NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg gave a keynote speech to the Munich Security Conference recently.
Mr Stoltenberg stressed that in a more unpredictable security environment it was essential to have strong multilateral frameworks; strong defence; and strong transatlantic cooperation.
“Thank you so much. It’s really a great pleasure to be back here at the Munich Security Conference, especially because the focus this year is on the need for global institutions, for global order.
And we all know that these institutions, this rules-based order is under pressure. And therefore we also know that when these institutions are under pressure, we also see more uncertainty and more unpredictability.
And therefore today, I will actually focus a bit on how we can deal with that unpredictability and the more uncertain security environment that surrounds us.
I will do that of course out of the perspective of NATO. And I will also do that knowing that one way of dealing with uncertainty is to try to predict the future.
At the same time, we know that to predict the future is extremely difficult.
We were not able to predict the fall of the Berlin Wall. We were not able to predict the 9/11 attacks. And we were not able to predict the rise of ISIS.
And I can also confess to you that I know it’s not only in the realm of international security that it is hard to predict the future.
Because for many years – well, not so many years – but in my first job, as an economist in the Central Bureau of Statistics in Norway, we tried to predict the oil price.
And we were wrong all the time. So to predict the future is not easy.
What is therefore needed is not only to try to predict the future, but to develop strategies to deal with uncertainty, to be prepared for the unexpected. And when it comes to security, there are at least three essential things we need to address when we try to develop a strategy to deal with and be able to tackle uncertainty.
One is strong multilateral frameworks; Second, strong defence; And third, strong transatlantic cooperation.
All of these help us to reduce risks. And to cope with surprises when they happen. And they will happen.
So first, we need strong and effective multilateral frameworks.
After the destruction of World War Two, visionary leaders created institutions that enabled countries to compete and cooperate peacefully.
That covered everything from European security and arms control. To monetary policy and international trade. They protected the weak from the strong. They ensured our peace and prosperity. And they have benefitted us all, and they have been incredibly effective in meeting the needs of the people they served.
Yet today, these institutions are under pressure. If we want them to remain effective. We need to continue to reform and modernize them. That is why one of my main objectives in NATO has been reform. To make sure the Alliance remains fit for the future.
One important framework that has served us all very well is the nuclear arms control regime. Which, over many decades has dramatically reduced the number of nuclear weapons. In the early 1990’s, the United States and the Soviet Union each deployed 12,000 long-range strategic nuclear warheads.
Today there is a limit of 1,550 warheads for each country. There were also almost three thousand intermediate range nuclear weapons in Europe. The INF Treaty banned them all,
And brought that number down to zero. But now, the whole nuclear arms control regime is under assault. Russia has deployed several battalions of its new SSC-8 missile system, in breach of the Treaty.
These missiles are mobile. Easy to hide. And nuclear-capable.
They can reach European cities, like Munich, with little warning. They lower the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons in a conflict.
It was on this very stage, at the Munich Security Conference in 2007, this was the place that President Putin first publicly expressed his desire for Russia to leave the INF Treaty. A treaty that is only respected by one side will not keep us safe.
Then it is just a piece of paper. That is why, with the full support of all NATO Allies, the United States has announced its intention to withdraw from the Treaty.
This will take effect in six months. So Russia still has a window of opportunity to return to compliance.
We call on Russia to take that opportunity. And to verifiably destroy its intermediate range missiles. The clock is ticking. We want Russia to return to compliance.
But we are also preparing for a world without the INF Treaty. And a world with more Russian missiles in Europe. NATO has already started this work. And I will not predict the outcome. But what I can say is that we will do this as an Alliance.
United and measured.
And that NATO has no intention of deploying new land-based nuclear weapons in Europe. NATO will always take the necessary steps to provide credible and effective deterrence.
While we remain determined to avoid a new arms race, we cannot afford to be complacent, and we cannot afford to be naïve.
And that brings me to my second point, the second thing we must do to deal with uncertainty. To continue investing in our defence.
For centuries in Europe, conflict was our constant companion.
The last 70 years of peace have been the exception, and not the rule. We must never take peace for granted.”