by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the NATO 75th Anniversary Celebratory Event in Washington

  • 09 Jul. 2024 -
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  • Last updated: 10 Jul. 2024 13:32

(As delivered)

President Biden, 
Heads of State and Government,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honour to be with you here today.
And it is good to see so many friends.

Seventy-five years ago,
in this very room, 
NATO’s founding document, 
the Washington Treaty, was signed.

Our Alliance was created by people who had lived through two devastating world wars.
They knew only too well the horror, the suffering, and the terrible human cost of war.

They were determined that this should never happen again.

So, they founded NATO.
With a clear purpose:
To preserve peace and safeguard freedom.

A solemn promise.
An iron-clad commitment to protect each other.
One for all, and all for one.

I have great respect for the Washington Treaty.
Not least because it is so short.
Just fourteen paragraphs. 
Only a few pages.

Never have so few words meant so much 
to so many.

Peace has been preserved.
Freedom has been safeguarded.

That makes NATO the most successful alliance in history. 

When I arrived at NATO ten years ago, 
I was told that while it may be the most successful Alliance in history,
it was not the longest lasting.

That honour belonged to the Delian League of ancient Greek city-states.
But the League lasted… seventy-four years.

So in this seventy-fifth anniversary of our Alliance, 
We can finally say that NATO is not only the most successful, and strongest,
But also the longest-lasting Alliance in history.

To understand the enduring success of NATO, it is important to recognise:
our transatlantic Alliance was never a given.

On the contrary, it is the result of deliberate choices and difficult decisions. 

Starting with NATO’s creation.

After World War Two, many Americans wanted to leave Europe,
and “bring their boys back home”.
Just as the United States did after World War One.

Fortunately, this time, courageous leaders on both sides of the Atlantic were able to defy opposition,
And create a transatlantic Alliance.
To deter the Soviet threat. 

Gradually, a bold and controversial idea emerged:
That we needed to talk to our enemy.
To minimise the risk of an arms race spiralling out of control.
And leading to nuclear Armageddon.

Step-by-step, through difficult talks and hard negotiations, 
an architecture of arms control was agreed.
Thousands of weapons were destroyed.
Transparency and trust were built.

The world became a safer place due to deterrence and defence.
But also due to disarmament and dialogue.

And in time, the Cold War ended without NATO firing a shot.

This opened an historic window of opportunity. 
And brought us to another critical decision:
Whether to enlarge NATO.
And welcome old adversaries as new Allies.

The countries of the former Warsaw Pact had already made their choice. 
They all wanted to join our Alliance.
Towering personalities like Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel led the way.

The question was whether we were ready to open our door.

Some feared that enlargement would dilute and weaken NATO.
And provoke Moscow.

Just as at previous crossroads,
It was not an obvious choice.
It was not an easy decision.
And it took time. 

But in the end, we stood up for the right of every nation to choose its own path.
We opened NATO’s door.

Hardly any decision in modern history has changed Europe more profoundly.

NATO enlargement unified Europe in a way that was previously unthinkable.
Paved the way for EU integration. 
And brought peace and prosperity across the continent.

Allies showed clarity and determination then.
As we must continue to do now.

Russia’s war against Ukraine is the biggest security crisis in generations.

Ukraine has shown remarkable courage. 
And NATO Allies have provided unprecedented support.

But let’s be honest.
Not even our support to Ukraine has been a given.
It is not straightforward. 
Because our support comes with costs and risks.

The reality is:
There are no cost-free options with an aggressive Russia as a neighbour. 
There are no risk-free options in a war. 

And remember: 
The biggest cost and the greatest risk will be if Russia wins in Ukraine. 

We cannot let that happen.

Not only would it embolden President Putin, 
It would also embolden other authoritarian leaders in Iran, North Korea, and China.
They all support Russia’s brutal war.
They all want NATO to fail.

So the outcome of this war will shape global security for decades to come.

The time to stand for freedom and democracy is now.

The place is Ukraine.


Over the last 75 years, the transatlantic relationship has weathered many storms.

We are bound together not only by interests, 
but also by history, tradition and values.  

But our Alliance should not be taken for granted. 

NATO was not a given in 1949.
It is not a given now.
And it will not be a given in the decades to come.

Everyone in this room has a responsibility,
as political leaders, as experts, as citizens.
We must show the same courage and determination in the future,
as was demonstrated in the past when NATO was founded and shaped. 

The future of our Alliance depends not least on our men and women in uniform.
They put their lives on the line each and every day, to keep us safe.

Yesterday, I laid a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery,
To pay my respects for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
We owe them an eternal debt of gratitude.
We honour them all.

Mister President,
Dear friends,

Our Alliance is not perfect.
And we will continue to face difficult decisions in the future.

I do not know what the next crisis will be.

But I do know that we are at our best when we take difficult decisions with 
political courage, and moral clarity. 

And I know that we are stronger and safer together, in NATO.

It is good to have friends.

Thank you.