Principles and Power

Speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the NATO Review Conference, Berlin

  • Last updated: 27 Oct. 2011 14:23

NATO Review Conference hosted by the ''Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik''. Left to right: NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and the Director of the ''Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik'', Volker Perthes.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for that warm welcome. This is the first time I have been able to attend your annual conference. And I very much appreciate the opportunity to address you this year.

I’m always happy to return to Berlin. A city that was once the symbol of a divided Europe. And that is now the centre of a united and democratic continent. For decades, NATO stood firmly in defence of Germany, and of the fundamental principles shared by all Allies: freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

Today, I want to talk about those principles. About the power to protect them. And about how NATO provides a unique combination of both.

Our principles form the bedrock of our Alliance. They are what have kept NATO indispensable for over 60 years. And they stem from a simple idea. That all people should be allowed to achieve their natural potential as human beings. And that no group, creed, or government should stop a person from reaching their potential. We have a word for this. And that is freedom.

Freedom lies at the heart of our principles, along with democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. These principles make us who we are. They are essential to our way of life. And that is why they must be protected.

This fundamental truth is the foundation of our Alliance. It is expressed in our clear commitment to the United Nations Charter. And in the enduring purpose of NATO.

Our most important mission was, is, and will remain, the defence of our territory. Because the best way to protect our principles is to provide security for our 900 million citizens.

But freedom does not come for free. Protecting our people, and our principles, requires power. The power to save, to preserve, and to build – what has been called soft power. Peacekeeping and peace-building. Training and education. Consultation and cooperation. Soft power is really a form of persuasion – an effort to convince people that peace is more rewarding than war.

But there are times when our operations must also involve the careful application of sanctioned force for legitimate political ends. This is hard power. Sometimes we must use this power to protect civilians. To convince hostile actors that they can’t win militarily. And to show them that their only way forward is to move to the negotiating table.

NATO’s new Strategic Concept describes how hard and soft power complement each other. How both are necessary. And how they involve working with other international organizations to help build good governance, effective institutions, and stable societies.

The legitimacy of our Alliance, then, rests upon a unique combination of principles and power. Our principles demand that we protect our populations and inspire those who desire freedom. And, when the cause is just, and the legal basis strong, we can put power behind our principles to protect them. When we have the responsibility to take action, we also have the ability to take action. And when we have to act, we do...

Let us take our operation in Kosovo.

Twelve years ago, a coalition of countries intervened there on the basis of a clear moral principle. We refused to tolerate genocide and war crimes. We had the responsibility to act, and we did.

Since that time, NATO’s Kosovo Force – KFOR – has been a guarantor of peace and stability in the region. Now led by Germany, KFOR helped turn one of Europe’s hotspots into a largely peaceful place. And KFOR will continue helping to maintain a safe and secure environment for all people in Kosovo, in full compliance with our United Nations mandate.

Kosovo is an excellent example of principles backed by power. I saw this for myself in Pristina last month. With the commander of KFOR, Major General Drews from Germany, at my side, I met the representatives of the European Union, the OSCE, and other international actors in Kosovo around the same table. Alongside the United Nations, they work together every day. Coordinating their own unique contributions for the benefit of the people in Kosovo.

And as a sign of our success, KFOR has reduced its presence, from 50,000 troops ten years ago to around 6,000 today. It is now primarily up to the Kosovo police and the European Union mission to deal with security and the rule of law. But when violence flared up recently, the response of the German and other KFOR troops was fast, firm and fair. And you can be very proud of them.

Libya is another example of our principles backed by power. Last March, the United Nations Security Council adopted an unprecedented resolution. It was based on a key principle: the responsibility to protect. To protect, by all necessary means, civilians who were brutally and systematically targeted by the Qadhafi regime for demanding their legitimate rights .

It was NATO who answered that historic call. We had the responsibility to act, and we did. In just 6 days, all Allies agreed to launch a complex mission. We were fast, flexible, and effective. We worked closely with our partners, from Sweden to the Arab world. We consolidated the credibility of the United Nations, by fully complying with our mandate. And we helped the Libyan people start their journey from dictatorship to democracy.

Afghanistan. The International Security Assistance Force, in Afghanistan, is another NATO-led operation where we support our principles with power.

ISAF remains NATO’s number one operational priority. And Germany is the third largest troop contributor in Afghanistan. Part of a coalition of now 49 nations, the largest coalition in history. A coalition that operates under a firm United Nations mandate. A coalition that has the responsibility to act, and is doing just that.

Our principles are clear. We are determined to defend our populations against terrorism and to protect their right to live in freedom and peace. We are in Afghanistan to prevent the country from again becoming a haven for terrorists and extremists. To help build up the Afghan forces so that they can take charge of the security of their own country. To help provide a secure environemnt in which the government of Afghanistan can build transparent and effective institutions. Because a stable, democratic, and increasingly prosperous Afghanistan is not just better for the Afghans. It’s better for our own security, here in Europe.

By the end of 2014, I expect Afghan forces to have taken the lead for security across the country. They are already in charge of a quarter of the population. The next stage of transition will be announced soon, and I expect it to be just as significant. Afghan security forces are increasingly capable and confident. We need to focus further efforts on building up their numbers and their quality, as we continue to support the Afghan people throughout transition and beyond.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
These operations, in Kosovo, in Libya and in Afghanistan, remind us that modern security challenges do not stop at our borders. So neither should our principles, or our power to preserve and protect these principles.

But principled power comes with a price – often, a high one. Some say we have a choice between security and prosperity. But this is a false choice. Because they are two sides of the same coin. And if we debase the coin, then we put at risk both our security and our prosperity.

Sound fiscal policies are also sound security policies. Because mounting deficits and deep debts make countries vulnerable.

But we need to take care that in balancing the books we don’t compromise our security. Because our principles are precious, and our freedom is priceless.

The way forward lies not in spending more, but in spending better. We must prioritise the capabilities we need the most. Specialise in what we do best. And seek multinational solutions to common problems. This is Smart Defence. It’s the key to improving our capabilities while fairly distributing the defence burden. It’s the right approach, for the right capabilities, at the right price.

Germany has already embarked on ambitious reforms to make its armed forces leaner, more efficient and more capable. And actually, the reform has just been presented. These are the kind of reforms we need. And by working with other Allies, Germany can become a motor for Smart Defence. And for more effective defence spending.

Preserving our principled power will be the focus of our Summit in Chicago, next May. And we can do this with an Alliance that is more committed, more capable, and more connected.

More committed to its principles, its operations, and its goals. Specifically, we should agree a strategic plan with Afghanistan for our partnership that will last through 2014 and beyond. And I expect the Bonn conference in December to be an important stepping stone towards providing Afghanistan with the support it needs.

More capable. In Chicago, we should endorse a package of capability improvements that Smart Defence can help us deliver.

We should declare an interim operational capability for a NATO territorial missile defence system. And I hope we can also take forward cooperation with Russia on missile defence.

Finally, more connected. We should reaffirm the Alliance’s support to the Euro-Atlantic integration of our partners on this continent. We should also send a strong signal to countries in the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and the Gulf that we continue to share an interest in their regions’ stability and security.

And I hope that by next May, a new and democratic Libya will be among our partners.

Ladies and gentlemen,

For over sixty years, NATO has protected our freedom and preserved our peace. It has defended our most cherished principles. And proved the indispensable Alliance. By working together, we must ensure the Alliance can deal with tomorrow’s challenges, and remain indispensable for generations to come.

We live in a challenging time. A time to remember that without principles, our power would be immense, but ill-founded. And without power, our principles would be impressive, but impotent.

NATO forms a community of values. And we are prepared to put power behind principles.

Thank you.