Switzerland and NATO : partners in security
Speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the Churchill Symposium in Zürich, Switzerland
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for that very kind welcome. And let me also thank Zürich University’s Europe Institute and the Swiss authorities for their warm hospitality.
This symposium is named after one of the great statesmen in modern history. Winston Churchill was an early supporter of cooperation in Europe. He was also a strong advocate of American engagement with Europe. His bold vision continues to inspire politicians to this day -- including myself.
It was in your ancient and beautiful city that Churchill made a passionate appeal. To “re-create the European family”. And to build – as he called it – “a kind of United States of Europe”.
Churchill was speaking in 1946, in the wake of World War Two. And he started his speech by talking about the tragedy of Europe.
Today, 66 years later, I’m in the very fortunate situation that I can speak to you about the triumph of Europe.
Yes, we are in a serious economic crisis. And yes, many people are currently facing adversity and hardship. But we should not let this overshadow Europe’s success since the days of those dark horizons.
Instead of tyranny and terror, we have lived through an unprecedented period of peace, progress and prosperity.
We have turned Europe’s tragedy into Europe’s triumph largely because we have delivered Churchill’s dream.
He was both clear-sighted and far sighted. He laid out the path he believed Europe would need to take to overcome the economic, political and military difficulties it faced at that time. And we have come a considerable way along that path.
We have succeeded in bringing the European family together. We have put in place the structures that allow us to live in freedom, peace, and in safety. And we are very close to building a Europe that is whole and free.
One of the most important structures we have built is NATO. From its creation in 1949, the transatlantic Alliance has played a vital role in keeping the peace in Europe. By forging a permanent bond between Europe and North America, the Alliance has ensured the security and stability in which all our nations – including Switzerland -- could flourish.
Under the security umbrella provided by NATO, the European Union became a major driver for economic and political cooperation across our continent.
After the end of the Cold War, both NATO and the European Union reached out to the newly freed nations of Central and Eastern Europe. We helped them to implement difficult but essential reforms. And we opened our door to new members. Over the past fifteen years, our Alliance has grown from 16 to 28 member countries. And our door remains open to all democracies that fulfill the necessary criteria.
These are all considerable achievements. And when celebrating them, we must not forget the important part played in our success by the United States. America has made a sustained economic, political and military investment in Europe.
During the second World War, the United States had helped to liberate us from the evil of Nazism. And there was a worry that immediately afterwards, Americans would retrench. Instead, almost as if in response to Churchill’s call from this city, the United States chose to engage – both with Europe, and in Europe.
The Marshall Plan laid the foundation for Europe’s economic recovery. And this economic commitment was matched by the considerable military commitment the United States made to NATO.
During the Cold War, America’s political determination and military presence on our continent helped to protect us all against the menace of the Soviet Union.
And at the end of the last century, when the Balkans descended into civil war, it was the United States that provided the necessary leadership to bring North America and Europe together to prevent another genocide in Europe.
During the Cold War, it is fair to say that Europe was largely seen as a security consumer. Since then, however, European nations have become important security providers.
Today, more European troops are deployed on international operations than ever before - on NATO-led operations in Afghanistan and in Kosovo; in the Mediterranean; and off the coast of Somalia. At the same time, many European nations have troops deployed on other operations, led by the United Nations, or by the European Union. And last year, European Allies played a leading role when NATO and our partners enforced the historic mandate of the United Nations to protect civilians of Libya.
These operational commitments are a clear indication of how Europe is now able to play a greater security role both within our borders, and beyond them. This is important, because in a world where our economy has become increasingly global, our security has become global as well.
Threats like terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and cyber warfare know no borders. Instability halfway around the world can have a direct impact on our security at home. Today, territorial defence and security demand a global perspective.
In response to this dramatic change in our security environment, NATO has changed too. We have taken action well beyond our borders to defend our values and our security. We are making our military forces more flexible, and more deployable. And we have intensified our cooperation with partner countries, old and new.
But in all these areas, we still need to do more. We need to invest more -- and more efficiently -- in defence and security. We must show greater readiness to engage beyond our borders when necessary. And we must build stronger security partnerships around the globe, to find common solutions to common problems.
I am very pleased to say that one partnership that has been steadily strengthening is NATO’s partnership with Switzerland.
This country knows that, although you may be non-aligned, you cannot afford to stay on the sidelines. You understand that security today must be cooperative security. And you have backed up that understanding with active engagement.
You have made many concrete and important contributions to NATO-led operations. For example, today, over 200 Swiss personnel are deployed with our mission to support the development of a peaceful, stable and multi-ethnic Kosovo. I want to use this opportunity to thank them, as well as the Swiss authorities, for their commitment to our Kosovo mission. They have helped keep the peace at the heart of Europe.
Your armed forces have also benefited from these deployments, and from working shoulder-to-shoulder with NATO and other partner forces. They have been an important driver behind your force modernisation. They have helped you to adopt NATO standards and procedures which facilitate greater cooperation with your neighbours. And they have given you a voice at the table when political and military decisions about these operations are made.
But our partnership goes much further, and deeper, than operations. Over the years, your country has developed enormous credibility and trust – both among NATO Allies and among our other partners. With your soft-power diplomacy and your mediation skills, you have become a unique and essential contributor to our cooperative security.
Your country has a long and proud history as a champion of international norms and laws. Over the past few decades, the United Nations, the Council of Europe, and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe have been major vehicles for you to advance that agenda. But over the past fifteen years, your partnership with NATO has also helped. And the reason is simple.
It is because Switzerland and NATO share the same values – freedom, democracy, and respect for human rights. We both understand the importance of defending and promoting these values in an uncertain world. And we both understand that true democracies will always be more stable, and will improve the security of all our nations.
Because of these shared values, Switzerland has made an enormous investment in NATO’s partnership programmes. You have provided trainers in defence reform, military training and education, and building democratic institutions. Your experts work alongside those of NATO to build more transparent and democratic security institutions. And I want to thank you for that.
Recently, Switzerland has expressed an interest in broadening its political dialogue and practical cooperation with NATO to include issues such as cyber-security and countering proliferation. We welcome this interest. And look forward to working more closely with you on these issues in the future. They are a further demonstration of your country’s understanding of our evolving security environment, and the merits of your partnership with NATO.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, as I look back at all our achievements, I am proud to say that “Europe has arisen”. And I am also proud of the role NATO and Switzerland have played together in delivering Churchill’s vision for Europe.
We have become strong partners in security. We are strong believers in freedom and democratic values. And we are strong contributors to peace and stability in Europe and beyond.
I look forward to deepening this cooperation. Because it is only through close cooperation that we can continue to promote peace, to preserve our shared values, and to protect our European family.