Opening remarks

by the Chair of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Rob Bauer and NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană at the meeting of the Military Committee in Chiefs of Defence

  • 17 Jan. 2024 -
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  • Last updated: 17 Jan. 2024 09:46

(As Delivered)

Chair of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Rob Bauer

Deputy Secretary General, Admirals, Generals, Ladies and Gentlemen, good morning. Mesdames et Messieurs, bienvenu à la cent quatre-vingt-dixième session du comité militaire des chefs d’état-major de la défense.

Welcome to this 190th Military Committee in Chiefs of Defence Session. Deputy Secretary General, dear Mircea, we highly value your presence at this meeting. And we deeply appreciate your deep involvement in all matters of military strategic importance. It is testament to the unique nature of our political-military Alliance.

Together, we have to make sure that political will is matched with military capabilities. And with the rules-based international order being under immense pressure, the importance of this cannot be overstated.

The tectonic plates of power are shifting. And as a result: we face the most dangerous world in decades.
NATO has entered into a new era of collective defence. And together we are defending much more than the physical safety of our 1 billion people and 31, soon to be 32, nations - We are defending freedom and democracy.

Please allow me to welcome for the first time at our table in their new capacity as Chief of Defence:

  • General Charles Brown Jr  from the United States,
  • General Wiesław Kukuła from Poland,
  • And General George Vlad from Romania.

Let me also welcome the Strategic Commanders who will be supporting our meetings today: General Chris Cavoli, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, and General Philippe Lavigne, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation. Philippe is joining us via VTC while his deputy, General Chris Badia, is here at the table.

Today’s discussions will first focus on the DDA Family of Plans that were adopted at the Vilnius Summit in July 2023. These are the most comprehensive defence plans NATO has had since the end of the Cold War. Never before have NATO and national defence plans been so closely interlinked. This will shape our armed forces for decades to come. Allies are now actively working to maximise the executability of these new defence plans.
That includes:

  • putting more troops on higher readiness;
  • capability building and development;
  • adaptation of NATO’s command and control structures;
  • creating and sustaining more enablement: logistics, host nation support, maintenance, military mobility, and replenishment and prepositioning of stocks;
  • and crucially: more collective defence exercises and training against these new plans.

Militarily, there are many more steps to be taken to get where we want to be for our collective defence. However, the responsibility for freedom does not lie on the shoulders of those in uniform alone.

In order to strengthen our collective defence and at the same time support Ukraine in its existential fight, we need a whole of society approach. We need public and private actors to change their mind-set from an era in which everything was plannable ,foreseeable, controllable, focused on efficiency…. to an era in which anything can happen at any time. An era in which we need to expect the unexpected. An era in which we need to focus on effectiveness.

In order to be fully effective also in the future, we need a warfighting transformation of NATO. That will be the main focus of today’s session led by the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation. For this too, public-private cooperation will be the key.

In the final session of today – the first NATO-Ukraine Council in Chiefs of Defence format – we will hear an update from our Ukrainian partners and discuss the current situation while reaffirming our continued support to Ukraine.

This war has never been about any real security threat to Russia coming from either Ukraine or NATO. This war is about Russia fearing something much more powerful than any physical weapon on earth: democracy.

If people in Ukraine can have democratic rights, then people in Russia will soon crave them too. That is what this war is actually about. In 2024 a record-breaking 2 billion people on earth will cast their vote in a democratic election, and yet the concept of democracy needs to be defended more than ever.

The Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian Armed Forces are doing this in a way we have never seen before. In the darkness of war, they are a beacon of light that shows the world what it means to fight for what you believe in.

Today is the 693rd day of what Russia thought would be a 3-day war.
Ukraine will have our support for every day that is to come. Because the outcome of this war will determine the fate of the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
The ability for NATO to ‘expect the unexpected’ is directly tied to the ability to see things from a different perspective. To apply new and different ways of working and to accumulate different threat perspectives. For this, our cooperation with Partners is key.

That is why tomorrow we will meet with our Indo-Pacific Partners: Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and the Republic of Korea. As well as with the Chiefs of Defence from the Partner Interoperability Advocacy Group: Australia, Austria, Ireland, New Zealand and Switzerland.

And finally, we will have a session with our Secretary General, Mr. Jens Stoltenberg, to discuss the current political objectives and guidance ahead of the Defence Ministerial in February and the Washington D.C Summit in July.

And with that, Mr Deputy Secretary General, I kindly invite you to provide your opening remarks.


NATO Deputy Secretary General, Mircea Geoană

Thank you so much, Admiral Bauer, dear Rob, thank you for your leadership, your superb leadership, and your friendship.

SACEUR, SACT, Admiral Jones, ladies and gentlemen, it is my distinct pleasure to address you today. Je suis ravie d'être avec vous.

Here, we will mark NATO’s 75th anniversary. Throughout those years, few have done more to ensure the security of our Alliance than you and all your predecessors. So I want to start by thanking you all for the incredible work that you and your men and women in uniform have done, are doing, and will continue to be doing for our security, for our nations, and indeed CMC, to protect our security.

Today, we face many serious challenges. War, terrorism, instability. Authoritarian states threaten our values. We need a strong NATO more than ever. And a strong NATO is what we have. Over the last decade, our Alliance has undergone the biggest transformation since the Cold War.

Thanks in large part to the people in this very room, NATO now has the most robust defence plans in place since the Cold War to deter any enemy, and to defend every inch of our territory. With more troops at a high state of readiness, greater capabilities, more effective command-and-control, all put to the test with regular extensive exercises.

Of course, all of this costs money, time, and energy. And at last year’s NATO Summit in Vilnius, our leaders agreed a new defence spending target of at least 2% of GDP. And you'll hear from our Secretary General tomorrow that we are heartened that more and more of the Allies are reaching and aiming to reach this important milestone. The fact that they agreed to do so underlines the seriousness of the challenges we face and the importance we all attach to NATO and to our national and collective security.

At this year’s summit in Washington D.C., we will go further. Doing what is necessary to ensure the security of our people, our nations and yes, the international rules-based system. We will strengthen our collective defence, especially our air and missile defence. We will boost our support for Ukraine. And I'm thankful for all of you for meeting your Ukrainian counterpart later today. The first meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council in Chiefs of Defence format is another testament of our enduring support for this nation, because the Ukrainians are also fighting our fight.

And we’ll work even more closely with our partners around the world. Thank you again for meeting our partners. NATO may be a regional alliance. And this will not change. But we face global challenges and we need to engage even more.

General Bradley, the leader of American forces at Normandy and NATO’s very first CMC, said and I quote, “Peace is our goal, but preparedness is the price we must pay.”

Today, our peace is threatened. But thanks to you, and to your people, and to your service men and women around this great Alliance of ours, we are prepared. As we continue forward, I count on your dedication, your expertise, and your leadership.

Thank you all. It's a privilege for me and tomorrow for our Secretary General to be together with you, the leaders of the greatest and most successful Alliance in history. 75 years is just the beginning of our great journey together. Thank you all, a privilege for me to be with all of you today.


Chair of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Rob Bauer

Deputy Secretary General, thank you for your inspiring words.  It is an honour to have you at our table.
Your message is perhaps best summarized in the age-old saying: if you want peace, prepare for war.   
Maximising our preparedness and our deterrence helps to minimise the chance of a conflict ever arising.

It is our sacred task to support and enable the work of the enormous band of brothers and sisters in uniform who defend our great Alliance. Let us recognise their service and sacrifice… for they are defending the democratic values and the rule of law that form the fabric of our societies. Together, more than 3 million service men and women uphold NATO’s defensive shield.

On behalf of the Military Committee, I want to express our deep gratitude and respect for their courage, their professionalism, and their dedication. Our thoughts are especially with the loved ones of those men and women who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom. And with all those who are dealing with the physical and mental effects of their time in service.

Please stand with me as we honour their sacrifice.

[Moment of silence]

Thank you.
At the end of our committee sessions tomorrow, SACEUR, DSACT, and I will brief the media on the outcomes of our discussions and then answer questions. I do want to thank the media personnel who have joined us to cover this important event. You play an important role in telling NATO’s story and we appreciate your presence.

I kindly ask the media now to depart.