by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg upon receiving the American Academy of Berlin’s 2023 Henry A. Kissinger Prize
Good evening, all.
I am honoured – and proud! – to receive this prestigious award.
Thank you so much to the American Academy in Berlin: Daniel [Benjamin], Sandra [Peterson].
I am very glad to be able to share this moment with family and friends.
And in particular with my wife Ingrid who is here with me this evening.
This prize truly means a lot to me personally.
But it is more than that.
I see it as a prize for NATO.
For everything the Alliance does.
And everyone who serves it.
The many hard working people behind the scenes.
And the dedicated men and women in uniform keeping us safe.
This one is for them!
I am also deeply moved by the kind words of President Steinmeier and Speaker Emerita Pelosi.
Thank you both.
You have been incredible pillars of the transatlantic bond throughout your careers.
you and I have known each other and worked together for many years.
And met on many occasions.
In particular, I remember when you invited me to attend the ceremony to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
It was exactly four years and one day ago.
On the 9th of November 2019.
You gave a speech in front of the Brandenburger Tor.
And you reminded us all of what courageous people fought for thirty years ago:
Unity. Freedom. Democracy.
It was an emotional event.
Recalling a moment that changed Germany, Europe and the course of history.
I have deeply valued our cooperation over the years.
At a crucial and somewhat difficult time for NATO back in 2019, you invited me to address a joint session of Congress.
It was a remarkable and unforgettable moment for me.
But more than that, your invitation sent an important message at an important time.
A message that the US values its friends and allies.
A message about the strong bi-partisan support for NATO and the transatlantic relationship.
A message that regardless of changing political winds, some things remain.
Tonight, sadly, Henry Kissinger could not be with us.
And I wish him a speedy recovery.
He is a great man.
A passionate trans-atlanticist.
And a very skilled diplomat.
Henry was also important for my own political awakening.
At the age of thirteen, my older sister Camilla – who is here in the room – took me to a Vietnam War protest at the US Embassy in Oslo.
At that time, Henry was US National Security Advisor.
And he was responsible for the negotiations to end the Vietnam War.
He wanted the US out of Vietnam.
And so did I… albeit for different reasons!
I have to admit Dr. Kissinger and I agree on a lot more now than we did back then!
I last met Henry this spring, in Lisbon.
That is when he told me that I would receive this prize.
Which I am immensely grateful for.
Because for me, there is no higher recognition than service to the transatlantic relationship.
Like Henry Kissinger, I feel that I am a true child of transatlanticism.
My grandparents emigrated to the United States in the 1920s.
My mother was born in Patterson, New Jersey.
And I spent some of my early childhood years in San Francisco.
This has given me a deep sense of kinship with the United States.
A kinship that has only grown throughout my life.
I remember well, during the Cold War, when I was a young conscript in the Norwegian army.
Our forces were trained and equipped to hold the line.
We knew that we could not take on the might of the Soviet Union alone.
But we also knew that we were not alone.
We knew that, if needed, our NATO Allies, led by the United States, would soon be there with us.
We enjoyed a level of security that only our transatlantic Alliance could provide.
So, thanks to NATO and the United States,
as a young man during the Cold War,
I felt safe.
I always tell people who question the strength of the transatlantic relationship that we have weathered many crises.
That we are bound together.
Not only by interests, but by history, tradition and values.
That the relationship is strong enough to withstand changing political winds.
All of this is true.
But none of it should be taken for granted.
There are forces on both sides of the Atlantic who prefer a different path.
A path where America and Europe become less dependent on one another.
A path where immediate, short-sighted concerns trump long-term interests.
A path where our ways gradually part.
Such a development would be detrimental to us all.
As political leaders today, we have a responsibility to choose differently.
To preserve what unites us.
To invest in the relationship.
To choose long-term interests over near term political gains.
For Europeans, it means that we need to invest more in our shared security.
It is not tenable that some should carry an outsized burden.
We must all do our part.
The good news is that Europeans are stepping up.
Investing more in defence and taking on a larger responsibility.
For nine consecutive years, defence budgets across Europe and Canada have gone up.
More and more Allies meet or exceed the 2% benchmark for defence spending.
Many Allies, including Germany, have made historic and far-reaching decisions to invest in defence and modernise their armed forces.
I know that these are difficult and often unpopular decisions.
The billions we invest in defence are billions we cannot invest in health or education.
But without security, we have nothing.
Our schools, our hospitals, our businesses, our very freedom.
All are guaranteed by military power.
Europeans must also understand how much they need the transatlantic relationship – now and in the future.
Without NATO, there is no security in Europe.
80 percent of NATO’s defence expenditure comes from non-EU allies.
And it is not only about resources.
It is also about geography.
Without Türkiye in the South,
Norway in the North,
And the US, Canada and the UK in the West,
It is impossible to envisage the security of the European continent.
And even if somehow Europeans could manage without the transatlantic Alliance,
it is not clear why we would want to.
Or why it should be in our interest.
The transatlantic Alliance has served Europe well.
Paving the way for closer European integration,
the reunification of Germany
and the spread of democracy and freedom throughout Central and Eastern Europe.
It is a lesson of history that the Europeans must remember.
For their part, the Americans must recognise the value of their friends and allies.
The real and substantial contributions that they make to US security and interests.
NATO Allies have stood side by side with the US from Korea to Afghanistan.
All have paid a high price.
It is simply not true that Europeans are free riders.
No other major power has as many friends and allies as the United States.
Any policy that seeks to undermine this,
that seeks to divide the US from its allies,
is simply squandering one of the US’s greatest assets.
After one of our Summits in Brussels, President Biden and I walked out of the NATO headquarters together.
It was late and everyone else, except a handful of our own advisers, had left.
We stopped by the 9/11 memorial right outside the building.
A twisted steel beam from one of the twin towers.
We spoke about the attack.
And about how NATO stood with the United States.
It was then and there that I really understood President Biden’s deep and sincere appreciation for America’s allies.
A sentiment that is shared by a long line of Democrats and Republicans alike.
Alliances make America stronger.
We live in a more dangerous and unpredictable world.
Great power competition is on the rise. Authoritarian powers are challenging our interests and values.
There is a war in the Middle East.
And the war in Ukraine continues to rage.
A strong NATO is more important than ever.
I do not know what the next crisis will be.
But I do know that we are safer when we face it together.
Just like I felt safe when I was a conscript in the Norwegian army all those years ago,
I feel safe now.
Because I know that our nations are committed to protect and defend each other.
“One for all, all for one.”
There is no greater solidarity.
Our Alliance is the cornerstone of our security.
It is an anchor of stability.
And a pillar of peace in the world.
So ladies and gentlemen,
I count on all of you to keep the transatlantic bond strong.
And you can count on me to keep playing my part.
I do not believe in America alone.
I do not believe in Europe alone.
I believe in America and Europe together.
Thank you so much.