Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, let me say how pleased I am to be in Kuwait City today, and to have the opportunity to complement my official meetings with a public event. I would like to extend a sincere word of appreciation to the Government of Kuwait, and especially to you, Sheikh Thamer, for your leadership in exploring closer relations between Kuwait and NATO. And I want to thank you all for taking the time out of your busy schedules to attend this meeting.
Over the past few years, as Deputy Secretary General of the NATO Alliance, I have been closely involved in the development of the Alliance’s dialogue and cooperation with countries across the Mediterranean region and into the Gulf region. And I consider this seminar as a most valuable opportunity to discuss both the rationale for that engagement, and its great potential, including for Kuwait.
From the very beginning, NATO has understood the importance of cooperation. The Alliance was established 58 years ago to unite North America and Europe in a shared commitment to defend their territory and freedom against the threat posed by the Soviet Union. And for more than four decades, the Alliance was able to accomplish that goal by deterrence alone – by displaying military force, rather than actually using it.
Thankfully, the Cold War has long disappeared. And so has the old, Cold War, NATO Alliance. However, in its place, a new, 21st century NATO has clearly started to take shape.
What remains from the old NATO are two unique features that give the Alliance the strength and cohesion to adapt and respond to changing circumstances. First, NATO continues to bring together North America and Europe – two continents that not only enjoy a unique level of cooperation with one another, but which also feel a strong obligation to contribute to global stability. And second, NATO continues to feature both an exceptional political consultation mechanism and a multinational military structure to implement the decisions taken by its members.
The first and perhaps most essential feature of NATO today is the way that we look at security. While collective defence remains a core purpose of the Alliance, we realise we no longer have to defend Western Europe against the threat of a massive invasion from the East. Instead, we must cope with a new, ruthless breed of terrorism; the risk of the most dangerous weapons falling into the hands of the most irresponsible individuals; and failing states that threaten stability in their own region and well beyond. Security cooperation in -- and with -- NATO today is all about addressing those new risks and threats.
That is why, as we speak, NATO has well over 50,000 troops deployed in several demanding, United Nations-mandated missions and operations, on as many as three continents. You are all aware of our engagement in Afghanistan, where NATO is leading the International Security Assistance Force, a most challenging mission that includes peacekeeping tasks as well as combat operations.
But in addition to our role in Afghanistan, we are also keeping the peace in Kosovo, as talks continue to decide on its future status. We are assisting defence reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina. NATO ships are patrolling the Mediterranean Sea in an anti-terrorist mission. We are airlifting African Union troops to the Sudanese crisis region of Darfur, and have offered similar assistance for Somalia. We have been training Iraqi security forces, both inside and outside of the country. And in 2005, after the devastating earthquake that struck Pakistan, we mounted one of the largest humanitarian relief operations in history.
That leads me directly to the second key characteristic of the 21st century NATO that I wish to highlight – which is our closer relationship with other institutions. And nowhere is this better illustrated than in Afghanistan. It is clear for everyone to see that success in Afghanistan is not dependent on NATO alone. That a stable Afghanistan, capable of standing on its own feet, requires both security and development. And that these two processes – creating greater security, and promoting reconstruction and development -- must go hand in hand.
And so, in Afghanistan but also elsewhere, NATO today is not acting alone. We obviously work in close partnership with the governments concerned. But more and more, NATO is also cooperating closely with other international actors that are better geared towards development and reconstruction tasks -- such as the United Nations, the European Union, the G8, and the World Bank – as well as with Non-Governmental Organisations. Because we all realise that such a comprehensive approach is the only way to create lasting stability, and to safeguard our own security in a globalised world.
The third, important characteristic of NATO today is partnership. As I just highlighted, promoting security today is an enormous task, which requires a qualitatively new level of international cooperation. And therefore, NATO is not only interested in developing closer cooperation with other international institutions, but also with individual countries. Countries that realise that they, too, are not immune from the new global risks and threats. And countries that are interested in working with us, in a joint effort, to tackle those common challenges.
And there are many of those countries. Today, NATO is at the centre of a wide network of security partnerships that stretches well beyond the Euro-Atlantic area. Several of our partner countries have actually put forces under NATO command – to stand shoulder to shoulder with NATO soldiers in some of our most demanding missions.
In our increasingly globalised world, the security of countries in Northern Africa, the Middle East and here in the Gulf region matters to NATO -- but the Alliance also matters to your security. We all face the same threats – threats that we can really only come to grips with if we work together. We share a common interest in the future of Iraq and Afghanistan, and in a stable international environment more generally. We also have a common interest in energy security, whether we are suppliers or consumers. And as the scope of NATO’s operations has broadened to your neighbourhood, it makes eminent sense for us all to deepen our dialogue and cooperation.
Our political consultations have steadily deepened. They received a major boost with the very successful conference hosted here in Kuwait City last December, in which the entire North Atlantic Council – the Alliance’s senior political body – took part. And my talks with Kuwaiti officials here this morning once again clearly demonstrated their seriousness in pursuing meaningful contacts.
At the same time, our practical cooperation has also grown. There has been a growing number of Kuwaiti participants in NATO courses and seminars. Several NATO expert teams have paid very successful visits to Kuwait earlier this year. Kuwait has decided to appoint a Liaison Officer to NATO, which should greatly facilitate our cooperation. And we have been particularly pleased with Kuwait’s decision – again, as the first ICI country – to sign a transit agreement with NATO, to support the deployment of Alliance forces on current and future missions.
A particularly promising area for closer cooperation is in training and education. The NATO Summit in Riga late last year launched the so-called NATO Training Cooperation Initiative. The basic aim of this initiative is to make available more widely to interested Mediterranean and ICI partners the Alliance’s unique expertise in training military forces – to help them to build forces that are interoperable with those of the NATO Allies, and able to work together effectively in meeting common challenges.
NATO experts held very constructive talks here in Kuwait and other ICI countries earlier this year to explore closer cooperation in this area. This has already resulted in more training and education activities in the ICI Menu that I just mentioned. But we are also making progress towards the establishment of a dedicated faculty at the NATO Defense College in Rome, and the creation of a network of training and educational establishments. And this is another area where I hope, and expect, Kuwait will continue to engage.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Not that long ago, we could afford to be complacent about developments that happened far away. But today, globalisation has once and for all eliminated the notion of achieving safety by geographical distance. More and more, the security of all our nations is affected by what is happening elsewhere on the globe.
How do we respond? There is really only one way. By thinking and organising ourselves differently than we did in the past. By saying goodbye to the outdated security concepts of yesterday. And, above all, by reaching out beyond geographical, cultural or religious boundaries – and exploring new, common approaches of security cooperation.
That kind of openness and active engagement is very much the hallmark of the new, 21st century NATO. And we have been particularly pleased to see Kuwait take a similar, constructive attitude towards developing greater dialogue and cooperation, including with NATO.
The Alliance has an interest in the security of this country, and that of the Gulf region more generally. Our common interests are clear for everyone to see. So are the mutual benefits of closer cooperation.
Thank you for your attention.