by U.S. Rep. Doug Bereuter President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly
Secretary General, distinguished Heads of State and Government, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is an honor and a pleasure for me in my first official function as President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA) to address this auspicious gathering.
I come to this meeting direct from the Plenary of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Istanbul, where I had the opportunity to see first hand, the changes that have taken place in Turkey as a result of the recent elections - - changes which have occurred at a moment when Turkey is assuming a pivotal role in our collective security, not just in the physical struggle against terrorism but also as a model for the region in the commitment to, and struggle for tolerance, moderation and democratic values.
I am confident that the new leadership under our former NATO Parliamentary Assembly colleague, Abdullah Gill, will continue with the same commitment and determination as in the past and that we, collectively, will provide Turkey all the necessary support and encouragement.
At the conclusion of its annual plenary, the NATO Assembly adopted a declaration on Alliance transformation. The message in this declaration is that Alliance legislators are anticipating important decisions from the leadership of the Alliance that will chart NATO's future direction and confirm its relevance for the coming years. This declaration is our advice on the crucial decisions for NATO's future which you, Alliance leaders, will make at this Summit.
Based upon past experience, parliamentarians will continue to play an active role in implementing these decisions, not only in authorizing the required programs and expenditures, but also, when necessary, to support and justify to our constituents, the deployment of the men and women of our armed forces abroad for combat and peacekeeping. I hope that today it is widely recognized that we NATO parliamentarians play an important role in sustaining the consensus that must underpin NATO policies and actions if they are to be successful. In democracies, after all, it is parliamentarians, as with the NATO leaders at this Summit, who are in the front line of answering and reflecting the concerns of the electorate.
As the collective parliamentary voice of the Alliance, the NATO PA has long played a critical role in building this consensus through creating greater transparency, openness, and accountability for Alliance policies. I know that parliamentary scrutiny of defense and foreign policy is not always warmly welcomed by the Executive, for as you know, it can at times seem an annoying burden; nonetheless it should be borne willingly, because without it, policies and actions can be seen to lack democratic legitimacy and citizen support.
The Assembly's traditional functions have been supplemented, especially since the end of the Cold War, by an intensive and successful program of dialogue, assistance, cooperation, and somewhat subtle instruction of the fledgling democratic parliaments of those countries seeking a closer relationship with NATO. Today, for example, the Assembly reaches outside the 19 NATO countries to bring together parliamentarians of all political persuasions from 28 additional countries. Without fanfare and through its own initiative, the Assembly's "outreach" programs have become an integral part of NATO's own efforts to assist these nations along the path for democratic and economic transition, thereby extending even further the frontiers of stability and security in and around Europe. During my time as President, I shall ensure that the Assembly will continue to fulfill this vital function.
Let me now briefly outline the three priorities that I, as President of the Assembly intend to emphasize;
As my first priority, I shall focus on strengthening and re-enforcing the transatlantic relationship which lies at the very heart of our Alliance. No, this is not a new subject. But you are all aware of the policy differences and increasing strains in transatlantic relations - at least between the United States and Europe. Significant differences in attitude and perception exist between the United States and many of its NATO Allies. Not only does this growing divergence obstruct the development of consensus on Alliance issues; it also obscures the core values and moral imperatives that bind us together. Left unaddressed, this gap will erode the solidarity and cohesion of the Alliance.
Surely, too, it is apparent to all of us that our Alliance must adapt to meet the challenges of the new international threats. A strengthened transatlantic relationship can only be achieved on the basis of a readily adaptable and rejuvenated NATO.
It is for this reason that the Assembly declaration emphasizes that restoring our common sense of purpose will require the emergence of a new NATO capable of playing an effective role against the new threats and challenges:
- a NATO with the structures and capabilities to react rapidly and effectively wherever and whenever our security interests are threatened;
- a NATO that will act as a focal point in the struggle against terrorism;
- a NATO working with the European Union in crises and conflicts so that our combined efforts are complementary and mutually reinforcing;
- an enlarged NATO integrating new members to add new vitality and commitment; and pushing outward the frontiers of stability and security
- and a NATO that will continue to broaden the area of cooperation by deepening the still embryonic dialogue with countries of the Mediterranean and offering assistance and association to countries in regions of increasing strategic importance and vulnerability, such as the Caucasus.
My second priority is a larger Assembly emphasis on the struggle against terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The recent tragic events in Ball and Moscow once again have confirmed what was apparent after September 11 - that terrorism is a global menace that affects all of our societies. To win a war against terror requires a global response through enhanced international cooperation.
To improve parliamentary knowledge, commitment, and oversight within NATO countries, with the support of the Assembly I intend to launch a new initiative that will use the Assembly's framework to stimulate, nation-by-nation, a greater collective capacity to fight terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. This initiative will involve the creation of a comprehensive database of information of specific relevance to legislators concerning terrorism and chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons.
My third priority for the Assembly is continuing to improve our relations with Russia. Nothing signifies the change in the strategic environment more than the development of increasingly beneficial dialogue, mutual respect, and cooperation with Russia, most notably through the recent creation of the NATO-Russia Council. Much, however, remains to be done. Suspicions and misperceptions of NATO continue to linger at many levels of Russian society, thus restricting the full exploitation of our potential cooperation. The NATO Assembly now is playing a full part in this oprocess by engaging the Russian Parliament in many of the Assembly's activities, by creating a special Joint Working Group, and most recently, by forming the NATO-Russia Permanent Standing Committee within the Assembly. We shall continue to work with our Russian parliamentary colleagues to develop the mutual understanding and confidence necessary so that this relationship may reach its full potential.
The NATO Parliamentary Assembly remains committed to playing a strong supportive role for the changes needed in NATO. Together, NATO leaders, we will re-orient and re-invigorate NATO, the world's most successful defense alliance, to meet the security challenges of today and tomorrow - as simultaneously we extend the reach of peace and stability to an ever broader stretch of countries across the face of Europe.