Remarks - Securing an Insecure World

Panel discussion with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland

  • 16 Jan. 2024 -
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  • Last updated: 16 Jan. 2024 16:57

(As delivered)

Børge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum
Jens Stoltenberg, first we’ll come back to Ukraine. I asked Senator Coons a question about the US and China but also the West and China. And last year, the Secretary General of NATO spoke about China. That was the first time I've heard [that]. So I think NATO is of course, first and foremost, a transatlantic treaty organisation looking at defending its member countries, but I think you also have enlarged also the things that you do address. And how do you react to what Senator Coons said about US relationship with China and how do you think the West should deal with China?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
So first of all, you are right that NATO is a transatlantic alliance, Europe and North America. And we will remain a regional alliance. But the transatlantic region faces global threats. Security is no longer regional; security is global. So what happens in Asia matters for Europe and what happens in Europe matters for Asia. And therefore of course, we don't regard China as an adversary. But China's heavy investments in modern military capabilities, including war and more advanced nuclear weapons, China's way of behaviour especially in the South China Sea, and the way China is actually violating core principles for NATO democracy, the rule of law, journalism, freedom of expression, as we have seen in Hong Kong, all of that matters for NATO.

And we also have to understand that this is not about NATO moving into Asia, but instead about the fact that China is coming close to us. We see them in Africa. We see them in the Arctic, we see them trying to control critical infrastructure. Not so many years ago, I had a big discussion about 5G and many Allies said this is only a commercial issue. No, it's also an issue about our security.

So therefore, for all these reasons, of course, NATO has to address what happens in Asia, not because of global security lines, but because what happens there not just for us, and vice versa. I visited Japan and South Korea, close partners of NATO. They are concerned about what happens in Ukraine, because they know that the more success Putin has in Ukraine, the more likely it is that Beijing will use force. So we have to have a global approach even though we are regional countries, regional organisations. The world is interconnected. And of course NATO has taken the consequences of that.

Børge Brende
Thank you. We were at a session together this morning with President Zelenskyy. Are the Ukrainians winning or would you say not losing the war in Ukraine?

NATO Secretary General
The situation on the battlefield is extremely difficult. The Russians are now pushing on many frontlines. And of course the big offensive that the Ukrainians launched last summer didn't give the results we all hoped for. And we see how Russia is now building up how they are acquiring drones from Iran, actually building their own drone factory to produce their own drones in Tatarstan, with help from Iran, how they get ammunition and ballistic missiles from North Korea. And they have also demonstrated a high tolerance for casualties. So overall, Russia is pushing hard. And this is serious and we should never underestimate Russia.

Having said that, I really believe that there is also cause for optimism. First of all, we have to remember when this war started with a full fledged invasion back in 2022, then most experts believed that Russia was going to take Kyiv within days and control Ukraine within weeks. That didn't happen. The opposite happened. The Ukrainians pushed back; they liberated the north, east, and the south, Kherson. They have made big military victories in the Black Sea, opened up a corridor so now they're actually able to export grain and other stuff to the Black Sea. And we have seen how they've been able to hit both the Russian Air Force and the Russian Navy. These are big military victories for Ukraine.

The most important thing is that Ukraine has survived as a sovereign independent nation, which is a big win for them. And Russia is losing, meaning that Russia has lost what they wanted to achieve with the war, and that was to control Ukraine. Ukraine, the people of Ukraine, have never trust Russia less than they do today. And they want to be part of the West, of the European Union and NATO, and they’re closer to us than ever before. And this is a big loss for Russia. We have to support them. And I'm also quite confident that NATO Allies will continue to provide support because support for Ukraine is not charity.

Support for Ukraine is an investment in our own security, and therefore Allies have provided unprecedented support. Now we are ramping up production. There was just an agreement now to acquire close to 1,000 new interceptors for the Patriot batteries, one example how Allies are stepping up to refill their own stocks but also be able to support Ukraine in the future. So we just have to stand by Ukraine. At some stage Russia will understand that they're paying a too high price and sit down and agree to some kind of just peace, but we need to stand by Ukraine.

Børge Brende
Thank you. You're also a Secretary General of NATO. You're on top of all the juicy intelligence. We heard this morning that Russia has lost more than 300,000 soliders and half of their tanks and of course also having severe impact on their economy. It's said in the morning it's a war economy so you can then use the traditional measures. But with what you're hearing also as Secretary General of NATO, are the Russians aware that this war did not go as planned and are aware of all the casualties? For a nation that has lost half of their tanks and 300,000 soldiers, that's not a minor thing. Is there something happening in Russia or is it just not?

NATO Secretary General
I'm very careful predicting about both how the war will develop. Wars are, by nature unpredictable, and I'm even more careful about predicting what will happen inside Russia. We saw Prigozhin last year, surprises may happen. But we don't have any indications when any big changes inside Russia but of course there can be surprises.

Again, I think what really matters is what we do, and we just have to do what we can to increase the price for Russia. And of course when they have lost 300,000 soldiers, casualties, thousands of armed vehicles, hundreds of planes. This is something that matters for Russia and for ordinary Russians. Their economy is struggling. They are paying a high economic price. They are paying a high political price. They're more politically isolated, also in the near abroad, in Caucasus and Central Asia. And so what we can do is not to predict with certainty what will happen. But what we can do is to just maximise the likelihood that at some stage President Putin will understand that to continue this war will have a too high price. And then at some stage he has to sit down and negotiate to some kind of just, lasting peace where Ukraine prevails as a sovereign independent nation.

And the paradox is that if we want that to happen, a peaceful just end to this war, the way to get there is more weapons to Ukraine. So the more credible we are in our military support, the more likely it is that the diplomats will succeed. Because what happens around the negotiating table with diplomats is so closely linked to the situation on the battlefield. There are no indications that Putin is planning for peace now, but he will when he realizes that we will not give up, that we have the military strength to support Ukraine. And then we'll sit down and the diplomats can take over. Thank you.