During Stockholm Rose-Roth seminar, NATO PA parliamentarians voice strong support for partners at risk

31 October 2023

Today’s deteriorating security situation requires robust cooperation between the Alliance and its most vulnerable partners to address common security challenges and defend shared values and interests. “Partners at risk are on the frontlines of the struggle to protect the democratic ideals that bind us. Supporting them, as an Alliance, is therefore not just an option; it is a vital necessity,” pointed out Mimi Kodheli, former Vice-President of the NATO PA in her opening speech. Reciprocally, Allies must learn from the experiences of their partners in coping with and responding to similar threats. This was the main message of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s Rose-Roth seminar held in Stockholm, Sweden from 23-24 October. The seminar brought together 60 parliamentarians from 20 NATO member and partner countries.

Nowhere are the threats facing Euro-Atlantic security and the democratic principles that underpin it more evident currently than in Ukraine. The brutal and illegal war unleashed by Russia against Ukraine has inflicted profound human suffering and represents a stark assault on the principles that democracies hold dear, declared Jessika Roswall, Minister for EU Affairs of Sweden – a country which fundamentally reevaluated its foreign policy after Russia’s renewed invasion, alongside Finland, and which is now on the cusp of becoming NATO’s 32nd member. The Ukrainian people's unyielding resolve in the face of this aggression is nothing short of inspirational. They are “fighting for their country’s security and freedom but also for all Europe”, as former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt noted.

In the face of this shared struggle for common security and shared values, a collective response is imperative. Allied states and partner countries have provided large-scale military, financial and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. This support must be sustained and increased, until Ukraine prevails. Admiral Rob Bauer, the Chair of NATO’s Military Committee, underlined the stakes, noting that “if Russia stops fighting in Ukraine, the war is over. But if Ukraine stops fighting, it loses its country. We therefore have a moral duty to support Ukraine for as long as it takes.” Galyna Mykhailiuk, a member of Ukraine’s NATO PA delegation, emphasised this point as well, adding that Ukraine needs weapons as soon as they can be delivered to turn back the Russian aggression at a pivotal moment in the war. 

Sweden is playing its part in these efforts. “Supporting Ukraine is the right and smart thing to do”, said Pål Jonson, Minister for Defence of Sweden, highlighting that the stakes in this war are extremely high, as a Russian victory would be disastrous for Ukraine as well as for Euro-Atlantic security and the rules-based international order on which it is grounded. Stockholm intends to keep assisting Ukraine until its eventual victory. As Julia Kronlid, Deputy Speaker of the Riksdag, underscored “the Swedish Parliament’s condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and support for Ukraine is as solid now as it has ever been.” 

Ukraine remains deeply committed to accede to NATO, Ms Mykhailiuk told members. It is engaged in an existential war with a powerful Russian aggressor and has shown itself equal to the task. This experience has galvanised Ukrainian society to meet the requirements of national defence at a moment of profound crisis. 

However, intense fighting, Russia’s indiscriminate shelling and the massive minefields its forces have laid throughout Ukraine’s eastern regions have proved devastating for the Ukrainian people. To help rebuild the country, NATO Allies and partners will need to continue providing it with long-term financial and humanitarian support. Ms Mykhailiuk also shed light on the widespread war crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine, including the deportation of thousands of Ukrainian children. Many speakers urged Allies and their partners to support Ukraine in its efforts to hold Russian and Belarusian leaders accountable for those crimes.

From rising global food insecurity, to energy challenges, nuclear risks and growing inequalities – among others – the consequences of Russia’s unprovoked war are not only felt around Europe and North America but globally, emphasised François Voeffray-Peyro, Ambassador of Switzerland to Sweden. Georgia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of Moldova and other NATO partners in the Euro-Atlantic area and beyond are feeling the impact. Moscow’s unacceptable and deleterious actions have gravely magnified the threats they face, particularly in the hybrid domain. 

As with Ukraine, supporting Georgia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Moldova politically and practically is crucial, emphasised Tobias Billström, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden. Sweden's experience in bolstering societal resilience offers valuable insights for these partners – as well as for NATO Allies – seeking to enhance their own resilience. As noted by Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, Director General of the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, and Magnus Hjort, Director General of the Psychological Defence Agency, strengthening societal and democratic resilience requires the adoption of a whole-of-society approach and an increased focus on psychological defence.

Georgia experienced first-hand Russian aggression and continues to stand by the formal bid it made to join NATO 20 years ago. Since the 2008 Bucharest NATO Summit, Georgia has made progress on this front and has improved its interoperability with NATO while contributing to collective defence, Georgia’s First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Lasha Darsalia stressed. Despite its limited size and capabilities, Georgia contributes significantly to European and Black Sea security, and stands astride vital transit routes which are essential to European efforts to broaden the supplier base for energy. 

Bosnia and Herzegovina has also made progress in its journey towards Euro-Atlantic integration. However, the country confronts daunting energy and economic challenges and faces a range of complex security threats, Slaven Galic, Deputy Minister of Defence of Bosnia and Herzegovina, noted. The NATO PA will hold its second Rose-Roth seminar this year in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, on 14-16 November, where many of these challenges will be explored in depth.

Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine has reverberated significantly in the Republic of Moldova, prompting a fundamental reassessment of its relationship with Russia and a deepening commitment to its European aspirations, stated Florent Parmentier, Secretary-General at the Centre for Political Research at Sciences Po Paris (CEVIPOF). The invasion has underscored the importance for the Republic of Moldova of bolstering its ties with the European Union and NATO, with a growing determination to fortify its own security, deter potential threats and protect democratic values. 

Cooperation between NATO and its partners is more important than ever, Gerlinde Niehus, the NATO Deputy Director of Defence and Security Cooperation Directorate stated. “Strong partnerships are key for NATO to meet the challenges of today,” concurred Judith Gough, Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Sweden. But to enhance security and address the socio-economic needs of partner countries, NATO Allies must also prioritise collaboration with international organisations which share common values, such as the European Union, noted Tanya Hartman, Head of Policy East, Political Affairs and Security Policy Division at NATO. NATO and the EU have maintained a united front in their response to Russia’s unprecedented challenge. The two organisations work closely together to support Ukraine and coordinate their efforts to assist other partner nations, pointed out Cosmin Dobran, Director for Peace, Partnerships and Crisis Management at the European External Action Service. As Darko Stancic, Assistant Director and Head of Europe & Central Asia Division at DCAF stressed, like-minded countries and organisations must communicate with a united and clear political message to “translate values and norms into practical institutional realties.”

As part of the seminar, participants also paid a visit to the Life Guards Regiment (Livgardet), where they had the opportunity to see firsthand some of the operational capabilities of the Swedish Armed Forces.

The NATO PA organised the seminar with the Swedish Parliament and the effort was underwritten with the support of the Swiss Federal Department Of Defence, Civil Protection And Sport, Security Policy (DDPS/SIPOL) and the Geneva Centre For Security Sector Governance (DCAF). The primary objectives of Rose-Roth seminars are to promote exchanges and mutual understanding among legislators from Allied and partner nations and to assist partner parliaments in developing tools for effective and democratic parliamentary oversight over defence and security.

Photos © Melker Dahlstrand / Sveriges riksdag

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