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.
Moderator: Your Excellency, thank you very much for your opening remarks, we appreciate that. And let me, from your permission to start our Q&A session, and from your permission I would like the . . . start. I will ask you the first question, if you don’t mind, sir. We have a lot of conversation in our Ukrainian society about membership to NATO. And the most common question for us is: your view, what is your view on our perspective on membership to NATO and what are the most important challenges which we are facing, from your perspective, on the way?
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: My view on the question of Ukrainian membership is NATO . . . is the same as the NATO view, and that is that we made that we made decision in Bucharest at a NATO summit back in 2008. And I remember very well, because I was there as the Norwegian Prime Minister, participating in that NATO summit in Bucharest in 2008. And there we decided that Ukraine will become a member of NATO. And this decision still stands. We have reiterated that decision many times. At the same time, the main focus now is on reforms, is on how can we help you, support you, in meeting the NATO standards, strengthening your defence and security institutions, improving what we call interoperability – so, meaning the ability for your forces to work together with our forces. And the fact that we are exercising more together, that we are working more together, that NATO participates in this academy, providing support to this academy, teaching English. All of that is part of moving you forward towards membership of the NATO Alliance. So that’s the first thing I will say.
The focus on reform is the best way to move towards membership. The second thing I would say about Ukrainian membership of NATO is that, that’s the decision, that is a decision for Ukraine and the 29 existing members of the Alliance to take. No one else has the right to interfere in such a decision. Because sometimes we get the impression that whether Ukraine should be a member of NATO or not is for Russia to decide. Russia don’t have a say. They . . . they should not have any, what should I say, they don’t have, what should I say, legal and real platform to have any influence over such a decision, because it is enshrined in documents which also Russia has signed to – for instance, the Helsinki Final Act and many other documents – that it’s . . . it’s for each and every nation to decide their own path. So every nation has the right to decide what kind of security arrangements they would like to be part of, or not be part of.
So it’s up to Ukraine to decide whether they want to aspire for membership, whether you want to apply for membership, and then it’s for the 29 members, soon to be 30, with North Macedonia, to decide whether you meet the NATO standards and can become a member. No other country in the world has any right to try to deny Ukraine that right. So, so therefore, I am encouraged by the commitment, the will, the strength in your efforts to modernise, to . . . to improve your society, to implement reforms. That’s good for Ukraine, regardless of membership, but it’s also important because that’s the best way to move towards membership of the NATO Alliance. This is a very long answer to a very short question. But I would add one more thing, and that is that NATO’s door remains open. We have proven that. Just since over the last two years we have also in 2017, Montenegro became a member of NATO and North Macedonia will become a member within months.
Moderator: Thank you, sir, it’s absolutely comprehensive answer for that question. And I would like to give opportunity, our cadets, and here in the audience, to other questions. So yeah, I see on the left side, please.
Question: Cadet of Odesa Military Academy. Sir, I’ve got such a question: don’t you think that the process of making decisions during the NATO conversations is going for too long, which is making impossible to react quickly on modern dangers which are creating by the NATO opponents, as the Russian Federation, actually.
Jens Stoltenberg: NATO is an Alliance based on consensus, so sometimes . . . meaning that all Allies, all 29 Allies, have to agree when we make decisions. You cannot have majority vote by voting down the minority. So if NATO’s going to make a decision, for instance, on enlargement, or a new mission in Afghanistan or somewhere else, we need all 29 Allies to agree. The good thing with that is that also small nations – and all nations have the same vote, the same mandate and the same power within the Alliance. So, for instance, I myself come from a small NATO Ally, Norway. We have the same seat, the same vote as a big NATO Ally, the United States, France or Germany, United Kingdom or some other big nations. So that’s the good thing.
Of course, the challenge, the problem is that sometimes it’s quite difficult to get 29 Allies to agree. And I can be honest with you that being Secretary General, sometimes it is a bit frustrating that I have . . . I don’t . . . it’s not enough to have a majority, but I need all 29 to agree. But I think that’s the only way, because that’s the only way we can have people agreeing to really defending and protecting each other is that we all need to be together and decide and . . . and agree when we make decisions about war, peace, conflict, the use of military force. Then your question was about whether that makes it impossible for us to act quickly.
Well, first of all, I think that we have . . . we have proven before that we can act quickly when needed. For instance, when we, for the first and only time in our history, invoked our Article 5, the collective defence clause, saying that if one Ally is attacked that is regarded as an attack against all. One for all, all for one. When the US was attacked by a terrorist attack, 9/11, 2001, in less than . . . less than 24 hours, we agreed that we were going to invoke Article 5 and that all Allies came to assistance and support of the United States. We also, in a couple of days, were able to agree and make decisions, for instance, related to the air operations over Libya back in 2011.
And we also have to know that as soon as we make decisions to activate NATO plans, we also have pre-agreement or pre-designed plans on how to implement, for instance, military operations and SACEUR and our commanders have a mandate which they can use if there is a need. The last thing I will say is, of course, that, if there is a need, we can convene the decision-making bodies in NATO immediately and . . . and what we have seen is that where needed, we’re able to make decisions very quickly to stand up for our values and our collective defence.
Moderator: Thank you very much. And the next question. Here also left side. Yes, please.
Question: Sir, being born in Luhansk, it’s a city at the east which occupied for now. I would like to ask: what’s the exit of this situation? You as more experienced politician see what you can say about this, how we can deal with this situation, because for five years my parents are still living here and I . . . I don’t see any movements, some changes. So what is the exit from your point of view?
Jens Stoltenberg: First of all, I would like to say that we fully understand and we stand in solidarity with Ukraine because of the aggressive actions of Russia against Ukraine, annexing Crimea and destabilising eastern Ukraine, Luhansk. And we know that, and therefore, we call on Russia to withdraw all their forces, to . . . to stop destabilising Luhansk and the rest of eastern Ukraine. And . . . and the reason why we have also stepped up and established a very close and strong partnership between Ukraine and NATO is exactly because of the Russia . . . Russia’s aggressive actions against Ukraine and eastern Ukraine. So . . . so, when we provide strong political support, practical support, NATO Allies provide training for Ukrainian forces, we help you to . . . with command and control, logistics, cyber – that’s exactly what we do to help you deal with the untenable and very difficult situation we see Luhansk and in the rest of eastern Ukraine.
So we support you in trying to deal with that. Second, I strongly believe that the only way to find a sustainable and good solution to the crisis in eastern Ukraine is a political solution. And therefore, we strongly support the Minsk agreements. We think that the Minsk agreements still are the best platform for a solution, but they have to be fully implemented. And the problem with the Minsk agreements is not, in a way, the agreements, but it’s the lack of implementation, meaning we need to continue to call for ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons and full access for international monitors, the OSCE monitors, so they can make sure that the agreement is implemented on the ground. Then, having said all that, I understand that people living in Luhansk, and people in Ukraine in general, are frustrated because we have been talking about this for years. There are many years since . . . since the Minsk agreements were signed.
And I understand that . . . that you feel that this is taking too much time. If there’s any comfort, I can just tell you that sometimes, when it seems very dark and very, what should I say, when it looks like there is almost zero progress, suddenly there can be a new momentum and things can really start to change. It’s a very different, different situation, but, you know, people growing up in Europe during the Cold War, they thought that the Cold War, that the vision of Europe was going to be there forever, and that the Berlin Wall was going to be there forever. And then in a question of months, the world changed. The Berlin Wall came down. The Cold War ended. And the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact was dissolved. So in a question of a few months, some happened . . . some . . . something happened that no one was able to predict.
So, yes, I understand that you would like to see progress. I understand that you are impatient because there has been so little progress. But if we look at the history, it can seem as a kind of very protracted conflict, and then suddenly we are able to create the momentum where change happens. We have seen that before in Europe. We have seen that before other places in the world. And we need to just continue to keep up the pressure, to stand in solidarity with Ukraine. You have to modernise. We have to support you. And then at some stage, I’m certain that the occupation of Luhansk and Donbass will end.
Moderator: Thank you very much. And next question? Okay, to right side. Yeah, you.
Question: Naval cadet [inaudible]. Which NATO member . . . which NATO member nation can be a good example for Ukraine’s transformation process to NATO’s membership? What are the most important changes happen on the way? Thank you.
Jens Stoltenberg: It’s very difficult to point at one specific NATO member that can be kind of inspiration or a model for Ukraine, because every nation is different, every nation has their own unique history and every nation has their own unique, what should I say, starting point when they move towards NATO membership. Having said that, I think that it has to be for some inspiration for Ukraine, that countries which we thought, not so many decades ago, it was absolutely impossible they were going to be members of NATO, now are members of NATO.
So when . . . when I was young, you know, for me to just imagine that Poland was going to be a member of NATO, that was absolutely unthinkable. Poland was the . . . I mean, Warsaw was the country where the Warsaw Pact was established. So . . . so to have Warsaw being the capital in a NATO country, it was something that was absolutely out of question. And then again, things changed, and now Warsaw is a committed strong . . . Poland is a committed and strong member of NATO. And I remember we had a . . . we had a NATO summit in Warsaw in 2016. And then we had a NATO meeting in the same room, in the Presidential Palace, where the Warsaw Pact was signed. So . . . so I think that that’s a kind of inspiration for you. Second, I think that, the Warsaw Pact comes was an alliance of eight countries. Seven of those eight countries are now members of NATO: Poland, Hungary, Czech . . . both Czech and . . . the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and . . . and so on. But then three . . . and the eight countries, so, the Soviet Union doesn’t exist anymore, and three Republics in the Soviet Union, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, former Soviet Republics are now members of NATO.
So, if anything, I think the fact that you have also been a Republic or a part of the Soviet Union, then I think it’s some kind of inspiration for you to see that the former Republics in the Soviet Union are now full, committed, highly-valued members of NATO. So it is possible. It has happened before and it can happen again. If there is anything to learn from these countries, then it is that they have really modernised. They have really changed. They have modernised, their governance, their public sector. They have been fighting corruption. They have . . . they have built truly democratic institutions. And the more you are able to do that, the better for the people of Ukraine and also the best tool to move towards full membership.
Moderator: Thank you very much. Next question, here.
Question: Naval cadet [inaudible]. What does Ukraine need to do to defend its sovereignty and interests at sea?
Jens Stoltenberg: It needs you. Meaning that it needs excellent cadets and naval officers and a navy that can defend the Ukrainian interests at sea. And that’s also the reason why I think that this Naval Academy is so important. And what you are doing here, studying, training, is so important for you as individuals, but also for Ukraine, because you are the future of the Ukrainian Navy. Then, of course, working together with partners, as . . . as you do with NATO Allies in the partnership with . . . with NATO is also helping and supporting you. But you also support us. This is a two-way street. And the fact that we are more . . . have more exercises, that we share more information, that we work more closely together is also important for Ukraine, but also for NATO.
Moderator: Thank you. So, like . . . from the first row here. Yeah, yes. Lady in the red sweater, please, yeah.
Question: Instructor of the Navy Institute, Elizabeth [inaudible]. So, since you started talking about the personnel, today, the Western world talks a lot about the gender equality problem. How is this issue resolved by NATO and the Alliance countries? And could you give some advice on how Ukraine can implement NATO experience? Thank you.
Jens Stoltenberg: Of course, the armed forces, the navy, the army, the air forces, they have, in all NATO Allied countries, and in Ukraine, always been, or traditionally been, totally male-dominated. But as the technology changed, as the societies change, there is less and less reason for that. And, therefore, we also see some encouraging signs that . . . and, of course, it varies between NATO Allies, but more and more women are also now being an integral part, an important part of our armed forces. I think that’s important for equal rights, but it’s also extremely important for the armed forces. Because if you can recruit from not only 50 per cent of the population but from a 100 per cent of population, you get a much better force.
So it is in the interest of our armed forces, the Ukrainian armed forces, the . . . the Norwegian armed forces, the . . . the NATO forces that we are able to recruit both men and women. So we often say in NATO that equal rights for women and men is both the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do. And that’s about, partly, to overcome prejudice, to . . . to change attitudes. And that’s partly about speaking about the importance, just showing role models and showing that women can be as important in . . . at any level in the armed forces, political, military, as . . . as men. And when I was Prime Minister of Norway, we actually introduced conscription for women. That was extremely controversial in the beginning. Now it’s totally accepted by everyone. And that’s a good thing for the armed forces, because then they get a lot of smart women working in the Norwegian armed forces. So, changing the attitudes, fighting prejudice and developing role models, I think is at least some of the things you can do to try to strengthen the role of women in your armed forces. The smart thing to do and the right thing to do.
Moderator: Thank you. Next question is, we’ll go to this side. Yes.
Question: Cadet of Naval College. What do NATO countries motivate people to join the army and make them be dedicated to this profession? Thank you.
Jens Stoltenberg: Again, of course, it varies. But the message is that the service has to be meaningful. I think it is absolutely possible to convince young people to join the navy and join the army, as long as we can make sure that what they learn when they train, they learn and train on something which is meaningful. So to organise their education, to organise their training, to organise their service in a good way, with modern equipment, good teaching methods, I think is the most important thing we can do to motivate young people to join. And then, as you know better than I, modern navies, it’s very much about competence, technology. So it also requires, or it requires skills and competence, which is highly valued also in the civilian society. And that makes it even more important for the armed forces and the navy to be competitive when it comes to the way you organise the services.
Moderator: Thank you. And unfortunately, our time is about to finish and we have a time just to one question. So the last row in the green, yeah, the green camouflage.
Question: Cadet of Odesa Military Academy [inaudible], so how do you think the development of technologies and military warfare will impact future military capabilities?
Jens Stoltenberg: I think we have to understand that the changing . . . changing and disruptive technologies we are seeing being developed now, they are changing warfare as fundamentally as the Industrial Revolution did in the 18th and 19th century. And I think it’s hard to grasp how important this is, because artificial intelligence, autonomous weapon systems, bio-engineering or biotech, and the combination of these different technologies, and also cyber, has the potential of totally changing the nature of warfare. And that’s extremely challenging, especially because we don’t have so many standards, international standards, rules, norms, for how to deal with that.
And also because we see great challenges from countries in the world which are not NATO, or NATO partners. NATO has always had a technological edge. Our . . . our defence, our armies, our navies, our . . . our defence industry has always been technologically advanced. Precision-guided ammunition, command and control, all of that has been areas where NATO has been, by far, the most advanced defence forces in the world. Now we see, for instance, the rise of China. They are leading in artificial intelligence. They collect much more data for developing . . . for developing artificial intelligence than any other country in the world. And we see new hypersonic missiles, or hypersonic glides, we see underwater drones, we see autonomous systems, systems that can operate without any decision from human beings. So this is really, really changing the nature of warfare.
And for NATO and for NATO partners, as Ukraine, this means at least two things. We need to invest in new technologies to keep the technological edge. And second, we need to look into how we can develop norms, standards, in some areas, also arms control arrangements, so we make sure that this is a development which is controlled as much as possible. So for me, this is just an argument for working together, NATO Allies and partners, because the challenge is so huge, so it can only be addressed if we stand together and work together as Allies and partners. Thank you so much for hosting me. It was great to be here and I’m really impressed by the questions and by this academy, and I wish you all the best. I’m looking forward to seeing you being the leaders of the future Ukrainian Navy, and I’m looking forward to working with you in the future in different NATO missions and operations. So thank you so much.
Moderator: Sir, thank you very much for you time, for your comprehensive answers, and I’m absolutely delighted and have an honour to give the floor to the Ministry of . . . the Minister of Defence of Ukraine, Mr Andriy Zagorodniuk.