by Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană at the European Air and Missile Defence Conference at the Paris Air Show

  • 19 Jun. 2023 -
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  • Mis à jour le: 20 Jun. 2023 11:02

(As delivered)

Merci Général Autellet, cher Eric, merci pour votre accueil. Et je remercie vivement les autorités françaises, et plus particulièrement Monsieur le Ministre des Armées, Sébastien Lecornu, de m’avoir invité à ce Salon International de l'Aéronautique et de l'Espace – le «Paris Air Show ». C’est ma toute première visite ici, et c’une grande fierté pour moi que de participer à cet événement de renommée mondiale.

C’est également un honneur de pouvoir me joindre à vous pour cette conférence annoncée par le Président Macron, sur un sujet particulièrement critique, comme le montre le contexte dangereux et incertain auquel nous faisons face.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are at a critical time for Europe, and more broadly for the Euro-Atlantic area. Geostrategic competition and rising threats are putting our security at stake across multiple domains. On land, at sea, in cyber space, but also critically in the air and space domains.

NATO continues to adapt to this increasingly dangerous world. We are taking and implementing important decisions to keep our one billion people safe.

One of them is to further strengthen our deterrence and defence. As discussed by NATO Defence Ministers last week at the NATO Headquarters.

We are certainly not starting from scratch. Since 2014, the year Russia illegally annexed Crimea and attacked eastern Ukraine, NATO has carried out the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence since the Cold War.

From lighter, mobile forces, to large and heavier battle formations. From low readiness, to high readiness. We transformed our Command and Control structures, increased the size of our exercises, deployed more than 40.000 troops to the Eastern Flank, and accelerated our efforts to tackle emerging and disruptive technologies. Our hosts, France, have largely contributed to this effort by maintaining a set of high-end capabilities and deploying some of them rapidly to the Eastern Flank.

And not least, we went from declining defence budgets, to rising defence budgets. At NATO, we define how much we should spend on defence. And we should spend more.

So the reinforcement of our collective defence is a massive investment in time, money and effort. And it has already paid off. When the war came last year, we were prepared. Both to support Ukraine, but also to strengthen our own deterrence.

Now we must not rest on our laurels. And we aren’t.

That is why at the NATO Summit in Vilnius next month, we will continue to bolster the credibility of our deterrence and defence in Europe and in the Euro-Atlantic area.

At NATO, we decide what we spend that money on. Through the specific capability targets for each Ally. Agreed by all Ministers.

Further developing air and missile defence in Europe is a crucial part of this effort. This is what bring us all here today. And the war in Ukraine is a daily reminder. Indeed, we are seeing how Russia is using massive and indiscriminate air and missile strikes against civilian populations and infrastructure in Ukraine.

In Vilnius, NATO leaders will agree on a new package of detailed plans for the defence of Europe. These are defence plans of all allied countries. They set precise requirements for what forces are required and what capabilities individual allies must provide.

Amongst our top priorities are integrated air and missile defence capabilities and deep precision strike capabilities. Integrated Air and Missile Defence will allow us to maintain air superiority in a conflict and better protect our forces, people and critical infrastructure. Deep Precision Strike will offer us offensive options for the defence of Allies and complicate our adversaries’ military planning and operations.

NATO, through the NATO Defence Planning process, sets the targets for the development of the capabilities that Alliance needs. Now, it is urgent and essential that all Allies fully implement their capability targets so that we can deal with the wide range of challenges we face.  France is setting the right example on this matter by delivering a wide range of capabilities, including heavy high-end ones, in time and at scale.

The framework to develop these capabilities is entirely up to individual nations of course. But allow me to underscore that our forces must be interoperable. We must fully take into account the standards we have developed together at NATO. They allow us to operate together seamlessly and to remain united in action.

At NATO, we facilitate how we spend the money. The Alliance has tried and tested structures for joint procurement. Allies often turn to our procurement agency, the NSPA for delivery of joint procurement worth billions. And it is also a great platform for NATO-EU cooperation. Secretary General Stoltenberg and Commissaire Thierry Breton were both present at the ceremony hosted by Minister Kajsa Ollongren for the MRTT fleet, in the Netherlands.

As we develop capabilities for the future, we must harness the incredible potential of emerging and disruptive technologies and ensure we maintain our technological edge.

This is why NATO is actively working to accelerate innovation. So that we remain at the forefront of developments in technologies such as artificial intelligence, hypersonics and space technology. There are many initiatives, across individual countries in Europe and North America, to foster innovation. NATO, as an organisation, is playing its part too.

Further to strengthening our complementarity efforts with the EU, we must also take  a deeper look at how we pursue efforts to improve and remove obstacles to industrial defence cooperation across the Alliance, while respecting  sovereign decision-making and national regulations.

We launched a new initiative called the Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic, or DIANA. The idea behind DIANA is to bring together the very best innovators we have on both sides of the Atlantic to help solve critical defence and security challenges. Here I can only welcome France’s very important contribution to DIANA through its various test centres and laboratories. We are innovating together for our collective security. Because security is a shared responsibility.

Industry, and not least the defence industry, shoulders a considerable part of that responsibility.

In the past months, we have all come to realise that our stocks of ammunition are depleted and need to be replenished. We must ramp up production, both to support Ukraine and ensure our own defence. Without this, we run the risk of allowing potential adversaries to outpace us during a conflict.

Last week, NATO hosted a productive discussion between NATO Defence Ministers and a panel of industry officials. NATO can use its unique role to set standards, drive demand and promote delivery to ensure a long-term sustainable defence industrial capacity across the Euro-Atlantic area. This is fully complementary with the development of a strong European defence industry.

Our security does not come for free. The capabilities you will talk about today are expensive. A credible and efficient deterrence and defence is expensive. It requires adequate resources. 

So at the Vilnius Summit, NATO Allies are expected to make a more ambitious commitment to defence investment. With 2% of GDP for defence spending as a floor, not a ceiling. 

Investing in our deterrence and defence is more important than ever. Because we need to keep our people safe in a more dangerous world. And preventing conflict is cheaper than fighting a war.

With this, ladies and gentlemen, let me once again thank France for organising this important event. Air defence is crucial to our deterrence and defence and deserves all our attention.  It as an important element of Joint Air Power -which is also what the Paris Air Show is about.

Général Autellet, chers amis,

Merci beaucoup et je vous souhaite à tous une excellente conférence.