Jens Stoltenberg has made a passionate defence of the power and relevance of NATO in a speech to the German Marshall Fund of the United States, an organisation which “strengthens transatlantic cooperation on regional, national, and global challenges and opportunities in the spirit of the Marshall Plan.” The event took place at the Concert Noble in Brussels.
In his address, the NATO Secretary General moved to reassure allies of the efforts of NATO in stepping up operations in Europe, harked back to his service in the Norwegian military and underlined the importance of strong alliances when negotiating with Russia:
“…As a child in Norway during the Cold War, I didn’t know much about Article 5 or the Washington Treaty. But I did know that NATO was there to protect us. I felt safe, because of NATO. Later as a young conscript in the Norwegian Army, we were trained to hold out. In the secure knowledge that our Allies would quickly come to our rescue. We knew that Norway could not make it alone. But we also knew that we were not alone…
“…To stay strong we must preserve and strengthen collective defence. The pledge to defend each other – Article 5 of our founding treaty – remains the bedrock of NATO. It is the basis for everything we do…
“…Norway’s experience as a founding member of NATO is that a strong defence, based on a strong NATO, is the foundation for a constructive relationship with Russia. It gave us the confidence to work with Russia on a range of issues. From military matters to fisheries, energy and the environment. We also signed a treaty to establish the maritime boundary between our nations in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean.I believe there is a lesson here for us now. That only a strong NATO can build a truly constructive and cooperative relationship with Russia…”
Mr Stoltenberg’s comments were presented against a backdrop of increasing NATO activity to the East and South of Europe to counter the threat of Russia in the Ukraine and ISIL in Syria and Iraq. In addition to a five-fold increase in the number of NATO jets in Eastern Europe, NATO is conducting military exercises every two days across Europe and setting up a rapid reaction “Spearhead Force” which is expected to be approved by national ministers in February.
To the South, Patriot missiles have been delivered to Turkey and the NATO missile defence system is being prioritised – as the Secretary General said “there is no choice between providing for our security in the East or in the South. We have to do both.”