by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to the staff at Allied Air Command (Ramstein)
I would like to start by thanking you for the service you do every day, for what you do for NATO, both in the Allied Air Command, the Situation Centre, the NATO Space Centre, and the Ballistic Missile Defence Ops Centre.
In different ways you all participate to NATO's core task to protect close to 1 billion people, 24/7 air policing, coordinating our efforts in space, coordinating and providing ballistic missile defence, and helping to support NATO in many other ways. And you should just know that the work you're doing is of enormous importance.
It has been important for many years, two decades, but I think with a conflict in Ukraine, it becomes even more obvious that to have a strong NATO, to have strong air defence, missile defence, space capabilities, coordinating efforts of NATO Allies is even more important. And you come from different nations, from different parts of our Alliance, but you all contribute to that overall effort.
Let me also say that, perhaps the best way of knowing that the political leadership, and I will meet some of them in half an hour, that they really appreciate what you do, is that they have realised, that we need to invest more in defence, invest more in NATO.
This has been something we’ve been talking about for many years. I was present at the Wales Summit, the NATO Summit in Wales in 2014 where, you remember, we agreed that all Allies need to invest more in defence to spend 2% of GDP on defence. I remember I left the meeting and I was thinking that, well, a new promise, a new declaration from politicians, but nothing will happen. And because I was a politician myself, I attended a lot of these meetings, and we promise and we don't always deliver.
But this time actually, the politicians have delivered. Because.. [before] 2014 defence spending [was] going down across the Alliance. Since 2014, defence spending has increased across Europe, Canada, and the whole NATO every year. And in total, they have added 270 billion extra for defence across Europe and Canada, and then you have the US on top of that, which is of course big. And they have… they have increased even more over the last year. And then, after Ukraine, all Allies have really stepped up with support for Ukraine, unprecedented levels of support.
I’ve just attended the meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group chaired by Secretary Austin here in Ramstein today. And we again see how Allies are stepping up with support to Ukraine. And at the NATO Summit in Madrid this summer in June, they didn’t only promise to continue to invest more in national defence budgets, which is really the big one and what matters, but the Allied leaders agreed for the first time in…since the end of the Cold War to invest more in NATO structures, to increase what we call the NATO common funding, the thing that actually finances what we do as NATO, on everything from exercises, to pre-positioned equipment, the digital backbone, more command and control, all that stuff that makes NATO, NATO and binds Allies together.
So if anything, I think that willingness to invest, to spend money in difficult times shows that the political leadership realises what you do really makes a difference and is more important than it has been for many, many years.
I promised to be very short so I will stop almost there. But the only last thing I would say is that of course, the most urgent challenge we face as NATO today is Ukraine. And our task is partly to provide support to Ukraine, to provide more and sustained support to Ukraine. The winter is coming, the winter is going to be hard and we need everything from lethal support to also winter clothing, generators, tents to help Ukraine through the winter.
But we also need to prevent the escalation of the conflict... to become a full-fledged war between Russia and NATO that will be a disaster for all of us.
So therefore, we need to make sure that there is no room for miscalculation in Moscow about NATO's readiness, preparedness to protect and defend all Allies, including those Allies who are at the border of Ukraine…and [inaudible] providing support for Ukraine, that there's no room for miscalculation or misunderstanding in Moscow about our readiness to protect all Allies, also those Allies at the border of Ukraine. Because as long as there's no room for miscalculation about that commitment to Article 5, to our collective defence, then there will be no attack against the NATO Allied country. We proved that during the Cold War. But we need to prove it again with credible deterrence, defence in a more dangerous world.