NATO Secretary General at Davos: “freedom is more important than free trade”

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In a keynote speech to the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday (24 May 2022), NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that “freedom is more important than free trade” and that the “protection of our values is more important than profit.”

An important lesson from Russia’s war against Ukraine is that the West should not trade long-term security needs for short-term economic interests, Mr Stoltenberg said. He stressed that the war demonstrates how economic relations with authoritarian regimes – such as Russia and China – can create vulnerabilities, including on energy. The Secretary General also warned of the risks created by exporting advanced technologies like Artificial Intelligence, and of foreign control over critical infrastructure, like 5G.

Mr Stoltenberg described Russia’s war against Ukraine as a “game-changer” for the global order, stressing that NATO’s role is to avoid the conflict from spreading while continuing to help Ukraine defend itself. He made clear NATO would defend “every inch of NATO territory”, as demonstrated by major reinforcements to the Alliance’s collective deterrence and defence, including 100,000 troops now on high alert.

Finland and Sweden’s decision to seek NATO membership demonstrates that “European security will not be dictated by violence and intimidation”, Mr Stoltenberg added. He stressed that NATO enlargement has been a historic success and has spread freedom and democracy across Europe.

The Secretary General later participated in a panel titled “Securing Europe”, and described how, in the context of the Ukraine crisis, NATO has two tasks: to “support Ukraine […] but then at the same time stepping up deterrence and defence to ensure no escalation of the conflict”. He was joined in this panel by Prime Minister Alexander de Croo of Belgium, President Stevo Pendarovski of North Macedonia, Defence Minister Kajsa Ollongren of the Netherlands, Head of the Presidential Administration of Ukraine Andriy Yermak, and Bloomberg Television’s Francine Lacqua.

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