Updated: 05-Feb-2001 NATO Speeches

3 February 2001


by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson

Conference on Security Policy

Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to be here, at the head of a very distinguished panel. It is a particularly good time for us to have this discussion, for two important reasons.

First, because we have a new US Administration settling in, with fresh energy and ideas and a strong commitment to NATO. This meeting provides an early opportunity to compare notes and to begin to shape the trans-Atlantic agenda for the coming years. I am grateful to Don Rumsfeld for making time to come to this meeting, despite the major tasks he faces in putting his new staff in place and shaping the security policies of the new Administration.

And the second reason is that, on a surprisingly large number of issues on our agenda, we are at the very edge of some major changes that will challenge - but, I believe, ultimately strengthen - the trans-Atlantic relationship, and contribute to security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area. I passionately believe that the trans-Atlantic relationship remains the very heart of everything we do in ensuring the safety of our people and promoting their well-being in democratic societies and in free economies.

We are going to see many changes in the coming year. In the building of stronger European defence capabilities and establishing practical and robust ties between NATO and the European Union. In new political prospects for long-term peace and democracy in the Balkans. In facing the challenges posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. And in addressing the future enlargement of both NATO and the European Union. It is a heavy agenda, and it is all linked. Yet if believe if we manage it right, we will have the ingredients for a better and safer world.

Henry Kissinger has warned us that he believes Europe and the United States have moved in different directions, and that they must recover their sense of common destiny. As someone who straddles the Atlantic, I can tell you that if Europe and America were moving apart, no one would feel the pain more acutely than I would.

I simply do not believe the drift has been as great as some might say. The trans-Atlantic relationship is still very deep, solid, valuable and irreplaceable. But Henry Kissinger is right when he says that Europe and North America share a common destiny, and thus continue to face the imperative of forging common security objectives.
These policies must be based on our core interests and values, and a fairer balance of responsibilities for Europe and North America. Americans and Europeans alike have made the point that the imbalance we have right now in trans-Atlantic relations - the imbalance we saw in the air war over Kosovo - is not fair or right, and certainly not sustainable.

Many Americans want Europe to do more, freeing the United States to face broader, global challenges. Many Europeans themselves want to make a greater contribution, and thus have a correspondingly greater role in matters that affect their own security. And a more capable Europe can be a better Partner to the United States in its global responsibilities.

So Americans and Europeans agree on the direction of change that is needed in trans-Atlantic relations. And that is a large part of the impetus behind the current European defence project. In the modern security neighbourhood, to have only two options - NATO or nothing - is just asking for trouble. A European defence role can help fill this vacuum.

The main difference between the current European defence effort and those that went before it is that the current project links European ambitions with both capability targets and NATO know-how and back-up. This is a realistic and a winning combination, but the key is achieving the capability targets.

And for the doubters, let me say that we are beyond the stage of mere wishful thinking. We have already turned the corner in stopping the cuts in most European defence budgets and some are at last rising. We have achieved more in the last 12 months on the mechanisms for building European defence than we achieved in the preceding 12 years. Clearly we have much more to do, but given the common objectives of Europe and America, the building of a stronger European defence role, with a better balanced NATO, is a success in the making.

One of the areas where both America and Europe are putting into practice a new sharing of roles is in the collective NATO missions in the Balkans. The United States maintains only 15 percent of the total peacekeeping force commitment in the Balkans - a far cry from the preponderance one might expect. Force levels in Bosnia and Herzegovina are now one-third of their 1995 level, and we constantly review whether further force restructuring and whether reductions can take place without diminishing our military effectiveness.

But as we look as at our future commitments, let us not lose sight of the fact that NATO's engagement in the Balkans has been an enormous success. Instead of fighting, communities are rebuilding. And who would deny that Milosevic would still be in power had it not been for concerted NATO action in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo?

Southeast Europe is changing - and far faster than most people expected it would. I found myself just three weeks ago welcoming the Foreign Minister of Yugoslavia to NATO Headquarters. Democracy is becoming stronger in Serbia, and Serbia and Montenegro will soon find a new basis for their relationship. Together with the striking changes in Croatia last year, these developments mean that the ice that has kept hostility frozen in place in the Balkans - in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in Serb-Croat relations, even in Kosovo - has finally begun to thaw.

Yet we must remember that the success we have had to date rests mainly on the solidarity of the Allies. We all went in together, and we must all succeed together. There is no other way.

And this goes beyond just the NATO nations. The Balkans have also been a successful proving ground for another significant partnership - that of NATO and Russia. The highly successful cooperation with Russia on the ground in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo is a practical manifestation of what Russia and the west can do by working together.

In two weeks, I will go to Moscow to open the NATO Information Office in Moscow - my second visit to Russia in just over a year. We already have a solid foundation of cooperation in peacekeeping in the Balkans. And we are exploring other areas such as search and rescue at sea, civil emergency planning, and what I hope will be the establishment of a Military Liaison Mission in the not too distant future. Although we have a long way to go, I am optimistic that NATO and Russia are finally exploiting the potential to be real partners in security.

The trans-Atlantic community must also remain united in addressing the challenges posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We heard from Don Rumsfeld about the U.S. commitment to addressing missile threats. The United States has made clear it intends to develop a missile defence system to address these threats. We have to take the sincerity and commitment of the United States seriously.

But we must also recognise that the U.S. is not alone in seeking to deal with the threats posed by missile proliferation. NATO is already engaged in a large-scale examination of extended air defence and theatre missile defence. And Russia has made its own proposals about developing a cooperative European theatre missile defence system.

We all know there is a security problem out there. The world has changed substantially since the early 1970's. So we must get on with addressing this problem with maturity and realism. That is why I welcome the U.S. commitment to putting this issue on the agenda, and to consulting closely with its Allies on how best to find a common response.

Finally, let me say that we must recognise that the trans-Atlantic community, as strong and effective as it is, remains a work in progress. From its very beginning, the trans-Atlantic relationship has been about building a Europe that is secure, free, prosperous, and undivided. This vision is not complete, however, unless all of Europe, including Russia, is part of the picture.

It is no secret that Russia worries about future NATO enlargement. But let me say that the NATO enlargement process is not about encircling or excluding Russia. On the contrary, it is about fulfilling the promise of building a stable, secure, democratic Europe - something that benefits all its inhabitants and all its neighbours. Such a stable democratic Europe is the best neighbour Russia could hope for - as the most recent round of NATO enlargement demonstrated. Indeed Russia itself may someday decide that it, too, wishes to be a full part of this family, and NATO has never said "no" to that possibility.

Nadezhda Mihaylova will speak later about the aspirations of the Vilnius Group of states. But what is significant about that group of nations is not just their desire to join NATO, but their commitment to working together and to make their own contribution to building a democratic and secure Euro-Atlantic community. These nations share our vision and values, and are themselves part of our common destiny.

Many of you want me to speak about who will join NATO and when. I won't - and can't. But I will say that all the nations who currently say they want to join NATO have a lot of work to do. Restructuring and modernising defence establishments is hard but essential work. First and foremost, it is necessary for each nation's own national benefit. As the Boiko Noev told us here last year, Cold War forces are a waste of money. Performance in defence reform, together with a vibrant democracy and market economy, are all critical pre-conditions to being considered seriously for NATO membership. It is a tough message, but I'd rather be tough in 2001 than apologetic in 2002.

As I said at the beginning, this is a heavy trans-Atlantic agenda. But it is a positive agenda, and I am confident that as we work through it, our sense of common destiny, and our commitment to our common security through NATO, will come out even stronger.

Thank You.

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