by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg during the panel discussion, Restoring Security and Peace, at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum

  • 18 Jan. 2023 -
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  • Last updated: 20 Jan. 2023 08:37

(As delivered)

Fareed Zakaria (Moderator)
Mr. Secretary General, you heard the President of Ukraine say he would like to be a member of NATO. Will you let him in?

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General
NATO's position remains unchanged, and that is that Ukraine will become a member of NATO. Then, of course, the main focus now is to support Ukraine, to ensure that Ukraine wins the war and prevails as a sovereign, independent democratic nation in Europe. And that's the reason why NATO Allies, partners, are providing unprecedented military support to Ukraine and why I'm traveling around NATO capitals and calling on them to do even more, and why I welcome the recent announcement on more armour, more advanced air defence systems. Most recently by Canada with 200 armoured vehicles and, also Poland, delivering more weapons and of course, the US leading all these efforts in this what we call the Contact Group of this support group for Ukraine.

And as Chrystia (Freeland) just said, it is extremely important that President Putin doesn't win this war, partly because it will be a tragedy for the Ukrainians, but it will be very dangerous for all of us. Because then the message to authoritarian leaders, not only to Putin but also other authoritarian leaders, is that when they use brutal force, when they violate international law, they achieve what they want. And that will be a very bad and dangerous lessons. It will make the world more dangerous and us more vulnerable. And that's the reason why if we want a negotiated peaceful solution to the war in Ukraine, we need to provide military support to Ukraine. That's the only way.

Weapons they are the way to peace. And that may sound like a paradox, but the only way to have a negotiated agreement is to convince President Putin that they will not win on the battlefield. He has to sit down and negotiate. Nobody knows how this war will end. Most likely it will end around the negotiating table. What we do know is that what happens around that negotiating table is totally dependent on the strength on the battlefield. And if we want Ukraine to prevail, and they need the military strength.

Then let me add one more thing. And that is that we are all encouraged, inspired. We admire that the Ukrainian people, the Ukrainian political leadership, the Ukrainian Armed Forces. At the same time, I think it's very dangerous to underestimate Russia. They have mobilized 200,000 more troops. President Putin has demonstrated a will to just sacrifice thousands and thousands of young Russian soldiers. They are now acquiring more and more weapons reaching out to other authoritarian regimes, including Iran and they are planning new offensives. So it is, as President Zelenskyy said, there is an urgent need. Time matters. We will meet in Ramstein, NATO Allies in the US led Contact Group for Ukraine with all the many partners and the main message there will be more support and more advanced support, heavier weapons, and more modern weapons. Because this is a fight for our values is a fight for democracy and we just have to prove that democracy wins over tyranny and oppression.

Fareed Zakaria (Moderator)
Secretary General, can you give us an update on where things stand with Sweden and Finland's accession to NATO? It does appear from the outside that the Turks are simply blackmailing NATO or Sweden in particular. It feels like a bargain where they, you know, they keep asking for more until they get, because they know at the end of the day, they have leverage right now. It feels inappropriate for NATO to have to behave like this. It looks more like a bazar.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General
I'm confident that Türkiye will finalize the accession process for Finland and Sweden. I cannot tell you when. But I'm confident for several reasons. First of all, Türkiye was one of the NATO Allies that at our summit in Madrid in July last year, actually decided to invite Finland and Sweden to become members of the Alliance and all NATO Allies, also Türkiye, a few days after, signed the accession protocols. And so far 28 out of NATO’s 30 Allies have already ratified. This is the quickest, fastest accession process in NATO’s modern history. Normally accession into NATO takes years. It's less than a year since Finland and Sweden applied. They applied in May. They were invited in July, and already 28 out of 30 have ratified.

We need to understand where we started. Weeks or a couple of months before the invasion of Ukraine, President Putin proposed a security treaty with NATO, where he actually outlined some key demands. One was that NATO should guarantee no more NATO members, no further enlargement of NATO. The other main demand was to remove all NATO forces infrastructure in all Allies that have joined after 1997, meaning the whole eastern part of the Alliance. Of course, we did reject those demands. But it demonstrates that the purpose, the aim of President Putin is to get less NATO, is getting exactly the opposite.

Hours after the invasion, we significantly increased the number of NATO troops in the eastern part of the Alliance, including in Poland, to send a very clear message to Moscow that there is no room for misunderstanding about NATO's readiness, ability, commitment to protect and defend all NATO Allies. And that is to prevent escalation, because it's extremely bad what's going on in Ukraine now. But of course, if this escalates to a full-fledged war between Russia and NATO, it becomes even worse. So the increased military presence in the eastern part of the Alliance, is not to provoke a conflict but to prevent a conflict, preserve peace, send a clear message of deterrence to Moscow. That is more NATO is getting more NATO on Putin's border.

The other thing is that Finland and Sweden applied because of the threats he conveyed. They actually realized that door was going to, they were afraid that the door to NATO was closing so they asked to get in. And they will become members. And the last thing I'll say on this is that Finland and Sweden are in a very different place now than before they applied, because since they applied, several Allies, including United States have issued bilateral security assurances, and NATO has increased its presence in that part of Europe. Finland and Sweden, are now as invitees, participating in NATO's political meetings, consultations, and are more and more integrated into our military structures. So it's absolutely inconceivable that it will be a military threat against Finland or Sweden without NATO reacting. So President Putin wanted less NATO, he is getting more NATO. And that's an important message.

Fareed Zakaria (Moderator)
Let me make sure we get we get this clear because this is very important because there is a window, an awkward period or a dangerous period. If Russia were to attack Finland or Sweden tomorrow, even though they are not NATO members, NATO would come to the assistance of those two countries?

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General
What I'm saying is that it's inconceivable that we will not react. I mean, they are now not only close partners, they are invitees. They're integrated in our into our military structures, and we have bilateral security assurances from several Allies. So we need to react, Moscow knows that, and they also know that they have now devoted most of the troops to Ukraine. So actually, the likelihood for a military attack is, is very little, partly because they're so close to NATO and partly because they are now spending so much of, the Russia is spending so much of their forces in the Ukraine.

The last thing I'll say on Türkiye is that Türkiye has some legitimate security concerns. No other NATO Ally has suffered more terrorists attacks than Türkiye. PKK is regarded as a terrorist organization by NATO Allies. By Finland and Sweden long before they applied. And therefore part of the agreement in Madrid was also to sign the joint memorandum between Türkiye, Finland and Sweden to step up cooperation. For instance, lift all restrictions on arms exports, Finland and Sweden have done that already. And to work more closely in fighting terrorism. And that's actually something which is important for Türkiye but also for NATO Allies.