by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to cadets at the Maritime Academy in Odesa
Thank you for that kind introduction Commander.
And Ministers, Admiral, Ladies and Gentlemen, and Cadets,
It is a really a great pleasure and honour to be here today.
And I am joined by the 29 Ambassadors of NATO’s North Atlantic Council.
And also joined by the representative of North Macedonia, soon to be our 30th member. Each ambassador representing their home nation. And every one of those nations standing with Ukraine.
And it is really a pleasure to be in this historic city, the capital of the Ukrainian navy. Earlier today we visited 4 NATO ships on the harbour and I think they demonstrate a strong support of NATO to Ukraine, to your sovereignty and your territorial integrity.
This Maritime Academy can trace its history back 75 years. NATO is not far behind. This year we are celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the NATO Alliance.
NATO is a powerful idea.
For like-minded nations that share the same values and interests, to stand together in solidarity and friendship.
And, should the need arise, to defend and protect each other on the field of battle.
This commitment kept Allies free and safe during the Cold War, when NATO and Ukraine found themselves on opposite sides. But, thirty years ago next month, the Berlin Wall fell. And change spread throughout Europe. Dictatorships fell and democracy spread. Freedom prevailed over oppression. These shared values have enabled us to develop deep partnerships with our friends around the world. Friends like Ukraine. To work together and to support each other.
That is why, no matter how difficult the challenge, no matter how grave the threat, I am confident. That by standing together – friends and partners – we can overcome any challenge.
It is now more than five years since Russia illegally annexed Crimea. An integral part of Ukraine. Russia undermined the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. And it undermined decades of work to bring peace and stability to Europe. NATO will never recognise Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea. All NATO Allies, from Europe and North America, are united in their condemnation of Russia’s actions. We call on Russia to end its support for the militants in the Donbas. Its cyber-attacks and disinformation campaigns. It must withdraw its troops and its forces from eastern Ukraine. And allow OSCE monitors full and unhindered access to the whole of Ukraine. I welcome the release of the captured sailors from the three ships of the Ukrainian navy. They showed great courage and determination in a very difficult situation. Demonstrating the true Ukrainian spirit. Their release is a step in the right direction. But Russia must release all Ukrainian citizens. Return the captured vessels. Allow freedom of navigation. Ensure free access to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov in compliance with its international commitments. And the Minsk agreements must be implemented in full by all parties. The conflict in the east has caused more than a million people to flee their homes. And more than 13,000 Ukrainians have been killed. And the toll continues to rise. This suffering must stop.
So I welcome President Zelenskyy’s commitment to a peaceful resolution of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. NATO will continue to support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
NATO and Ukraine have been close partners for many years. And in the past five years, our partnership has only become closer.
NATO supports Ukraine’s efforts to reform its defence institutions and its armed forces.
Our Comprehensive Assistance Package for Ukraine covers a wide range of different activities.
- To strengthen democratic control of the armed forces.
- Improve command and control within the military.
- Eradicate corruption in the security and defense sector and ensure good governance.
- Combat the constant barrage of cyber-attacks.
- Increase military education and training.
- And encourage the adoption of NATO standards – where this Academy plays a leading role.
We have also increased our support in the Black Sea, including cooperation with your navy. With greater information sharing, port visits and exercises.
I’ve just had the privilege of being shown around your Academy, and of meeting some of you. I was very impressed by the level of cooperation between NATO and Ukraine. By your state-of-the-art equipment, including the Dangerous Water Simulator. As well as the other more traditional facilities so essential to learning the art of being a modern sailor.
NATO provides essential support, as requested by the government of Ukraine. And in the last few years, the structure of the Academy has been enhanced. Leadership is now taught as a separate subject, supported by the US Naval Academy. Poland, Bulgaria and the United States are helping to create a logistics curriculum. There is a new emphasis on English language training for instructors. And there are now practical internships available aboard Allied ships. NATO is proud to support Ukraine. And we are proud to support this Academy.
But our partnership is not a one way street. Ukraine is a strong nation, committed to peace and stability around the world. Despite the difficulties Ukraine is experiencing at home, it makes a valuable contribution to NATO missions and operations abroad. Taking part in our training mission in Afghanistan. Deploying a heavy engineering unit to Kosovo. Contributing to the NATO Response Force. And preparing to contribute to NATO’s training mission in Iraq. In the future, many of you may find yourselves taking part in NATO missions. Your skills, expertise and courage will be a valuable contribution to international peace and security.
Your time at the Odesa Maritime Academy is precious. The lessons you learn, the skills you acquire, and the friends you make will last throughout your lifetime. In the Ukrainian navy and abroad.
You are the future of this navy. You are the next generation of Ukrainian leaders. And you are also citizens of a free and democratic Ukraine. It is your right, and your responsibility, to shape the future of your country.
So study hard, train well and be proud standard bearers for freedom and democracy.
Thank you so much for your attention.