At the Konrad

7 Nov. 1997

"NATO-Russia Relations
at the Turn of the Century"

Speech by the Secretary General

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be here with you today in the capital of united Germany. No other European city bears better testimony to the historic changes which have taken place on the European continent over the last decade. Where a few years ago walls, minefields and guard towers separated families and friends, we can now see Europe's biggest construction site. Berlin, the former symbol of a divided continent, is now a symbol of Europe uniting.

Just as your city has changed dramatically, so too has NATO. Who would have predicted only a few years ago that we would one day invite former members of the Warsaw Pact to join the Alliance? And who could have imagined that NATO and Russia would come to a historic understanding and embark on a promising partnership?

In the Europe we live in today, conditions defining our security have changed irrevocably. The Chernobyl catastrophe brought this home physically to areas as far apart as the Black Forest and Lappland. Security encompasses much more than the absence of military threats. With the Iron Curtain gone forever, our stability is even more directly affected by the broader security situation in Central and Eastern Europe, including Russia. As Volker Rhe put it: We have to export stability lest we risk importing instability.

Before this century draws to a close, the Alliance will have three new members and enlargement of the European Union will also be well under way. These parallel developments are tangible evidence of a Europe becoming more and more closely intertwined.

In this new Europe the very concept of opposing sides or ideological confrontation has lost any precise meaning. The real challenges our countries face have become very similar. The countries of Central and Eastern Europe compete for trade, not territory; for more wealth, not more weapons. They have left the muddy trenches of past confrontation and set out to conquer a secure and peaceful future.

NATO was quick to grasp the new situation. At the London Summit in 1990, NATO launched a broad outreach programme with the goal of tying together all democracies on the European continent, including Russia, through ever-closer ties of cooperation and partnership. The London Summit also initiated a wide-ranging transformation of the Alliance itself.

The Madrid Summit took our ambitious approach one step further. NATO is taking an active part in shaping a Europe that is undivided and at peace with itself. This includes enlargement of Alliance membership, an enhanced Partnership for Peace, NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue, and our new, distinct relationships with Russia and Ukraine.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Of all these breathtaking changes, the evolution of a fundamentally new relationship between the adversaries of the cold war, NATO and Russia, remains, to my mind, the most extraordinary.

For me personally, this process is inextricably linked to the memories of negotiating the Founding Act with Evgeny Primakov, the Russian Foreign Minister. It took us five months, a time of utmost intensity, from the first round in a snow-covered dacha on the outskirts of Moscow to the warm spring day in May when, having worked through the night, we finally emerged from the negotiating table to tell the waiting journalists of our success.

Berlin is an appropriate place to reflect upon the reality and the potential of this new relationship. I am not thinking so much in geographical terms, although it is true that Berlin lies closer to Moscow than Brussels. Rather, I have in mind the centuries of history which have alternately opposed and united Germany and Russia in a changing, sometimes fateful relationship of crucial importance to the whole of Europe.

Russia is a country with vast natural resources. It is the main supplier of natural gas to Western Europe. Its economy offers huge possibilities to foreign investors. 160 million people represent an intellectual and scientific potential second to none. And Russia remains the strongest single military power in Europe.

These features add up to one overriding conclusion: I cannot conceive of any viable European security structure that does not include an important role and a place for Russia.

What kind of Russia? We have in mind a Russia whose people are prosperous and frequent visitors to our countries; a partner who shares our interest in trade and stability; and a neighbour who pursues its policies in a confident but transparent and peaceful manner. In a word: We want Russia at ease with itself and the world around it.

NATO's cooperation with Russia reflects this inclusive approach. Let me recall some of the earlier milestones: Russia became a member of the North-Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC) in 1991 and, after signing the Partnership for Peace Framework Document in 1994, accepted an Individual Partnership Programme, in 1995. A team of Russian officers has been working at NATO's Supreme Command in Belgium over the last two years. And, most importantly, Russia joined NATO Allies and partner countries in our common peacekeeping effort in Bosnia in early 1996.

As important as these milestones were, the NATO-Russia partnership nonetheless lacked an overarching framework and a basic understanding of where we were heading. Misconceptions lingered in the Russian leadership over the continuing purpose of NATO and over the Alliance's historic declaration at the Brussels Summit in early 1994 that new members would be welcome. Some even argued that enlargement and improved relations with Russia could never go hand in hand.

But Russia and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe are all caught in the whirlwind of globalization and growing interdependence. To us, therefore, opening NATO to new members and opening our minds to a new Russia followed the same path of reason and pointed towards the same goal: an undivided Europe.

NATO stood firm on its decision to welcome new members, in conformity with the requirements and obligations set out in the Washington Treaty. And we stood just as firmly by our conviction that Russia could become a valuable strategic partner in helping to build the stable Europe we seek. The result was the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation, signed in Paris last May.

Chancellor Kohl spoke of the Founding Act as "visible proof that the division of Europe has now been overcome." It is indeed a document of undoubted political and historic significance, a door into the next century pushed wide open.

I believe that today NATO and Russia have not only an option to cooperate and confront common security challenges such as ethnic conflicts or nuclear proliferation but a responsibility to do so. We must therefore learn more about each other, we must speak to each other more regularly, we must continue to develop trust, unity of purpose and habits of consultation and cooperation between NATO and Russia.

The Founding Act has created a mechanism to do just that - consult, coordinate, and act jointly. Through the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council, it gives Russia a voice, not a veto on Alliance activities. Allied Foreign Ministers and Russian Foreign Minister Primakov already met for the first time in September and endorsed a vigorous NATO-Russia work programme.

In New York, matters of topical concern were discussed such as the present situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the more general issue of peacekeeping operations. Building on this basis, we have now formed a working group on peacekeeping; experts will be discussing questions of nuclear doctrine and weapons, armaments-related cooperation and projects in the realm of civil emergency and science; Russia's Individual Partnership Programme is being updated after a long period of inactivity; and in a few days NATO and Russia will be holding a workshop on retraining retired military personnel in Moscow.

Military-to-military cooperation will be a very important part of our future partnership. In October the new Russian Defense Minister Sergeyev met his NATO counterparts in Maastricht. Two weeks ago, the Russian Chief of Defence Staff, General Kvashnin, visited NATO and SHAPE and, on this occasion, introduced the new Russian Military Representative in Brussels. Enabling the military to get to know each other in practical day-to-day dealings - what better way could there be to build the confidence and trust we so urgently need?

Think of Bosnia, where 1500 Russian soldiers have been patrolling a particularly sensitive part of the Inter Ethnic Boundary Line shoulder to shoulder with their NATO comrades since 1996. On my visits to Bosnia I was struck time and again by the fact that it was hard to distinguish a military briefing by a Russian Colonel from that of his US or Swedish counterpart. I believe it fair to say that this new form of cooperation in the field has opened the eyes of many of our military and politicians, in NATO countries as well as in Russia. It proves that we can work successfully together.

A final remark on mutual confidence: Information is the best cure for lingering misconception. The Founding Act contains a provision for a NATO Documentation Centre or Information Office in Moscow. As a first step we hope to see a small Documentation Centre up and running by January of next year. Similarly, I am heartened by the steady stream of Russian visitors -- journalists, military representatives and public officials -- to NATO Headquarters and our Supreme Headquarters in Mons. It took us, at NATO, some time to get used to meeting Russian colleagues in the corridors or queuing in the canteen. These everyday encounters challenge many a cold war stereotype as they give NATO and the Russian military a human face.

Taking a step back I am, of course, ready to concede that my case for a new NATO-Russia realtionship is not without loose ends and a number of significant question marks. I would like to offer some personal reflections on these too.

During the final round of our talks in Moscow on the Founding Act, we stayed at the old Central Committee Hotel President. From my window I could see the new statue of Peter the Great, founder of St.Petersburg, Russia's window to the West. Is he the protagonist of the new Russia? Or will Russia remain, as Churchill once said, a riddle wrapped up in a mystery inside an enigma? Have we made too big a gamble in embracing a Russia which may still show signs of unpredictability?

This summer, I found myself in Russia again, this time accompanied by my wife and two grown children. For two weeks we enjoyed the serene beauty of this immense country, its rich cultural heritage, and - most memorable of all - the warmth and hospitality of its people.

But at the back of one's mind, one can't help asking: will Russia go down the path of cooperation, intensified economic exchange and inclusion that we are encouraging it to take? And will its domestic fabric stand up to the enormous strains that accompany the reorientation of society towards democracy, the market and internationalism?

These questions defy an easy answer. The Russian leadership is facing difficulties which are, unfortunately, of nearly the same magnitude as the positive changes - and there have been many in recent years. Russians are experiencing the pains of the end of an era as well as of profound political and economic transformation. But amidst all this, I believe there is a growing realization among the Russian leadership, especially the younger generation, that cooperation with the West - not confrontation - is the best means to achieve security and prosperity. And while the success or failure of these reforms is not in our hands, neither should we remain indifferent. We should encourage this approach by giving its proponents a fair possibility to demonstrate that it can work.

Consider the hopeful signs of recent months. The economic free fall has ended and has ushered in incremental growth for the first time in years. Russia's involvement with the outside world in terms of trade and investments is increasing, if slowly. At the same time, Russia has joined nearly every economic club there is: the World Bank, the European Development Bank, a Cooperation treaty with the EU which should enter into force very soon, the Paris and the London Clubs, as well as a liaison agreement with the OECD. Politically, Russia has de facto joined the G-7. All this I take as further evidence of a serious Russian engagement in Europe.

Russia is also engaged in a determined attempt to reform its armed forces. Operating under severe financial constraints, grappling with the problems of huge overstaffing and aging equipment, while attempting to adapt to a changed strategic environment - such is the daunting list of tasks facing the reformers.

Ladies and gentlemen,

One can spend a long time weighing the evidence.

Today, we are extending the area of cooperative security and prosperity further east. In the next century Russia may, for the first time in its history, have a chance to become anchored in Europe in ways which transcend geographic and political boundaries.

It is for Russia to decide whether it will walk down this avenue. NATO has shown its readiness to extend a hand of friendship. In this sense, the signing of the Founding Act was indeed a courageous step for both sides to take, a "victory for reason" as Foreign Minister Primakov aptly called it.

We cannot force the pace of history. But we should keep an open mind to the potential the present holds.

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