Introductory remarks

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Harmel Report

  • 05 Dec. 2017 -
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  • Last updated: 05 Dec. 2017 14:04

Thank you, Deputy Prime Minister, Didier, [Reynders], for that kind introduction.

Ministers, Ambassadors, Friends,
Today we mark a significant milestone in NATO’s history – the 50th anniversary of the Harmel Report.

This report has stood the test of time. 

Because it is historically important and currently relevant.

As we celebrate the publication of the Report, we should pay tribute to Pierre Harmel.
Who was serving as Belgium’s Foreign Minister at the time.

NATO Foreign Ministers will meet at our headquarters in a few hours.

And it was at a foreign ministerial meeting – in December 1966 – that Pierre Harmel first proposed a study that became the Harmel Report.

The idea was to conduct analysis of international developments since the founding of NATO.

To identify what NATO needed to do “to strengthen the Alliance as a factor of durable peace.”
And after a year of careful deliberation by Ministers, the Harmel Report was approved by the North Atlantic Council.

In a period of global uncertainty, the Report drew two main conclusions:

First, NATO had to maintain adequate military strength and political solidarity to deter aggression.

And second, NATO had to address underlying political issues.

These two conclusions are summarized as the “dual-track” approach:

Deterrence and détente. 

Or defence and dialogue.

As the Report states: 

“Military security and a policy of détente are not contradictory.” 

I echoed this point in my very first speech as NATO Secretary General.
Just over three years ago.

It’s a message I have repeated many times since:

There is no contradiction between strong collective defence.
And political dialogue.

In the past few years, NATO has implemented the biggest increase of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War. 

We are investing more in defence.

We are updating our military Command Structure. 
And strengthening our cyber and hybrid defenses.

But we have not forgotten the lessons from the Harmel Report about the need for dialogue as well.

After two years without any meetings, the NATO-Russia Council has met 6 times since April 2016

In our meetings, we have addressed a range of topics.
Such as Ukraine, Afghanistan, and transparency and risk reduction.

Our dialogue with Russia is not easy.
But that is exactly why it is so important.

NATO does not seek confrontation with Russia.

We do not want a return to the Cold War.

Combining strong defence with meaningful dialogue is an important way NATO has adapted to evolving security challenges.


And adaptation is a wider theme of the Harmel Report.
Another example of its continued relevance today.

The report makes clear that a dynamic and vigorous Alliance must constantly adapt to changing conditions.

And NATO’s adaptability remains one of our greatest strengths. 

We continue to adapt to the most serious security challenges in a generation. 

As well as bolstering our collective defence, we are stepping up our efforts to fight terrorism and project stability beyond our borders.

And we are working ever more closely with the European Union in many areas.


The Harmel Report is short and clear:
Only 17 paragraphs and 1400 words.

Which shows that a document does not have to be long to be significant.

The same thing can be said about speeches.

Which is why I have made a point to keep my remarks even shorter than Harmel Report. 

Having achieved that goal.
I want to thank all of you for being here
And for celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Harmel Report.

Once again, I express my deep thanks and gratitude to Minister [Didier] Reynders.
To the Belgian government.

And to everyone who has devoted time and energy and expertise to make today’s celebration possible.