by the Chair of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Rob Bauer, Kyiv Security Forum

  • 21 Mar. 2024 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 21 Mar. 2024 10:05

(As delivered)

Mr Yatsenyuk, dear Arseniy,
Your Excellencies, 
Dear Ukrainian friends and colleagues,

After these inspiring words from the NATO Secretary General, it is my distinct honour to address you here in Kyiv. 

I am grateful for the opportunity to travel to Ukraine in person and to meet with your political and military leadership. 

It allows me to express my deep respect for the courage and strength you have displayed, both on and off the battlefield. 

My visit ─ the first NATO military delegation to visit Ukraine since the large-scale invasion ─ is testament to the fact that NATO and Ukraine are closer than they have ever been. 

With every day that passes, we become closer. 

More interoperable. 

More intertwined. 

Together, we are putting everything into place to make Ukraine a member of our Alliance. 

The Swedish flag will not be the only blue and yellow flag at the NATO headquarters. 


Because we all believe in the power of democracy. 

That is what is at stake here. 

Russia’s war against Ukraine has never been about any real security threat coming from either Ukraine or NATO. 

This war is about President Putin fearing something much more powerful than any physical weapon on earth: democracy.

If people in Ukraine can have democratic rights… real democratic rights… then people in Russia will soon crave them too. 

That is what this war is actually about. 

In 2024, more than 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.

Real democracy is about choice. 

It is about making sure that those in power are held accountable. 
And about having the freedom to determine the direction you think your country should take. 

Real democracy can only exist under the rule of law that applies to all. 

In Russia… there is no choice, only force.

And the rule of law is a façade. 

A piece of theatre the leadership put on, to fool people into thinking they were playing along. 

With the illegal annexation of Crimea, they already showed their blatant disregard for the rules-based international order. 

And then, on the 24th of February 2022, the Russian leadership fully pulled down their mask and showed the world who they really are. 

Russia is desperately attempting to portray an image of strength. 

And yet, they have displayed only weakness. 

There is no amount of propaganda that can cover up the coffins that fly back to the Russian Federation. 

There is no amount of propaganda that can answer the questions of the families of the deceased soldiers. 

And there is no amount of propaganda that can conceal the truth that President Putin has not achieved any of his strategic objectives. 

And how can he?

The Russian forces have no idea what they are fighting for…

You do. 

You are fighting for civilization itself. 

The Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian Armed Forces are doing this in a way we have never seen before. 

You have fundamentally changed many aspects of modern warfare. 

Confronted with a combination of World War One trenches and artillery barrages and 21st century drone warfare and artificial intelligence, you have quickly adapted and fought back. 

You are pioneering with innovation, using combinations of Soviet style equipment with modern Western materiel. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Ukraine has suffered unimaginable sufferings. 

Has endured the unendurable. 

Has lost people and things that can never be replaced. 

And yet… to describe you as a victim would not do justice to your immeasurable strength. 

It would not do justice to the successes you have achieved on the battlefield. 

To the historic resilience your whole society has shown. 

Despite all its sufferings, despite all the destruction, Ukraine remains a sovereign state. 

You are incredibly strong. 

The world sees it. 

Russia knows it. 

This is by no means an easy fight. You don’t need me to tell you that. 

But while the world may have been overly optimistic in 2023, we should not make the same mistake by becoming overly pessimistic in 2024. 

Pessimists don’t win wars. 

And if you look at the facts: there is every reason to be confident in Ukraine’s ability to achieve success. 

Last night, 31 missiles were fired at this beautiful city. 

Each and every one of these missiles was intercepted by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. 

There is nothing you cannot do. 

The only thing you need… is our help. 

NATO Allies, and many other nations around the world, are providing unprecedented support to Ukraine and it has made a real difference.

But Ukraine needs even more support.

And you need it now.

Time in Ukraine is not measured in days, weeks or months. 

It is measured in human lives. 

In Allied nations, a week is a week.

In Ukraine, a week is a mother…father… child… friend… lover… lost forever. 

Just as the Secretary General has said: all Allies need to dig deep and deliver quickly.

At the Munich Security Conference, President Zelenskyy rightly told the audience: 

“Don’t ask Ukraine when the war will end, ask yourself why Putin is able to continue it.” 

It would be a grave, historic mistake to allow President Putin to prevail.

This would be dangerous for us all.

Because the outcome of this war will shape the fate of the world. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Today is the 756th day of what the Russian leadership thought would be a 3-day war. 

I will never be able to comprehend how heavy each of those days has felt.

In the darkness of war, you are a beacon of light that shows the world what it means to fight for what you believe in.

You have done so in the Revolution of Dignity. 

And you continue to do so in this brutal war of aggression. 

Your strength and resilience - your мужність - have astounded the world.

You are proving that democracy is worth fighting for. 

It is not a perfect system. 

Nor is it self-sustainable. Even in countries where it has existed for centuries. 

But it is worth risking your life for. 

Because without choice, without freedom, what is there? 

How can we ever build a safe, prosperous world for our children in a system of brutal tyranny?

In Russia we see a regime that murders their opponents… oppresses its citizens… uses their own soldiers as cannon fodder, not bothering to pick up the corpses… and kidnaps Ukrainian children to force them to fight against their own people… 

Compare that to the Ukrainian leadership, that is not only bravely resisting aggression, but at the same time is doing everything they can to eliminate corruption and strengthen their democratic institutions. 

A legitimate government that demonstrates grace under unimaginable pressure.

That cares deeply about each human life.

That is willing to put the long-term interest of the country before any short-term personal or political interest. 

A government that chooses the “we” over the “me”. 

That is inspirational leadership 

That is what strength looks like. 

That is what democracy is about. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

President Putin made two strategic mistakes: he underestimated Ukraine’s determination and he underestimated NATO’s unity.

With our help, Ukraine can and will prevail.

From the bottom of my heart, I say:

Ви не самі.

You are not alone.

NATO stands with you.

Democracy will triumph over autocracy. 

Freedom will triumph over oppression. 

Light will triumph over darkness. 

Slava Ukraini.