On Thursday, August 4, 2022, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addressed the Workers’ Youth League (Arbeidernes ungdomsfylking, AUF) on the Norwegian island of Utøya. He emphasised the significance of continuing support for Ukraine.
He pointed out that the Russian invasion has once more stopped and that Ukraine has shown that it is capable of retaliating and regaining lost ground from the Russian soldiers. He also praised Finland and Sweden for making rapid progress toward NATO membership, with 23 Allies having ratified the accession protocols to date.
As prepared – translated from Norwegian
It’s so nice to see you.
I have spoken from some important platforms.
But nothing compares to standing here.
On the ground at Utøya.
The most beautiful place in the world.
Where I have been every single summer since 1974.
I really have everything to thank AUF for.
The organisation that has meant everything to my life.
It was here that I learned to do politics.
This is where I learned to debate.
This is where I learned to lead.
So without AUF, and without Utøya, I would never have become Secretary General of NATO.
And I say that, although I readily admit that it was also here in the 70s that I learned about why Norway should withdraw from NATO as soon as possible.
We sang “Norway, Norway out of NATO” at the top of our lungs, whether we agreed or disagreed.
And it was here in the 80s that I helped to convince the AUF to say yes to NATO.
THE big deal at our summer camp in 1986.
I was elected leader [of the AUF] the year before, in 1985.
My deputy Turid Birkeland had raffled off a trip with me on the Kjærlighetsstien during the summer camp, as a kind of prize.
The girl who won probably didn’t quite feel that it was a big prize.
She got a slightly confused guy who, after a few short introductory comments about where she was from – Trøndelag – spent the rest of the trip arguing for NATO.
As we did throughout the summer camp, and all the way up to the national congress in 1987.
“Revolution from within NATO” we called it.
Norway was better served by promoting its view from within than from without.
So far, that argument has worked better about NATO than about the EU, but I’ll leave that debate here.
They say that every effort counts.
Although I am not sure that that trip on the Kjærlighetsstien made a difference!
But at our national congress in 1987 there was a majority in the AUF for Norway’s continued membership of NATO.
So there might be some who think that even then I had a plan to become Secretary General of NATO.
I can promise you that it was not at all something I dreamed about.
At the time I was studying to become an economist and dreamed of becoming a statistician.
Maybe one day I could get a job at Norway’s Central Bank.
Not as Secretary General of a military alliance.
But the position remains the same.
I am still in favour of NATO.
And so is the AUF.
So thank you very much for the support!
Everything we believe in and come from, the AUF and social democracy, is founded on the idea of cooperation.
That we don’t find the best solutions individually, but together – for the community.
NATO is a community.
Where the basic idea is that an attack on one country is an attack on all.
One for all, all for one.
Its purpose is not to provoke war.
The purpose is to prevent war.
As NATO has done for over 70 years.
It is more important now than ever, in a more dangerous world.
With war in Europe.
Where Russia has invaded Ukraine.
President Putin has attacked an entire innocent country and people, with military force, to achieve his political goals.
What he is really doing is challenging the world order we believe in.
Where all countries, large and small, can choose their own path.
He does not accept the sovereignty of other countries.
After all, the war was triggered by his demand for Russian control over Ukraine.
And his demand that NATO should not be further enlarged.
He does not respect Ukraine’s desire to become part of our community.
Or other countries’ sovereign decisions to apply for NATO membership.
In this conflict, NATO has two tasks.
And prevent the conflict from spreading into a full-scale war between NATO and Russia.
First, on support for Ukraine.
We support Ukraine in their right to self-defence.
A right enshrined in international law.
The Ukrainian people have shown great courage throughout the war.
Ever since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, NATO and NATO countries such as the US, Canada, the UK and Türkiye have assisted Ukraine.
Many more countries are now contributing, including Norway.
Norway’s contribution to Ukraine’s struggle is greatly respected.
At the NATO summit in Madrid just over a month ago, all NATO countries agreed that we will support them as long as necessary.
We have a moral responsibility to support them.
They are an independent country, with over 40 million people, who are unjustifiably subject to a brutal war of aggression.
We are seeing acts of war, attacks on civilians and destruction not seen since World War II.
We cannot be indifferent to this.
But, it is also in our own interest that President Putin does not succeed in his ambitions in Ukraine.
A world where the lesson for Putin is that he gets what he wants by using military force is also a more dangerous world for us.
If Russia wins this war, he will have confirmation that violence works.
Then other neighbouring countries may be next.
We pay a price for our support to Ukraine.
For the military, humanitarian and financial support.
For the sanctions, which have resulted in increased inflation and higher prices in our countries.
But remember – the price we pay may be measured in money.
The price Ukraine pays is measured in human lives.
Hundreds killed or wounded every day.
What we see now is a brutal and bloody war of attrition.
The Russian advance has stalled again.
And the Ukrainians have shown the ability to strike back and take back territory, and are planning a counter-offensive in the south.
The second task of NATO is to prevent the war from spreading.
We do that both by not being a party to the war – we are not entering Ukraine with troops.
We also do it by showing clearly that an attack on a NATO country will trigger a response from the whole of NATO.
That is why we are increasing our military presence in the east of the alliance.
Since the war broke out, we have around 40,000 soldiers under NATO command, mainly in the east.
Backed by a significant number of aircraft and ships.
At the Summit in Madrid in June, we adopted a new, large-scale strengthening of our defence.
A new force model, with earmarked forces that are pre-assigned to defend specific NATO countries.
Over 300,000 forces at high readiness across the Alliance, and more pre-positioned military material, primarily to defend the eastern part of the Alliance.
Or as the ancient Romans said:
“If you want peace, you must plan for war.”
Deterrence prevents conflict.
President Putin also believed that through the use of military force he would get less NATO near Russia’s border.
His stated goals and demands for NATO are that we should withdraw our forces, remove all military infrastructure and not admit more member states.
He has achieved the opposite.
A stronger and more unified NATO, more agile and decisive.
With more forces on the border.
And Finland and Sweden, which will soon be full members of the alliance.
This was their choice.
A few hours ago, the US Senate ratified the accession protocols.
This brings to 23 the number of Allies which have now ratified Finland and Sweden’s accession to NATO.
And several are close to completing their national processes.
So far, this has been the fastest accession process in NATO’s modern history.
Putin calls us an aggressive and expansive NATO.
This is a story we must never accept.
These are free, democratic countries that have chosen themselves.
Their accession will strengthen NATO.
It will strengthen defence cooperation in the Nordic region.
And it will strengthen Norway.
President Putin’s war against Ukraine, and his threats against neighbouring countries, also concern Norway.
We have seen for many years that Russia is re-arming up in the north.
With advanced nuclear weapons, hypersonic missiles and multiple bases.
Cyber -attacks against the Storting in 2020 had Russian origins.
A short time ago, Norway was again exposed to several hacker attacks where a Russian group, “Killnet”, claimed responsibility.
And unfortunately we also have to take it seriously when leading Russian politicians threaten to break the delimitation line agreement with Norway.
The agreement that regulates our common border at sea in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean, and the large resources found there.
The delimitation line agreement was negotiated by [Prime Minister] Jonas [Gahr Støre] when he was foreign minister.
He did a great job which has ensured Norway’s values and a settled long-term relationship with our neighbouring country.
Good neighbourly relations require clear boundaries.
Disputes over borders can lead to major conflicts.
Russia’s threats, and Russia’s military build-up, mean that NATO is strengthening its presence in the north.
So is Norway.
It is good that Norway is investing in new fighter aircraft.
Maritime surveillance aircraft.
And has more activity in the northern region.
A more dangerous world means that we have to invest more in defence.
To keep the peace.
For everything else we care about and are passionate about, such as combating climate change, eliminating poverty in the world and creating the right environment for people to live good lives, it becomes completely meaningless if we fail to secure peace.
Our party veterans, Einar Gerhardsen, Trygve Bratteli and Oscar Torp, understood that.
Which meant that in 1949 they made an important and difficult choice.
That Norway should no longer be a neutral and non-aligned country, but become a member of NATO.
There was also an internal debate at the time.
In the first vote, a minority voted against.
But then the management and the board of directors found out that this was to be regarded as a trial vote.
They voted again, and it was unanimous.
There was more law and order at the time!
Norway into NATO!
Strong defence is a fundamental prerequisite for a safe and stable society.
We ensure this best when we stand together – and are therefore infinitely safer than when we are alone.
It’s so nice to be here.
In the world’s most beautiful place.
And the most important platform of them all.
I actually have a picture from here, from the ground, in my office in Brussels.
I show that to everyone who visits.
And when I meet people around the world, they often mention Utøya.
Obviously because of July 22, but also because they have great respect for how you have taken the island back and made it what it is today.
They have deep respect for that, and I am grateful.
So thank you very much for everything AUF and Utøya have meant to my life.
For the support of NATO.
And for me!