|Updated: 12-Jun-2002||NATO Speeches|
Imperial Defence College
"To The Imperial Defence College"
Speech by H.E. Paul-Henri Spaak
Let me say that I am in no doubt about the hard task before me. It is certainly not easy for me to address such a meeting as this, in my very poor English.
My only trump card is, perhaps, that after six months as Secretary General of NATO, I have had a better opportunity than others to concentrate on this subject, not being distracted by the numerous and Important problems with which politicians have to deal daily.
I would first like to emphasize strongly my belief in NATO, in the need for NATO and in NATO's possibilities. As a signatory of the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949, in my capacity of foreign minister for Belgium, I feel extremely proud of having participated in that historic event - a major event indeed in the defence of the Free World. I know that here, this feeling will certainly not appears strange, as it was in fact two great Englishmen - who were the originators of the Treaty.
As early as March, 1946, with that audacity so characteristic of his genius. Sir Winston Churchill, in his memorable speech at Fulton, solemnly appealed to the Free World to form a defensive alliance within the framework of the United Nations. Later on, in January 1948 in the House of Commons, Ernest Bevin delivered his most famous speech. If the Brussels Treaty was the first consequence of Mr. Bevin's speech, the ultimate and logical result of it was the North Atlantic Treaty. The proof of this lies in the words spoken by President Truman before the American Congress on the very day of the signature of the Brussels Treaty. He said: -
"I am sure that the determination of the free countries of Europe to protect themselves will be matched by an equal determination on our part to help them."
Thus was established a historic responsibility.
What was the fundamental reason for that awakening of the Free World?
I shall have to repeat quite a few things which are well-known, or at least ought all to be well-known and are basic. They are basic because they are continually being disputed, by one part of the world -the Communist part - and even by a certain number of Western people. NATO, as at present constituted, is essentially a military organization. It has its limitations and deficiencies which are self-evident. Its existence has to be justified and explained. Our opponents accuse us of having set up a bloc, an "aggressive" bloc they add. To such an accusation I have this to say in reply, if it is true that the Atlantic Alliance represents a bloc, it is the Communist world which is responsible for bloc politics. Secondly, it is utterly untrue that we are an "aggressive" bloc.
After the Second World War, the great powers of the West wanted to formulate and conduct their foreign policies on two bases: first, upon the maintenance of their alliance with the Soviet Union, and secondly on the United Nations.
If the policy of cooperation with the Russians the policy of working through the United Nations failed, I see two main reasons: one, is the systematic and deliberate sabotage by the Soviet Union of the Security Council,through, their abusive use of the right of veto; the other, is the need which confronted the West to put a stop, at some time, to Soviet imperialism.
May I, if you will allow me, say a word or two on both of these points. I was, and I remain, opposed to the right of veto in international organizations. And I still believe, with as much conviction as I did at San Francisco twelve years ago, that international organizations will only work when the small and also the large nations, and I should add, the large nations in particular, have realized that beyond their own will there exists international law which is shaped by the majority. At San Francisco we were obliged to accept the system of the veto. We knew it was bad, but we never foresaw that it would produce such disappointing results as it did inside the Security Council. In order to persuade us to accept the principles of the Charter, the large nations said:
"We shall only make a reasonable use of the right of veto. We shall only use it when our vital Interests are at stake. Try it and see."
We let ourselves be convinced, especially since there was no alternative, and we have tried it- but what has this concession given to the Russians? Just this - since the United Nations came into being Soviet Russia has used her right of veto in the Security Council more than eighty times. We must understand the significance of this. It means that on more than eighty occasions, when a solution to a major or minor problem had been reached and approved in the Security Council by a majority, indeed in some cases all but unanimously, that solution was rejected because of the negative vote of one nation, and as a result the resolutions could not be put into effect. On eighty separate occasions our discussions have proved abortive. In the face of such a system, how can one not abandon hope, lose one's illusions, one's faith?
In the face of such a system, is it possible for a politician to keep believing than an organization, thus mortally wounded, can be the organization from which to expect peace and security? Truly Soviet Russia's systematic sabotage of the Security Council's work was what compelled us to think of something more effective some years after 1945, after the period of illusion.
At the same time as this systematic sabotage of the Security Council was going on, there was Soviet Imperialism. I am well aware that every time I pronounce these two words at a meeting at which Communists are present, or Communist Sympathizers, they protest. But they protest more in the name of a doctrine and an ideology than in the name of facts.
To my mind Imperialism is some thing very simple and clear. It exists when one country seizes a certain territory and subject's men and women to its laws against their will. Soviet policy after the beginning of the Second World War was precisely this. There is no difficulty in pointing this out; the difficulty is that we too often forget the facts. Let us look at them; -
The Russians, thanks to the Second World War, have annexed the three Baltic states, taken a piece of Finland, a piece of Rumania, a piece of Poland, a piece of Germany. Thanks to a ruthlessly calculated policy, composed of internal subversion and external pressure they have also established governments styled as "satellites", in Warsaw, Prague, Budapest, Sofia, Tirana, Bucharest and East Berlin.
If this is not imperialism, if this is not the result of a deliberate policy consciously pursuing an imperialist aim, then indeed we shall have to begin again and re-define the meaning of words.
The turning point in international politics, after the Second World War, was the coup d'etat at Prague. The disappearance of a democratic progressive government and its replacement by a totalitarian Communist regime will have a singularly important place when the time comes to write the post-war history of international politics.
The coup d'etat at Prague, the disappearance of Czechoslovakia as a free democratic state, was the last straw on the camel's back, or, if you prefer, the flash of lightning which forced open the most stubborn eyes. Everyone in Western Europe understood and fortunately also in the New World, that if we wanted to prevent the continuing unbounded development of Soviet Imperialism, if we wanted to prevent its repetition elsewhere, then the Western countries had to unite, to draw together, and give Soviet Russia clearly to understand that Prague represented the last manifestation of this Imperialism that we would tolerate. It was to this end that we formed the North Atlantic Alliance.
What I want to underline is this, a thing of which the Western people are perhaps insufficiently aware. There has never been any alliance which has realized its principal objective so completely, For I would have you realize that after 1948 in Europe - and the Atlantic Pact was designed for Europe - Soviet Imperialism was definitively brought to a halt, and, that to attain this aim we did not have to use force. This was just as we had wished, just what we had attempted to do.
It is, however, reasonable to ask ourselves whether there is any reason why we should modify this policy.
If the answer to this question were in the positive, it would mean that Soviet foreign policy, as it has been since 1948, is now changing fundamentally. Let me state plainly my deep conviction: nothing has changed. The methods used today may sometimes appear different for a while, but the substance remains the same and if instead of getting ourselves lost in the mere details, we keep our attention fixed on the broad lines must we not agree that this Mr. Gromyko of 1957 is the direct heir to Vichinsky and Molotov. Those representatives of the worst era of the cold war.
We give much importance to all that happens in Soviet Russia. Our newspapers quote and comment all Mr, Krushchev's statements, especially those he makes during cocktail parties. Indeed it appears that since there is no Parliamentary life In Russia , the Soviet foreign policy is formulated at such parties. I am not convinced, however, that we give all Krushchev's statements the actual priority classification their respective Importance demands.
I remember very well that Mr. Krushchev once declared - it was after his famous speech of the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party- that, in the domain of foreign policy, Stalin had made no fundamental mistake and that he himself, Krushchev, and all his collaborators, were in that field Stalinists. This continuity of foreign Soviet policy is perfectly clear to me. Molotov, Chepilov, Gromyko still follow the same line and make the same statements.
But, I do not think they are systematically preparing World War Three. There are two essential reasons which allow me to be optimistic.
Firstly, I think the conditions of modern warfare today are entirely novel and that any comparison with the birth of the crossbow or of gunpowder is invalid, Ever since I was very young I have, in the course of my life, come across people who spoke in a manner which always disturbed me terribly. They were the people who used to say:
"Men will always fight one another because men have always fought one another."
When I was 18 and heard "experienced people" saying that, I was terribly unhappy, because this was such a pessimistic, desperate statement on mankind's future and destiny. Today when I hear people advancing opinions like that, my feelings are still hurt profoundly by this reasoning which is so simple as to be facile.
The history of the world and its wars is not explained by this phrase: "Men have always fought one another and always will fight one another". One must ask one's self why men have always fought one another. And, I think there is an answer, and a relatively simple answer to be found to this essential question, and that is that, always, at least one of the two camps, and sometimes both, believed that it was going to be victorious, and that the military victory would leave them, their people, their group better off. It was the idea of possible victory which made war possible.
And so, there is one thing we ought to be very well aware of, and fortunately I think that the most Important statesmen are, that is that the expression "Military victory" should be blotted out of our vocabulary when it comes to a Third World War in which atomic weapons might be used. There is no statesmen today who can imagine for an instant that, if he were to drag his country into a third world war in which atomic weapons were used, the problems that he would have to resolve after the end of this war, would be easier than those facing him today, and that the destiny of the group he represents and whose interests he is defending, would be better assured.
I do not know if a third world war would be the end of humanity and of civilization, but I do know that it would cause the respective adversaries to suffer blows so wounding and so deep that it would require tens and perhaps hundreds of years for the world to recover an even partial equilibrium. From the moment when the expression "Military victory" is struck from among those phrases which have any meaning, the very idea of war is transformed.
But I believe that there is another reason which should Inspire us with confidence. This is the special Ideology of the Communists. I am convinced that Mr. Krushchev believes, as he never ceases daily to repeat, that in fact Communism is carried along by the force of history. He believes, and this conforms with the tradition and the ideology of Communism that the world which they call Capitalist and which we shall rather call the "Western" world, is a world, condemned, however great may be the efforts which it may make to resolve its problems. Mr. Krushchev indeed announces daily that Communism is the future. For those whom he disquiets, Mr. Krushchev has the merit of speaking a great deal with an extreme simplicity which I, for my part, believe to be derived from his own convictions. Let us take his speeches as they stand.
When Mr. Krushchev says: "I have this certainty that in a few years Communism will have triumphed throughout the globe."
And when he says, addressing Americans on television (which, by the way was a remarkable demonstration of a great freedom and openness of mind on the part of the Americans) ..... when Kruschev addresses Americans for a whole half-hour, saying: "In fifty years your grandchildren will ask themselves how you could have been so stupid as to fail to rally to the banner of Communism, when it is evident that Communism represents history and the future."
On such occasions, I believe, that Mr. Krushchev is merely saying what he really believes. The Soviet rulers do not have a short term policy (Krushchev and Stalin have shown this clearly enough), rather they look far ahead and have the habit of planning and of patient waiting.
Would a man, who feels himself to be carried, by the current of history/and who is convinced that the day of his triumph will come, risk all this in a third world war with the United States of America, an atomic world war in which he can be sure that however hard may be the knocks which he would administer, the measures of reprisal would be terrible for his country. What makes you think that he would risk all that?
I, therefore, believe quite sincerely. both by reason of the very existence of the atomic bomb and by reason of Communist doctrine itself, that we must not continue to live under the impression that the Communists are systematically preparing the third world war.
This does not mean that they are not doing all in their power to hasten this "process of history". Nor does it mean that they remain indifferent and impassive to historical events. - On the contrary,- each time that there appears in the world a problem which is difficult, you can be sure that you will find the Communists there to render the problem still more difficult. This explains what they have done in Iran, in Greece, in Berlin, in Korea and what they are at present doing in the Middle East. All this is designed to accelerate the process of "difficulties and decadence" in the Western World. In other words, to do everything short of provoking the third world war.
And when indeed, in the various corners of the world which I have just listed, we saw the Western nations suddenly stiffen and give to understand that Communist action had gone far enough and that if it went further, the Kremlin risked creating precisely what it wanted to avoid, we have generally seen them put a sudden halt to their actions. Then, a few months later, they can be seen, carrying their action to some other corner of the world where some new difficulty has developed. If my theory is correct, we are safe for the foreseeable future, provided always of course that we remain strong., Provided that we remain strong the third world war can no doubt be avoided. Having properly emphasized the success of the military effort by the West, it must nevertheless be recognized that the Atlantic Alliance cannot continue to expand in the military sphere alone. Even when the Atlantic Treaty was first planned, negotiated and signed, the originators expressed the idea that the Alliance should have a political, economic and cultural foundation. It was because of events and circumstances that the Atlantic powers were compelled to concentrate first on the military effort.
At the "beginning of 1956, the North Atlantic Council, fully aware of the needs I have just mentioned called upon Mr. Pearson, Mr. Martino and Mr. Lange, the Foreign Ministers of Canada, Italy and Norway, to submit a report on the possibility of expanding political and economic co-operation within the Alliance These three Ministers, who were later called the "Three Wise Men of NATO" thereupon set to work. The essential thing they concluded, is that on all occasions and in all circumstances member governments, before acting or even before pronouncing, must keep the interests and the requirements of the Alliance in mind. On the assumption that this will and this desire do exist, the following principles and practices in the field of political consultation are recommended:-
1. "Members should Inform the Council of any development which significantly affects the Alliance. They should do this, not merely as a formality, but as a preliminary to effective political consultation.
2. A member government should not, without adequate advance consultation, adopt firm policies or make major political pronouncements on matters which significantly affect the Alliance or any of its members, unless circumstances make such prior consultation obviously and demonstrably impossible.
This is my Charter and I am pledged to see it fulfilled.
But, of course, this is more easily said than done. The Disarmament Conference held. in London provided us with a most valuable experience. The Western Powers represented An the Sub-Committee were called upon to make proposals which necessarily concerned their partners in the Atlantic Alliance. It followed naturally that there should be consultations between the Western Powers represented at the London Conference and the other NATO member countries represented in Paris. These consultations took place The NATO machinery proved to be sufficiently flexible to conduct and follow up these consultations without causing any delay. It enabled the Western Powers at the London Conference to put forward their plan at the end of August and to speak, not only in their own name, but in the name of all the partners of the Atlantic Alliance.
Events in the Middle East also have given us another opportunity to try out our new methods of consultations. In four or five Council meetings the developments in the Syrian situation have been carefully studied. There has been a full exchange of information Facts have been examined and discussed and the general lines of a constructive policy have been suggested. I cannot say that the results obtained have been perfect but they are already sufficient to prevent a repetition of what happened last year, and to assure that the Middle East situation will not cause a new crisis in the North Atlantic Alliance.
We have, alas, however, recently had an unhappy experience which I feel could have been avoided if the members of the club concerned had kept the rules which I mentioned a few moments ago. I refer, of course, to the dispatch of arms to Tunisia. We read a lot in the press that Atlantic solidarity had been shaken, that crisis existed in NATO etc. Not a bit of it, the trouble was due to a difference of opinion between three members of the Alliance, the solution of which might well have facilitated if all three governments had in the first place brought the problem to the Councils as they are required to do by the rules. They did, indeed, bring it to the Council which shows that they all realized that it was the right thing to do but they did it only after the damage had been done. How much better it would have been if they had done it before. As you say in England: "Prevention is better than cure."
It was, I admit, a difficult problem but I am not too discouraged, because we cannot obtain perfection at once in our efforts to achieve a closely co-ordinated foreign policy, but I am sure we shall succeed in the end. I now come to the economic side of our problems which, is closely tied up with the military problem. The Russians maintain immense forces on a war footing and are equipping them with all the latest weapons of war. This threat means that we too much maintain our forces at that level of effectiveness which our commanders consider essential to meet that threat, and. equip them with tactical and strategic nuclear weapons. The strain on the economies of each member of the Alliance is tremendous. The Russians have this great advantage over us. Under their system they can direct their resources of men and material to whatever purpose they consider most vital to them at the moment.
For example, although 1 would not, for a moment, wish to belittle the scientific importance of Sputnik it is not so remarkable when one reflects that the Russians can only have produced it at the expense of other things which our peoples, in the West would consider of greater importance in every day life.
Here is our great problem, we mast not only equip our forces with the latest weapons and conduct expensive scientific research, we must also maintain our standard of living at that high level, which a democratic people demand. We cannot depress our standards of living, in order to achieve scientific successes. We cannot chose between Sputnik and the washing machine. We must make them both, and we can only make them both if in the Free World as a whole we co-ordinate our efforts to the fullest possible extent and so avoid the immense losses in time and money that are implicit in our present organization.
Gentlemen, the gap between the requirements stated by our military authorities and our resources is great, and grows greater every day. The serious problems which this situation poses can only be solved by a greater integration, of our forces, by organizing a common production of weapons, and lay pooling our efforts in scientific research and our scientific resources. The prestige of the Western nations does not require them to re-invent what the Americans have already discovered and the security of the United Nations will not be endangered, if they entrust, their Allies, with those secrets; which their possible enemies already possess. No one country, even the most powerful, is strong enough to bear alone the burden of maintaining sufficient forces in being to deter the Russian military threat.
No one country, whatever its resources can meet alone Krushchev's economic challenge to which I referred earlier.
The communiqu published at the end of the meeting between President Eisenhower and Prime Minister MacMillan offers a hope of solving these problems. The two most powerful partners of the Atlantic Alliance have taken the lead in enunciating; in a striking manner a set of new and daring ideas, which, if we act upon them, will prove to be our salvation.
It was indeed a notable date in the history of the Free World when the representatives of the United States and Great Britain affirmed that:- "The arrangements which the nations of the Free World have made for collective defence and mutual help are based on the recognition that the concept of national self-sufficiency is now out of date. The countries of the Free World are interdependent and only in genuine partnership, by combining their resources and sharing in many fields, can progress and safety be found. For our part, we have agreed that our two countries will henceforth act in accordance with this principle."
Never in time of peace have such ideas been affirmed so forcefully, and it is in order to translate them into deeds that the Heads of Governments of the NATO countries are meeting in Paris next month.
If, as I believe, the words of the communiqu have real meaning, and are the expression of a political determination, then I am convinced that the military, the economic, and the political problems of the Atlantic Alliance will be solved. If these problems can be solved, the confidence and spirit of collaboration, which ought to Inspire the Free World, will be greatly strengthened.