Opening remarks

by NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană at the NATO Resilience Symposium in Latvia

  • 26 Apr. 2023 -
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  • Last updated: 26 Apr. 2023 09:25

(As delivered)

Good morning from Brussels.

And my thanks to Prime Minister Kariņš, Assistant Secretary General Lapsley and Vice Admiral Robinson for hosting the fourth NATO Resilience Symposium.

My thanks also go to Minister of Defence Mūrniece, also thank you for your warm words of welcoming and for inviting me to speak today.

Vice Admiral, you and your excellent team at ACT are working tirelessly to future-proof the Alliance, and resilience is an integral part of this work. The last few years have clearly demonstrated how strengthening our resilience is not a luxury. It is a necessity.

It is appropriate that this symposium is being held in Latvia. Latvia makes important contributions to our shared security. You lead by example on defence spending, committing more than 2% of GDP to defence and investing in major equipment.

Latvia contributes actively to regional exercises, ensuring our forces are well trained and well prepared. And you provide expertise on strategic communications, which includes countering disinformation through the NATO Centre of Excellence here in Riga.

And, of course, Latvia hosts the eleven Allies of the multinational battlegroup in Ādaži. I remember fondly visiting together with my friends in NATO the Canadian-led battle group in your great nation. These forces send a clear message: than an attack on one Ally is an attack on all.

Latvia is also providing significant support to Ukraine, exceeding 1% of its GDP, which includes a wide range of military equipment and humanitarian and political support.

Latvia’s Comprehensive National Defence approach showcases the critical linkage between reliance and deterrence and defence. This approach is aligned with the spirit and intent of NATO’s founding document, the Washington Treaty, signed in 1949.
For almost seventy-five years, Allies have been committed to self-help and mutual aid to resist armed attack. Or, in other words, to strengthen our resilience.

That commitment to resilience, to protecting our citizens and defending our territory, remains steadfast. More so than ever in the shadow of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. 

Allies are united in their determination to stay the course and support Ukraine for as long as it takes. We are also determined to support other partner countries threatened by Russia’s actions, in particular Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova. For if Russia wins in Ukraine, it will not stop there.

Since Russia’s first invasion of Ukraine in 2014, when it illegally annexed Crimea and a portion of the Donbas, NATO has supported Ukraine to become not only stronger militarily, but also a stronger, more resilient society.

When President Putin first ordered his tanks to roll cross the border, he expected Kyiv to fall within days and the rest of the country to follow in a matter of weeks. He was wrong. He underestimated the resilience of Ukraine and of the Ukrainian people.

This shows just how important resilience is. By boosting our ability to prevent, to persevere and bounce back from attacks of all forms, we reduce the chances of them happening in the first place.

Since last May, when I addressed the NATO Resilience Symposium in Warsaw, we have seen a number of developments that have a significant impact on NATO’s resilience.

NATO’s latest Strategic Concept, agreed last summer in Madrid, recognises resilience as an essential enabler of the Alliance’s three core tasks: deterrence and defence, crisis prevention and management, and cooperative security.

Earlier this year, NATO and the European Union signed the third NATO-EU Joint Declaration. This further advanced our partnership, which is strategic across so many number of areas, but including resilience and the protection of critical infrastructure.

Delivering on these words, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen set up a joint Task Force, NATO-EU, on resilience of critical infrastructure. The Task Force, which met again earlier this week, brings together senior officials from both organisations to share best practices, situational awareness, and develop principles to make our societies stronger and safer.

Earlier this month we welcomed Finland as a fully-fledged member of our Alliance, and Sweden, I’m confident, will soon follow. Finland and Sweden’s membership transforms the security of the Baltic region, and both countries bring great knowledge, expertise and experience in building resilience.

Resilience will be high on the agenda of the NATO’s upcoming Summit in Vilnius. Ensuring our national and collective resilience underpins our efforts to safeguard our nations, our societies and our shared values. We take this task very seriously.

Last year in Warsaw, panellists identified ‘unity of efforts’, ‘building resilience by design’ and ‘projecting resilience beyond the Alliance’s boarders’ as key elements for NATO to focus on. These elements are now reflected in NATO’s actions.

First, Allies established a senior Resilience Committee. This builds on our extensive experience reaching back to the early 1950s, when NATO assumed a key role in supporting and promoting civil preparedness among its Allies.

Second, the Secretary General convened the first annual meeting of Senior National Officials responsible for national resilience. This unique forum reinforces political engagement and enables closer high-level consultations.

Third, NATO and Allies launched a process to develop collective resilience objectives. Based on which, each Ally will later this year develop their own national resilience goals and implementation plans. In this way, NATO’s frameworks helps Allies strengthen our collective resilience by addressing their own needs while also strategic vulnerabilities and gaps.

Ready to this, Allies have also agreed to launch a four-year resilience planning and review cycle that will provide a structure for these efforts for years to come.

So, much has already been achieved, both collectively and nationally, but much remains to be done.

At this symposium, you have a focused but important programme ahead of you.

You will talk about some of the key topics on NATO’s agenda: from strengthening critical infrastructure and the security of supply, to emerging technologies, and societal resilience.

I am confident this symposium will contribute to building an important community of  interest and practice, deepening our understanding of the issues and generating important new ideas.

I particularly encourage you to reflect on the lessons from Ukraine’s resilience, including its resistance, which can inform our own preparedness.

Last year, I spoke about resilience being a “team sport”.
This remains true and the symposium is a great example of that. It presents a unique opportunity for the resilience community to dedicate time and energy to sharing views and best practices, strengthening existing relationships and forging new ones.

Allied civil and military representatives, NATO staffs, like-minded partner organisations and countries, academia and think tanks as well as industry and civil society – can and must all learn from one another. 

Our Alliance is facing a dramatically changed, volatile and contested international security environment.

In this context, resilience is our first line of defence. It offers a handrail that guides policy, strategy, planning, and capability development and helps us successfully navigate the challenges of today and the turbulent times of tomorrow.  

So, thank you. I wish you a very, very successful symposium.