We saw this war coming… NATO was prepared: Since 2014, we have carried out the largest restructuring of the alliance since the end of the Cold War said NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, in Oslo (Norway) at the Annual Conference of the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprises.
Source — NATO — Oslo, January 5, 2023 — (As prepared)
Table of Contents
It is great to be at the Annual Conference of the Norwegian Confederation of Enterprises (NHO).
I remember very well the first time I was here. In the early 1990s, as the newly appointed minister for business and energy, as it was called back then.
At that time, Kalle Glad was NHO chief and Yngve Hågensen was LO [Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions] leader. My boss, Gro Harlem Brundtland [former Prime Minister of Norway], had explained to me that as long as I made sure that Kalle and Yngve agreed, then everything would go well. So I did as Gro said – and together we did a lot.
That is probably what is called the Norwegian model. In particular, I remember the restructuring package in Sør-Varanger municipality, after we shut down the mine and the pellet plant. An important part of this was to invest heavily in trade and investment across the newly opened border with Russia.
It was a new and optimistic time. The Berlin Wall had fallen, and the Cold War was over. Democracy and freedom spread across Europe and the rest of the world. We had unfaltering faith in globalisation, free trade and growth.
Now I’m standing here again, at NHO’s annual conference. In a completely different world. No more tearing down rusted up walls. But building new, upgraded fences. Detente has turned into high tension – and new war. Authoritarian regimes are rising. Democracy is retreating. Globalization is declining.
Today, this new reality is most visible through President Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine.
We saw this war coming
The brutality has shocked many. But there is no reason to be surprised. We saw this war coming.
It is part of a pattern where Moscow uses military force to achieve its political goals.
The brutality in Grozny.
The invasion of Georgia.
The bombing of Aleppo.
And the war in Ukraine did not start last February. It started in 2014. With Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the attacks in Eastern Ukraine.
We made the information public
But it is not only this pattern that did not surprise us. At NATO, we also had precise intelligence about the build-up of Russian forces along the border and their concrete plans.
We made this information public and warned about a possible invasion for months. We repeatedly made significant political and diplomatic efforts to prevent war. But President Putin still chose to attack.
NATO was prepared
NATO was prepared. Since 2014, we have carried out the largest restructuring of the alliance since the end of the Cold War. Deployed more NATO troops in our member countries. Increased the readiness of our forces. Established new defence domains, such as cyber. And not least, NATO Allies have been investing more in defence. In addition, Finland and Sweden are on their way to join NATO.
Hours after the invasion, we activated our defence plans and significantly increased our military presence, from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. We now have even more soldiers on high alert. This is not to provoke a conflict, but to prevent the war in Ukraine from becoming a full-blown war between NATO and Russia.
And to remove any room for misunderstandings and misjudgements in Moscow about our ability and willingness to defend NATO territory.
Strong defence secures peace
NATO and NATO countries also make significant contributions to Ukraine. Norway is one of the countries that contributes. The military support Norway provides makes a difference and is noticed.
If Putin wins in Ukraine, it will be a tragedy for the Ukrainians. But it is also dangerous for us. The message to him and other authoritarian leaders will be that if they use military force, they will get what they want.
It will make us more vulnerable.
There will be no lasting peace if oppression and tyranny win over freedom and democracy.
Wars are unpredictable
It is impossible to say when, or how, the war in Ukraine will end. But what we do know is that most wars end at the negotiating table. Most likely this one too. What Ukrainians can achieve at the table depends on their strength on the battlefield.
So if we want a negotiated peace solution, where Ukraine survives as an independent democratic country in Europe, the fastest way to get there is to support Ukraine.
Weapons are – in fact – the way to peace
Regardless of when or how this war ends, we must accept that the security situation in Europe has changed permanently.
The regime in Moscow wants a different Europe. It wants to control neighbouring countries, and it sees democracy and freedom as a threat. This puts Russia in a position of constant conflict with the West. So even if this war ends, the problems in our relationship with Russia persist.
The Ukrainian forces have inflicted heavy losses on Russia in Ukraine. But Russians have once again shown a willingness to take great risks and endure great human losses. They have already mobilized 200,000 extra troops. In addition, we know that they can acquire a lot of new material. And perhaps most importantly, there is no indication that Russia’s ambitions have changed.
It is dangerous to underestimate Russia
Let me share three lessons I believe we can already learn from the war in Ukraine.
First, we need to invest even more in defence. That has been NATO’s message for a long time. And you’ve heard me talk about that many times before. Now I also think that everyone sees that we need a stronger defence. With troops at higher readiness. Modern equipment. And well-trained soldiers. It costs money.
The second lesson is that it is dangerous to depend on authoritarian regimes. It was not long ago that many believed that buying gas from Russia was purely a commercial matter. The reality is that it is a political issue. It is about our safety. Business is also politics.
We must not repeat this mistake with other authoritarian regimes. Not least China.
We must not make ourselves vulnerable by becoming too dependent on critical raw materials and products. We must not export technology that can, in turn, be used to threaten us. We must not lose control of critical infrastructure, which is essential both for civil society and for military activity. Like ports, railways, telecommunications – 5G networks.
We will still trade with China. But it must be done in ways that do not undermine our security. It is a shared responsibility.
The authorities have a responsibility to establish rules and frameworks. But the companies also have an independent responsibility to exercise due diligence.
We cannot take as a starting point that every profitable project should be carried out – just because it is profitable.
Short-term economic interests cannot trump fundamental national interests
It is often said that war is too serious to be left to generals. Similarly, we can say that business activities are too serious to be left to business leaders alone.
The third lesson is that authoritarian regimes have increased their cooperation.
A couple of weeks before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, President Putin and President Xi met in Beijing. They announced a strategic partnership with ‘no-limits’. Russia and China train and operate more together militarily. They have an increasing economic cooperation. And China has not condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On the contrary, they promote the Russian narrative, which puts the blame on NATO. And China has for the first time backed Russia’s demand that NATO closes its door to new member states.
Not only is the cooperation between Russia and China strengthening, but Russia is also building closer ties with other authoritarian regimes, such as Iran and North Korea. These are different regimes.
But they have in common that they promote an alternative world order. They advocate values that violate our belief in freedom and democracy.
In a more dangerous world, it is all the more important that we, who believe in freedom and democracy, stand together.
Not because we are always right.
Not because we never make mistakes.
Nor because we always agree.
But because we share the same values.
And because we are so much stronger together than alone.
NATO represents 50 percent of the world’s economic power and 50 percent of the world’s military power.
In a way, that is half the world brought together to secure peace for each other. And to continue to preserve our freedom and democracy.
So, as long as we look after NATO, NATO will look after us all.