Address by Gitanas Nausėda, President of the Republic of Lithuania, at the High Level Meeting of Speakers of Parliaments of NATO Member Countries
2 June 2023, Vilnius
Photo by Džoja Gunda Barysaitė, Office of the Seimas
Dear Speaker of the Seimas,
Honorable Speakers of NATO Member Parliaments,
Dear Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honor to address such a distinguished audience today in Vilnius. I see this high level meeting as an important step in the preparation for the NATO Summit in July.
The leaders of the Alliance will be meeting in Lithuania to discuss the most urgent security and defense issues.
At this pivotal moment in history, one crucial fact commands our attention. It is the fact that Russia’s war in Ukraine, launched almost a year and a half ago, continues to this day. Unfortunately, nobody and nothing so far could make Vladimir Putin end this war. And that means continued pressure on both Ukraine and the entire Euro-Atlantic security architecture.
We could have seen this crisis coming. Russia grew increasingly confident after many years of blatant violations of international law. With little to no price to pay for earlier provocations, its leadership came to believe no crime will force the Western countries to take action. They felt empowered to issue ultimatums to the NATO countries.
This has never been solely about the issue of Ukrainian statehood. True, this country was, and still is, an indispensable element of Putin’s vision for the Empire’s revival. However, most of the recent Russian threats and demands, while focusing on Ukraine, were also targeting our Alliance.
Today, with Ukraine forced to suffer brutal attacks, it should be clear to everyone: Russia will not stop easily. If successful, it will aggressively search for new targets.
It is Ukraine that currently keeps our people away from the horrible destiny that befell Bucha, Mariupol, Bakhmut – you name it. If we lose Ukraine – Europe could very well be the next victim.
Therefore, we must stop Russia before it’s too late. And we can do this only by helping Ukraine.
I know there are still some who would prefer any kind of ceasefire or peace negotiations, even without Ukraine’s victory. Maybe starting tomorrow. That would be a huge mistake. It would only bring a false sense of relief. It would only put off another stage of this brutal aggression while allowing the aggressor to come back stronger.
No negotiations or compromises will do. For us all to return to normality, and to be able to feel safe and secure, Ukraine must win this war. And it is our duty and our moral obligation to provide Ukrainians with as much support as they need.
To help others, we need to reinforce our own defense and security and to confirm the credibility of our deterrence.
I have no doubt that NATO must remain THE strongest force. I hope that the NATO Summit in Vilnius in July will contribute to this task.
We have already made the first steps in Madrid. Now, the Alliance must move from forward presence to forward defense with no further delay. The Vilnius Summit will provide the opportunity to make it a reality.
Our task at hand is to bring combat ready brigade size units to the forefront of the Alliance. Relying on reinforcements only, no matter how quick, would simply not do the trick. It would only signal to the aggressor that there might exist a possibility to test NATO’s resolve. We must eliminate this risk.
I hope that at the Vilnius Summit, we will be able to approve new defense plans, including regional ones. Even more importantly, we will have to equip these plans with capabilities. The necessary forces must be assigned, and proper training should begin. Robust decisions on command structure, prepositioning and enablement must also follow.
The war in Ukraine has also demonstrated the true importance of air defense. Thus, I’m looking forward to a rotational air defense model being approved, with provisions for the necessary training and integration of our capabilities.
Without proper financing, all these plans would mean very little. My hope is for the Vilnius Summit to agree on setting a new floor of defense spending at 2% GDP.
However, if we are serious about our security, we must aim even higher. In this regard, the role of national parliaments is crucial. I count on you to take the issue of defense spending seriously.
I also find it useful to remember that increased defense spending could boost national defense industries. We need the production to go up not only to provide Ukraine with adequate support but also to fill our own depleted stocks.
I would also like to invite you to support Sweden’s bid to become the 32nd NATO member. I have a strong feeling it is still possible to achieve ahead of the Vilnius Summit. Sweden deserves to take this important step together with Finland!
Finally, I call on you to seriously consider the future of the Ukrainian state. Whenever the war ends, Ukraine cannot be left in the grey zone anymore. Open door is not enough. Political measures must be taken to bring Ukraine as close to the Alliance as it is currently possible.
Without Ukraine becoming part of the transatlantic community, there will be no long-lasting peace and security in Europe!
Our duty today is to find a way out of these dark and difficult times.
We must do everything it takes to ensure that Putin never dares to test our boundaries and NATO’s resolve. We have to demonstrate our most solid ability to defend. Every inch of the Alliance. From the very first minute.
Ukraine is currently buying us valuable time at a massive price. We have no right to waste it. And we must not be late.
We have each other and shared values to rely on. That is a priceless pillar we should never doubt or trade away.
We also have a collective duty to stay on the right side of history. And that is what we shall do!
Gitanas Nausėda, President of the Republic of Lithuania
Eglė Saulė Trembo