Thank you very much, Mr Walters, dear John, for the invitation.
And thank you for the outstanding job you do here at Hudson. In the twenty years since Hudson moved to DC, you have become an incredibly authoritative source of ideas and analysis. Not only here on Pennsylvania Avenue but also for us, on the other side of the Atlantic. Your positions, from the support to Israel, to keeping Ukraine on the path to victory, from artificial intelligence to China, constantly reach European capitals and influence our own conversations. Your track record of mapping out unbiased solutions to the world’s most complex challenges is in the image of your founders. And I want to start in particular by paying tribute to the late Max Singer.
The vision he outlined in his great work, entitled ‘History of the Future’, is one that Europe and the United States have been fighting for the last seven decades. It is a vision of a modern world in which democracy and freedom, security and opportunity, education and wealth, all become universal. The events of the last weeks in the Middle East, and of the last years in Eastern Europe, epitomise that this fight has never gone away. In fact, it is more acute than ever. What is at stake here dwarfs what is in front of us in these difficult days. We are shaping the history of our future. And I believe Europe and the United States have a duty to mould that future together.
There is one old memory that I would like to share with you. It was 1987 and I lived in West Germany. Back then, it was unthinkable for most people to imagine that the Berlin Wall could fall. But not for a visionary leader like President Reagan. I remember vividly when he came to Berlin, and said: ‘Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall’ – he touched all hearts in Germany. And Reagan never stopped working for exactly that dream. He believed that ‘the Atlantic community is the house of democracy’. And for him this meant that we must ‘shelter [democracy] from all the winds that blow’.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The winds are not just blowing today. Today, they are at gale force. Our democracies are under sustained and systemic attack by those who abhor freedom because it threatens their rule. For more than 600 days now, our friends in Ukraine have been fighting and dying for their freedom against Russian aggression. And now, Israel has suffered the worst terrorist attack in its history, and the worst mass murder of Jews since the Holocaust. These two crises, however different, call on Europe and America to take a stand and to stand together. Vladimir Putin wants to wipe Ukraine from the map. Hamas, supported by Iran, wants to wipe Israel from the map. Shelter democracies we must.
Because if we do not, the horror will spread. The horror that I witnessed last Friday when I was in Israel in Kfar Azza. Six days before I visited, it was a lively kibbutz with 750 inhabitants. But on 7 October, Hamas came at 6:00 in the morning. I saw burnt-out houses, a baby seat covered with blood, debris, bullet holes, unexploded grenades. It was a ghost town. There was no limit to the blood Hamas terrorists wanted to spill. They went home by home. They burned people alive. They mutilated children and even babies. Why? Because they were Jews. Because they were living in the State of Israel. And Hamas’ explicit goal is to eradicate Jewish life from the Holy Land. These terrorists, supported by their friends in Tehran will never stop. And so, Israel has the right to defend itself in line with humanitarian law. And in the face of this horror, there is only one possible response from democratic nations like us: We stand with Israel.
I have visited Israel many times in my life. But this time, I saw a nation shocked to its core. And from the families of the abducted, to President Herzog, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and right across the unity government, they all had the same request: solidarity and clear words. And this is the least we can do for the people of Israel. As defenders of a free world where hate, terror and anti-Semitism have no place.
The Palestinian people are also suffering from Hamas’ terror. And there is no contradiction in standing in solidarity with Israel and acting on the humanitarian needs of Palestinians. We have tripled our humanitarian support to Palestinians in Gaza, but we are also reviewing all our development aid to Palestine, in view of a very volatile situation on the ground. And we are redoubling our engagement in the region. We have seen the Arab streets fill with rage, all across the region. The risk of a regional spillover is real. This is exactly what Hamas was hoping to achieve. And this can derail the recent and historic rapprochement between Israel and its Arab neighbours.
A normalisation of relations could offer peace, prosperity and integration to a troubled region. Just weeks ago, for instance, we announced, together with our American friends, a new trans-continental corridor, that would link Europe to Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, and from there to India. A corridor for trade, that would help de-risk all our economies, including from our over-dependence on China. But also a corridor for data and clean energy, to create good jobs all across the Middle East. It could contribute to both growth and reconciliation between neighbours. This is the other side of the possibilities.
The benefits of a stable Middle East are obvious. But there are those who seek more violence, because they know the cost of any instability for us. Iran, Hamas’ patron, only wants to fuel the fire of chaos. Russia, Iran’s wartime customer, is watching carefully. Russia and Hamas are alike. As President Zelenskyy has said their ‘essence is the same’. Both have deliberately sought out innocent civilians, including babies and children, to kill and take hostage. This is a barbaric way to fight. And left unchecked, this contagion has the potential to spread, from Europe, across the Middle East and to the Indo Pacific. Western resolve is being tested every day by those searching for any weakness. Any success they gain, will inspire more violence aimed at upending the existing order. An order that so many lives on our continents were sacrificed to create and uphold.
But escalation is not inevitable. Instability can be contained. Dialogue between Israel and its neighbours can and must continue. I have been recently talking to several Arab leaders, including the King of Jordan, the President of the UAE and the President of Egypt. This time of war must also be a time of unrelenting diplomacy. Europe, as the largest foreign investor in many countries across the region, has both leverage and a stake. The same is true for the United States. It is a shared American and European interest. The pursuit of a world where freedom prevails is our common destiny.
Which is why it is imperative that we speed up Ukraine’s path to victory. Ladies and Gentlemen, Ukraine will win. But they need the hardware to get the job done and we must deliver it, to save lives, to bring an end to this conflict, to help regenerate Ukraine, whose warriors will be proud defenders inside NATO. But now it is up to us in the West to help make that happen as fast as possible. I am proud that Europe and the United States have been leading on this together.
Putin has made three major strategic mistakes. First, he was convinced he would take Kyiv in a matter of days. Ukraine’s courage showed him otherwise. Second, he expected Europe to be hesitant and undecided. But we were fast, determined and unwavering. On day two of the war, we imposed wave after wave of sanctions. And up to today, we have eleven packages of sanctions, and all this in close cooperation and constant coordination with the United States. We opened our doors to over four million Ukrainians fleeing Putin’s bombs. And to this day, we provide them with access to education, health care and social protection.
So far, we have supported Ukraine with close to USD 90 billion, of which USD 27 billion in military assistance. And like never before in the history of international aid, we have been coordinating our assistance with the United States and other key partners in the G7 to make sure it is complementary and addresses Ukraine’s most pressing needs. And we have already started the process required for Ukraine to become a member of the European Union.
Putin’s third big strategic mistake was to believe that he could blackmail Europe with energy. it is true, before the war, most of our gas supply was delivered by Gazprom. This was a heavy dependency. But then, Putin cut 80% of the gas supplies in eight months only. So, we were in a severe energy crisis, but thanks to our friends, in the United States and Norway for example, we were able to diversify and get rid of our dependency on Russian gas in record time. We saved 20% energy during this winter. So, we got our house in order and stood strong and united against Putin. Because of that, we were able to move on. And one thing is clear, that autocrats only understand one language, and that is the language of strength and the language of unity.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We can never match the sacrifice and the bravery of the Ukrainian people. But we can stand firmly by their side. And that is what we are doing, for as long as it takes. Not only because it is the right thing to do. But because they are fighting for our values and for our strategic security. So, we must support Ukraine to make this war unsustainable for Russia. Together we can do this. And we must. Because we know how Russia deals with wars that it cannot win on the ground. It tries to freeze them. Just like it did with Ukraine in 2014. And then it waits for the right moment to launch a new offensive.
Here, in this room, many voices warned us of this at the time. And now we are living that reality. Putin is playing the same waiting game. Counting on us diverting our attention and our resources elsewhere. There can be no room for hesitation or half measures. Now is the time to double down, whether on finance or equipment, to make sure that the cost of the war for Russia keeps rising, and to deter those with intent, who are watching us to see if our endurance can match theirs. This is why our sanctions are here to stay. This is why we have broken free for good of our dependency on Russian fossil fuels.
Any solution of this conflict must be a lasting one, and a just and lasting peace for Ukraine. And for this, Ukraine needs long-term security guarantees. Many of you will be familiar with the concept of ‘deterrence by denial’. It is the idea of providing Ukraine with the military equipment it needs to deter Russian attacks in the future. I am immensely grateful to the United States for your military support to Ukraine. You have given strength to the courage of Ukrainians. I want Europe to play a central role in ensuring Ukraine’s long-term security. For this, we have to step up our defence spending and our industrial base. We have already started with a first investment to ramp up our ammunition production capacity. I believe that this work should happen in synergy with the United States, our oldest and strongest ally.
Ukraine dreams of being in Europe, and in NATO, because it knows what it stands for. NATO and the European Union are standing for security, freedom and prosperity. President Zelenskyy once said that there is one thing above all that motivates Ukraine’s soldiers: It is the expectation that one day, they and their children will live in a free and prosperous country like ours. If we want Ukraine to win, if we want Ukraine to rise from the ashes of this war, we must invest in Ukraine’s future. Starting today. And Europe is already leading the way with more than USD 50 billion in investment for Ukraine, to be spent over the next four years. Europe intends to step up and has been ramping up its assistance to Ukraine. We recognise that the United States’ support should be one important piece of a global effort. And we are asking other international investors, public and private, to also chip in to give Ukraine the certainty they need, to rebuild, to modernise, and to win this war. This is what we mean when we say that we are with Ukraine for as long as it takes.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me to finish where I started. What Europe and the United States are fighting for together is about freedom and democracy. It is about security and opportunity, not just for those in active war zones but for our own societies. We have not forgotten that in World War II, democracy won over fascism and autocracy. This triumph set the foundation of our peace order. And this is not only about the past, but it will also define our future. That is why I believe it is the right thing for the United States to renew financial and military support to Kyiv. And that is why I believe it is the right thing for Europe to keep its own support up. The people in Ukraine are willing to die for our common values. They have been doing so for over 600 days. Together, we have powered their resistance. And this is the transatlantic partnership at its best. A partnership for freedom, peace and prosperity. A partnership for shared values. To go back to Max Singer – I believe it is once again our duty for Europe and the United States to help shape the history of the future.
Thank you very much for your attention, and I am looking forward to our conversation.