Defending the Treasure of Peace and Security

Keynote address by NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller at the National Defence University in Istanbul, Turkey

  • 23 Jan. 2018 -
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  • Last updated: 24 Jan. 2018 10:42

(As delivered)

Thank for you this opportunity, I truly do honour and regard the opportunity to speak to senior students here at the Defence College and I am looking forward to our question and answer period when I will have I think the opportunity to hear exactly what the National Defence University thinks about NATO but I am very pleased to be in Istanbul once again.

First and foremost, this is a stunning city filled with history, filled with culture.  I agree with the Founder of this Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who said of this beautiful place: “On the meeting point of two worlds, the ornament of Turkish homeland, the treasure of Turkish history, the city cherished by the Turkish nation, İstanbul, has its place in the heart of all citizens.”  And I might add in the hearts of all global citizens.

Istanbul is the ideal location for me to highlight the important role Turkey plays in the NATO Alliance and how much we value Turkey’s role as a respected member of NATO.  Turkey occupies a strategic location. In this neighbourhood, NATO recognises that you face a number of difficult security challenges.

Among all NATO Allies, Turkey is the most exposed to instability and turmoil stemming from the Middle East.  Your country has suffered a series of brutal terrorist attacks and I want you to know that NATO stands in solidarity with Turkey in the fight against terrorism.

Our service men and women risk their lives to ensure that we can live ours in peace and security, for that, we must always be grateful to you.

I am honoured to have had the opportunity to show a small token of my gratitude and respect yesterday morning by laying a wreath at Anitkabir in Ankara and it is truly a privilege to be here amongst so many who served today.

NATO is a political military alliance where those who serve from our 29 member countries come together in a common cause.  I like to say that NATO is one big family. 

Together, we discuss the many challenges that we have.  Together by consensus we decide on how to address those challenges and together we reap the benefits of this enduring commitment to our collective defence.

So I would like to impart to you today just how valuable our relationship is, how Turkey contributes to NATO and how NATO contributes to Turkish security and how we are adapting to ensure the Alliance we have built together continues to serve the unique and essential purpose for which it was founded nearly 70 years ago to safeguard freedom and security.

At this point, let me just take a small break to underscore that Turkey is among the original members of the Alliance; it has been a member of NATO for 65 years and as NATO approaches its 70th birthday next year in 2019 we do not forget that Turkey has been a NATO member of serious calibre for 65 and more years.

Turkey’s contribution to NATO really can be talked about in so many ways.  I’d like to just give you a few examples:

Yesterday I had the privilege of visiting the Centre for Excellence for Defence against Terrorism in Ankara.  The Centre’s mission is to provide key decision-makers with realistic solutions to terrorism and counter-terrorism challenges. 

Since its founding in 2005, this critically important facility has worked with nearly 12,000 students from more than 100 countries.

Sharing your expertise with others who are also facing the threat of terrorism is just one way in which Turkey contributes to and through NATO.

Turkey has also made substantial contributions to NATO’s missions in Afghanistan. 

You supported ISAF, the International Security Assistance Force, from 2003 until the conclusion of that operation in 2014 and during that combat mission 15 Turkish soldiers paid the ultimate price.  Let me offer my deepest sympathies to the families of those fallen soldiers.

Today, Turkey plays a key role as a framework nation for the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan providing more than 550 personnel and I am pleased by the encouraging news that Turkey is considering an increased level of support to the Resolute Support Mission.

You also play an important role in the heart of Asia, the Istanbul Process, working to expand political and practical cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours.

In addition to Afghanistan, Turkey supports NATO training programmes for Iraqi officers and contributes to NATO’s efforts to build stability in the Western Balkans by contributing to our operations in Kosovo, and Turkey has been in Kosovo for many years.  We very much appreciate the way Turkey has contributed to the building of the security forces in Kosovo.

You also contribute to NATO trust funds for Ukraine which support improvements for cyber security, medical rehabilitation and other areas crucial to the security and stability of that country.

These operations, missions and activities are vital to the Alliance, to our security and to helping our partners achieve stability and it is just a small example of what Turkey is doing inside this Alliance.

I want to thank Turkey once again for your many contributions, but now let me pivot and talk about the other side of the picture: NATO’s contributions to Turkey’s security.

As I said at the outset, this is truly a mutually beneficial relationship and it has been since Turkey joined the Alliance in 1952, 65 years ago. 

I want to really underscore again a few steps that NATO has taken to strengthen Turkey’s security but we can pull up many more examples from those 65 years.

The Alliance has increased its military presence in recent years to help Turkey respond to a more demanding security environment.

For the past five years, at Turkey’s request, NATO Allies have been reinforcing Turkey’s air defences.

Spain and Italy have missile batteries deployed near Turkey’s southern border.  In years past, personnel from the Netherlands, Germany and the United States have also contributed to this mission.

Today, PATRIOT and SAMP-T systems help to defend Turkey against the threat of missiles from across the border in Syria.  This mission is important now more than ever and the Allies are committed to it.

In addition, we have enhanced patrols by the AWACS, the airborne warning and control system surveillance aircraft.

I was really very pleased and again honoured to have the opportunity to visit the Konya base in September for a chance to see at first hand the operations of AWACS planes out of that facility.

Konya has served as a forward operating base for NATO AWACS surveillance aircrafts since the 1980s. 

Today, NATO AWACS operating out of Konya conduct patrols in support of Turkey but also in support of the Counter ISIS Coalition.

It’s really impressive to see the operations at that base, as a you know civilian diplomat I don’t often get the chance to fly into an airbase sitting up behind the pilot but on the occasion when I flew into Konya in September on a sunny, bright day I was sitting right behind the pilot and was able to watch our landing into the airstrip at Konya and I could see before me a base laid out very well structured, well organised and beautifully maintained and that was the impression that held throughout that day at Konya.  A very professional organisation doing its part on behalf of all the NATO Alliance.  Other countries represented there in the pilots … among the pilots and the crews, and of course Turkish pilots also involved and playing a role in the crew.  So a very impressive example of how we are cooperating on security in the region.

Furthermore, we have increased our naval presence in the Black Sea area and in the eastern part of the Mediterranean. 

Again, this is just a brief summary illustrating NATO’s strong commitment to the defence of Turkey. 

Let me turn now on a broader scale to NATO’s wider priorities.

Indeed, NATO’s commitment to the safety and security of all of the Allies, all 29 Allies, is unwavering.  Our collective defence clause, Article 5, is at the heart of our Alliance.  An attack on any one Ally is an attack on us all.

That is the essence of our mutual defence commitment to one another and it has helped NATO to keep the peace in Europe for nearly 70 years and we have been successful as an alliance over these past seven decades because we have been able to adapt to changing security challenges.

It’s no surprise to you that 2014 was a watershed year. 

In response to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and the rise of ISIL/Da’esh, NATO has increased our collective defence capabilities and has done more to project stability throughout this neighbourhood.

Allies, including Turkey, have agreed on and implemented the most significant reinforcement of our collective defence since the Cold War. 

We have set up eight multinational headquarters in the eastern part of our Alliance. 

We have tripled the size of the NATO Response Force to 40,000 and established a 5,000 strong, very high readiness joint task force ready to move within days. 

I very much appreciate that Turkey has agreed to take on a leading role in this Force in the near future.

NATO is increasing our presence in the south east of the Alliance centred on the multinational brigade in Romania.

We have also stepped up air policing over the Baltic and Black Sea areas and we have deployed four multinational battalions to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

We do all of this to prevent conflict, to deter potential aggression and to ensure our collective defence.  After all, NATO is and has always been a defensive alliance.

In addition to ensuring that we can provide for our collective defence, NATO is working to project stability beyond our borders.

When we talk about projecting stability, we are recognising that when our neighbours become more secure then we are more secure. 

Thus, NATO works with more than 40 partners around the world from Jordan and Tunisia to Georgia and Ukraine, Australia and Sweden, Afghanistan and Iraq.  We work with a diverse network of partners to improve security and stability for all.

As we do this, we draw on the experience that we have gained and lessons we have learned. 

For example, our experience in Afghanistan has taught us that training local forces is one of our best weapons in the fight against terrorism.  That is a challenge that affects us all, and if we are training local forces then they begin to provide for their own security and they begin to take up the fight against terrorism.

Thus, we are adding 3,000 more trainers to our Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan.  We are there to train, advise and assist the Afghans so that they can best provide for their own security and to prevent that country from ever again becoming a safe haven for terrorists. 

We are also increasing our support for partners across the Middle East and North Africa with a range of training and defence capacity building programmes. 

The goal is to help them defend themselves and to better face external threats whilst strengthening their institutions in line with transparency and accountability standards.

We have been training Iraqi officers, both in Jordan and inside Iraq, with a focus on countering Improvised Explosive Devices, improving Military Medicine and supporting maintenance of former Soviet equipment.

As I mentioned earlier, NATO is a member of the Global Coalition to defeat ISIS/Da’esh. We are contributing to the Global Coalition with the AWACS surveillance flights and we know the fight will not be over, even when Da’esh is no longer controlling any territory.

We are considering how our role might evolve within the Global Coalition by building up our efforts to train Iraqi forces and increase the counter-terrorism capabilities of our partners across this region.

Finally, we are improving our awareness and the way we share information.  This is one of the main purposes of our new Intelligence Division at NATO and again, I want to pay my compliments to Turkey for the way in which you have been cooperating with our efforts to reform and really restructure how we exchange intelligence and analyse it. 

Inside NATO, as just an example, we are focusing on ways to bring the civilian side of the intelligence establishment closer together with the military side and that I think is a key aspect of our thinking about NATO adaptation going forward that we want ever closer cooperation between the civil and military sides of the NATO institution and so the intelligence guys are leading the way on that.

We have created a new Hub for the South at our Command in Naples.  This Hub will contribute to our understanding of challenges from the region and to our work with partners to counter those challenges.

We know all too well that terrorism is a foe that must be fought on many fronts and you know that very well here in Turkey.  It must be fought on many fronts and with many different strategies.

So let me close my remarks with a little preview of our 2018 Brussels Summit.

In July of this year, in the middle of the month, we will be bringing together the heads of state and government of all of the NATO member countries.  President Erdoğan will be there meeting at that high level to discuss where we go from here.

By any reasonable measure, NATO has achieved a great deal over the past few years in adapting our Alliance to an ever revolving security environment, but there is always more to do.

To ensure that NATO continues to protect our nearly one billion citizens and preserve the peace, NATO must continue to adapt.

So as we prepare our next Summit, I don’t want to go into too much detail here, but I do want to give you an overview of the topics that I believe will be on the agenda when our leaders gather together this summer.

First, I want to assure you that terrorism will be front and centre. 

How will we be able to do even more to project stability and fight international terrorism will be one of two top topics that the leaders will address; and the second will be, how will we further strengthen our deterrence and defence.

I am sure that we will also discuss a range of other related subjects including our approach to Russia, increasing security cooperation between NATO and the European Union and modernising the Alliance.

The last topic will involve reorganising NATO’s command structure. 

This is a topic that has been talked about front and centre.  Much discussed at NATO headquarters in recent weeks, including at a very important meeting of the CHODS last week on Monday and Tuesday. 

So how are we going to adapt NATO command structure for the modern age?

I want to say a few words about this because our command structure is the backbone of the Alliance, including the Headquarters Allied Land Command here at Izmir.

The command structure underpins both our strength and deterrence and defence posture as well as our ability to project stability and fight terrorism beyond NATO’s borders.

One new element is the likely creation of a new cyber operation centre which is important as we strengthen our cyber defences.

A new command for the Atlantic is planned to ensure that sea lines of communication between Europe and North America remain open and secure, along with a new command focused on military mobility to speed up the movement of military forces and equipment within and across Europe.

These topics and others will be discussed and decisions will be made by our leaders to map out NATO’s future directions.

I know that Turkey will play a significant role in this important meeting of NATO heads of state and government as in all our NATO deliberations.

Even as NATO has adapted over the years some things must never change.  We must continue to treasure and uphold our enduring values, democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law, and indeed among the institutions and national presences on the world stage.  Today I think NATO is one of those that continues, without interruption, to stand for those key and enduring values.

Immediately after the July 2016 coup attempt here in Turkey, NATO’s Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, condemned the coup and expressed NATO’s solidarity with our valued Ally, Turkey.

He visited Ankara quite shortly thereafter in September and saw with his own eyes the damage to the parliament building.  It was a profound experience for him. He has spoken of the shock he felt on that occasion, seeing the damage to the parliament building. We all agree that any attempt to undermine democracy in any of our countries is unacceptable.

I pay homage to the memory of those who lost their lives during the critical hours of the coup attempt and pay tribute the Turkish people who stood up against this heinous act in defence of its elected government and democratic institutions.

A democratic strong and stable Turkey is important for our shared security. All NATO members are free and independent countries. Turkey is a vital member of the Alliance and, as I said at the outset, has been so for over 65 years.

As we look to the future, we can be confident that in continuing to work together through NATO our values and our security will be upheld in the fight against terrorism as in our fight against all threats to our security.

I thank you very much for your attention.  I see already a stack of questions here so we can turn immediately to our Q&A session but truly I thank you for your attention and appreciate again the opportunity to address you here today.

Thank you very much.