The New NATO and Sweden’s security

Speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Stockholm, Sweden

  • Last updated: 01 Apr. 2011 11:56

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for inviting me to speak here today. The Swedish Institute of International Affairs has a long history of valuable research into critical security issues. Indeed a quick glance at your research programme reminded me of my in-tray at NATO. And it underlined how much NATO and Sweden have in common.

We share the same geography – and that is important.  But we share something much more important.  We share the same values – freedom, democracy,  the rule of law, and human rights.  We share the same desire for peace and security.  And we share the determination to act to defend our values and to preserve peace, when they are threatened.

In times of trouble, it’s important to have reliable partners.  Indeed, Sweden is one of the oldest, and most valued, members of NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme. You have never failed in your commitment to work with our Alliance, or in your willingness to take part in even the most dangerous and difficult of NATO’s operations.

Sweden’s contributions to our operations in the Balkans, as well as in Afghanistan, have been invaluable. As I am sure your contribution to the NATO-led operation to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973 on Libya will be - an issue that I will revert to in a moment. I want to pay tribute to all of your service personnel who have showed tremendous courage and professionalism during these operations. I also want to extend my deepest sympathy to the families and friends of those who, sadly, have been killed or injured.

But it is not just to our operations that Sweden has made valuable contributions. Last year, during the development of the Alliance’s new Strategic Concept, Sweden was a source of much inspiration and many ideas.

The new Strategic Concept defines the Alliance’s purpose and tasks for next decade.  It delivers a road map for dealing with the many different challenges of our rapidly changing world. And it describes the vital role that partners like Sweden can play in addressing those challenges. 
 
Developing a wide network of partnerships for peace and security with countries and organizations across the globe flows from our new Strategic Concept. Working with partners is essential if NATO is to be fully effective. Cooperative security is the key word for the new NATO.

Let me describe the new NATO by three examples. First, how we restore security by responding to a crisis.  Second, how we reinforce security against emerging challenges. And third, how we multiply security by strengthening our partnerships.

We are all focused on the dramatic developments in Libya. With United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, the whole world community has sent a clear and strong message to Colonel Gaddafi and his regime: we will not stand idly by while you continue to attack your own people with tanks, heavy artillery and snipers.
 
In this broad international effort, NATO is playing a key part. On Sunday, NATO Allies decided to take on full responsibility for implementing all military aspects of this historic Resolution. Today, we are completing transition to NATO command and control of the operation to protect civilians and civilian centers from the threat of attack.  
 
We call this Operation Unified Protector. And rightly so: we are in Libya – united Allies and partners alike – to protect the civilian population exposed to attacks by a brutal regime. This is a noble cause, and one that in quite a unique fashion, enjoys the backing of the international community.

Don’t underestimate that!  For the past decade there has been both a political and an academic discussion about “The Responsibility to Protect”. This concept has now found its way into the two Security Council Resolutions on Libya: namely, the responsibility to protect the Libyan people against systematic attacks that the United Nations Security Council has said “may amount to crimes against humanity”.

The significance of this may have escaped the pundits - but not our publics and parliamentarians. In several countries we see support for the NATO-led operations that cuts right across the political spectrum. Because the cause speaks to us all as human beings!

I strongly welcome the decision of the Swedish government to contribute to our common endeavour. I do not wish to prejudge the important debate in the Riksdagen. But I will say this: Sweden has once again clearly shown its solidarity with the international community and its firm commitment to protect civilians.  
 
Not only in words, but also in deeds. Including a willingness to, yes, put its citizens in harm’s way, for a common cause.
 
We all know there can be no purely military solution to the crisis in Libya. The only solution is a peaceful and urgent transition to democracy, with respect for individual freedom and fundamental rights.  At stake is the future of Libya, a country on Europe’s doorstep. And unless the world stands united in these crucial days, we risk sending the wrong message: that violence pays. And we also risk seeing the Arab awakening turn into winter.    
 
NATO welcomes contributions from all its partners across the world to ensure that the will of the international community is heard. Our Alliance provides the ideal framework for the widest possible participation in implementing the UN resolutions in support of the Libyan people. We have extensive experience of involving partner nations in our operations – partners such as Sweden, but also partners in the Mediterranean and Gulf regions.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Afghanistan is another example where we can see the value of partnership.  48 countries are now part of the International Stabilisation Force ISAF. With one in four UN member states taking part, this is the largest coalition in history. And Sweden is part of it, along with NATO Allies.

Just last week, Afghans celebrated Now Ruz, or New Year, a time when people traditionally look forward to the future with optimism. And the people of Afghanistan can really do that. Together with our Afghan partners, we have started the process of transition, which puts them in the lead for the security of their own country.  Mazar-e-Sharif district, where Sweden and Finland run the Provincial Reconstruction team, is one of the first areas where the lead for security is being handed over from ISAF to the Afghan National Security Forces. 

As Afghans progressively take the lead, our role will gradually change. We will need to train more Afghan soldiers and police, and to mentor them as they find their feet. Our training mission is a remarkable success. We have now more than 275.000 Afghan soldiers and police.

This is also about quality, not just quantity. We are teaching all new recruits to read and write – vital skills that the Taliban denied them as children.

Our goal is to have handed over lead responsibility to the Afghan National Security Forces all over Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Sweden understands that it would be a tragedy for the people of Afghanistan, and a threat to our own security here in Europe, if we were to pull out prematurely, leaving behind a vacuum that would allow extremism and terrorism to return. That is why I am confident that Sweden will continue to make a vital contribution to our common endeavour.

The New NATO is also reinforcing security against emerging challenges.

We all enjoy the benefits of the information age. We take cell phones, internet access, and cash machines for granted. But there are literally millions of cyber attacks every day, targeting these systems - our banks, our infrastructure, and our power grids. Even our computers at NATO are targeted one hundred times a day. So through the internet, you can cause devastating damage to our open societies without a single soldier firing a shot.

NATO is already stepping up its defences against this growing threat -- and it makes sense for NATO and Sweden to work together.  We can learn from each other.  We can share expertise. And we can develop best practices to protect our cyber systems.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The New NATO is based on cooperative security. In order to accomplish our security missions, we need strong partnerships.
 
Three partnerships in particular are as important for Sweden as they are for NATO: with the European Union; with Russia; and with other countries in Europe and Central Asia – what we call the Euro-Atlantic Partnership.

I belong to those who think a stronger European defence policy is also a source of strength for NATO.  NATO-EU cooperation, in particular on developing military capabilities, holds great potential. At a time of tight budgets, we need to look at new ways to build more security with less money. 

By pooling and sharing capabilities, and procuring and training together, we could make more efficient use of resources. With 21 countries in common, with only one set of capabilities and with only one set of tax-payers, it makes total sense. I am sure that Sweden will support such efforts.

The NATO-Russia partnership also matters for Sweden. Yes, we do have differences - including on matters of principle such as Georgia’s territorial integrity.  But we also share many concerns, from security in Afghanistan to the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking. In fact, for the first time ever, NATO and Russia are now working together on a strategic issue related to our common security -- missile defence.  These are early days, but I can see a window of opportunity – and we must not let it slam shut. Because a solid NATO-Russia partnership is not only good for all Allies, and Russia, it is also good for all our Euro-Atlantic partners, including here in Northern Europe.

Our Euro-Atlantic Partnership brings together 50 nations from North America, Europe, and Central Asia. It offers a framework for political association with the Alliance based on common values and shared interests.

I would encourage Sweden to use its considerable experience to assist other partners in the Euro-Atlantic area, and beyond.  I strongly believe that Sweden can play a major role in helping partners to modernize their defence and security institutions as part of wider efforts to reform their societies.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We only have to switch on the news to realize that we live in an unpredictable world. Many of the threats that NATO faces, Sweden faces too.  By working even closer together, we can continue to keep Allied nations, and Sweden, safe. 

Thank you.