Standing up for Freedom and Security

Keynote speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at GLOBSEC 2014

  • 15 May. 2014 -
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  • Mis à jour le: 15 May. 2014 15:08

Ambassador Káčer,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for that kind welcome.

It's a great pleasure to be here today. In just a few years, the Bratislava Global Security Forum has become one of Europe's premier venues for the discussion of international security matters. And this year's meeting comes at a critical moment for all of us. Twenty-five years ago, this part of Europe was the front-line in the fight for freedom. Barbed wire fences were cut. Walls came down. And freedom prevailed over force.

NATO's Open Door policy and European Union enlargement, advanced our goal of a Europe whole and free. Not by threats, coercion or the use of force, but by the choice of sovereign nations and free people. By free choice, not by force, we erased the deep dividing lines across our continent. And by free choice, not by force, we relegated so-called "spheres of influence" to the history books.

Russia too subscribed to these principles. That each country has an inherent right to choose or change its security arrangements. And that no state has the right to consider another as its sphere of influence. These are clear commitments made by all the members of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe 15 years ago in the Charter for European Security. And they are also enshrined in the United Nations Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, and the NATO-Russia Founding Act.

So what we see now in Ukraine is a blatant breach of the fundamentals of European security. It is a dangerous attempt to turn back the clock. To draw new dividing lines and rewrite the rule book. President Putin and his government have only used the language of international values and norms in order to subvert them. Russia's state media are spinning a dishonest narrative to manipulate public opinion. And Russia has not taken one single step to live up to its Geneva commitments. Just the contrary.

So judging by Russia's actions, the aim is clear. Russia is trying to establish a new sphere of influence. In defiance of international law and fundamental agreements that Russia itself has signed. This has profound, long-term implications for our security. And it requires serious, long-term solutions.

My message today is that NATO is both able and willing do whatever is necessary for as long as necessary. As we prepare for our Wales Summit in September, we will bolster our collective defence. And we will continue to uphold the fundamental principle that every country should have the freedom to choose its own future.

So first, collective defence.

We already have more planes in the air, more ships at sea, and more exercises on the ground. We have deployed AWACS surveillance planes over Poland and Romania. In the Baltic region, we have reinforced our air policing mission and our naval presence. And Allies have deployed land forces to participate in training and exercises. These measures demonstrate our unity. Our solidarity. And our commitment.

We are also considering the longer-term implications of Russia's actions for what we do in NATO. So we are taking a close look at how we can develop and deploy the right forces for defence and deterrence. We are looking to strengthen the ability of our NATO Response Force and Special Forces to respond quickly to any threat against any member of the Alliance, including where we have little warning.

We are also reviewing our threat assessments, intelligence-sharing arrangements, early-warning procedures, and crisis response planning to take into account a more unpredictable security environment.

We are examining our Connected Forces Initiative to make our exercises more frequent, more demanding, and more visible.

These are some of the strands of a Readiness Action Plan that we are considering at the moment. They are all defensive measures. They are in line with our international obligations. And in line with a changed security landscape, where - more than ever - we need to be ready, prepared and flexible.

Of course, to have credible defence and deterrence, we need credible capabilities. And credible capabilities come at a cost. And this is my second point.

Let's look at the figures. Russian defence spending has grown by more than 10 percent in real terms each year over the past five years. And according to some forecasts that rate of growth could increase in the coming years.

By contrast, several European NATO countries have cut their defence spending by more than 20 percent over the same period. Some Allies have even cut by more than 40 percent. And the cuts have been particularly deep here in Central and Eastern Europe.

This is unsustainable. Now is the time to stop the cuts and start reversing the trend. We have a NATO target of 2% of GDP to be spent on defence. We need to gradually increase our defence budgets to reach that level. We must spend more on what we need. Less on personnel. And more on equipment, skills and training. So that our forces are more flexible, deployable and ready.

Some Allies, like Estonia, are already setting a good example. Poland is very close to the 2 percent benchmark and modernising its forces. While Latvia, Lithuania and Romania have announced that they too will gradually invest more in defence.

We must also bridge the gaps in our military capabilities. This means we need to stimulate further involvement in our multinational "Smart Defence" projects. And also closer regional cooperation. The Visegrad countries continue to demonstrate that this is a pragmatic way to build greater security together. And in a way that makes both NATO and the European Union stronger.

Multinational cooperation can help in multiplying individual efforts. But ultimately, credible defence and deterrence requires credible investment. And if there was ever any doubt in our capitals that defence matters, the Ukraine crisis has surely removed it.

And now my third point. In the face of Russia's aggression, we must uphold the principle that every country should have the right to choose.its own future, including its relationship with our Alliance.

Because that freedom is fundamental to our vision for a Europe whole, free and at peace.

There is a very good reason why security and stability spread across this continent in the wake of the Cold War. Without coercion. Without annexations. Without interference and illegal referenda.

It is not because NATO and the European Union pushed to expand. But because this country, and many others, were attracted by the values and principles of our Euro-Atlantic institutions. You had the sovereign right to choose. You had the freedom to choose. And your choice was Europe and Euro-Atlantic integration.

We must, and we will, remain committed to our, positive vision for Europe. That means we will deepen our partnerships with Ukraine and our other NATO partners. And keep our door open for those countries which see there their future in NATO.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our next Summit in September in Wales is about Future NATO. As we prepare for the Summit, we stand ready to take all necessary measures. To bolster our collective defence. To boost our defence spending. To bridge capability gaps. And to uphold the principle that every country should have the freedom to choose its own future.

Freedom is the foundation of our democracy and our prosperity. And it is the foundation of the Europe we have built with such effort since the end of the Cold War: a continent where every country remains free to make its own choices. NATO will continue to stand up for our freedom and our security.

Thank you.