which will make that row country more dangerous. Let's see here. That's right. We have a caller online.

Operator: We'll take the next question from Heidi Hart.

Heidi Hart: Hello, Secretary General, my name is Professor Heidi Hart from the University of California Irvine. I wanted to follow up on the energy transition question in line with NATO's climate change and security action plan. I know that Allies' militaries have been continuing to adopt different green technologies. And I'm wondering from your perspective, as these changes are occurring: to what extent is NATO thinking about interoperability? How is NATO helping ensure that allied militaries are remaining interoperable? And to what extent are we seeing defence planning change itself? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: NATO has put climate change high on our agenda. And that has happened over the last few years couple of years. Because we clearly see that climate change matters to our security. And therefore, climate change matters for NATO, because NATO is about security. And climate change is it's a crisis multiplier, it fuels conflicts over water, territory, land farming areas, and forces millions of people to move and of course, that's a crisis multiplier.
Climate change has a direct effects on how we can conduct military operations, because the military operates out there in nature, and more Wilder and wetter weather, more extreme weather, more floodings, more and more heat waves, of course, matters for everything from uniforms from equipment from how we conduct exercises. We have a NATO presence in Iraq, there the soldiers they have experienced more than 50 degrees Celsius many, many times. Just flooding, rising sea levels matter for large number our naval bases. So it has a direct impact on actually how we conduct military operations.
Then the other aspect of climate change, and NATO, and you refer to that, and that is, of course, that if you really want zero emissions, net zero, we also need to include our military forces in one way or another. And I'm a great supporter of big naval ships and aircraft carriers and the fighters and so on, but they're not very climate friendly. They are really consuming a lot of fossil fuels. And at some stage, we need to start to switch also, these heavy military vehicles and ships and planes to some kind of environmentally friendly energy sources.
That's not easy. Some of them are actually nuclear driven, submarines and aircraft carriers, but most of them are based on fossil fuels. And that has started. There are some examples of biofuels for fighter jets, there are some more use of solar energy for fueling different types of military equipment and so on.
And the point is that at some stage, this will be the best thing for the armed forces, not only for the climate, because if we had to choose between a kind of a combat effective battle tank or a green battle tank, of course, we will choose the combat effective, we cannot sacrifice our security, but at some stage that will not be the issue. Because when we see the big energy transition, which is taking place in the in the civil sector, where the most modern cars are electric cars, where the most effective engines are normally not fossil, at some stage, if the military sector remains fossil, we'll be the last possible sector in the society. And that will not be the best engines, it will not be the best weapon systems. So the question is when do we do the shift? And how do you do the shift how for how long a time have both fossil and electricity driven military vehicles? So it's not an easy transition, it will happen.
And the only way to ensure that we have the best and most modern and combat effective equipment in the future is to ensure that it is also climate friendly, because that will be the best engines. The last thing I'll say about this is that our armed forces have been through similar transitions before the best example is Winston Churchill when he was the Minister for the Navy, in just the beginning of the First World War, one or two years before that, he decided to go from coal to oil. That was a big transition, because of course, they had all the infrastructure for coal, and all the harbors and the depots around the world. But he saw that oil was more effective and had more power, higher speed. And then they made that decision for the British Navy. And that gave them a big advantage. So I don't think Churchill did that for climate change reasons. But it made the British Navy even more effective.

Congresswoman Harman: Right. Let me just add to that I mentioned in your biography that you were the UN special envoy on climate a while back a decade back. Yesterday, the Secretary General Guterre convened a climate panel here, just asking, this may be another politically incorrect question. Is the UN doing enough on climate? And could the UN be doing more on climate to help NATO?

NATO Secretary General: The UN could of course do much more. But (inaudible) you cannot blame the UN, we have to blame member states, because they have made some good agreements – the Paris Accord – but we need faster and more speedy implementation of those decisions. And that will be good for NATO. Because again, even if you don't care about climate change, you have to realise what's happening now with the heat waves, the wildfires, the flooding, matters for our security. And there's this enormous transition energy revolution, which has to be compared with the with the first industrial revolution. And if the armed forces are not part of that, we will lose. So I care about climate change, and security. I'm twice-double interested in these issues.

Congresswoman Harman: The woman in front in black right here. I confuse you. I meant the woman holding the microphone, but we'll get to you too.

Raghida Dergham: Thank you. Yes, thank you very much, Raghida Dergham, chairman of the Beirut Institute. You both mentioned the liaison relations with the Middle East, and would I like to know how far you would like to take that, what do you expect from the Eastern countries, from the relationship you're trying to form with them? And what worries you when it comes to revenge by China and Russia? Medvedev keeps speaking of the nuclear option. You're dismissive of it, hopefully, you're right. But why are you so confident?

NATO Secretary General: The first one, so when it comes to our relationship with the Middle East or and also our Asia Pacific partners, we just strongly believe that we can… we need to strengthen political dialogue with them, we need to strengthen practical cooperation, cooperation with them on exercises, cyber, maritime security, there are many areas where we… or even climate change, there's a wide range of technology. So there are many areas we have started to work with them. And they're here to do more with us. And the Russian nuclear rhetoric also from Medvedev is reckless and dangerous. And Russia must understand that the nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. That is something we have we communicated again and again to the Russians. We of course, monitor very closely what they do. We have seen the announcements about the deploying of nuclear weapons to Belarus. We have seen some preparations for that going on.
So we continue to be vigilant, we continue to monitor, but so far we haven't seen any changes in their nuclear posture that requires any changes in our nuclear posture but rest assured this is something follow up very closely.

Congresswoman Harman: I think we have another question online and it will be followed by the question of the the other woman in black in the front.

Operator: We'll take the next question. Kashish Parpiani.

Kashish Parpiani: Secretary General, Kashish Parpiani from Reliance Industries, India. In June, you announced a partnership program with Japan, if I can call it that was your first foray in the Indo Pacific region? I want to know, sir, which is the next priority nation in the Indo Pacific from NATO standpoint? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: So, first of all, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, and Australia, they have been partners for many years with NATO. What we announced our updated a new individual partnership programs with the list of different activities that we're going to conduct together. And that fills this partnership with the content and different joint activities. NATO is in general open for more partners in the Asia Pacific, of course, and we have reached out and we are ready. My feeling is that still some of the countries in the Asia Pacific or Indo Pacific are a bit reluctant because they're afraid of, in a way, that they will be called NATO Allies and NATO partners. That's not the issue. The issue is to work with NATO, not least to counterbalance what you see coming from China in the same region.

Congresswoman Harman: Right here.

Lucy Komisar: My name is Lucy Komisar. I'm a journalist. So I like to go back to where things begin. And talking about declassified documents, that was declassified the memo between Baker and Gorbachev where they agreed to NATO would not do one step further east. And then when it started to happen, George Kennan predicted it would be a disaster, which has turned out to be true. However, whoever you want to parse it, it's not wonderful what's going on. Then there was the US supported coup in 2014, against an elected head of the Ukrainian government, because he was not considered to be enough pro American.
Are you satisfied with how these things have turned out? Has this protected anybody? Or have you, in a sense, baited the Russian bear in a way that perhaps you didn't expect how it was going to turn out? Could anything have been done differently, so that Putin was not persuaded that the defensive alliance that NATO was started out today has become a defensive… an offensive alliance with troops and weapons on its border? What could have been done differently? Are you satisfied with how things are turning out in Ukraine now?

NATO Secretary General: No, I'm not satisfied with how things are turning out in Ukraine, but that's Russia's fault, it's Russia that has decided, by choice, to invade another country. And regardless of what you think about NATO enlargement, that doesn't give Russia an excuse to invade another democratic, independent nation? So I think there's a fundamental mix that even if you agree that NATO may have made some mistakes and wrong things in the past, that doesn't give Russia an excuse to invade another country. Is like saying that, you know, maybe the Versailles Treaty was a bit too tough on Germany. I'm not saying it was, but I'm saying that's what some experts say.
But when Germany invaded Norway, the 9th April 1914, you could say, well, "we me understand it, because the Versailles Treaty was a bit too harsh". So it's important because not too many people are thinking that in a way, because NATO Allies did something wrong, 5, 10, 20 years ago, right or wrong, it doesn't give an excuse to invade and another country and kill thousands of people. So if you don't understand that, then you really don't understand fundamental and fundamental values, which is about the relationship between countries but also between people, this is about killing people. And there's no excuse. That's the first thing. The other thing I just want to say is that this idea that it is a provocation and a threat to Russia… that countries through democratic free decision making join NATO is also very dangerous. Because what you say then, is that small countries in Europe cannot choose their own path. And I come from Norway, a small country bordering Russia, or the Soviet Union, and in 1949, Norway is the only country bordering the Soviet Union joining NATO. Stalin said that was a provocation, a threat.
But I'm very glad that Washington, Paris and all the other big countries in NATO said it's for Norway to decide not for Stalin. So, we joined NATO. And if you accept that Latvia, Lithuania, join NATO is a threat to Russia, then you take away the rights of the people in Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to decide on future. And they have the right to decide. It's not Moscow. It is the people in Lithuania that decides about Lithuania. And this idea that NATO is aggressively going East, no, it's the Eastern countries that are going to NATO through democratic, free decisions. So these are fundamental ideas, we should respect them. And that's what NATO is about.

Congresswoman Harman: I would just add that we're at the UN General Assembly, and the basic tenet of the UN Charter is respect for the sovereignty of other states. Russia was an original signatory to that charter. And in 2014, I don't think there was a US coup. I think the Ukrainians voted in a democratic election to select someone else. They were protests on the Maidan, I was there. And I was an observer of that election on a delegation led by Madeleine Albright, and it was a free and fair election, though. Let's see, let's go on the way back on the aisle on the left side, my left, my left.

Andrew Gorski: Andrew Gorski formerly recovering journalist author. A quick question. I mean, I think you've been making a very eloquent case for maintaining a very strong support for Ukraine as others have. But in this country, there's also a strong debate on that, there are definitely people wavering or opposing. And one of the bits of ammunition they use, is the fact that the largest European country, Germany, is not living up to its pledge of 2% and seems to have even lost any desire to do so. How do you respond to that? And are you able in any way to make the German government reconsider its current stance?

NATO Secretary General: First of all, the issue you raised is extremely important, that is about burden sharing at NATO. And of course, when you stand together, we promise to protect each other, and an attack on one will be, regardless, an attack on all of us. We need to invest together in our shared security. And therefore, I think is absolutely fair that different US administrations over the last years have raised the need for European Allies and Canada to invest more. And we made an important decision at the NATO summit in Wales in 2014, that we should spend 2% of GDP on defence. At that time, three Allies met that 2% guideline: the United States, United Kingdom and Greece. Since then, all Allies have increased defence spending significantly.
More and more Allies meet the 2% guideline. Now it's 11 Allies. Next year we expect even more. And even those Allies who are not yet at 2% have move closer to 2%. In total, European Allies and Canada added 450 billion extra. So I'm not saying that everything is fine. But I'm saying that compared to where we were just a few years ago, when the whole different place regarding how much European Allies and Canada are investing in defence compared to the United States. And that's extremely important and obvious the war in Ukraine demonstrates that. Then, on top of that, there is also an issue related to burden sharing when it comes to support of Ukraine. And there are different figures and different numbers out there.
And it's not always easy to compare what is actually committed compared to what is actually transferred, and so on. But I think that one of the best databases for information is something called the Kiel Institute. And they track this on a regular basis, the latest figures they published, are showing that when you look at military support, the military support from the United States to Ukraine is more or less exactly the as big as the military support from non US NATO Allies, meaning that the European Allies and Canada are in total providing roughly the same amount of military support to Ukraine as the United States. And their economies are roughly the same as on the US. So that's it, you can discuss details, but roughly, there is a fair burden sharing when it comes to military support from the US and other NATO Allies to Ukraine. On top of that, of course, European Allies also receiving millions of refugees, and also of course, paying the price for economic sanctions in a different way that the United States. So, burden sharing is very important. The good news is that European Allies are even now stepping up. 

Congresswoman Harman: And now a few members of Congress just heard that… Let's go to the back in my far right. Yes.

Will Mauldin: Thank you so much. Will Mauldin with the Wall Street Journal. And thanks for having us. I wanted to ask about the Black Sea. We had a story this week, saying that Ukraine has kind of clawing back a safer zone in the northwest part of the sea to export grain, which is important economically for Ukraine, and food for the world, of course, wondering if NATO is playing a role in the Black Sea, if it should play a greater role or if it is playing a greater role than we realise and what would be most helpful there. Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: So then NATO is playing a role. NATO is present and of course, NATO Allies are present. And of course, we coordinate and work together as NATO and NATO Allies, partly because three of the littoral states in the Black Sea are NATO Allies: Romania, Bulgaria and Türkiye. And then we have two very close partners, Georgia and Ukraine. We have maritime patrol aircrafts, we have more military presence on the on the on the on the ground, we have drones. There is a limit on ships. So the littoral states have ships, but the Bosphorus Strait is closed for naval ships because of the war. But that also affects how much Russia can bring ships to the straits. Then, I welcome the fact that… so first of all, I regret that Russia has left the Grain Deal. But I welcome the fact that there are alternative routes. And I think we saw a report today or yesterday that the first big ship with grain has been able to use this alternative route along the coast of Romania and Bulgaria, and has now reached Türkiye. So of course, NATO Allies are doing what they can to help to facilitate that transport or grain out of Ukraine, including on these alternative routes.

Congresswoman Harman: There's another question online.

Operator: We'll take the next question from Daniel Pipes.

Daniel Pipes: Thank you. Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum. Secretary General, you mentioned New Zealand, Australia, Japan and South Korea. You did not mention Taiwan. Is there any possibility of Taiwan joining this affiliation? Thank you

Congresswoman Harman: Joining, well, being added to the list of four Asian countries.

NATO Secretary General: So, first of all, I mentioned only those four countries which are partners of NATO today, it's not in agenda for Taiwan to join or to become a formal NATO partner.

Congresswoman Harman: That's, we're almost out of time. So what am I going to do I have to call on Mike Abramowitz, who is the president of Freedom House. Full disclosure, I'm the chair of the board.

Mike Abramowitz: thank you, Jane. Secretary General, I wanted to ask you just quickly, you alluded in your opening comments about Hungary and Türkiye? And I want to know, in general, I mean, these are two countries that are I think, are diverging from the rest of NATO in terms of their adherence to democratic values. Do you feel that that's going to be a long term problem for the Alliance?

NATO Secretary General: First of all, I think we need to understand that NATO is based on some core values, freedom, democracy, rule of law. And these are values which I attach great importance to. And I strongly believe that when there are concerns about what extent will Allies live up to those values, need was a platform to raise those concerns, to have frank and open debates and discussions and to and to express concerns, criticism, and then use NATO as the platform to do that.
NATO does not have the kind of mechanisms that the EU has in the notable article seven, because it reflects also that NATO was conducted or was established to face outside threats. And that's what we do.
Then then I would like to say that there have always been differences among NATO Allies, we have to remember that NATO was founded in 1949. In 1956, we had the Suez Crisis with two Allies went into Egypt without the biggest one, United States, knowing it. Then we had in the 1960s we had France and the United States ending up in a difficult relationship. So NATO had its headquarters in Paris, and we were forced to leave Paris within months, and we ended up in Brussels. And then we had the Vietnam War, we had the Iraq War, and Allies had different opinions on these big things.
But throughout all these years, and all these differences, we have always been able to unite around our borders to protect and defend each other. And I'm confident that we'll do that, regardless of differences, concerns, about different aspects about different members as we now see, for instance, with those issues – with those countries you mentioned.
Congresswoman Harman: So, Secretary General Stoltenberg, Jens, I just want to close this by saying that as a resident of California, the Hotel California rule does apply. And you can never leave, raise your hand if you agree with me. And thank you very much. And to our audience, please note that the video and transcript of this session will be posted on GFR's website. The meeting is adjourned.

NATO Secretary General: Thank you so much.