The Alliance-A Key Player in the future

Speech by Secretary General Manfred Wörner at the 35th Annual Assembly of the Atlantic Treaty Association

  • 26 Oct. 1989
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  • Last updated: 04 Nov. 2008 21:09

Our Western values are protected by the Atlantic Alliance but they are no longer limited to the Atlantic area. This is one of spiritual revolutions in history that has not required sword or a burning dogma. Example and practice have
sufficed. The world comes to us. Wherever you look, the success of our great Atlantic Alliance has transformed even the most fixed mentalities. It has created aspirations.
As a result, when it comes to the consequences: a world in immense transition, the failure of communism, the quest for new structures of peace based on the Alliance vision of freedom, human dignity and self-determination, then it is just as clear that we are not at the end, but at the beginning of a new phase of history. The Alliance will be a key player in the unfolding future. Our Summit meeting was not just or even primarily a celebration of 40 years of peace in freedom - the longest period Europe has enjoyed since Roman times. Neither was it just a Western response to the changes at work in the East. It was first and foremost an affirmation that this Alliance can shape that future according to our values - for our benefit, certainly, but for humanity's benefit as well. Our vision is threefold:

a Europe undivided in which all peoples would exercise their inherent right of self-determination; in which all would enjoy the same freedoms and economic opportuni-ties; and in which no nation need ever fear military in-timidation or aggression from its neighbours;

a new global order of co-operation in which East and West would work together to solve humanity's most pressing problems: drugs, terrorism, the environment, regional tensions;

a more equal transatlantic partnership based on a strong North America and a united and cohesive Western Europe; one which would assume its full share of the common defence and of global responsibilities.

Our ideological opponents for forty years are now caught up in a terminal crisis. Many of their leaders blame this crisis on us. If by this they mean that our societies are more dynamic, our citizens more creative, our economies more prosperous and our nations resolved to defend these benefits, then indeed 1 am most happy for this Alliance to take the credit. The East is not turning to the West by accident. No-one can deny that our success and resolve is a primary reason why the East does not only want to change but simply has to change. On the other hand, if these leaders mean instead that their crisis is caused not by Communism's patent failings, but by something that Mr. Shevardnadze has called Western "revanchism", then I can only echo the verdict of Dumouriez on the courtiers of Louis XVIII of France: "they have forgotten nothing, and learned nothing". But I hope that this is not their real opinion. After all, did we not hear Mr. Gorbachev acknowledge in East Berlin that "what is most important is that the citizens decide for themselves"?

Along with the momentous changes in some Communist countries, there is still sufficient uncertainty to make one wonder whether some authoritarian regimes will really listen to their peoples, and rule for them, rather than against them. We have had in recent weeks the example of others responding to the same aspirations with riot police, arrests and crackdowns. The improving human rights picture in some of these states seems regrettably to have encour-aged others to move backwards. Take the example of Bulgaria forcing over 300,000 of its ethnic Turks to leave. But, despite all this, I am not pessimistic. The call for freedom cannot be suppressed forever, nor can Communist regimes survive indefinitely through repression and stagnation. People want to be responsible for their own lives, even if this means risk and uncertainty. The fact that over 50,000 East Germans were willing to abandon everything - jobs, family, friends - to flee to the West is a testament to this fundamental need of the human spirit. And those who have chosen to stay behind are not politically passive. They are organizing, speaking out, pushing for change. The writing is on the wall for repressive communist systems. The longer reform is postponed, the harder it will be - and with fewer young, energetic people to see it through.

Mr. Gorbachev is often given credit by our public opinion for unleashing these forces of change. I would see him as a determined man who is the vehicle, but not the master, of historical necessity. Mr. Gorvachev has accelerated - we must thank him for that - a transformation that was inevitable. Communism has never taken root in Eastern Europe. Stalin's famous dictum about communism in Poland, that it was "like trying to put a saddle on a cow" applies as much to his own country, the Soviet Union.

The aspirations of the peoples of Eastern Europe have been expressed beyond doubt or question: and I think the Alliance vision of Europe in the year 2000 meets them:

self determination - the right to live as one independent nation and to enjoy one's national identity;

the right to choose one's own government at regular intervals;

the right to freedom of speech, travel, access to information, to organize politically;

the right to live without fearing external military force, and to enjoy security abroad and stability at home;

the right to equal economic and social opportunities;

above all, a Europe undivided, of open borders, human contacts, common values and culture.

This vision is not only morally correct: it alone procures lasting stability. Not the false stability of a system of states that can be maintained only through military blocs, "satellised" Allies, ideological conformity and internal repres-sion. In truth this is the most unstable of all systems; militarily dangerous and politically untenable. It may have kept the peace, but at a price far too heavy for us, and far too heavy for the peoples of Eastern Europe.

History does not allow stagnation. You can only have real stability through constant change and adaptation. The status quo is finished. This Alli-ance neither can, nor wants, to sustain it. It is not only our distant vision to create a new Europe. It is our immediate interest. There is more at stake than simply removing the shadow of Soviet military power and ideological hostility from our affairs. A Europe of free nations and open borders would certainly be a more stable and peaceful Europe; but it would be also one of vast new opportunities in trade, communications, education, cultural exchanges, and East-West co-operation to solve our human problems: pollution, drugs, terror-ism.

So it is not a question of what we want to achieve, but how we achieve it. The break-up of the old system is inevitable; nothing we do in the West will change that. But the shape of the new system is by no means inevitable. As the midwife of change, we have a special responsibility in ensuring that it becomes both permanent and universal throughout Eastern Europe. This can be achieved only by evolution, not revolution.

The Alliance has the political initiative. Our NATO Summit Declaration is two things: a conceptual blueprint for a better Europe, and a pragmatic policy to make that a reality. Take, for instance, our offer of co-operation. We have offered these countries the largest programme of help since Stalin forced them to turn down Marshall Aid in the nineteen-forties:

food assistance to Poland - 24 Western nations are involved; the United States has doubled its amount;

trade facilitation, such as the recent economic agreement between the EEC and Poland, or the decision of the United States to grant Hungary most favoured nation trading status;

private enterprise trusts to be established in Poland and Hungary; government encouragement of joint ventures;

funds for pollution control projects;

the twelve governments of the European Community have guaranteed a $1 billion credit to Poland and Hungary; individual governments are helping too with new credits;

training courses and facilities for Eastern managers;

a review of the debt burden of Poland and Hungary;

scholarships for the study of Western institutions.

Yet, we can best help those who help themselves, and who take the necessary steps to move closer to democracy and market economies. Political and economic reform are intertwined. We must use our aid to stimulate political reform and the respect of human rights, as well as economic progress. Only in this way can we produce long-term results. We have no desire to have one year's feast, followed by ten years' famine.

The requirements for economic and political change are simultaneous. First the economic:

reforms must not be designed merely to relieve immediate economic pressures, but to permanently introduce market mechanisms;

measures must be taken to reduce inflation, liberalise trade, allow for individual business enterprise, and to restore values to dead currencies;

the management of the economy must be decentralised; for instance, the role of the nomenklatura in economic decision-making must be reduced

in its place must come a more impartial civil service; local managers must have more autonomy; and then the political:

first and foremost, the Warsaw Pact must scale back its forces in Eastern Europe to a level where an attack is impossible. Our proposals to eliminate conventional disparities and provide for stringent stabilization and verification measures show the way;

democratic institutions must be allowed to take root;

human rights and the undertakings of the Helsinki Final Act must be respected in full; only in this way will the Eastern governments persuade their populations to accept the sacrifices of reform, and to work to rebuild their nations;

the Soviet Union and its allies must co-operate with us on global concerns: environmental pollution, terrorism, the proliferation of dan-gerous weapons, regional tensions.

Poland and Hungary will be the two test cases for our strategy. They are rapidly approaching the Rubicon of irreversible change. We must help them to cross it. This is our challenge: to give reform a scope and a pace that avoids a relapse into stagnation, or an uncontrolled slide into disarray. Of course, instability is often a by-product of necessary change. We must accept this and not be afraid of it. We must mitigate its negative effects, but, above all, turn the movement that it brings to our advantage.

We are up to it. The future role of NATO is determined by the context we face: first to provide a framework of stability and cohesion in a time of great change: but also, and just as importantly, to be an instrument of that change -to encourage it and to give it something solid to anchor itself on. We are not just aiming to help Eastern Europe over its immediate hurdle, thereafter to abandon it to its fate. The Alliance strives to reshape East-West relations by allowing Communism to phase itself out, building in its place new democratic and economic structures. And this Alliance is unique in being the one Western institution that can manage the integrated Western strategy that is required. Political, economic, military and human rights policies cannot be handled in isolation.

The Europe of the year 2000 will not be a more prosperous Europe if it is not a safer Europe. So our policy of promoting change has to be backed up by a policy for security. The momentous changes we are witnessing in the East are taking place within a context of East-West military confrontation that remains for now essentially unchanged, despite the promise for the future. Vast Soviet forces remain in Eastern Europe. They continue to maintain the unnatural division of our continent, to oppress Eastern Europe and to intimidate the NATO Allies. Modernized Soviet nuclear missiles continue to threaten our cities. While we welcome Mr. Gorbachev's unilateral reductions, they do not modify this fundamental geo-political reality. There is, moreover, mounting evidence that Soviet defence spending remains high - 13-17% of GNP; real growth since 1985 is estimated - still - at 3 % a year on average; and new weapons systems continue to roll off the production line.

The currently envisaged Soviet unilateral reductions will still leave an intimidating military machine facing us in the East. In addition to keeping our own defences modern and effective, we have responded with a dynamic arms control policy. It is a main plank of this Alliance's political agenda, seeking cuts in military forces across the board. If, for example, our conventional forces proposal is realised, we will have succeeded in cutting the number of Soviet tanks, artillery and armoured personnel carriers in Europe by 60%.

It is the West that leads when it comes to bold, imaginative proposals. Not just ones that appeal to the public gallery; but ones that are directly negotiable in Vienna or Geneva. We are pushing for an initial agreement on conventional reductions in one year - ambitious, I grant you, but the speed with which 16 democratic and sovereign nations are merging their interests into common positions proves that, on our side at least, it is wholly feasible.

The speed with which change is happening, and our unprecedented prospects for further arms control success, have, not unexpectedly, generated new problems for us. Public expectations have been raised, and they often base themselves on two misguided propositions:

that with a reduced threat to Western security, there is no longer justification for strong Western defences;

that arms control alone will solve our security concerns and bring about a more stable and peaceful Europe.

On the first point, I would warn against over-hasty conclusions. One third of the globe, an entire ideological system is now in a deep and terminal crisis. No-one can predict what will happen. I wish Gorbachev success, but it would be foolhardy to place all our eggs in the basket of his political survival, or his success. Reform in the East has been born of failure. There is a race going on between political change and systemic collapse; noone can tell which will win, or when. Explosive forces are building up throughout Eastern Europe - all the more potent for having been repressed for so long. This Alliance will do all it can to help. But we would be taking enormous risks if we threw ourselves into this enterprise without a secure defence. This alone can protect us against setbacks and reversals, and against any temptation of the Soviet Union to resort to military threat or intimidation. The same people who call on this Alliance to be bold and imaginative in our political strategy - in short to take risks - cannot at the same time deny us the requisite insurance cover.

On the second point, I warn against the easy assumption that less weapons automatically imply more security. Our arms control initiatives will only bear their full fruit in the context of an overall Western strategy for promoting political change in the East. Arms control can facilitate solutions; but weapons are not the fundamental cause of tension. They are the product of unsound political relations. The function of arms control is to make the East-West security system safer; it is not to do away with that system altogether. If it is true that there can be no stability without change, there can also be no change without stability. Even in a Europe of vastly improved political relations, military forces, albeit at reduced levels, will always be the lynchpin of our security. Certainly the bright prospects for the future allow us to conceive of a security that will be more co-operative, transparent and reassuring. What I like to think of as maximum deterrence with minimum forces. But until that time, this Alliance will not take away the scaffolding from around the building before the cement has set.

When I first became Secretary General, I was asked by many people "What is NATO doing about the Gorbachev challenge?" Well, all of you who follow Alliance affairs closely now have the answer: we have taken the initiative in moving political change and arms control forward. The Alliance has demonstrated that it is a political Alliance paving the way for a new order of peace and freedom. None of you who are actively engaged in the battle for the hearts and minds of our public opinion can say that you lack a positive message to put across. Never has this Alliance had such a forward-looking and ambitious strategy. Never have we had such a great opportunity to put that strategy into effect. There are truly historic opportunities before us. We created them and we will seize them. I am looking to you to help. You have a vital role to play in ensuring that we will continue to have public support. And this Alliance has opened up such prospects for future achievement that today as never before, you can go about your task with optimism and confidence.