Remarks of Madeleine K. Albright

at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Moscow, Russia

  • 11 Feb. 2010 -
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  • Last updated: 11 Feb. 2010 16:08

Thank you, Foreign Minister Ivanov; I am delighted to be here along with my good friend, Mr. Jeroen van der Veer.

Together, we serve as chair and vice-chair of the NATO Group of Experts.

As you know, our group has been asked to make recommendations concerning a newstrategic concept for the alliance.

We plan to submit those recommendations by early May, in order to assist NATO’s Secretary General and the members of our organization in developing a new strategic concept.

That is why we have come to Moscow to consult with officials in your government, and to exchange ideas with scholars such as yourselves.

To be clear, I am speaking today only on behalf of myself, not as a representative of NATO, the United States or, for that matter, the other members of the Experts Group – which is made up of twelve independently-minded people from various countries in Europe and North America.

Because the Experts Group is still in the process of gathering ideas, we are here in Moscow to listen (not to present conclusions) and so the views I will express today are entirely my own.

Perhaps I should begin by explaining what a new strategic concept is and why NATO needs one.

A strategic concept is a document that defines what NATO is, what its purposes are, and how it plans to proceed.

It is meant to serve as a general guide for the future and can help to explain NATO’s mission and intentions to people outside the alliance.

A new strategic concept is needed not because NATO’s core goal of self-defense has changed—it hasn’t--but because the world has changed.

The last strategic concept was written more than a decade ago -- in 1999.

Since that time, much has happened – including terror attacks against Russia, the United States, Great Britain, Spain, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Kenya and virtually every country in the Middle East.

Responsible world leaders are striving to prevent a recurrence of such attacks through rigorous efforts at homeland defense and by helping countries that are threatened by violent extremists.

As part of this strategy, NATO is assisting the government of Afghanistan in trying to create a stable future for that country, free from the grip of Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Clearly, international terrorist groups pose a danger to law-abiding countries, but they are not the only danger.

In recent years, we have seen a rise in piracy in waters along the Horn of Africa and the Indian Ocean.

We have become deeply concerned about the possible spread of nuclear weapons andadvanced missile technology, particularly in North Korea and Iran.

We worry about the activities of international networks that traffic illegally in guns, narcotics and human beings, and about the effects of climate change and lack of energy.

And we are becoming alert to the risk of cyber attacks, which could affect any nation, and the source of which may be extremely difficult to trace.

The world looks different than it did ten years ago and, of course, much different than it did in 1949, when NATO first came together.

The purpose of the NATO Experts Group is to think about what these and other changes might mean for the alliance and for other leading international powers, including Russia.

I am aware, of course, that NATO’s secretary general spoke here only about two months ago.

His visit to Moscow, coupled with that now of the Experts Group, are signs of NATO’s respect for the Russian people and for your country’s global role.

As a student of history, I think it’s clear that both Russia and the West have a deep and abiding stake in stability, security, and peace.

This means that we have good reason to seek cooperative solutions to shared problems.

That is why the Permanent Joint Council between NATO and Russia was created more than a decade ago, when I was serving as America’s secretary of state, and first Yevgeni Primakov and then Igor Ivanov represented Russia as foreign ministers.

At that time, we pledged that NATO and Russia would develop our relations on the basis of common interests, reciprocity and transparency. This was reiterated in the Rome Declaration of 2002, when the heads of state said that the NATO-Russia Council would be an essential contribution in creating the indivisible security of the Euro-Atlantic community. The heads of 3 states agreed to "observe in good faith our obligations under international law, including the UN Charter, and provisions and principles contained in the Helsinki Final Act and the OSCE Charter for European Security.”

The permanent joint council, now called the NATO-Russia Council, remains an important venue for security consultations but it provides no guarantee that NATO and Russia will agree on every issue.

This does not reflect a failure on the part of the council; in fact, it is precisely why developing the full potential of that council is so important.

When I was in office, I did my best to convince Mr. Ivanov that the new Russia had nothing to fear from the new NATO, just as the new NATO had nothing to fear from the new Russia.

Sometimes, Mr. Ivanov would nod his head up and down like this; at other times, he shook his head sideways – like this; and every once in awhile, he would RAISE HIS VOICE – LIKE THIS.

We had meetings where every time I said “Da,” he said “Nyet,” and every time I said “Nyet,” he said “Da.” This shouldn’t be surprising.

The history of Russia and the West is a complicated one, extending not just back to the Cold War but for centuries prior to that.

Our histories and perspectives overlap, but they are far from identical.

It is up to our leaders to guide us in a direction that will allow us to make the most of the interests we have in common.

It would help neither NATO nor Russia to spend the future arguing about the past.

We should look ahead and consider what each can do in support of a stable and prosperous 21st century.

That is why NATO has been seeking to build a security structure strong and flexible enough to overcome the internal divisions that have been so often harmful to Europe.

We should not forget that ethnic tensions, national rivalries, and destructive ideologies led to two continent-wide conflicts in the last century; those wars imposed a terrible price in blood and treasure, with no country suffering more than Russia.

When the Cold War ended, President Clinton and other western leaders felt that NATO membership offered a way to give nations in Central and Eastern Europe the confidence they needed to establish civilian control over the military, protect the rights of minority groups, settle disputes peacefully, and work together on joint projects.

The results of this vision have been generally positive.

Today, we can see Slovaks and Hungarians, Czechs and Germans, Lithuanians and Poles, Croats and Turks, all coordinating their efforts on behalf of a stable and prosperous future.

That is a historic accomplishment; and one that is good for all who have a stake in European security, including Russia.

This NATO initiative was aimed at strengthening the bonds that hold Europe together; it was neither directed against anyone, nor designed to exclude or to isolate anyone.

I am aware, however, that some Russians do not view this process in the same way.

After all, NATO was originally a Cold War institution – and forty years of East-West rivalry do not end without leaving scars on both sides.

In addition, significant differences now exist between NATO countries and Russia with respect to the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe.

Washington and Moscow are not yet in full agreement on the question of ballistic missile defense.

And Russia has its own ideas about how to create an overall security framework for Europe.

These are issues that are ripe for constructive discussion, and I believe that all sides should be listened to with an open mind.

For its part, NATO’s goals are to protect its members and to promote international stability, democracy, and the rule of law.

We believe that every country should have the right to exercise its legitimate and sovereign rights – including the right to join or not to join an alliance. NATO will keep an open door.

We do not accept the idea that large countries have spheres of interest that give them license to dominate their neighbors.

And we are eager to work with others, including Russia, to enhance the stability and prosperity of the Euro-Atlantic community, and indeed, the entire world.

In his speech here in December, NATO Secretary General Rasmussen made clear his view that differences between the alliance and the Kremlin can and should be managed in a deliberate and systematic way.

“NATO will never attack Russia,” he said.

“Never. And we do not think Russia will attack NATO. We have stopped worrying about that and Russia should stop worrying about that as well.”

Mr. Rasmussen went on to say that “If we can build real trust and confidence in the relationship between Russia and NATO, then Russia can stop worrying about a menace from the West that simply doesn’t exist.”

The truth is that NATO members feel threatened by many of the same lawless forces that concern Russia, including terrorism, violent extremism, the spread of nuclear weapons, drug trafficking and crime.

That is why the alliance has invited Russia to work cooperatively to confront and to defeat these dangers – and it is why I believe that we should look to the future not as rivals, but as partners.

As Mr. Rasmussen said here at MGIMO in December, "we've agreed that, in case one of our nations perceives a threat to its territorial integrity, political independence or security, we will promptly consult in the NRC. We've agreed that the security of all states in the Euro-Atlantic area is indivisible. We've agreed that we will observe in good faith our obligations under international law. We have all signed up to the principle that free democracies can choose their own futures. And we've agreed, many times, to respect the territorial integrity of states."

There is much to be gained on both sides if we are able to put aside the jealousies and suspicions of the past – and to pursue a common strategy by sharing information, pooling resources, and lending the strength of one to the strength of the other.

I believe that NATO governments are willing to move rapidly in that direction and hope that Russia will choose to travel a parallel path.

Thank you very much – and now Mr. van der Veer and I would be pleased to respond to your questions.