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Updated: 21 May 1999 News Articles

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12 May 1999

NATO : The defence of our values

Article by the Secretary-General of NATO

50 years ago, the signatories of the Washington Treaty vowed "to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilisation of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law." These values are as relevant today as they were in 1949. Back then, they had to be defended against a heavily armed totalitarian great power. Today, they have to be defended against a brutal political leader, a leader whose policies of deliberately engineered hatred seems to come from an era long believed behind us. If Europe is to enter the 21st century as a community of democracy, pluralism, and human rights, we simply cannot tolerate this carnage at its centre. To stand idly by while a brutal campaign of forced deportation, torture and murder is going on in the heart of Europe would have meant declaring moral bankruptcy. Now, as in 1949, we are called upon to demonstrate that values are not only something to be preached, but upheld.

If anything, the Kosovo crisis has reinforced the need for the Washington Summit. For this Summit is as much about Kosovo as it is about the future of wider Euro-Atlantic security, because as we reaffirm the Washington Treaty, we reaffirm our commitment to the core values on which this new Europe must be build. The Summit will not only reaffirm these values - it will also ensure that we continue to have the means to protect these values when they are threatened.

The Kosovo crisis shows that the new Europe cannot be built by principled declarations alone; we also require concrete instruments to cope with acute crises and instability. The Summit will provide us with these instruments. It will ensure that our values can be upheld today and tomorrow.

Kosovo demonstrates most clearly the need for diplomacy to be backed with credible military force. We have seen that a mere appeal to respect certain values amounts to little, if we cannot really uphold and protect them. To have a decisive military impact on a crisis, without inflicting undue harm on civilians or putting our own troops at too much risk, requires a unified command and modern equipment. NATO has both. With a new command structure, new initiatives to enhance NATO's military capabilities, and with a new Strategic Concept, the Summit will ensure that the Alliance maintains these assets in the changing security environment of the coming century.

Kosovo also vindicates another fundamental truth about how to build long-term security for Europe: the need for a cooperative approach. After all, security in Europe is everybody's business. We in NATO recognise this. That is why we are engaged in active cooperation with 25 Partners to help build a region of stability stretching from Vancouver to Vladivostok. The Euro Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) Summit in Washington in which Partners and Allies will come together, will provide us with a chance of restating the importance we attach to this cooperation. Many of these Partners, some of whom share borders with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and may thus be more directly affected by the conflict, are nevertheless supporting our efforts. Some offer NATO use of their airspace, others take in hundreds of thousands of refugees, often at great expense. At the same time, we are backing up our Partners as they try to cope with the destabilising effects of Yugoslavia's policies. Many Partners will also play their full role when it comes to implementing a peace agreement for Kosovo.

The EAPC Summit will ensure that our Partners have an even greater say in NATO-led crisis response operations, and NATO and Partners will further enhance their cooperation in fostering regional security and humanitarian relief efforts.

One nation that has a vital part to play in helping to find a political settlement of the conflict is Russia. It is evident that the Kosovo crisis has burdened our relationship. Yet I believe that the full potential afforded by the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council will be used again in the near future. NATO and Russia are too important to ignore each other.

Kosovo could not show more clearly that the future of Southeastern Europe affects us all. To create an environment where our common values can flourish thus requires more than short-term action: we also need a comprehensive vision on the future of Southeastern Europe. This aim will also be advanced by the Washington Summit. Our meeting will be an opportunity to reflect on Kosovo's future, once the international community begins to implement a peace settlement. And, looking beyond Kosovo, the Summit will launch work on a set of initiatives to enhance security in the wider Southeastern Europe. These initiatives could complement other efforts underway in the European Union and the OSCE. They would be another demonstration that the international community is not only concerned with the current crisis, but also with what happens beyond. We want to help the people in the Balkans to enjoy peace and prosperity, as part of the Euro-Atlantic community.

The Washington Summit reaffirms our commitment to work towards a Euro-Atlantic security environment based on our common values -- peace, democracy and human rights. In engaging in Kosovo we show that we not only stand for our values, but that we defend them. In making peace and long-term stability in the Balkans our concern, we are sending a strong signal that in our Atlantic community, these values have meaning. This is the central message of our Washington Summit - a Summit the relevance of which has not been diminished by the Kosovo crisis, but reinforced.

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