by Admiral Rob Bauer, Chair of the NATO Military Committee upon receiving the Knight of Freedom Award at the Warsaw Security Forum
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for bestowing the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation with this prestigious award.
NATO has been through a transformational decade.
We have undergone unprecedented change, at an unprecedented speed.
And as a result: we are stronger and readier than ever before.
The Transatlantic spirit is alive and bursting with energy.
And no one personifies that spirit better than General Casimir Pulaski himself.
A Polish officer who lived long before NATO even existed.
This award is a replica of the 18th century sabre that he used.
General Pulaski was one of the leading military commanders of his time.
Renowned for his courage and bravery, he was asked personally by Benjamin Franklin to serve in the American Revolutionary War.
When he arrived, he wrote the following to George Washington:
"I came here, where freedom is being defended, to serve it, and to live or die for it."
And he did.
He averted a disastrous defeat of the Continental Army cavalry and saved the life of George Washington.
He even reformed the organisation and training of the troops, which earned him the nickname: "father of the American cavalry".
Two years after his arrival, General Pulaski heroically lost his life.
All in the service of freedom and democracy.
It was not the country where he was born. But it was a country and a cause that he was willing to die for.
That same spirit… that same conviction is alive to this day.
I see it in the eyes of the men and women in uniform who serve our great Alliance.
Together, they form a band of 3.2 million brothers and sisters in arms.
They see together what they cannot see alone.
They do together what they cannot do alone.
And unlike some of our adversaries: they know exactly what it is that they want to protect.
It is not a coincidence that NATO is receiving this award at a time when the rules-based international order is under attack.
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.
The rules-based international order does not belong to the lawyers or to the scholars.
It belongs to all of us.
It is the security basis for the lives of billions of people around the world.
It is what we, the military, are willing to fight and die for.
It is what NATO and its Partners around the world vow to protect.
The rules-based international order was not born in a laboratory.
It was not created by international law students with too much time on their hands.
Nor was it forced upon any of the countries who signed and ratified the treaties.
The rules-based international order was born out of decades of sheer destruction.
It was born out of the realisation that great power competition should not be fought on the battlefield.
That the world should never again have to witness what it did…
NATO is – at its core – a defensive Alliance.
We are the most successful Alliance in history, not because of any aggressive display of military strength, or territory we have brutally conquered…
We are the most successful Alliance in history because of the peace we have brought… the countries we have united… and the conflicts we have prevented from spiralling out of control.
In the words of the French Chief of Defence: because of our ability to “win the war before the war”.
That is what has attracted so many nations to freely and actively apply for membership.
They chose to join because their people will be safer as a result.
Because they too believe in our three core tasks:
collective defence, crisis management
and cooperative security.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Keeping safe 1 billion people is a herculean task.
And it’s being done in moments that the world doesn’t always see.
Every day at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels, people come together on both the political and the military level to find compromise on thousands of pieces of policy.
Every day, 31 (soon 32) nations choose the “we” above the “me”.
The newspapers will always write about the exceptional times when we disagree.
But I am actually proud of these differences.
Because it proves that we are 31 sovereign states.
It proves that all our voices are heard.
And that makes it even more impressive that for almost 75 years we have managed to find common ground.
We turn our diversity into a strength.
Each debate makes the ultimate solution stronger.
NATO is a consensus organisation.
That means that we move forward together, or we don’t move at all.
And the reason for that is because in the end: there are people in Portugal willing to die for people in Poland.
People in Norway willing to die for people in the Netherlands.
People in Canada willing to die for people in Czechia.
Just like General Pulaski: they believe that even though it is not the country they were born in… It is country and a cause they are willing to die for.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At a time when authoritarian regimes are desperately trying to portray an image of strength to the world…
At a time where global security threats are multiplying…
When even food, migration and energy are being weaponised…
And our values are under attack…
We need a shield against aggression more than ever.
NATO thanks you for the recognition of its work.
And we will do our utmost to live up to the trust you have placed in us.
The Polish national anthem states: “What the foreign power has taken from us, we shall recapture with a sabre.”
This sabre is a symbol of our deterrence and – if necessary – our defence.
And with that – just like NATO – this sabre brings peace.