Mircea Geoană

Remarks at the 2022 Budapest Forum

delivered 22 September 2022

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[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

NATO Deputy Secretary Geoană: Thank you, Péter. And -- And so good to see Géza Jeszensky, my -- my dear friend. So good to see you. And we have so many wonderful memories from our work in politics and -- and diplomacy over the years. I want to say that Géza Jeszensky is one of the leaders that transformed Central Europe. And he's one of the champions of Transatlantic and European integration for -- for us. So Géza, my...I'm so happy to see you.

Listen --

Géza Jeszensky: So am I.

NATO Deputy Secretary Geoană: -- we have -- we have seven months already of the unconceivable war on European soil after so many decades; and probably not that much for the ones in Eastern Europe, because probably knowing Russia better from our history, we were probably a little bit more prepared for the revival of this imperial appetite of Russia.

But for many in Western Europe, and also for -- for many of our citizens, this was a major shock. And I want to put this -- this atrocious world within context, and also to...try to dissipate some of the propaganda and, let's say, to...look into the mythology that the Kremlin is using in waging this war, and trying to transform this war into a war between Russia and...the West, which is, of course supporting Ukraine.

Number one, in terms of international norms, Russia is a signatory to all the relevant documents, confirming the fact that each nation in the world and in Europe has the freedom and the sovereign right to choose its own path. The Charter of the United Nations, the Charter of Paris, the documents that Russia signed to NATO, the Russia -- NATO-Russia Founding Act is explicitly saying that Russia is recognizing the right of European nations -- including our nations that joining -- have been joining NATO in between -- to join the Alliance they wish.

Géza, I remember, we are running after the Americans to convince them to allow our countries into NATO. Nobody was forcing us to get into NATO or [the] European Union for that matter.

So basically, the breach of international law is so blatant on behalf of Russia that I...just cannot say how wrong this -- this gesture is.

The second part is about the -- the war itself. Of course, Mr. Putin now is in a much weaker position. Domestically and internationally the war is going bad for him and for Russia. He is, in fact, recognized, de facto, the fact that the "special operation" is in fact a war by mobilizing, partially, additional troops -- which, by the way, will not [be] probably that much because the logistics, the -- the equipment, the morale of the existing Russian troops in Ukraine is so low. Even if there will be some additional numbers, the quality and the motivation will be probably as low as the -- as the current one.

The second thing is the atrocious, barbaric gestures against a civilian population. More than one million Ukrainians have been deported. We thought that Gulags will never come again, not only war will not ever come again in Europe, but Gulags again, Gulags in 21st century in Europe. That's something unacceptable -- rape, filtration camps. And beyond the devastation of war, we are also seeing tremendous human suffering and tremendous economic and material losses for Ukraine.

So what Mr. Putin has been saying yesterday is having NATO more united than ever. We are calm. We are determined. We knew that this escalation would come.

And as [the] Secretary General has said yesterday in one of his interviews at the General Assembly of the UN, we are also condemning forcefully the saber-rattling with a nuclear rhetoric.1 And this is something that a major power, a nuclear power with experience in global affairs, in strategic affairs, [the] Soviet Union -- now Russia -- they also carry an obligation not to misuse the rhetoric.

In real terms, we are not seeing, and our intelligence is not indicating, any change on the nuclear posture of Russia level of alertness, or any significant moves. But this is strategic communication trying to influence the morale of the Ukrainians and the resolve of the West. This trick will not work. We'll continue to help Ukraine. It's a fight that they need our help.

NATO is not a part of this conflict. We are very clear that NATO is not a co-belligerent to this conflict. And if you look to what NATO does as an organization, we are helping Ukraine in many ways, but nothing of the lethal aid, the military aid, which is done by Allies. And close to 50 Allies and partners are providing [assistance] in a different format outside of NATO, [and] will continue as an organization and as Allied Nations and partners to help Ukraine prevail. Because in fact, it's about the future of democracy. It's about the future world order. Do we want to have the jungle or some form of predictable norms?

So in a way, Ukraine is fighting, they are fighting for their own sovereignty and liberty. And I applaud their courage. I applaud the way in which they are behaving as a nation in these very difficult moments. But I also say that us, the supporters of Ukraine, are also doing a pretty good job in helping them and staying with them for the long haul.

And I think in Hungary, a country that is -- has such a -- such a[n] important experience with [a] lack of democracy, with 1956, with so many things that happened in our part of the world -- I think people in Hungary and people in...Central Europe and people in the Baltic region are understanding the value of democracy, the value of freedom; and also sometimes the temptations that do appear in this -- this never-ending bettering of our democracy, our freedoms, and -- and the rule of law.

Just one word about Sweden and Finland. We are exceptionally happy with the decision of these two invitees. We are -- We are hopeful that they will be joining our ranks in the near future. Of course, there are things that are done between Finland, Sweden, and Turkey, bilaterally. But I'm -- we're seeing with -- with great pleasure the fact that now, I think, 25 national parliaments of the 30 who have ratified the accession of -- of these two countries. So there will be a...net added value to us. And not only in terms of defense and security; in terms of values, of real democracy, societal resilience, technological advance, and also an ethic of -- of values, if you want, that will be bringing a lot more than just their size and geography to this Alliance of ours.

So one billion people, 32 nations, values, freedom, liberty, rule of law: This is what we are all about; and, of course, common interest in defending each other against any -- any enemy that might dare to challenge NATO.

Moderator: Thank you much. Do you happen to have time for one, two more questions or [do] you have to leave?

NATO Deputy Secretary Geoană: Of course I do. Of course I do. And... I...don't say I have a lot of time but of course I would -- I would be happy to respond to one or two more questions.

Moderator: Okay, okay, let me -- two -- two short questions. One is that it -- I would return a bit to [the] accession of Finland and Sweden. And, yeah, this is absolutely a positive sign that it seems that NATO is just more attractive than ever before because it -- it seems like a really valuable club that more and more countries want to join in. From your optimistic words, it seemed that you are sure that the...disagreement between Turkey, and, Sweden and Finland can be solved. Turkey is the country that is raising the most -- most loud [sic] objections but also there are some other countries that have not ratified yet the -- the accession of these two countries, such as Hungary, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain. And [the] Hungarian government thought, for example, that...it is following the developments of the debate between Turkey and the new countries that want to join [with] special attention. So, how do you think that this debate can be solved, if you would -- if you can go a bit into the details.

NATO Deputy Secretary Geoană:  I said that I am -- I am confident, we are confident here. And secondly, Secretary General Stoltenberg himself played personally, as a leader, a very important role in Madrid. You remember there were discussions about getting the status of the invitees in Madrid. It was a major success. And secondly, General Stoltenberg, together with other leaders, played a personal role in the -- in Madrid itself before the summit started. And this is something that I believe will lead to a -- to a positive conclusion.

Now, there is a memorandum signed by Sweden, Finland, and Turkey. For Turkey, the issue of terrorism is an existential problem to their national security. There's no other country in NATO -- I don't know about the world -- that has suffered more from terrorist attacks. And for them this is a very important issue. And I want to make sure that new members into NATO will understand their problems and eventually cooperate together.

The first senior-level meeting of this working group established by the three players I have mentioned has already met. It is my understanding that the first conversation went relatively well, positive atmosphere. And also there is something that we have learned from our Swedish friends that just had elections -- that the new government would keep in place a Deputy Foreign Minister that was in charge from the previous Swedish government, and the same person will continue in the new government to be the interface in these very important things. Of course, that's also about intelligence. It's about [the] Ministry of the Interior. It's about foreign ministries. So we...know that dialogue will lead to a conclusion.

For the rest of the -- of the nations that have not yet ratified, I think it's more of the nature of their constitutional procedures. So, we -- we hope that all 30 will be ratifying and we'll see the two new proud members of NATO joining our ranks. So, yes, I am confident. Of course, I cannot give a 100%, you know, blank check. But we are confident that they're engaging in earnest in this conversation and we do hope that we...fully understand the [many-sided?] value of these two countries to the security not only of the Baltic Sea region but also to the whole eastern flank, which is now, in a way, becoming something even more interesting. It's from the North Sea to the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. So that's a very important evolution in -- in the...strategic balance of Europe. So I think all allies from the eastern flank, from Turkey all the way to Norway, which is the North-est [sic] of them all, do understand the importance of having a very solid eastern flank, with Finland and Sweden completing this puzzle from the high north to the warm seas of the Mediterranean.  

Moderator: Thanks, and a last very short question: If Finland and Sweden succeeds -- succeeds [sic] to join that we all hope, which countries [do] you think could be the next? There has been some public discussions about some other countries there. The NATO accession came up on the agenda, including Ireland for example. Would you dare to name some other countries that -- that could be the possible future members of NATO if these two countries have already joined?

NATO Deputy Secretary Geoană: I can only recommend a -- a very interesting, important reading -- an easy to read -- which is the new NATO Strategic Concept which was adopted in...Madrid. In -- In itself, it's not -- it's not -- it's a very condensed document which is charting the way forward for the Alliance for the next decade or so. So there you'll see also the new definition of Russia, in our assessment, the new definition of China, and also you'll see a reconfirmation of the open door policy -- this is part of the Washington Treaty, which says very clearly that every nation -- in our geography of course -- that contributes to our security and qualifies as a democracy can ask for joining NATO. And this is something that will continue. Open door is a fundamental piece of NATO's -- of NATO's identity and our DNA. I cannot say which countries would be either ready or will be ready because you need consensus, and this is something that I just cannot identify names. But we have partners that have Membership Action Plans with us -- in the Balkans, also in the Black Sea.

There was a very interesting report by -- by a group led by former Secretary General Rasmussen and -- and the head of the presidential administration on what kind of guarantees could be -- could be identified for Ukraine, security guarantees, in the future. So I just cannot say which nations, but I know one thing -- that the matter of principle: The fundamental right of European nations to choose their own alliances and their own future will remain sacrosanct for NATO. Of course, this is also factored by many other considerations, but the principle is there and our Strategic Concept is reconfirming the value and the importance of our policy of open doors.

1 Relevant Quotation from Reuters Interview: "This is dangerous and reckless nuclear rhetoric. It's not new, as he has done it many times before. He knows very well that the nuclear war should never be fought and it cannot be won. And it will have unprecedented consequences for -- for  Russia." [Source: transcribed directly from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1C8zaPsP1s]

Original Text (Excepting Q&A), Audio, Image #3 Source: Nato.int

Original Images #1 and #2 (screenshots) Source: Screenshots of 2022 Budapest Forum

Text Note: Q&A transcribed by Michael E. Eidenmuller

Audio Note: AR-XE = American Rhetoric Extreme Enhancement

Page Created: 10/1/22

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