by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Atlantik-Brücke event

  • 25 Apr. 2024 -
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  • Last updated: 25 Apr. 2024 20:55

(As delivered)

Good evening, excellences, ladies and gentlemen, 
Dear Sigmar, dear Irina, dear Boris, thank you so much for your kind words. 
I'm not used to this. It is very nice but it also remind me of the fact that I am getting old. That is also okay. Thank you. 
I'm very honoured and humbled by receiving this award tonight.
And a special thanks to Sigmar and Atlantic Brücke for hosting us all and organizing this event. 
After the War, the Atlantik-Brücke helped anchor the Federal Republic in the political and cultural West.
It also played an important role in building a strong transatlantic relationship with Germany at its core. 
By doing so, Atlantik-Brücke helped to make NATO stronger.
And Sigmar, I promise to not tell any details from the time we met but I can say that make NATO stronger was not the main purpose of our activity. The first time I met Sigmar it was green grass somewhere outside of Bonn and we attended a big concert called “Rock gegen rakete”. 
We had longer hair, but we were okay guys also then. No more details except for that I learned how to have good parties in Germany, I admit that.

Thank you, Boris, for your leadership, for our friendship and also for reminding me on the many times we actually work together over this last year. 
And I have learned a lot from you. And I was very impressed for the first time I met you because you had only been in your job for a couple of days, but you already had the authority and the strength and the commitment, which have demonstrated every days since you were appointed Minister of Defence. 
Boris, your clear-eyed understanding of the challenges, they are vital,
Not least in spearheading the Zeitenwende.  Building one of Europe’s strongest and best-equipped armed forces. 
And strengthening NATO´s deterrence and defence by permanently deploying a full brigade in Lithuania.
And the reality is that before you made that decision, no one expected that to happen. But this was something you personally pushed through and I was in Lithuania when the decision was made. And this was really something they appreciated and the whole Alliance appreciated because it demonstrates the unwavering commitment of Germany to Lithuania, to the Baltic region, and to NATO. 

And today I have the honour and the pleasure and the privilege to witness first hand not the German brigade in Lithuania, but to fly in a German Euro fighter. 
And to tell you the truth that is in itself a reason to become Secretary General of NATO. But don't tell anyone. 
It was great to see the commitment, the professionalism and actually the care those pilots showed for me because I was a bit excited by putting all the things and the gear I had. But then to fly and to see the Luftwaffe in action, actually together with a Swedish plane, and there was a German tanker air to air refuelling tanker that actually first fuelled German Euro fighter but then fuelled a Swedish Gripen. Showing that our newest member Sweden is now fully integrated and demonstrating how we are interoperable and this Alliance and how Germany is at the core of NATO, working together as Allies. 
Germany is the European Ally that provides the most support for Ukraine.
Not least, because of your personal commitment, Boris.
One thing is certain,
NATO can rely on Germany.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am humbled to receive this prestigious award in the name of Eric Warburg. 
A Jew in Nazi Germany, forced to flee to the United States.
He understood the fragility of peace, freedom and human rights.
As you do, Irina.
Having grown up in the Soviet Union,
and documented the darkest days of Stalin’s regime.

In Russia, the past echoes loudly in the present.
Thought is controlled.
Freedom is curtailed.
Opposition is crushed.
Irina, again, you understand this more than most.
Memorial, the organisation you co-founded and which won the Nobel Peace Prize,  was persecuted and dissolved.
Because it stood up for human rights and basic freedoms in Russia.
As Russia has become more oppressive at home,
it has become more aggressive abroad.
Waging a fully-fledged war in Ukraine.
We also face war in the Middle East.
Rising global competition, including with China.
And a range of other challenges.
Today, our world is more dangerous.
So more than ever, we need Europe and North America to stand together.
This year, we mark the 75th anniversary of NATO.
Next year, the 70th anniversary of Germany joining the Alliance.
In all these years, NATO has prevented war and preserved peace.
It has helped spread democracy and prosperity.
And enabled the enlargement of the European Union.
To maintain peace and prosperity for our one billion citizens, 
we need a strong NATO Alliance that meets the challenges of today and the future.
And to do this we need to do three things.
Strengthen our deterrence and defence.
Increase our support for Ukraine.
And work with our partners around the world to defend our freedom.
First, deterrence and defence.
Since Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, 
NATO has responded with the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence in a generation. 

Today, we are bigger, stronger and more united than ever. 
With 2 new members, new and growing capabilities, and far higher defence spending.
This year, two thirds of Allies will meet the pledge to spend at least 2% of GDP on defence. 
Germany among them.
But we must go further.
Every Ally must do what is necessary to fully deliver on our defence plans.
This means attaining and sustaining a minimum of 2%.
To ensure we have the capabilities we need.
And to share the burden of our deterrence and defence.

Let me just add that I really understand that it is not easy to increase defence spending. 
It is very easy for the Secretary General of NATO to call for more defence spending. But then politicians have to go back to the government, to the parliaments and then find that money. 

And when you spend more on defence that is less or something else, health, education infrastructure. That is also the reason why all Allies reduce defence spending after the end of cold war because tensions went down. 
But if we reduce defence spending when tensions are going down, we have to be able to increase defence spending and tensions are going up as they are now. 
And I have looked into the numbers for Germany but those my own country Norway. Until the beginning of the 1990s, we spent 3%. So you had done it before. It is possible. But of course it is a bit painful to go through that transition the other way, to not go down, but to go up. But now that is needed. 

The second thing we must do, 
is more support for Ukraine.
Because that is where we are being tested.
Every day, we see another attack, another atrocity.
Russia is destroying Ukraine’s infrastructure.
Including major power plants.
And then, we have to be honest. The reality is that, in recent months, NATO Allies have not provided the support we have promised.
For months, the US was not able to agree a package.
And in Europe, the delivery of ammunition is far below the levels we said we would provide.
These delays have consequences.
Ukraine has been outgunned,
allowing Russia to push forward on the front line.
Ukraine has lacked air defence,
enabling more Russian missiles and drones to hit their targets.
And Ukraine has been short of deep precision strike capabilities, 
meaning Russia could concentrate more forces.
But it is not too late for Ukraine to prevail.
Because more support is on the way.
At the meeting of NATO Defence Ministers and President Zelenskyy last week,
Allies recognised the urgency and agreed to step up our support.

I welcome that the U.S. Congress has approved over 60 billion dollars in new military aid for Ukraine.  
This week, when we were in Poland together, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of the United Kingdom announced more ammunition, air defence, and deep precision strike capabilities from the UK.
As part of a commitment to spend 2.5% of GDP on defence.
Other Allies are also doing more. I already mentioned that Germany is the lead European Ally in providing support to Ukraine. And now you have also decided to deliver a third Patriot system from Germany.
Actually, at the Laage Airbase I visited this morning,  that is actually where they also do the training of the Ukrainian personnel to operate the German Patriot battery, which is going to be delivered to Ukraine.
The Netherlands has just announced 4 billion extra to Ukraine.
And I expect additional announcements to come soon.
It is now our responsibility to turn these commitments into real deliveries of weapons and ammunition. 
And to do so quickly.

We also have to put our support on a more robust and long-term footing.
99% of military aid to Ukraine comes from NATO Allies.
So at our Summit in Washington this summer,
I expect leaders will agree that NATO will play a bigger role in coordinating military aid and training for Ukraine, with predictable financial support.

Making our efforts less dependent on short-term contributions, 
and more on long-term NATO commitments.
I am also convinced that Ukraine will prevail, 
not only because Allies are providing more support,
but because of the incredible bravery and determination demonstrated by Ukrainian forces. 

Let’s remember where this war started. 
When Russian tanks crossed the border,
many thought Kyiv would fall in days,
and Ukraine within weeks. 
But Ukraine fought back.
Regaining half the territory taken in the initial invasion.
So they have demonstrated skills and competence, demonstrated their ability to fought back against the Russian invaders.
So far in his disastrous war, Putin has lost 350,000 troops, 
2,000 tanks, 
A tenth of its air force, 
and much of its Black Sea Fleet.
But most of all, I am convinced that Ukraine will prevail because their cause is just.
Democracy is stronger than autocracy.
And Putin is wrong that we are not willing or able to defend our values.
We are.
The war in Ukraine demonstrates that security is not regional.
It is global.
So the third thing we must do is to ensure the security of NATO Allies, 
is to work more closely with our friends around the world. 

Russia's friends in Asia are vital for its war effort. 
First and foremost, China.

China is propping up Russia's war economy. 
Sharing high-end technology like semi-conductors and other dual-use items with Russia.
Last year, Russia imported 90 percent of its micro-electronics from China.
Used to produce missiles, tanks, and aircraft.

China is also working to provide Russia with improved satellite capabilities and imagery.

All of this helps Moscow to inflict more death and destruction on Ukraine,
bolster Russia's defence industrial base, 
and evade the impact of sanctions and export controls.

China says it wants good relations with the West. 
At the same time, Beijing continues to fuel the largest armed conflict in Europe since World War Two. 
They cannot have it both ways. 

Meanwhile, North Korean factories are operating at full capacity to produce munitions for Russia.
Over the past six months alone, more than 10,000 containers have been delivered, 
Likely amounting to well over 1 million shells or artillery rounds.

Iran is also delivering substantial support to Russia, including thousands of deadly Shahed drones.
And we are concerned by reports that Iran is also considering transferring ballistic missiles to Russia.

In return for their support, North Korea and Iran are receiving Russian technology and supplies to help them advance their missile and nuclear capabilities.

So we see that authoritarian powers are increasingly aligned.
What happens in Europe matters for Asia, what happen in Asia matters for Europe. 
That is clearly demonstrated by the war in Ukraine and the support Russia receive from China, Iran and North Korea.  
In the past, we made the mistake of becoming dependent on Russian oil and gas.
We must not repeat that mistake with China.
Depending on its money, its raw materials and its technologies. 
Dependencies make us vulnerable. 
It is essential that we stand together with our friends around the world.
Moscow, Beijing, Tehran and Pyongyang must not believe that they can get their way by using force.

They must understand that democracies are strong.
That we have staying power.
And that we stand for our values.
Ladies and gentlemen,
NATO is the most successful Alliance in history.
By standing together,
By protecting each other,
And by being ready to fight for each other,
the nations of Europe and North America have experienced a period of peace and prosperity unmatched in history.

I know that, through NATO, 
And with our partners in Europe and around the world,
we will continue to do that for many decades to come.
And silence the echoes of the past.

Thank you, and thank you for this prestigious award.