by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at event hosted by the NATO Association of Canada and the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association

  • 19 Jun. 2024 -
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  • Last updated: 20 Jun. 2024 12:40

(As delivered)

Good afternoon. It's great to see you all. And, David, thank you so much for your kind words. Your public service in politics as a Minister has really made a difference not only for Canada but also for NATO. So, it's good to see you and great to meet all of you. Many thanks also to the NATO Association of Canada and the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association for inviting me to be here today.

It is good to be back in Canada. I feel at home in this country. And last time, I will share, I went to Cambridge Bay with Prime Minister Trudeau and the Defence and the Foreign Minister. 
And we visited NORAD, this is early warning radar. And it was actually extremely useful for me to see this myself and also extremely interesting and great to be in the High North of Canada.
The visit today may be a bit less exciting in a way that it is not the High North. But at least the climate is actually much different actually in a way that it's extremely warm. No, that was not the case up in the High North.

But anyway, thank you so much. It's great to see you all and I appreciate this opportunity to say some few words. 
But let me start by express my gratitude and to tell you that it is really a great honour to receive the Louis St. Laurent award, named after Prime Minister who oversaw Canada rejoining NATO back in 1949.
And St. Laurent was one of the earliest proponents of NATO as a transatlantic Alliance. He understood that the only way to stand up to aggression was for free nations to stand together. He was right then, and he is right now.
For today we face the most challenging complex and dangerous security environment for generations.
In three weeks, NATO heads of state and government will meet in Washington for the NATO Summit. There, we will celebrate the 75th anniversary of our Alliance but this Summit will not only be about celebrations, but it will also be an opportunity to make important decisions for the future.

There are three main issues on our agenda.

First, we will strengthen our deterrence and defence. 

We live in a more dangerous world.
With greater global competition.
A new war in the Middle East.
And a fully-fledged war in Europe.

Canada contributes to NATO’s deterrence and defence in many different ways. 
We are very grateful for those contributions.

Not least on Europe’s eastern flank,  
where Canadian troops lead NATO’s multinational battlegroup in Latvia. 

And I had the privilege of meeting the Canadian soldiers in Latvia several times. And every time I met them, I've been impressed by the commitment for the skilled by their professionalism. And I would like to express my gratitude to them, but also to Canada.
For everything you do to strengthen NATO's military presence on our eastern flank and pay tribute to all those who serve and have served in that battlegroup.

In 2014, Russia illegally annexed Crimea, and at that time all NATO Allies at the NATO Summit in Wales in the United Kingdom decided that we should spend two percent of GDP on defence.

At the time, only three Allies out of all NATO members met the target of spending two percent of GDP on defence, and that also the United States, United Kingdom, and Greece.

This year in 2024, 23 Allies will spend at least two percent of GDP on defence. 

Canada is also increasing its defence spending, and will add billions over the coming years. 

Including by purchasing high-end new capabilities, modernising law rather and by investing in the fifth generation F-35 aircraft. 

This is important for our collective security. This will help to further strengthen NATO as a defensive military Alliance.

At the same time, I continue to expect all Allies should meet the guideline of spending two percent. 

I know that this is not always easy, because I've been a politician, a parliamentarian, and a prime minister for many years. And I know that it's always easier to spend money on health, education, infrastructure and many other important tasks than to invest more in defence.

And that's also the reason why, when the Cold War ended, European Allies, Canada, reduced defence spending because tensions went down. But when we reduce defence spending when tensions are going down, we must also be able to increase spending investments on security when tensions are increasing and are high as they are today.

So therefore, the reality is that now we need to prioritise defence investments in our security because we need that to respond to a more dangerous and challenging security environment.

And as I said, the reality is that that's what NATO Allies are doing. 23 Allies on 2% and more Allies are approaching 2% out of those who are not yet at that target.

The second topic for the Summit – and the most urgent one – will be Ukraine. 

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion, NATO Allies have provided unprecedented levels of support to Ukraine.

Again, Canada is really among those Allies who have provided significant and substantial support to Ukraine.

And not only since the full-scale invasion in 2022, but I was in Ukraine back in 2015.
And I remember I visited a training site in the western part of Ukraine, where actually Canadian officers were training the Ukrainians already back then.

So not only has Canada provided essential support after a full scale invasion in February 2022.
But you are among those Allies who have been there for the longest time and helped them also prior to the full-scale invasion.
And the support the training you provided before the invasion proved extremely important when Russia launched the full-scale invasion a couple of years ago

Since the invasion, Canada has provided billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine. 
Including air defence systems, battle tanks, and F-16 pilot training.
On top of a lot of ammunition and other military equipment and support which has made a difference on the battlefield for Ukraine.

This has been indispensable for Ukrainians to fight back and to survive as a sovereign nation.  
But this winter and spring, we saw serious delays and gaps in delivering support. 
With consequences on the frontline.

We cannot let this happen again. 

And that is why, I expect Allied leaders to agree for NATO to lead the coordination and provision of security assistance and training for Ukraine. 

I also have proposed a long-term financial pledge, 
With fresh funding every year for Ukraine 

The more credible our long-term support,  
the quicker Moscow will realise it cannot wait us out, 
the sooner this war will end.

It may seem like a paradox, but the path to peace is more weapons to Ukraine. 

To convince President Putin that he cannot win on the battlefield.

We must ensure that Putin's aggression doesn't pay off today or in the future. 

That is why we at the Summit in Washington next month, will continue to bring Ukraine ever closer to NATO membership.

So that when the time is right, Ukraine can join without any delay.

The third major topic for the Summit is our global partnerships. 
Especially in the Indo-Pacific.        

And of course, Canada being both an Atlantic and Pacific nation, you are aware of both the challenges in Europe, but also in the Indo-Pacific.

The war in Ukraine demonstrates that our security is not regional, our security is global. 
Not least because of the support we know Russia is getting from China and others. 
Beijing is sharing high-end technologies like semi-conductors and other dual-use items. 
Last year, Russia imported 90 percent of its microelectronics from China, 
used to produce missiles, tanks, and aircraft.
China is also working to provide Russia with improved satellite capability and imagery. 

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

Publicly, President Xi has tried to create the impression that he is taking a back seat in the conflict in Ukraine.
To avoid sanctions and keep trade flowing. 

But the reality is that China is fuelling the largest armed conflict in Europe since World War Two. 
And at the same time, it wants to maintain good relations with the West. 

Well, Beijing cannot have it both ways. 

At some point – and unless China changes course – Allies need to impose a cost. 

Russia is receiving support from others too.
North Korea has delivered over 1 million shells.
And Iran has delivered thousands of deadly Shahed drones.

We are deeply concerned that in exchange, Pyongyang and Tehran could receive Russian technology and supplies to help them advance their missile and nuclear programs.

The growing alignment between Russia and its authoritarian friends in Asia makes it even more important that we work closely with our friends in the Indo-Pacific.  
I have therefore invited the leaders of Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea to the Summit in Washington next month. 

Together, we can uphold the international rules-based order. 
And protect our shared values. 

So ladies and gentlemen, 
For 75 years the NATO Alliance has kept us safe. 
Just as Prime Minister St. Laurent knew it would. 

It saw us through the Cold War and the break-up of the Soviet Union. 
Ended ethnic wars in the Balkans.

And helped us fight terrorism in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, and the rise of ISIS.

And NATO keeps us safe today. 
As we prepare for a more dangerous world.       

Thanks to the collective strength of NATO we can stand up to authoritarian powers like Russia and China.

And make sure that freedom and democracy prevail in Ukraine. 

And it is through NATO that we will continue to protect our values, our nations, and our one billion people.
Thank you so much.

Lisa LaFlamme
Thank you, Robert. It's always nice to be in Ottawa. Can you hear me? Always great to be in Ottawa, especially in a heatwave. I always say this was the one time every man knows what it's like to go through menopause. I know we're raised by a feminist, so you probably know. It's really wonderful to have this opportunity to meet with you to speak with you today on such a pivotal time for NATO. And there's just thank you so much. There's there's a lot of ground to cover. But I actually want to start at the end if I can, your actual leadership. And the fact that your mandate has been extended four times. Is it five times it's sort of morphing into a Rolling Stones farewell tour. Is this really it for you in October? Because already so many people in the room have been saying they don't want to see you leave?

NATO Secretary General
I promise I'll answer that question in a moment. But first, I will not take on the role of the organizers, but there are many free seats over here for some important people and they have not come so you can go and site there I mean it.

Lisa LaFlamme
See? What a leader, honestly!

NATO Secretary General
Seriously, there are too many shy people over there. So there are seats there. That's the first thing. Then I'm raised by a feminist but not only feminist, my mother was called Karin Heiberg, Karin Stoltenberg later, she lived in Montreal for many years, studied at McGill and actually married a Canadian, but that's not my father...

Lisa LaFlamme
But isn't that, actually, isn't that how you ended up meeting Leonard Cohen? Didn't I read that somewhere?

NATO Secretary General
We are far off the item of today. But Leonard was together with a Norwegian woman, Mariamna, and they live at an island down in Greece. But before that, Marianna and my mother Kairin they were friends here in Canada. And the man that my mother married was a friend of Leonard Cohen. And, and I don't know so much more...

Lisa LaFlamme
I think, I mean, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say this makes you an honorary Canadian.

NATO Secretary General
But I can say one more thing, and that Leonard came to Oslo, Leonard Cohen came to Oslo, let's say I was Prime Minister, I guess it was 2010 or something, and gave a big concert. And I was staying together with Kairin, my mother, and Mariamna. That was really touching, that was just a few years before he passed away, so we have this relationship between Canada and Norway that goes through Leonard Cohen.

Okay, but then, so then, it has been a great privilege to serve as Secretary General NATO, especial in this very pivotal and important critical time for NATO. And it has been an honour to work with Canada and all the NATO Allies. But everything has to end and my tenure ends on the first of October, and I am stepping down knowing that the Alliance is now very, very close to decide on my successor and that will... the candidate out there is Mark Rutte, he is a great man, he has been Prime Minister many years, he strongly believes in the transatlantic bond. He's a friend and colleague. So NATO will be very good hands, given that Mark Rutte is going to be the next Secretary General.

Lisa LaFlamme
What would your best piece of advice to him be?

NATO Secretary General
First of all, I'm very afraid of this kind of outgoing people giving advice to those who are coming in, because they have to they had to meet and to face the challenges in their way and I'm certain that he will be able to do so. And then I have great respect for that the final decision that will be taken will be taken by Allies, not by me. But the most important challenge task for any Secretary General of NATO is to ensure that we stand that we remain together. Because you know, if you look at NATO Allies, we are very different. We are different countries from both side of the Atlantic, and we are Christian democrats and conservatives and social democrats and liberals and many different things. And we disagree, and we have different views on climate change, and abortion and a lot of things. But the strength of NATO is that we have always been able to unite around the core task. And that is that we protect each other, that we stand together. Because we know that we are democracies, we respect the fact that we disagree, that we have elections, that we elect different political leaders, and that we have free and independent press and that people can have different views. That's what we're protecting.

And as long as we agree on that core task, then we will prevail. Because with North America and Europe together, we have 50% of the world's economic might and 50% of the world's military might. So we are by far the strongest power in the world. So we just have to stand together, protect against those authoritarian powers out there. And then everything will be fine.

Lisa LaFlamme
And I want to get into the authoritarian powers and the new alliances, the increased alliances. And you've mentioned so many significant, so much significant progress in Belgium last week, this week in Washington, but I actually want to zero in on some of your very stark words and warnings, if you will, about Russia's heightened aggression campaign, whether it's against NATO member states. So, you know, hybrid warfare, these sorts of things. You're here with a Canadian audience on Canadian soil, what is the risk you refer to that Canadians should be aware of?

NATO Secretary General
We should be aware, all of us, is that one thing is a full-fledged armed military attack. We know that how that look like, and we know how to respond. And we have plans, we have forces and the purpose of NATO is actually done not to fight the war, but to prevent the war to prevent the military attack. And as long as we are strong, as long as we are united, there will be no military attack on any NATO Allied country because we are one for all, all for one, and then we succeed in preventing a military attack, as we have done for 75 years and I'm absolutely certain that NATO will be able to do that also in the future. The challenge is that we are threatened by something which is not a full-fledged military attack, which are these cyber, hybrid is below Article Five, as is often referred to, threats, and that is everything from meddling in our political processes, undermine the trust in our political institutions, disinformation, cyber-attacks, we have seen across Europe and how many sabotage actions against critical infrastructure, and so on. So, what we have to do is, as an Alliance, to increase awareness, to be aware these are real threats, we need to exchange intelligence. We have seen several examples now in Europe where arrests have been made, based on intelligence shared by all the NATO Allies preventing sabotage and action against the critical infrastructure and another targets in Europe. It's about protecting critical infrastructure, protecting cyber networks, and perhaps most importantly, to counter disinformation.

And to counter disinformation is partly a task of governments, NATO to do to put out the fact to, to ensure that facts and correct information is available. But I believe that, at the end of the day, the most important way to counter disinformation is to have a free and independent press, with independent journalists who are asking different questions and checking their sources. That is quite sometimes a bit annoying for people like me. But I actually am more in favour of free and independent press now than ever before, because I see the danger of not having it. So to ensure we have free and independent press is probably the best way to make us more resilient against disinformation.

Lisa LaFlamme
And certainly we know all know that, you know, Vladimir Putin is, you know, trying to short circuit the system by overloading it with lies. And we all watched, I'm sure, with great interest, his red carpet welcome in Pyongyang, with North Korean leader Kim Jong un. They have now signed what is being referred to as a mutual... pledging a mutual support against aggression. When you heard that today, can you translate for us what we need to be aware of?

NATO Secretary General
We need to be aware of that alternate time powers are aligning more and more. They are supporting each other in a way we haven't seen before. Until recently, Russia at least tried to distance himself a bit from North Korea, and they supported some of the UN Security resolutions, putting sanctions and putting, as I say, obstacles for North Korea to develop nuclear weapons and missile programs. But they are now walking away from that. Just the fact that you went to North Korea that he signed and agreed this pact to a mutual defence, demonstrates how they support and help each other.

We see that also, of course, in the war in Ukraine, North Korea has provided enormous amount of ammunition, we  see how they're loading on containers with ammunition on trains in North Korea, and they go all the way across the border between North Korea and Russia, is a small border by the Pacific coast. And the trains go all the way to the front line and unload and this ammunition goes straight to the front attacking Ukrainians. So of course, in return, Russia is giving something to North Korea. And we are very deeply concerned about the possibility of also Russia now providing support for their nuclear and missile programs. So again, the answer is that when they are more and more aligned, authoritarian regimes like North Korea, China, Iran, and Russia, then it's even more important that we are aligned as countries believing in freedom and democracy. So NATO is  that way even more important now than before.

Lisa LaFlamme
You said just in your early remarks that China can’t have it both ways, but it does. It has it both ways. So what is the impact on NATO, this new invigorated relationship between China and Russia, China who is clearly unafraid of very publicly supporting Russia?


NATO Secretary General
It is a dilemma because China is an important country in the world because of the size of the economy. We have to engage to work with China on issues like climate change, and other issues. At the same time, we see how China is supporting Russia. China is the main supporter of the Russian war efforts in Ukraine, propping up their war economy and providing all the technology they need to build the most advanced weapons. Some Allies have imposed some sanctions, the United States. Other Allies are of course, much more hesitant. But this is an issue which has to be addressed and discussed, because it cannot continue as now where China has a kind of normal relationship, and at the same time, is responsible for the biggest security challenge we have seen at least in Europe since the Second World War. So just to put that issue on the agenda, I think is the first step.

Then when it comes to NATO and China, I think it's important to realize that NATO has come a long way. The first time we mentioned China in an agreed negotiated policy document in NATO was in 2019. Because until then, NATO was about the Soviet Union and Russia. And China was in a way, for the United States and partly Canada but it was not for us in a way. It was not for NATO as an Alliance. That changed partly with a big discussion about 5g, where we realized that China controls critical infrastructure, which is important for us. And in the Strategic Concept, which is NATO's main political document we agreed on in Madrid two years ago, that's the first time we have language about China. The previous strategic document doesn't mention China with a single word. So we have come at least some way. And we are coordinating more what to do also related to China.

Lisa LaFlamme
It also puts NATO in a decade or so confronting two major opponents. How close do you think and maybe I'm not wording that right, but at this moment, what is the risk of nuclear escalation, given all of these increased Alliances?

NATO Secretary General: So first of all, we don't see any imminent threat or any military attack and not of any use of nuclear weapons. At the same time, we are in a very different place than where we were just few years ago. Because even during the Cold War, we were able, especially United States and the Soviet Union, and later the United States and Russia, were able to develop an arms control architecture, were actually there were limits. They were reductions, and they were a minimum on transparency and predictability. I remember, for instance, the concern we had in Europe about the intermediate range missiles, the SS-20s. And then we, NATO deployed something called Pershing and cruise missile. And then in 1987, and I was a young man at that time, and I was out demonstrating these missiles. But then in 1987, Ronald Reagan and Gorbachev signed the INF Treaty, not reducing, but banning all these missiles. Zero. And that was a milestone in the nuclear disarmament.

Then we had the START, and then New START, the strategic agreements, limiting the number of long-range nuclear weapons or warheads to 1500. And we had other Test Ban Treaty and other things. Now, Russia has walked away from all of these agreements. And they started by violating the INF Treaty banning intermediate range missiles. This is combined then with a much more as a dangerous, reckless nuclear rhetoric from the Russian side.

And then combined with the fact that now China is investing heavily and modernising. And not only that, but increasing in the number of nuclear weapons, many of them on long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles able to reach the whole of NATO. And as you mentioned, in the next decade, we expect that NATO and the United States, for the first time in our history, will face not only one nuclear adversary or potential adversary, but two: Russia and China.

And not only that, with many more missiles and many more weapons, but also without transparency. Because I think we must never underestimate that these agreements, they were important partly because they put limits. But as important was the fact that we had trust, transparency. I remember I visited one of the US bases in Kings Bay, in Georgia on the Atlantic Coast of the United States, where they had nuclear submarines. And there was a special kind of vehicle to transport the Russian inspectors. So they came and inspected the strategic submarines of the United States, as the United States went and inspected the strategic submarines of Russia. When I was Prime Minister in Norway, we had a lot of engagement, not on strategic weapons, but the handling of nuclear waste, and also some old nuclear submarines in something called the Andreev Bay on the Kola Peninsula. All of this which actually brings a lot of transparency and insight in what do they have and what do we have, is over and that's serious,

Lisa LaFlamme
But in the interest of transparency, are you asking the Allies to basically dust off their nuclear weapons and put them on standby and out of storage?

NATO Secretary General: Well, NATO has been and will continue to be a nuclear Alliance. And we have effective and secure nuclear deterrent and nuclear weapons, the United States has, the United Kingdom, and France. But then we have a special arrangement with the United States where they have nuclear weapons, based in Europe. And then we have European Allies providing planes, bases, infrastructure. So together, this is what we call the nuclear sharing arrangements or NATO's nuclear deterrent. This is something we've had in place for many years, from decades. We are now in the process of modernizing that, but that is something that has been planned for a long time. It's not a response to any specific decision from the Russian side, partly because these nuclear missions or nuclear deterrent has been based on F-16s. Now Allies are replacing the F-16s with F-35s, more modern planes and the United States is also modernizing the weapons. But NATO, we are going to react in a calm and measured way. We're not going to in a way, mirror exactly what Russia and China are doing, but we just have to be certain that we have a credible nuclear deterrent, and we will continue to have that.

Lisa LaFlamme
But there's no doubt that in the last two years, and 180 days, I think since the full scale invasion of Ukraine, the world has changed. NATO has clearly changed as you outlined in your remarks. But you know, in this country, inevitably, when you talk about NATO, someone points out Canada's failure to hit that 2% target GDP funding. And according to your tracking, NATO tracking, which I think just came out yesterday, Canada is at 1.37%. So still under. And I just wonder, do you think this issue is actually hurting Canada's reputation among the Allies?

NATO Secretary General
I think Canada is a highly valued and highly respected NATO Ally. Because actually we are you are quite big. I mean, you have to remember that Canada's is not a small Ally, is one of the biggest NATO Allies. Both when it comes to territory. You are an Atlantic, Polar, and Pacific nation. You have a strong army and big economy. And you also contribute to our shared security, to our collective defence. You have been an important part of our mission in Afghanistan. We're now together in Iraq with a training mission there. And you are present in Europe. Canada leads one of the battlegroups we have in the eastern part of the Alliance, the one in Latvia. And that's a significant contribution by Canada to European defence, to NATO's collective defence. And Canadian planes and ships are regularly part of NATO air policing missions and naval operations.

I say this, because Canada’s standing in NATO is strong. But at the same time, of course, we expect all Allies to make good on the promise of investing 2%. There’s no way to hide that. We agreed it and actually in Vilnius at the last Summit, we agreed to say that to 2% is a minimum. And of course, the challenges you face in Canada are the same challenges they face in other NATO Allied countries. They have budgets, they're concerned about the fiscal balance. They want to spend money on health, education, and all the other things. And I am the first to understand that. But again, if we're not able to prevent war. If you’re not able to preserve peace, then then what you do on health and climate change and education anyway, it will fail. So a precondition for success on all the other areas, is that we preserve peace and therefore we need to invest in security and 2% is our minimum.