Adapting to a changed security environment

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Speech by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington D.C


Ladies and gentlemen,
Doctor Hamre, dear John,

Thank you for that kind introduction.

And thank you to CSIS for hosting me.

It is an honour to address such a distinguished audience in this wonderful building.

John, I know you are very proud of your Viking roots.

You are a recipient of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit.

The highest honour my country can bestow on a foreign citizen.

Indeed, for many years, you have promoted the ties between North America and Europe.

The vital transatlantic bond which is the very foundation of our security.

So you really are the right man to host a Norwegian NATO Secretary General to speak about our changed security environment.

And what we, as a transatlantic community, need to do about it.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are at a turning-point for Euro-Atlantic security.

We face rising challenges. The very fabric of our security order is at stake.

We must be prepared for the long haul.

And that is why we need to adapt.

To the south, the challenges are complex and diverse.

The Arab Spring has turned to brutal winter.

Failed and weak states are fuelling regional instability and sectarian strife.

ISIL and other extremist groups spread terror and intolerance.

And inspire attacks from Paris to Texas.

And people move in large numbers.

Many to flee, others to fight.

NATO is playing its part in addressing these challenges in the Middle East and North Africa.

And I am ready to set out what we are doing in greater detail during our discussion.

But let me focus my opening remarks on the east.


The challenge from the east is clear, and it comes from a resurgent Russia.

Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea and its continued destabilisation of Ukraine have brought armed conflict back to Europe.

This conflict has already cost over 6,000 lives.

There are continuous ceasefire violations.

And heavy fighting could flare up at any moment.

That is why I fully support the efforts of the United States, as well as Germany and France, to find a political solution in Ukraine.

The path to peace is the full implementation of the Minsk agreements.

So, I urge all parties to take that path.

Russia has a special responsibility.

It supports separatists in Eastern Ukraine with training, weapons and forces.

And it maintains a large number of troops on Ukraine’s border.

But we cannot look at Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine in isolation.

They are part of a disturbing pattern of Russian behaviour that goes well beyond Ukraine.

And this pattern undermines key principles of European security.

Respect for borders.

The independence of states.

Transparency and predictability of military activities.

And a commitment to resolve differences through diplomacy, not force.


First, let’s look at respect for borders.

The UN Charter and the Helsinki Final Act are clear.

Russia helped to draft these documents, and signed them. But it has broken its commitments.

Crimea has been part of Ukraine since the country became independent.

But Russia sent in troops without insignia.

Organized a so-called referendum, which met no international standard.

And seized part of another country.

President Putin even admitted publicly that Crimea’s annexation had been planned in advance.

After the Russia-Georgia war in 2008, Russia recognised two Georgian regions as independent states.

It has taken almost full control of both.

And built fences between them and the rest of Georgia.

It also has troops in Moldova that Moldova wants out.

And which Russia pledged to withdraw in 1999.

So Russia has been violating the territorial integrity of its neighbours for years.

And continues to do so.

That brings me to the second principle: the independence of states.

Ukraine’s desire to move closer to the European Union was met by force.

So was Georgia’s aspiration to join NATO.

Moldova has also received clear warnings about closer moves towards Europe.

Russia’s leaders claim that its neighbourhood represents a “zone of privileged interest”.

But its efforts to create a sphere of influence risk taking us back in time.

To when great powers drew lines on the map at the expense of smaller states.

And nations were not free to decide their own destiny.

This could create a sphere of instability for us all.

And it is not the sort of Europe we can accept 25 years after the end of the Cold War.

The third principle is: transparency and predictability in military activities.

For decades, we built a stable European security system.

Based on fewer forces, fewer weapons, and fewer large exercises.

On more information sharing.

And on arms control agreements to build trust and confidence across former dividing lines.

These agreements reduced the risk of conflict and miscalculation.

The Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty put limits on the number and movement of equipment like tanks and fighter planes.

But Russia unilaterally suspended implementation.

The Open Skies Treaty allows us to look at each other’s territory from the air to increase transparency.

But Russia is obstructing these activities.

The Vienna Document sets out rules for reporting large military exercises, and allows for inspections.

But Russia has found ways around it to avoid notifying the largest military exercises in the post-Cold War era.

Three of these snap exercises have included over 80,000 troops.

Moving over great distances and at great speed.

One such snap exercise in February of last year was used to deploy forces to annex Crimea.

Others masked support to separatists in eastern Ukraine. And led to the build-up of forces on Ukraine’s border.

As I speak, Russia is conducting yet another snap exercise, with 250 aircraft and 700 pieces of heavy equipment.

NATO, on the other hand, strives to create predictability.

Our largest exercise in twenty years will take place next fall in Italy, Portugal and Spain.

It was announced a year ago.

International observers, including Russia, will have full access.

And you can find the schedule of our planned exercises on NATO’s website.

Because we have nothing to hide.

Whereas Russia is doing all it can to minimize the transparency of what its forces are doing.

This brings me to the final principle.

Resolving differences through dialogue, not force.

Through the pattern I have described, in Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, Russia has shown the will to use force, or the threat of it, to coerce its neighbours.

And Russia’s recent use of nuclear rhetoric, exercises and operations are deeply troubling. As are concerns regarding its compliance with the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty.

President Putin’s admission that he considered putting Russia’s nuclear forces on alert while Russia was annexing Crimea is but one example.

Russia has also significantly increased the scale, number and range of provocative flights by nuclear-capable bombers across much of the globe.

From Japan to Gibraltar.

From Crete to California.

And from the Baltic to the Black Sea.

Russian officials announced plans to base modern nuclear-capable missile systems in Kaliningrad. And they claim that Russia has the right to deploy nuclear forces to Crimea.

This would fundamentally change the balance of security in Europe.


We learned during the Cold War that when it comes to nuclear weapons, caution, predictability and transparency are vital.

Russia’s nuclear sabre-rattling is unjustified, destabilizing and dangerous.

All of this takes place against the background of Russia’s significant rearmament programme.

Some of its new military systems were put on parade during this year’s Victory Day celebration.

And Russia is deploying many of its most modern systems and basing military units near NATO’s borders.

Ladies and gentlemen,

These are not random events.

They form a bigger picture, which is of great concern.

Russia is a global actor that is asserting its military power.

Stirring up aggressive nationalism.

Claiming the right to impose its will on its neighbours.

And grabbing land.

We regret that Russia is taking this course.

Because when might becomes right, the consequences are grave.

For twenty-five years, we have worked hard to include, not isolate, Russia.

Our aim was a strategic partnership.

Borders were opened. Trade went up. And trust increased.

The G-7 expanded to become the G-8, and Russia was invited into the World Trade Organisation.

We created the NATO-Russia Council, and offered to work together on missile defence.

We cooperated in many areas.

From countering terrorism and piracy, to helping Afghanistan.

All of this benefitted us, and it benefitted Russia.

But today, the choices made by Moscow have taken our relations with Russia to their lowest point in decades.

We are not back to the Cold War.

But we are far from a strategic partnership.

So we need to adapt to deal with challenges that may be with us for a long time.

We are doing this in three ways:

Reinforcing our deterrence and defence.

Managing our relations with a resurgent Russia.

And supporting our European neighbours.

First: a strong defence.

NATO’s core task is collective defence. Our commitment to defend each other, enshrined in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, is as strong and relevant today as ever before.

That is why we are implementing the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence since the Cold War.

We have increased our presence in Eastern Europe in the air, on land, and at sea.

Boosting our Air Policing. And beefing up our exercise programmes.

We are doubling the size of the NATO Response Force.

Its centrepiece is the “Spearhead Force,” with lead elements ready to move in as little as 48 hours.

Seven European Allies have volunteered to lead the Spearhead Force, over the coming years.

And we are establishing new NATO command units across the eastern part of our Alliance.

To make it easier for our forces to exercise, deploy and reinforce.

Yesterday, I thanked President Obama for his leadership and for America’s quick contribution to reinforcing our collective defence.

Through the one billion dollar European Reassurance Initiative and Operation Atlantic Resolve.

Everywhere I go across the Alliance, I meet US service men and women. Their presence sends a clear signal.

America stands with Europe.

And European Allies are in lock-step with the United States.

This is transatlantic teamwork.

But for all of us, there is more to do.

Before the NATO Summit in Warsaw next year.

And beyond.

We are enhancing our cyber-defences, and making clear that a cyber attack could trigger a collective response.

We are actively developing how we deal with hybrid threats. Including by working more closely with the European Union.

We are speeding up our decision making.

We are deepening our intelligence sharing.

We are carefully assessing the implications of what Russia is doing.

Including its nuclear activities.

Keeping NATO strong does not come for free.

So we must redouble our efforts to meet the defence investment pledge we made last year.

To stop the cuts, gradually increase spending to 2 percent of GDP. And spend better.

Because we cannot take our security for granted.

And this brings me to my second point.

A strong NATO is not only our best protection, but it also provides us with the best foundation to manage our relationship with Russia.

We do not seek confrontation with Russia.

Nor do we seek its isolation.

We still aspire to a constructive relationship with Russia, because that would benefit Euro-Atlantic security and the whole international order.

But Russia has changed.

And we must adapt.

In doing so, we will not change who we are.

We are sticking to our principles and to our international commitments.

We are committed to preserving European security institutions and agreements.

We will remain transparent and predictable.

We will continue to respond to disinformation with information.

Not propaganda.

And we will keep the channels of communication open with Russia.

Both military-to-military and diplomatic.

Because there is no contradiction in strengthening our collective defence and staying open for dialogue.

A vigilant dialogue.

Where actions speak louder than words.

And in this dialogue, we will firmly uphold the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all European countries.

This brings me to my third and final point: supporting our partners in Europe.

It is in our interest, as a transatlantic community, to have neighbours that are stable and independent.

That is why NATO is working with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine to help them to carry out reforms and build strong institutions.

These nations are not a buffer zone.

They are independent, sovereign states.

They have the right to choose their own path.

And we will continue to help them on that path.

Because if our neighbours are more stable, we are more secure.

Ladies and gentlemen,

For decades, as a transatlantic community, we have kept our peoples safe.

We erased divisions in Europe.

We built a rules-based order which benefits us all.

But as our challenges increase, we must adapt.

To ensure our security

To protect the values of our open and democratic societies.

And to support our partners.

This requires continued commitment and solidarity.

The world is changing.

And we are changing.

But one thing that will not change is our determination to stand united.

Thank you.

Source: NATO


L. J. De Rothschild

Senior Editor

NATO Section


About Post Author

Robert Williams

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