by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the 68th Annual Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NPA)

  • 21 Nov. 2022 -
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  • Last updated: 22 Nov. 2022 19:06

(As delivered)

So good morning,
President Connolly, dear Gerry, it is great to see you again.
Thank you for the warm welcome.
And President Gil and President Batet, thank you for hosting all of us here today.

And good morning honourable members of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. 
Dear friends and colleagues.
[I think I have to wait until it is quiet in the audience…]

It is always a pleasure to address this Assembly.
And it is always a pleasure to be back in Madrid.

The last time I came to Madrid was when we had the magnificent NATO Summit here in June.
I think that both the hosting of the Summit and also the hosting of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly demonstrate the very strong commitment by Spain to our transatlantic Alliance.

At the Madrid Summit, we took some very important decisions at a critical time for our Alliance.
We made bold decisions on a long range of issues.
And let me just mention a few.

We decided to step up support to Ukraine.
Further strengthen our deterrence and defence.
And invite Finland and Sweden to become NATO members.
We also adopted the Madrid Strategic Concept, to adapt the Alliance to a more dangerous and more competitive world. 

So the Summit in Madrid was really a transformative Summit.
And now, as we look ahead to our Summit in Vilnius, in Lithuania, next year, we are implementing the decisions we took in Madrid.

First, on Ukraine. 
President Putin made two big strategic mistakes when he invaded Ukraine in February this year.
He underestimated the Ukrainians’ bravery and will to fight.
And he underestimated the unity and relentless resolve by NATO Allies and Partners to support Ukraine.

He thought he could defeat Ukraine in a matter of days.
Nine months later, Russia continues to face setback after setback.
And the Ukrainians continue to liberate their territory from occupation. Most recently, Kherson.

But it would be a great mistake to underestimate Russia.
It retains significant military capabilities and a high number of troops.
Russia is willing to suffer substantial casualties.
And is willing to inflict horrific suffering on Ukrainian people.
We have seen drone and missiles striking Ukrainian cities, civilians, and critical infrastructure. 

So we must be prepared to support Ukraine for the long haul.
Yes, I know that this support comes with a price.
In our countries, many people face a cost-of-living crisis.
Energy and food bills are rising.
These are tough times for many.

But the price we pay as NATO Allies is measured in money.
While the Ukrainians, they pay a price which is measured in blood.
And if we allow Putin to win, all of us will have to pay a much higher price.
Authoritarian regimes around the world will learn that they can get what they want with brute force.

This would have direct consequences for our security.
It would make the world more dangerous. And us more vulnerable.
That is the reason why we cannot allow President Putin to win in Ukraine.

So we need to stay the course together.
And I count on all of you, as members of parliament, to keep making the case for supporting Ukraine.


Second, deterrence and defence.


We have been strengthening our defences since 2014, in response to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.
We have implemented the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War.
Now we are doing even more. To prevent the conflict in Ukraine from escalating beyond Ukraine.

So we have doubled the number of battlegroups in the eastern part of the Alliance – from four to eight.
Increased our ability to reinforce them up to brigade level.
And we are putting more troops on higher readiness. So they can respond faster wherever and whenever needed.

To do all this, we need to invest more in defence. 
We have already made, as you know, many  significant decisions and we have made, together, a lot of progress.

2022 will be the eighth consecutive year of increased defence spending across Europe and Canada.
By the end of the year, we will have spent well over 350 billion extra US dollars on defence since we made the pledge in 2014 across Europe and Canada.

At the Summit in Vilnius, defence investment will be an important topic.
And I expect Allies to continue making progress. Including with commitments beyond 2024.
Because 2% of GDP on defence should be considered a floor, not a ceiling for our defence investments.

Here again, I continue to count on your support .

Third, resilience.
One of the main messages in the Madrid Strategic Concept is the link between strong defences and strong societies.
The war in Ukraine has exposed some key vulnerabilities.
For too long, we have been dependent on Russian oil and gas to heat our homes and fly our jets.
And we have seen how Russia has weaponised energy and tried to use it to blackmail us.
And to prevent us from supporting Ukraine.

But Putin has not succeeded.
Allies are now diversifying their supplies.
We are moving away from fossil energies and investing in renewable sources. 
This is good for our security.
And it is good for the climate.
But we need to be careful not to create new dependencies. Most notably on China.  

We see growing Chinese efforts to control our critical infrastructure, supply chains and key industrial sectors.
Chinese rare earth minerals are present everywhere. Including in our phones, our cars, and our military equipment.

We cannot give authoritarian regimes any chance to exploit our vulnerabilities and undermine us.
For this, it is essential that we boost the resilience of our societies and our infrastructure.

Resilience is a collective effort, and I count on you all to play your part here too.  

Finally, Finland and Sweden.

In Madrid, all Allies made the historic decision to invite these two countries to join NATO.
We signed the accession protocols.
And now, the ratification process is almost completed.
With twenty-eight out of thirty Allies having already ratified.

In Madrid, in June, Türkiye, Finland and Sweden signed the Trilateral Memorandum.
Finland and Sweden have delivered on their commitments.
They are strong partners in our joint fight against terrorism.

So the time has come to finalise the accession process and to welcome Finland and Sweden as full members of NATO.
It will make our Alliance stronger, and our people safer.

It is also time to step up our cooperation with our partners, near and far.
With those most affected by Russian aggression and coercion.
Like the Republic of Moldova, Georgia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
And with all like-minded countries around the world.
From Latin America to the Middle East, and North Africa to the Indo-Pacific region.

We share security interests and face the same challenges.
We can and should tackle them together.
To defend freedom against oppression.
Democracy against tyranny.
And to uphold the international rules based institutions that benefit all of us.

President Connolly, dear Gerry, I know these values are dear to you.
NATO is dear to you.
And as President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly over the past two years, you have done an extraordinary job to make the transatlantic bond and NATO even stronger.

You and I, we have worked together, and I have enjoyed our excellent relationship.
I thank you for your remarkable leadership of this Assembly.
And I look forward to working with your successor, senator Garriaud-Maylam, to prepare for the Vilnius Summit next July.

So thank you so much for our excellent cooperation.
And, with that, I am actually ready to take your questions.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly: So again, I ask people please to be disciplined and try to frame your question in one minute, so that we can maximize answers. We're going to do as we usually do, take three questions in a row. So the Secretary General can try to answer them also efficiently. So the first three questions are as from Zaida Cantera of Spain, Yehor Cherniev of Ukraine, and Julie Dzerowicz of Canada. Zaida, you go first.

Zaida Cantera, Head of delegation, Spain: Thank you very much. I speak Spanish. [Spanish]

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly: Thank you so much, Zaida. Thank you for staying within the time limit. Yehor.

Solomiia Bobrovska, Holos, Ukraine: Solomiia.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly: Solomiia, all right.

Solomiia Bobrovska, Holos, Ukraine: Mr. Secretary General, this is a question from Ukraine. A very, very simple and clear question and message. Don't you think that’s the high time to denounce the Founding Act on mutual relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation, which was signed in Paris in 1997? I think we face totally 150% new reality. And this Founding Act can no more be valid since even 2014. How we will face the new Russia, how NATO will face the new Russia, after finally, it will be defeated. Thank you.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly: Thank you, Solomiia. And finally, for this set. Julie.

Julie Dzerowicz, Head of delegation and NATO PA VP, Canada: Thank you so much, Mr. President and Secretary General, I want to say a huge thanks to you for your extraordinary leadership during these unprecedented and troubling times. It was our honor, to welcome you to visit the Canadian Arctic earlier this year. It's the first time a Secretary General of NATO has ever done so. Can you speak to the next steps for NATO in strengthening Euro-Atlantic security in the Arctic?

And the second question I'd like to ask is, the warfare of the 21st century is increasingly very different than the past with the increase in the acceleration of cyberattacks, interference in our elections and democracy, misinformation, disinformation, and foreign actors in our country, threatening our citizens on our own soil. So I'm talking about these Chinese [inaudible] that are setting themselves up in countries like the UK and Canada and others. What are your thoughts on how prepared NATO is to address this new warfare? Thank you.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly: Thank you, Julie. Mr. Secretary General.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Thank you so much, first to the question from Spain about the situation in Ukraine and also the possibility for negotiations. As a first of all, the only answer to your concerns is to ensure that NATO Allies are stepping up and providing more support because yes, you're absolutely right, winter is coming. And Russia continues to attack, to use drones and missiles to attack critical infrastructure. And we should not underestimate the capabilities of Russia also to continue the war. So for me, that should only motivate even more support.

I welcome the recent announcement by Spain to step up support to Ukraine, including with air defence systems, Hawk batteries, but also other types of support. And also many other NATO Allies, and partners around the world have recently made additional announcements and including NATO is stepping up what we also do when it comes to winter clothing and fuel, and other things, tents, and other types of supplies that will enable the Ukrainians to also operate throughout the winter.

Then on negotiations. Of course, we all want this war to end. But we need to remember what this is. This is a war of aggression, where one country, Russia, has invaded a neighbor, Ukraine. And therefore, it matters how those negotiations are conducted. And we need to realize that this war most likely will end at some stage at the negotiating table. But we also know that the outcome of those negotiations are totally dependent on the strength on the battlefield. So if we want an outcome, which is acceptable for Ukraine, an outcome that ensures that Ukraine can prevail as a sovereign, independent democratic nation in Europe, the best way of achieving that is the broad military support Ukraine. So if we want to if we want an acceptable peaceful political solution, we need to provide support to Ukraine.

Because as we all know, if President Putin stops fighting, then we will have peace. If President Zelensky and Ukrainians stop fighting, then Ukraine will cease to exist as independent democratic nation in Europe. So yes, we want negotiations, but we also want an outcome that ensures a sovereign, independent Ukraine and ensures that the brutal use of force is not rewarded.

Then, then the question from Ukraine. We have to understand what has happened. It is correct that for many years NATO strived for a better and constructive relationship with Russia. We established the NATO-Russia Council, the Founding Act. And in the Strategic Concept we agreed in Lisbon in 2010, the Strategic Concept that was actually valid until Madrid June this year, we referred to Russia as a strategic partner. That has totally changed. In the Strategic Concept we agreed in Madrid in June, we refer to Russia not as a strategic partner, but we refer to Russia as the most imminent threat against NATO Allies.

And that's also reason why we have invested so much in our collective defence and why NATO Allies have provided unprecedented military support to Ukraine. Russia has walked away from the initiatives, the structures that we established to develop a more constructive relationship with Russia, and to have a meaningful dialogue with Russia. So as long as Russia continues to behave in the way they behave now, and especially against Ukraine, there is no way we can have a meaningful dialogue with Russia.

Then on Canada. Yes, you're right, I had the privilege, the honour of being the first secretary general of NATO visiting the Canadian High North. That was, for me, an important visit because I was able to see firsthand how the High North is important, of course, for Canada, North America, but also for the whole Alliance, the shortest way for Russian missiles to hit the North American continent is not only Atlantic, but over the North Pole, over the High North.

So the cooperation between North America, between or the United States and Canada, up in NORAD, where I was able to see some of the sights that are critical for the for the defence of North America, and therefore also for the whole NATO Alliance. The High North has become more and more important, partly because Russia has significantly increased their military presence, reopened old Soviet-era bases infrastructure, deployed more submarines, more advanced nuclear weapons. And also because we know that the High North, the North Atlantic, that is about the vital link between North America and Europe. And NATO is about that link.

So to protect the High North, to have a presence in the High North, is absolutely essential for the whole Alliance. The last thing I will say is that NATO, of course, has presence in the High North. Seven out of eight Arctic countries of the eight members of the Arctic Council, are NATO members or soon-to-become NATO members, Finland and Sweden. So NATO is also of course, an Arctic Alliance.

You had one more question. That was China. Well, as I said, resilience, the protection of our societies, our infrastructure, is now very high on the NATO agenda. And again, the Madrid summit reflects a huge change in the previous Strategic Concept. China was not mentioned with a single word. In the current strategic concept, the challenges that China poses to our security, to our values to our interest, is addressed. And part of that also is to be aware of how China's coming closer and trying also to control critical parts of our societies.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly: Thank you, Mr. Secretary General. The next three questions are Mike Turner from the United States. Osman Bak from Türkiye, and Mimi Kodheli from Albania. Mike.

Michael R. Turner, House of Representatives, USA: Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. Secretary General, thank you. You have been a strong, unwavering and unambiguous voice on the issue of Ukraine. I appreciate the fact that you have been that international strength. My question to you is about the Strategic Concept. In addition to Russia's aggression against Ukraine, their nuclear blackmail, they're threatening the capitals of NATO nations. It needs to be, I think, an additional focus on paragraph 21 in our in the Strategic Concept, missile defence is raised.

As you know, NATO unfortunately, and NATO Allies individually as a policy, have not aggressively pursued missile defence because they saw it as provocative. Now, obviously, it is almost a defence malpractice not to pursue missile defence. Israel has proven that it is both cost effective and works [inaudible] de-escalatory. I wondered if you’d talk for a minute about the need for NATO and NATO Allies to pursue missile defence. Thank you.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly: Thank you, Mike. Osman.

Osman Bak, Head of delegation and former VP, Türkiye: Thank you very much. Dear Mr. Secretary General. The grain deal was. I'm here. The grain deal was recently renewed in Istanbul for a further 120 days, although Russia had threatened to withdraw from the agreement. Finally, the Russian blockade on Ukraine ports remains removed, allowing safe passage to grain ships to work markets. The renewal of the grain deal is clearly a diplomatic success. Exchange of prisoners of war in Istanbul was another important [inaudible]. I would like to know your comments on the implications of these steps for the future, and what steps we should take to avoid a  food crisis and secure the food supply to the world. Thank you.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly: Thank you, Osman. And Mimi.

Mimi Kodheli, Head of Delegation, Albania: Thank you president. Apart of all the military actions that we are having, I think that only through the Parliamentary Assembly, NATO can express its full potential. So we are a community of values, united in our commitment to parliamentary democracies, individual freedoms, human rights and rule of law. It is our obligation to engage, raise awareness and support our governmental and inter-governmental defence and security structures. So I think that by doing so, as our colleague Osman mentioned, military actions, diplomacy, and raise up our Parliamentary Assembly position, do you think it's going to be a better way to afford this Russian aggression and this situation we are all together living in? Thank you.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly: Thank you, Mimi, and I thank all of our six questioners so far for staying within their time limit. Really appreciated. Mr. Secretary General.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Thank you so much. First, the question from Mike Turner on air missile defence. First of all, it's always good to see you. And you're absolutely right that air missile defence has always been important, but is becoming even more important and we see the devastating effects of missiles in Ukraine. NATO has stepped up what we do on our integrated air and missile defence and many of the systems are, you know, both for cruise and for ballistic missiles. And we are investing more and especially many of the fifth generation aircrafts are extremely important as part of an integrated air and missile defence.

Just after the invasion, we have significantly increased our presence in the eastern part of the Alliance, on land at sea and in the air and all these domains or areas where we actually have significant also, air and missile defence capabilities. Both our planes, but also our ships have air missile capabilities, which are extremely valuable now. And we can quickly reinforce if needed with more planes and more ships in particular. And also here in Spain, we have the Rota base where the US Aegis ships are based and they are also as you know, important for missile defence. So I just, I take note to what you say, you are right, we need to do more. And we also need to discuss the design and how we integrate the different NATO capabilities to ensure that we get the maximum air and missile defence out of what we invest in, in our missile and air defence systems.

Then Türkiye, Osman, it's always great to see you. We actually, we met in in Istanbul but also met in Madrid at the summit. And you were in the room when we negotiated the agreement between Finland and Sweden. And you also know that when I visited Istanbul just a couple of weeks ago, I commended Türkiye and president Erdogan for the grain deal which Türkiye facilitated. And that has proven extremely important. And also the extension of the grain deal. Actually, when I was in Istanbul, I saw the ships with grain passing through the Bosphorus. And this is important for the food prices, especially for the poor countries of the world. So the grain deal has proven extremely important and must ensure that it continues. Also, the agreement to have exchange for prisoners of war is something that Türkiye and President Erdogan facilitated, and is of course, also much welcomed by our Allies.

But you also know that my message when I was in Istanbul was exactly the same as my message here today, is that Finland and Sweden have delivered on the trilateral memorandum. So the time has come to finalize the ratification process. And I will continue to convey this message as I also continued to convey to Finland and Sweden that of course, they had to engage in a long term partnership with NATO in general and with Türkiye, in particular, on the fight against terrorism. They've also welcomed the permanent mechanism that has been established as part of the memorandum to ensure that, in particular, Finland and Sweden continue to work closely with Türkiye, also in the future, to fight terrorism because you know, that no other NATO Ally has suffered more terrorist attacks than Türkiye. And we saw the brutal terrorist attack in Istanbul just a few days ago, a stark reminder of the brutality of terrorism and the casualties that inflicts on Allies, but in particular Türkiye.

And then, Albania, Mimi. I think you're absolutely right that values are, of course, the core of this Alliance. And, and we should never forget that. Let me also add that, I think also parliamentarians and you as NATO parliamentarians and parliaments, in general, they are extremely important now. Because we need to ensure that when NATO governments are ready to continue to provide support to Ukraine that they have the support from the parliamentarians and from their voters. There is no way we can stand for long haul, provide support for Ukraine for months and perhaps even years if we don't have the support from you. So you actually play an extremely critical role in ensuring the support from parliaments and from the voters for sustained support from NATO Allies to Ukraine.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly: Thank you, Mr. Secretary General. Our next three questioners are Anne Genetet of France, Luca Frusone of Italy, and Salima Belhaj of Netherlands. And Salima, I want to thank you for a wonderful gift of tulip bulbs from Holland which I will plant this spring. Thank you so much. Anne.

Anne Genetet, Head of delegation, France: Thank you very much Mr. President. [French]

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly: Thank you Anne. Luca.

Luca Frusone, Head of delegation, Italy: Thank you, Mr. President. In the coming months, Russia will be taking advantage of winter, will try to stock up on weapons, especially missiles. The role of sanctions will become even more important in constraining their supply chain. However, we have seen that shortages of semiconductors and raw materials can also affect allied country, especially if we consider China's monopoly on rare-earth, critical materials. You already mentioned that, Secretary General, but there does not seem to be an advanced awareness of this yet. So I wonder how member countries can jointly improve those aspects relating to supply chains and what the role of NATO, which for me is fundamental, can be in all this. Thank you.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly: Thank you, Luca. And Salima.

Salima Belhaj, Head of delegation, the Netherlands: Thank you President. On behalf of the Dutch delegation, I express our solidarity with the Ukranian people in its resistance to Russian aggression. We continue with our support for Ukraine, also in establishment of a special tribunal. We are glad to hear yesterday by the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Mr. Kostin, that the recent verdict of the Netherland court on downing of the MH-17, last week, is of a great importance in holding Russia responsible for the committed crimes, and that these experiences in the MH-17 case will be used.

I would like also to thank NATO, you as the Secretary General and our Allies, especially our friends from Poland and partners for the calm response to the missile incident in a Polish village that killed two people last week. In such situations, its utmost importance is to remain calm, investigate and not unnecessarily escalate the precarious situation or jump into conclusions prematurely. We hope that the Secretary General can tell us how he sees this, but also how he sees in the future. If incidents happens, we can stay calm.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly: Thank you, Salima. Mr. Secretary General.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Thank you so much. First, to France and Anne. Yes, I very much welcome the support from France, but also from other countries to Ukraine, and also welcome, of course, the efforts of the European Union, including through the European peace facility. These are efforts that are complementing what NATO Allies are doing. And together, we are able to provide unprecedented support to Ukraine.

But also, as you alluded to or indicated, NATO Allies and partners and the European Union are not a party to the conflict, what we do is that we support Ukraine's self-defence. Ukraine has the right to defend itself that's enshrined in the UN Charter, and we are helping them to uphold that right. That does not make us party to the conflict. Then, then you asked me about how can we then further strengthen what we do as NATO and the European Union when Finland and Sweden join [NATO]. Well, I think that only makes it even clearer that we have a lot in common.

Because when Finland and Sweden join NATO, then 96%, almost 100% or 96% of the people living in the European Union, they will be living in a NATO country. So of course, it becomes even more obvious that NATO is the core, or the basis for our collective defence for our security, and the need for NATO and the European Union to work even more closely together.

Then, Italy, and Luca, again, let me thank you for what Italy does to provide support to Ukraine. I'm very impressed, actually, about what so many Allies have done over such a long time to provide different types of support. But you asked me about the critical components, the risk of having not safe or not stable or not reliable supply lines or chains of supply. And that's exactly what we now are addressing at NATO, because we have seen so clearly, that we cannot be dependent on, or too dependent on authoritarian regimes when it comes to critical commodities, critical components.

Of course, we will still trade with China, but we need to be aware of the vulnerabilities that too heavy dependence on specific commodities products can create, and that's something which has now been addressed in NATO. We've just convened for the first time in NATO’s history, a meeting of our senior officials on resilience to coordinate this because even if these issues normally are regarded as economic and trade issues, they have direct implications for our security and therefore we need to address them also as a NATO Alliance. I think that not so many months ago, we actually had a discussion about whether gas from Russia was only a commercial issue or a commercial issue with direct security implications. And I think we all have seen that to be too dependent on Russian gas also has security implications, because Russia is weaponizing the export of gas.

And only back into 2019, we had a big discussion among NATO Allies, whether the 5G and also whether the Chinese company Huawei, whether that was only a kind of commercial economic issue, or whether who actually controls 5G networks is, yes, it is an economic and commercial issue, but it is an economic and commercial issue with huge security consequences. So therefore, we also need to take into account security considerations when we decide on 5G. So the awareness about these issues have increased enormously in NATO. We need to do more, we need to develop guidelines, we have some resilience guidelines, we need to improve them, we need to coordinate, we need to share information to ensure that we don't see once again what we have now seen with Russian gas.

Then Salima, the Netherlands. Yes, the missile incident in Poland reminds us of the fact that wars are dangerous. Two people were killed in Poland. And in wars, accidents happen. And therefore it is extremely important that we are vigilant, that we monitor very closely, but also that we react in a calm and measured way, but also in a firm way as we did after the incident in Poland. The incident is ongoing so there is no absolute final conclusion. But we have no indication that this was a deliberate attack. We don't have any indication that this was a Russian missile. And so far, the most likely reason is that it was a Ukrainian air defence missile that fell down in, in Poland.

But let me then add the important thing. And that is that Russia bears the responsibility. Because what we do know with certainty, is that this wouldn't have happene, hadn't Russia invaded Ukraine and hadn’t Russia the same day launched roughly 100 missiles against Ukraine. Because Ukraine has right to defend themselves. So the responsibility for this is Russia’s. And, we welcome the fact that Poland and Ukraine are working together on the investigation. That's fine. That's important. And we'd need to find out exactly what happened, but it doesn't change the political reality. That, it just highlights the importance of Russia ending this war as soon as possible and stop attacking Ukraine with missiles and drones.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly
Thank you. Our next three questioners are Jiří Horák of the Czech Republic, Theo Francken from Belgium, and David Joann Wadephul from Germany. Jiří.

Jiří Horák, Head of delegation, Czech Republic
Thank you. Dear Mr. Secretary General, I'm interested in your view of the future of allied defence spending. Since it will be discussed at the Vilnius summit next year, I would like to know your prognosis. Are there plans to increase the pledge from 2% of GDP on defence, to make rules as to how the money is spent? Thank you.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly
Thank you. Theo.

Theo Francken, Head of delegation, Belgium
Thank you, Mr. Secretary General. Thank you, Mr. Chair. The question about Sweden and Finland's call joining our Alliance. I think it's very important to show a unity that means that we cannot delay their membership. So for my question, are there extra external diplomatic efforts that are taken to convince Hungary and Türkiye to accept and to vote the membership in their parliaments? I understood from my Fidesz colleague yesterday that Hungary will vote the seventh of December, so that's good news. But Türkiye, they have elections also. So I hope it will not take one year to have that vote, we need to show unity and show all efforts to get them in because we need Finland and Sweden. It's in their interests, but it's also in our interest of our Alliance to get them as soon as possible in our Alliance. They're most welcome from our point of view. We had voted this in Belgium Parliament within weeks. So thank you very much.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly
Thank you Theo. David.

David Joann Wadephul, Head of delegation, Germany
Thank you chairman. Can I use the opportunity to thank you, Mr. Secretary General, for your extraordinary service in our Alliance? And that you stayed in this post, though there were alternatives for you personally. Really, I think you are the anchorman of our Alliance. My question is that the Russian attack on Ukraine also learned us a new lesson, that the status of being partner of NATO does not deter a potential aggressor. What does that now mean, for our NATO relationship to other partner states, like Georgia? Thank you.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly
Thank you. And again, all of you, concise, thank you. Mr. Secretary General.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
First to the Czech Republic and Jiří about the defence spending. I believe that defence spending will be an important, very important issue at the Vilnius Summit. I cannot tell you exactly what Allies will agree when it comes to formulating the pledge for defence spending for the next decade or so, because we finalize now the pledge we made in 2014, for 2014 to 2024. But I expect that it will be an even stronger commitment to increasing defence spending. And I expect that in one way or another, even though perhaps the 2% will be kept, it will be kept more as a kind of floor than a ceiling for defence spending. But these are negotiations that will go on. But I'm absolutely confident that the ambitions will be increased in one way or another, because everyone now sees the need for investing more, and also welcome that Allies that have been below 2% now are setting new and more ambitious targets. And more and more Allies are investing more, just because the world is more dangerous.

Then you asked me about how to spend. Yes, well, we have the NATO defence planning process, which ends up the very specific capability targets for each and every Ally. So there is a link between the ambition of spending more and the targets we agree for different capabilities that Allies need to provide with more heavy equipment, with more air defence systems with high readiness and many other specific defence capabilities that Allies should provide according to the agreed NATO capability targets.

Then Belgium and Theo. There are, the Swedish Prime Minister went to Ankara. I've been Istanbul, met with the president Erdogan. And of course, we have a good conversation within the Alliance on the ratification process. Then let me just remind you of the following, that so far, the accession process for Finland and Sweden has been the quickest ever in NATO's modern history. We have to understand that it has hardly happened quickly, everywhere, anytime before. Because Finland and Sweden applied in May. And then just a few weeks later in June, all 30 Allies agreed to invite them to become members, and a couple of days later all 30 Allies signed the Accession Protocol. And already 28 out of 30 Allies have now ratified. This is very fast, extremely quick, has not happened before in NATO’s modern history.

So yes, of course, I would very much like the two remaining Allies to ratify and I have expressed that many times. But we have to understand that this is so far, a very quick process. It knows that Finland and Sweden are in a very different place now than they were before they applied. Because since they applied in May, several NATO Allies, including the United Kingdom, United States, and many other European Allies have issued security assurances to Finland and Sweden. NATO has increased its presence and 28 Allies have already ratified and all Allies have signed the Accession Protocol. So it's absolutely inconceivable that if Finland or Sweden are subjected to any kind of coercion or aggression by Russia against their countries that NATO will not act. So it's not as if nothing has happened. They are extremely close to us. They have received security assurances, and Finland and Sweden participate in NATO's military and civilian activities in many different ways. So yes, I want the finalisation of the Accession Protocol. But we have already achieved a lot just by what Allies have done since they applied.

Then Germany, David. Your point had a very important point. And that is, of course, that we have a responsibility as Allies, of course, to protect each other as NATO Allies. But we also have a responsibility to ensure that our close partners, especially those who are most vulnerable of Russian, coercion and aggression, like Georgia, that although have experienced Russian military aggression back in 2008, that we support them. And I strongly believe that as long as we don't achieve, or we are not able to, to get full membership for these countries, then we should at least provide them with significant support. If there's any lesson from Ukraine is that we should have supported Ukraine even more, even earlier.

I would like to praise those Allies that actually helped and supported Ukraine since 2014. NATO provided some support, some capacity building, some training, but we could have done more before, before the invasion. And that's exactly the same with Georgia and other countries that are close partners. But I remember for instance, I went to Yavoriv, which is a training site in West Ukraine, not so far from Lviv. And there I saw, back in 2015, the United States and Canada, but also, but also the United Kingdom, providing extensive training to Ukrainian forces. And of course, this training has been extremely important now after the invasion. So if anything, we need more support for Georgia, more support for Moldova, more support for other parties at risk. Now. That's the lesson learned from Ukraine and you have to help me because then we need money from your parliaments.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly
Thank you, Mr. Secretary General. Our next three questioners are Trond Helleland from Norway, Matej Tonin from Slovenia and Njall Fridbertsson from Iceland. Trond.

Trond Helleland, Head of delegation, Norway
Thank you Mr. President. Dear Jens. I asked you this question in Brussels three days before Russia's brutal aggression against Ukraine. Now the circumstances have changed. Norway shares a land border and the long maritime border with Russia. And we have long been the NATO's eyes and ears in High North. Now we wholeheartedly welcome our Nordic brothers, Sweden and Finland into NATO. The accession of Sweden and Finland will be good for the Alliance as a whole and for all the Nordics. Now we get a longer border with Russia, because of Finland's long border. But Norway will still be the only country in the region with a maritime border to Russia in the Barents Sea. At the same time, NATO membership for Sweden and Finland might also change how we currently think about supply routes across the Atlantic, defence planning in the Nordic Region, and the relationship between the High North and the Baltic Sea. How in your view, will Sweden and Finland's NATO membership affect NATO's and Norway's role in the High North? Thank you.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly
Thank you Trond. Matej.

Matej Tonin, Head of delegation, Slovenia.
Honorable Secretary General. Thank you for your extraordinary leadership in this demanding time. It was a privilege to cooperate with you during the last three years. Finland and Sweden are security contributors. It is in our interest that both countries become full NATO members. Months ago, it seemed that Sweden and Finland won't become NATO members because of a blockade. At that time you stepped in and first facilitated the dialogue. Can we expect from the Secretary General to step in the process again, and accelerate it if needed?

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly
Thank you. Njáll.

Njáll Trausti Friðbertsson, Head of delegation, Iceland
Yeah, thank you, President Connolly and Mr. Secretary General. We are all aware of that the Arctic is becoming increasingly important in strategic security and economic dimensions as Russia's invasion of Ukraine, since post-Cold War era, low tension and the cooperation. Such events highlight how hard it is for states to monitor their own waters, particularly in the High North. With Finland and Sweden joining seven out of eight Arctic Council states will be NATO Allies, which I believe will directly affect Russia's calculus and possible responses in the region. While our common goal is stability and cooperation in the Arctic, we must consider the possibility of Russia deciding to employ a more confrontational force posture in the region, as well as in the Baltic. Can you elaborate on that possibility, and NATO's role in that region? And finally, it goes without saying that Iceland strongly supports Finland’s and Sweden's immediate application for membership in NATO. Thank you, General Secretary, for an outstanding job.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly
Thank you Njáll. Mr. Secretary. General.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
Thank you so much. I think actually, I will answer the question from Iceland and Norway from Njáll and from Trond together, because partly because Iceland, and Norway used to be the same country for many 100 years ago, before the Danes, came and created some problems there. But more importantly, because, because you asked about the same issue about Finland and Sweden and the High North. And, fundamentally, Finnish and Swedish membership will strengthen NATO in the High North, there is no doubt. Because Finland, Sweden are extremely capable countries, we know that because they have been very close partners with NATO for many, many years. They have advanced systems, they have,

Finland has a large army, they have advanced defence industries, and they have high end capabilities. And they have well organized defence forces and, and strong democratic institutions. So they therefore have been our closest partners for many, many years, we have worked together with them, we have bee training together with them. So we know them well. And therefore it's no doubt that they will strengthen NATO, throughout the Alliance, but of course, in particular in the north, because of the geographic location in the north. This will also help us to both increase our presence, in the Barents Sea in the High North.

You are right, Trond, that Finland and Sweden, they don't have any coastline, to the Barents Sea or the North Atlantic, but they have significant air capabilities that can help us to patrol and monitor also up in the High North. And of course, also have naval capabilities that can be deployed up there. And of course, especially Finland, with the long border, also has a knowledge about Russia, which is unique. When Finland joins the Alliance, NATO's border with Russia will more than double. So the Finnish border with Russia is longer than the total existing NATO Russia border.

So all of this will, of course, enhance our ability, both to deal with the challenges in the High North, but also in the Baltic. Because again, if you just look at the map, we have always been concerned about our ability to reinforce the Baltic and we had the Suwalki gap, with Finland and Sweden in the Alliance, it will change very much the geography when it comes to NATO’s presence in the Baltic. So it's there is no doubt that their membership will be good for NATO Allies in many different ways. And therefore we welcome them. And Matej from Slovenia. It's good to see you again. We met often in the ministerial meetings. But now you asked me about whether I was stepping in. I never stepped out in a way that that I have been working hard for, for enlargement of NATO since I arrived.

First with North Macedonia. No, sorry, first with, Montenegro, then with North Macedonia and then with Finland and Sweden. I like my family or our family to be bigger. And they when they are candidates, we work on that. And I'm glad at first we had two members from the Western Balkans. And now we will have two new members from the North. All of this is strengthening NATO across the board. Then also, so that my answer where we step in. And let me add one more thing and that is that I engage of course with Finland, I engage with Sweden, I engage with Türkiye. But let me remind you that that the trilateral agreement that was signed here in Madrid in June. That was a trilateral agreement between Türkiye, Finland and Sweden. NATO didn't sign. We were in the room, Osman, you were there. Yeah. But I didn't sign. I only welcomed the signing of the others.

So, meaning it's a trilateral agreement between those three countries. So at the end of the day it's those three countries that have to ensure the full implementation. But I welcome that Finland Sweden have delivered and then I just think that the time has come for, for finalising the ratification...

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly
And that was important to learn about that Iceland, Norway thing. The Secretary General faces many challenges in this tumultuous world, but he's already handled 15 questions from this body. So thank you for your patience. We got three more. Ante Bacic from Croatia, Arta Bilalli Zendeli from North Macedonia, and Mati Raidma from Estonia. Ante.

Ante Bacic, Head of delegation, Croatia
Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. Secretary General, dobar dan, and greetings from the Croatian delegation. You know, last month we held the first parliamentary summit of the International Crimea platform in Zagreb, and which brought together 48 speakers of parliaments and presidents of inter-parliamentary organization, like our president, from NATO PA, Mr. Connolly was there. In Zagreb, we proudly demonstrated support to Ukraine, and I would like to hear your comments and thoughts about how to politically approach another issue that in a way bothers NATO and the EU in Southeast Europe. It is an issue of somehow stalled NATO's political outreach in the Western Balkan countries. I mean, the political interaction and practical cooperation with regard - you mentioned the country - Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also in Kosovo. The interaction do exist. But the feeling is that everything that has been done in the past has been overshadowed by the malign foreign influence that keeps these countries blocked in the kind of endless limbo and miles away from the further alignment with our common values and political posture. In terms of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, what else, beyond being simply vigilant, can NATO do in order to counter foreign political goal of undermining those countries and preventing them to become more stable and secure of the bed of the EU and NATO? Thank you.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly
Thank you, Ante. Arta.

Arta Bilal Zendeli, Head of delegation, North Macedonia
Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. Secretary General, before the war, we all thought that Russia has very tight links with China. And now somehow China is out of the picture. We saw recently some strong cooperation between Russia and Iran. But again, I will repeat China is out. My question is: where do you see the role of China in the picture? And how do you assess its not active role or position after the war or after the Russian invasion in Ukraine? Thank you.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly
Thank you, and Mati.

Mati Radma, Head of delegation, Estonia.
Thank you, Mr. President. Dear Secretary General, my question addressing again, air defence issue. Today's genocidal war by Russia and Ukraine is a clear testimony that Russia violates all international rules and agreed principles, and inhuman and unacceptable attacks on the population, civil infrastructure without any military meaning is today's new reality. I call all NATO members to make greater and faster efforts than today to support the military capability of Ukraine. The future of not only Ukraine depends on it, but the future of all of us. In connection with a new reality presented above, the need to secure also the missile and air defence capability of NATO, especially the territories of its eastern flank, is getting new and broader meaning today, also the need for more forced action plan. Could you share your views on this matter, thank you.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly
Thank you. Mr. Secretary General.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
Thank you so much. First to Ante and Croatia on Kosovo and Bosnia: as you know, the Western Balkans matters for NATO. We have a long history there. We helped to end the two brutal wars, first in Bosnia later in Kosovo and Serbia, and we also help to stabilize North Macedonia almost 20 years ago, and we still have a presence. We have our headquarters in Sarajevo, we have the office in Belgrade. And of course, we have the KFOR forces in Kosovo. And we also have now several members in the region full-fledged NATO Allies, I mentioned North Macedonia and Montenegro as, as two of our newest members. All of this makes the Western Balkans an important region for NATO.

In Kosovo, while we continue our presence, we support by our military presence, the EU-led efforts for diplomatic solution. We support the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, and I think it demonstrates actually how well NATO and the European Union can work together, complementing each other with the NATO forces supporting the EU diplomatic efforts in Kosovo. We also work closely with the EU in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and at the Madrid Summit, we decided to step up political and practical support for our partners in the Western Balkans, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, and to help them to resist malign influence from Russia.

We are also stepping up our support to Bosnia and Herzegovina in different ways in order to help them including by more enhanced defence capacity building, a new package or defence capacity building efforts for Bosnia and Herzegovina to help them to implement its plans for modernization of its defence and security institutions. We are working closely to help them. It's not easy, but we will continue to do what we can to help to address the instability and the challenges and including the malign influence of especially Russia in the region.

Then Arta, North Macedonia, the role of China, related to the Ukraine conflict if I understood the question right. Well, first of all, we have called on China, and that was also my message when I met with the Chinese foreign minister in New York during the UN General Assembly, that China should clearly condemn the illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine. They have not voted in favor of the different UN resolutions doing so, but we call on them to do that. And also, of course, we regret that just days before the invasion, Russia and China signed a joint declaration of President Putin and President Xi signed this joint declaration, where they stated that the partnership between Russia and China is without limits. Having said that, of course, we also welcome that China, at least so far has not provided any military support to Russia. This is important: no one should support [Russia] in their efforts to occupy Ukraine, no one should provide support to Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.

And that has also been a clear message from a NATO allies to China. Then Mati from Estonia on air defences. Well air defences is extremely important, but I think sometimes we need to realize that air defences is partly land-based systems, like the Patriot batteries, or the SAMP-T batteries, and the NASAMS, which we’ve seen have been very effective in Ukraine. But air defence systems are also very often based on ships. And they are extremely capable and very mobile. And also of course, planes. Our jet fighters are also an important part of our air defence systems, partly with the sensors, but also partly because of their capability to intercept incoming missiles or other types of air attacks.

So the fact that we have significantly increased our presence both on land but also at sea and in the air in the Baltic region and in East and that we can very quickly reinforce if needed. I visited recently the USS George H. W. Bush, the aircraft carrier. It was based in the Adriatic Sea, but those capabilities on that aircraft carrier are supported by ships from Italy from Türkiye, or from many other NATO Allies. They represent a huge capability also when it comes to air defence. So, yes, we need to do more on air defence, but we should not underestimate the capabilities we already have in place. And also our ability to reinforce with air and naval assets quickly, if needed.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly
Thank you. You are doing all right? Okay, all right. So our next three are Zsolt Németh from Hungary, Ana Maria Catauta from Romania, and Raimond Bergmanis from Latvia. Zsolt.

Zsolt Németh, Deputy Head of delegation, Hungary
Thank you very much, President. I am right to you, Secretary General, right to you. I would like to greet you in the name of the Hungarian delegation and express our gratitude for your work and for your presence here. I think you have been instrumental in maintaining the unity of the Alliance in the past period, and I would like to congratulate you on that. My original question would have related the Western Balkans but probably we have covered it more or less in the previous round. So I would like to ask you a question which relates the European political community. On the sixth of October, President Macron has initiated this new format, and in the Council of Europe, and in parliamentary level, we are fighting with this challenge: what is the role of this organization relating to the Council of Europe, relating to NATO, and I think it is just in the formation, and may I ask you if you have any position, personal position, because probably not yet official one. How do you see the relationship between NATO and this new European format, which targets at security aims as well? It seems that the security dimension of this European political community is quite decisive. Thank you very much.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly
Thank you Zsolt. Ana Maria.

Ana Maria Catauta, Acting Head of the delegation, Romania
Thank you so much, Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General. The summit in Madrid marked a very important moment for the Alliance in general, but also for the eastern flank. And with the new battlegroups that will be in place in four different European countries on the eastern flank, including Romania, the deterrence and defence of the Eastern flank will be more balanced, and we are very excited about having them fully operational. But you mentioned earlier, the lessons learned from Ukraine, and my question would be: in terms of more multi domain perspective, what will the Vilnius summit discuss on the deterrence and defence of the eastern flank, including cyber, including space? And why not, including maritime security and the free flow of trade? Thank you so much.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly
Thank you. Raimond.

Raimond Bergmanis, Deputy Head of delegation, Latvia
Mr. Secretary General, I am not going to repeat what Russia did, and continue to do in Ukraine. But my question is about security of Russia's neighbors, namely the Baltic states. Taking into consideration that one of the major subjects for our NATO PA Defence and Security Committee for next year will be evolving Baltic Sea security. Could you elaborate on how that NATO started to work on the new plans for security of the Baltic states, and after full accessions of Sweden and Finland about plans for the security of the all Baltic Sea region? We hope, and we would like to believe that both our colleagues Sweden and Finland will be able to participate in the next NATO summit as full-fledged members. By the way, next summit will be held again in the Baltics, this time in Vilnius. Thank you.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly
Thank you, Mr. Secretary General.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
Thank you so much. First, the question from Zsolt, Hungary, on the European Political Community. NATO allies and also non allies that were present there, of course, they meet in different formats and different organizations and institutions. And I think in general, it's good that Allies and close partners in Europe meet in different ways. As long as we all are aware that the bedrock for our security remains NATO. Because the bedrock of security is transatlantic, and there is no way that can be replaced. I, as I said many, many, times before, I welcome European efforts on defence, and I welcome EU efforts on defence, on providing more capabilities. PESCO to address the fragmentation of the European defence industry, or the European Defence Fund and many other efforts. That's, that's very important, and something I welcome.

And of course, any meaningful strengthening of European defences requires more defence spending. And NATO has been calling for increased defence spending across Europe for years. And now that's happening, and that's a good thing. But this can only complement, not replace NATO, because two world wars and the Cold War taught us that our security is totally dependent on the North Atlantic link, or the North Atlantic bond, Europe and North America and Canada together. So, I'm glad that the message is that this is not any alternative to NATO. The aim is to complement and to strengthen what we do together.

And I think also we have seen that in Ukraine. Of course, the reality is that the support from the United States and North America to North American countries, has been critical for the gains that Ukrainians have made. And also the fact that, especially Canada and United States, they have been there since 2014. They have trained tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers. And then, of course, you have also Allies that have supported Ukraine, especially since the invasion, but maybe we need to do this as North America and Europe together.

Then Ana Maria, Romania. Well, the multi-domain approach of course, will be a part of what we address in Vilnius, as it has been actually for a long time. We have to remember that we are very much aware of that any military conflict in the future involving NATO allies, especially in the large scale conflict, will be multi-domain: it will not only be land or sea or air, it will be land, sea, air, and cyber and space. And space and cyber is integrated in everything we do.

Our land operations, our operations at sea and in the air are totally depend on cyber, of course, and cyber and our communications and targeting and a lot of things that we do on land or on earth is dependent on space capabilities, satellites, GPS navigation, so there is no way to not be multi-domain, we have to be multi-domain in everything we do, and that's also reflected in our new plans and the decisions you made, both on cyber and space, establish them as a new military domains alongside air, sea and land.

Then, Raimond, great to see you again. Latvia always, of course focused on the Baltic region. Of course, when Finland and Sweden join, we will also then adjust our defence plans and our defence planning processes to take that into account. And without going into details, partly because some of these plans are quite secret, everyone that looks at the map understands that it has a huge impact on our ability to protect and defend the Baltic region, and that increases our deterrence. And by doing so, we are further reducing the risk of any attack on any NATO Ally. Because the main purpose of NATO is to preserve peace, is to prevent an attack, and the stronger the deterrence and defence is, the less likely it is that there will be any attack and therefore I welcome also Finland and Sweden as members because it will strengthen further deterrence and defence across the Alliance.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly
Thank you. Our next three questioners are Hristo Gadzhev of Bulgaria, Michal Szcerba of Poland and Lord Hamilton from the UK. Is that a cheering section for you Lord Hamilton? Okay, Hristo.

Hristo Gadzhev, Second Deputy Head of the delegation, Bulgaria
Thank you, Mr. Chair, Mr. Secretary General. First of all, I would like to say that the newly elected parliament in Sofia, one of the first decisions that that we made was to, to make a decision to send direct military support to Ukraine. And I think this is important for our country to do. I have two quick questions, following the time. What you mentioned a couple of times the air defence, you mentioned the air defence in the Baltics. But what about the southeastern flank? Should it be reinforced after the incident in Poland last week? And the second question is: what is the possibility of joining the Air Force between NATO and the EU? On resilience capacity building between the two organizations? As you mentioned, most of the EU citizens, we will live in NATO countries after the accession of Finland and Sweden. Thank you.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly
Thank you. Michal.

Michal Szczerba, Acting Head of the delegation, Poland
Mr. Secretary General, I'm here. Thank you for your strong leadership in these difficult times. We should be prepared for more hostile actions against Ukraine, but also against NATO states. Russia's aim are to weaken us, diminish our determination to support Ukraine and we can't fall into Ukraine fatigue mode. Even today, this morning, our assembly has shown responsible unity and soon will give a strong message of solidarity with Ukraine in our resolution. Russia's actions against Ukraine are escalatory, and last week, the massive attack on Ukraine's infrastructure was the largest since the beginning of the war. Recent incident in Polish territory is also a result of this escalation. Ukraine needs more Western advanced precision weapon, and we ask NATO governments for it. Two questions to you, Mr. Secretary General: in reference to escalation, how NATO can strengthen its military presence in the eastern flank? A lot has been done, but what should be the next steps? And the second question: do you agree we need to reflect better on threat from the territory of Belarus? Thank you very much.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary
Thank You. And Lord Hamilton.

Lord Hamilton of Epsom, Member, United Kingdom
Secretary General, you have emphasized to us how essential it is that the war is won in Ukraine, and that the Russians are beaten. This would have happened already, if we had imposed a no fly zone in Ukraine. People who are worried about a no-fly zone say that we would be inevitably in conflict with the Russians. That is because the air defence systems [inaudible] the other side of the Russian border, we could create a cordon sanitaire, which meant we were out of range of air defences in Russia. And so what is the military argument for imposing a no-fly zone? Surely it's quite possible to do this.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary
Thank you. Mr. Secretary General.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
First, Hristo from Bulgaria, air defences in the Black Sea region. Well, we have increased our presence also in the Black Sea region. And as I said several times, this includes also air defence capabilities and with our air and naval capabilities, this is also easy to quickly reinforce. But let me just add one more thing. And it's not as if NATO has some kind of unlimited access to a NATO air defence systems. Of course, what we are dependent on is that Allies provide air defence systems and that we pull them together. So if anything, it just highlights the importance of Allies meeting at least the 2% target, and also delivering on the NATO capability targets, to be able to provide the necessary capabilities to increase our air defence of NATO territory and our ability to reinforce.

So this, this is what we do, but we are totally as always totally dependent on Allies to deliver on what they have promised. Then, you asked about NATO-EU. I think I already said some few words about that, but let me just add that, again, especially with Finland and Sweden inside, 96% of the people living in the EU will live in a NATO country. That makes it just the even more important that we avoid duplication, that what the EU does is complementing NATO efforts. And of course, of course, I'm personally a strong supporter of the EU, I tried to convince the Norwegian people to join EU twice, and lost twice. But I am arguing in favor of EU as I believe in the European Union as a concept, as an idea.

But at the same time, you just need to realise that, that there are also many. First of all, we have North America, and we have Canada and United States and they, they're not small nations, they actually contribute to our shared security. But secondly, we have also some Europeans are outside the European Union, that there is more, there is more Europe in NATO than there is Europe in EU, there are 450 million Europeans in the EU and that 600 million Europeans, Europeans in NATO. So we need to ensure that we work together in NATO, to address the security needs for all Allies, inside or outside the EU. I welcome EU efforts, but it doesn't replace NATO, and it must not duplicate NATO. And I say that as a really strong friend of the EU. And also, I'm proud that as Secretary General of NATO, I have been able to work together with the presidents the leadership of the European Union, and also the different EU members to lift NATO-EU cooperation to unprecedented levels.

Then Michal from Poland: you mentioned Ukraine fatigue. And that's extremely important what you said. And that is, we must prevent that from happening. Because we cannot allow President Putin to win. And you should never, never believe that democracies are in a way, not resilient, are not able to sustain an effort over time. And as I said, this is because it will be a catastrophe for Ukraine, but also be extremely dangerous for us. Because then then the lessons learned will be that by using force, it gets exactly what they want. So this is also about our security interests.

But to prevent any fatigue, to enable us to continue to support: at the end of the day, there's only one thing that that depends on, and that is the support from our public. So we need the support, and you are closer to them than anyone else, because you are elected representatives from your different constituencies. So I do what I can: I turn around and argue in favor of support Ukraine. But you need - and I know that you do that, but we need your support in the different member states Allies - to ensure that people understand why we need to pay a price to ensure freedom and democracy and that is in our interest. Then, then sorry, there was always what we will do to further increase. So first of all, we have doubled the number of battlegroups from four to eight. We did that after the, we have done that over the last months.

Second, what we agreed in Madrid is that we have to be able to scale these battlegroups up to brigade-size level. We will start to exercise and test that, and the way we do that is that earmarked forces. For instance, Germany have now earmarked a brigade that can be deployed to Lithuania on very short notice they will exercise and so on. So they will be closely in between those forces and the ability to scale up the brigade or the battlegroup to brigade-size on very short notice. Second, we are going to preposition more supplies and more equipment. And again you see in the war in Ukraine how important supplies ammunition equipment is. And thirdly, we will increase the readiness of forces, so when needed, we can deploy forces quickly. And then there are a wide range of oddities we will do on air, naval capabilities, cyber that also matters for the defence of the eastern part of the Alliance.

Then, Lord Hamilton, on the no-fly zone: I am aware this has been an issue, it was raised at the beginning of the war. I think that for Allies, it is important that we are not party to the conflict. And if we started to deploy forces into Ukraine, we would become party to the conflict. But Allies are very determined to help Ukraine defend their own airspace, and that's exactly what they have done by providing all the air defence systems, the ammunition to the air defence systems, UK have done that, extremely important. But also, the fact that they are providing training again. UK is leading training efforts. I just visited United Kingdom, and I met there with British trainers, but also with trainers from Denmark, from Lithuania, from Canada, from many other countries that are helping to train Ukrainian soldiers, also, with air defence capabilities in United Kingdom as a joint effort by many NATO allies, and the United Kingdom has actually provided training to Ukraine since 2014. And this makes a huge difference. So, we will help them to protect their airspace. And that's the way we will ensure that they are able to shoot down Russian missiles, drones and, and strengthen their control over their own airspace.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary
I thank the Secretary General. I would only note that we had no fly zones in Iraq, in the north and in the south. And we in fact, did engage with and shoot down Iraqi aircraft. And so the risk of engagement when you have to enforce a no fly zone is very real. And, and our goal is to constrain and end this war, obviously, not to expand it. Our last three questioners: Manousos Voloudakis from Greece, Hans Wallmark from Sweden and Mikko Savola from Finland. Manousos.

Manousos Voloudakis, Member, Greece
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. General Secretary, you said that the accession process of Sweden and Finland has been the quickest yet. Nevertheless, it might be not quick enough, because it is the only one that has been going on, while war rages on in our backyard. And moreover, there are no procedural reasons with these, there are political issues, in particular, Türkiye´s objections. Finland and Sweden had to declare something that’s a self-evident truth for both of us: that they do not nurture terrorism. Five months have passed, and we still see no progress to the citizens of member states. The question is raised: what is going on? Are there any concerns regarding the ability of Finland and Sweden to counter terrorism? Thank you.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary
Thank you. Hans.

Hans Wallmark, Head of delegation, Sweden
Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you that the Secretary General remind of the special relations between Iceland and Norway. Let me remind the Secretary General of the special relations between Sweden and Norway.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary
If the gentlemen would suspend. We cannot hear the question and because of discussion. If you're going to have discussions, I would respectfully ask you to take them out of the plenary session. The gentleman may resume.

Hans Wallmark, Head of delegation, Sweden
Thank you. Well, let me remind the Secretary General of the special relations between Sweden and Norway - we've shared a kingdom for 100 years, and we are very fortunate to have very good neighbors. But we also try to be a good neighbor and a good Ally. And that is also our intention together with Finland inside NATO. We see ourselves and Finland, a security provider into NATO. And we also have this broad concept on security. It's on the hard defence, but also on the fight against terrorists. And therefore I hope that in the coming days, we can also convince Türkiye of this trilateral agreement that we are delivering on it. And I really want to ensure that Sweden and Finland also taking with us and transmit all the good words, all the friendly cheering and the support for our countries into NATO, because I think that everything is linked to each other. So the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea and High North are linked together and that will be going to be a provider of security. So in Swedish: tak, in Finnish: kiitos.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary
Thank you, Hans. Mikko.

Mikko Savola, Deputy Head of the Delegation, Finland
Thank you, Mr. President. It's easy to continue what the brother from the Sweden just said. I want to thank you, Mr. Secretary General for support in our goal of becoming a member of NATO. And I also want to thank you all wonderful colleagues here, partners and friends welcoming us to Alliance. Almost all of you have ratified our membership in your parliaments already, and you did it very rapidly. As the Mr. Secretary General said, this has been the fastest process ever. Maybe once more, one question to Mr. Secretary General: Finland and Sweden wants to be the security providers in the NATO. In Finland, we have a strong conscription army with over 900,000 reservist and we are spending now that over 2% of the GDP to the defence costs. So you particularly answered to the question already, but how do you see the future role of Finland and Sweden in the NATO Defence Policy Planning? Thank you all, wonderful colleagues and Mr. Secretary General.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary
Thank you so much. Mr. Secretary General.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
Thank you so much. First to Manousos from Greece on Swedish and Finnish membership. Well, there is a process, there is a dialogue. Finland and Sweden, they are already invited and already signed the Accession Protocols, but I'm confident that we'll be able to finalise the accession process within reasonable time. I will not speculate exactly when, but the sooner the better. But as I've said already, Finland and Sweden are in a very different place now than before they applied. It matters that all Allies have signed the Accession Protocols, it matters that they are now participating in NATO's military and civilian structures. It matters that, that several NATO allies have issued security assurances. It matters that NATO has increased its presence in in the region. So it is absolutely inconceivable that there will be any kind of aggression against Finland and Sweden without NATO acting.

So it's not as nothing has happened, a lot has happened already. Then we also have to remember that no other Ally has suffered more terrorist attacks than Türkiye, and they have the right for self-defence. And they have some concerns, they raised them. And now they are addressed by Finland and Sweden. And I welcome that very constructive process. Then Hans from Sweden: yes, you are right, we are good neighbors. And for roughly 100 years, we had the same king. The more surprising thing is that the first common King we had was actually a French General, Jean Baptiste Bernadotte, who actually ended up as the Swedish king. And the last time Sweden was at war was against Norway. And since then, it has been very peaceful, and then you join NATO. So this is…

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary
A little more bitterness coming in.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
No, no, it’s not bitterness. The strange thing with the Nordic countries is that they have been fighting for centuries, and now they are best friends, and they can joke with it. That's a good thing. But you're right. And you're right, that the Nordic countries are all very close neighbors, they work very closely together. And of course, it will strengthen also the cooperation in the High North, when all the countries are part of the same security alliance and part of NATO. And, and that's something that will benefit the whole Alliance.

Then, Mikko from Finland, you also spoke about the membership: yes it will. By being together in NATO, we can work so even more closely together. And I think it's important for us to convey the message to the rest of the Alliance that this is not only good for the Nordics, but it's good for the whole Alliance. It's obvious when it comes to the Baltics, the eastern part of the Alliance, because we have done much better ways to reinforce that part of the Alliance if needed.

But it's also critical for the whole transatlantic link, because by increasing our strength in the High North, we are also strengthen our capability to protect the vital links of communications and sea lines across the North Atlantic, and that is exactly what is binding North America and Europe together and which is the fundamental link within the NATO Alliance. And then also know that Finland and Sweden, they are ready to participate in different NATO missions and operations. They have been in Afghanistan, they have been in Iraq, they have participated also in many of the missions we are conducting in the south, and Sweden just announced that they will contribute more also to the NATO Counterterrorism Fund. So actually, I'm absolutely certain that this will benefit not only the north, but the whole of the Alliance.

Then I think I've covered all your questions and, and, and it's all and then let me just end by saying, for me, it is always special to meet you. And I really mean it. Because you are so important for the strength of this Alliance. Without parliaments in our back without parliaments supporting us, the efforts of NATO Allies. There is no way that NATO can continue as the most successful Alliance in history. So I thank you for your support for your commitment, and what you do every day to ensure that NATO remains the most successful Alliance in history. Thank you.

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary
Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. We promise to have you out of here at 12:15. It's 12:47. So but thank you for always being there for us. And thank you for your critical leadership at a very difficult moment here in Europe. We know we are in steady hands having Jens Stoltenberg as the Secretary General of our Alliance. Thank you, Mr. Secretary General.