Addressing the 75th Nordic Council session in Oslo, Norway, on Tuesday (31 October 2023), Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that deep cooperation among the Nordic countries after years of enmity demonstrates that “peace is always possible”.
Sstoltenberg underlined that building friendship and trust between decision-makers is particularly important “at a time when polarisation, fragmentation and suspicion threaten trust in democracy and the open societies we seek to build”. He further welcomed that soon, the entire Nordic region will be in NATO.
Mr Stoltenberg condemned Hamas’ terrorist attacks on Israel and underlined the importance of Israel’s response taking place within international law, that civilians are protected, and of humanitarian aid reaching Gaza. He stressed that the war must not escalate into a major regional conflict. “We must not give up working for a lasting, political peace solution,” he said, underlining that the war in Gaza “must not lead to a weakening of our will and ability to support Ukraine.”
Warning that there are no signs that Russia is planning for peace, Mr Stoltenberg stressed that Allies must continue to provide Ukraine with lethal aid. He added: “if Ukraine stops defending itself, they will be occupied, and occupation is not peace”. Calling Russia’s invasion “a strategic defeat” which has left Moscow increasingly isolated, he underlined that “investing in Ukraine’s security is also an investment in our security”, because a victory for Putin would show authoritarian leaders that military force pays.
The Secretary General also underlined the importance of trading with China “in ways that do not undermine our security” or create new dependencies. This also requires continued investment in defence. “Increased defence spending means more defence. But it gives us one more thing: a stronger NATO community,” he said.
Finally, Mr Stoltenberg welcomed that NATO is not only getting stronger; “we’re getting bigger”. Following Finland’s accession in April, Sweden will also soon join the Alliance. This “strengthens our ability to defend the Nordic region; it strengthens our ability to be present in the northern regions; and it strengthens our ability to come to the aid of our Baltic neighbours,” he said.