NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoana told DW that the alliance is determined to continue supporting Ukraine for as long as it takes.
DW: One year ago, Russian President Putin started his war against Ukraine. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has just ruled out giving up any of his country’s territory in a potential peace deal with Russia. But what about NATO? Will the alliance support Ukraine as long as Russian troops are controlling parts of the country, including Crimea?
Mircea Geoana: We are determined to continue supporting Ukraine for as long as it takes and also make sure that Ukraine wins this war. So Mr. Putin can stop this war any second. If he decides to stop the war, there will be no more war. There will be peace discussions.
And I believe that Ukrainians are the ones who need to define what victory represents and what the preconditions for a political solution will be. So, we are helping Ukraine, and by helping Ukraine we help ourselves. And we are here to stay for the long run with the Ukrainians.
NATO has significantly boosted its presence on its eastern flank. What will the alliance do to protect the Black Sea region (including your home country, Romania) and why is this region so important in the context of Russia’s war in Ukraine?
Let me give you just a small historical reminder. You remember 2008 in Georgia — it was on the Black Sea. You remember Crimea in 2014 – it is in the Black Sea. So you see how Russia is using the Black Sea military capabilities to project power all the way to Africa and the Mediterranean. So that’s also the Black Sea.
That’s why in the strategic concept of NATO that our leaders approved in Madrid, we consider and we recognize the Black Sea as a strategic region, of strategic relevance to us. Not the only one: the Baltic Sea is important, the Adriatic Sea is important, the North Sea is important, the North Atlantic is important. But the Black Sea has a specificity with so much Russian presence, with so much pressure that they’re putting on Ukraine. And also we have Ukraine and Georgia and the Republic of Moldova, who are partners of NATO’s.
So the Black Sea is very important. And we take specific steps. In my home country, Romania, France is leading the battle group. In the neighboring country, Bulgaria, Italy is leading the battle group. So we are paying attention and we are investing in the deterrence and defense of the Black Sea countries.
The pressure on Moldova is growing, and Russian missile strikes on Ukraine are a direct threat to Moldova’s security. How can NATO help the country guarantee its independence and sovereignty?
Moldova is a partner of NATO. For three decades now, we’ve been assisting Moldova in many ways. Of course, we know that the Republic of Moldova is a neutral country by constitution and we respect that. But we see an intensification of the partnership between the Republic of Moldova and NATO. We are responding to the requests that the government and the president of Moldova are making to us, both to NATO as an organization and to individual allies.
(Moldovan) President Maia Sandu is right: Being neutral doesn’t mean you are weak in terms of defense. There is something interesting about the Republic of Moldova: The country is a joint partner of both NATO and the European Union. The fact that the EU has given to Ukraine, but also to Moldova, a clear path towards EU membership is, in a way, helping Moldova to resist this huge pressure from Russia. Because against the Republic of Moldova, Russia has waged its whole arsenal of hybrid war.
It’s not an open war like in Ukraine, but nonetheless, the pressure on Moldova is immense, as the pressure on Georgia is very high, or on Bosnia-Herzegovina. That’s why we are helping even more these partners that are under big pressure from Russia.
The accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO has been prepared ,but some member states are still delaying the ratification of the accession protocol — like Hungary. What do you think is behind this?
First of all, the process of getting these two new members into NATO has been the most compressed and the most accelerated of all the other enlargements of NATO after the Cold War. So that’s fast by any standard. Secondly, they’re already invitees in NATO, so they take part in many, many things, including in NATO defense planning and exercising. So they are basically around the table most of the time.
We are confident that the two national parliaments that are still to ratify the accession protocols of Sweden and Finland — which is the Hungarian parliament and the Turkish parliament — will do this expeditiously. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was in Ankara just a few hours back, and he again made the point to President Erdogan. We are also making the point to our Swedish future allies.
So we are optimistic that even these two countries will be full members of NATO. And we are also confident that the two remaining parliaments will expedite the process of ratifying them. And then, without any other decision, the moment the two remaining allies will ratify, the instrument of membership will be presented to the State Department in Washington. That’s the rule.
And we will become, hopefully, on the way to Vilnius [NATO summit, July 11–12, 2023 – Editor’s Note], an alliance of 32 nations, the most powerful and the most relevant alliance in human history. Finland and Sweden will add a great deal of sophistication, of democratic and military and resilience, and added value to us.
NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoana, a former head of the Social Democratic Party in Romania, has served as Romanian minister of foreign affairs (2000–2004) and president of the Romanian Senate (2008–2011).
Author: Dora Diseri