NATO Secretary General Sees Danger in Russian Aggression and Annexation

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Munich Security Conference, Feb. 6, 2015Last year was a turning point. For European security. And for the global order. Here in Europe, we see a dangerous pattern of Russian behaviour. Annexation. Aggressive actions. And intimidation.

The conflict in Ukraine is deepening, with a horrific cost to civilians. The causes are clear and cannot be denied. Russia continues to provide training, equipment, and forces in support of the separatists. And it continues to destabilise Ukraine. In utter disregard for the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

North Africa and the Middle East are also in turmoil. States are breaking up. And conflict is at our borders. Extremism is fuelling barbaric violence across the region. And inspiring terrorism on our own streets.

So I agree with Ursula and Wolfgang; this conference has a dramatic backdrop. But does this mean that the international order is on the brink of collapse?

My answer — is no. Not as long as the guardians of the international order remain ready to act. To uphold international rules. And the vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace.

Since its foundation, NATO has been a resolute guardian of the international order. That order is being challenged. And we must do our utmost to protect it….

NATO is the strongest military Alliance in history. Yet we cannot take our security for granted. Since 1990, there has been a steady fall in European defence spending. And last year, there was a further decline of about 3 percent.

So the fact is that our security challenges are increasing. But our defence spending is decreasing. This is simply not sustainable. We cannot do more with less forever.

Last autumn, our Heads of State and Government pledged to stop the cuts. To increase defence spending as our economies grow. And to spend more efficiently. This is not easy. It cannot be done overnight. But it can be done.

Some Allies are already doing it. But this is a pledge that we must all keep. Because, the less we invest in our defence, the more our security becomes a matter of hope. Even in the best of times, hope is not a strategy. And we do not live in the best of times….

Last year was a black year for our security. And this year has started on an equally dark note. But history is not written in advance. We can prevent an age of disorder – if we have the will. We can keep the international order that has served us so well. If we stand up for its rules. And if we stand up for each other. So it is up to us.

Image: Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Munich Security Conference, Feb. 6, 2015 (photo: NATO)