NATO and a new European Order

Address Given by Secretary General, Manfred Wörner to the Italian Senate

  • 19 Apr. 1990
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  • Last updated: 04 Nov. 2008 22:03

Rome is, of course, the "Eternal City". This wholly appropriate appelation comes not only from its contribution to Western civilization, its vibrant culture or the magnificence of its architecture, but because it is the city that one wants to return to most often.

So I am extremely grateful to my old and dear friend, Senator Giovanni Spadolini, who like me has a new incarnation since the days when we worked closely together, in trying times, as defence ministers, for his invitation to come back to Rome today. Having re-invigorated my senses in both aspects of your city - the grandeur of its ancient world, the hustle and bustle of its modern counterpart - I wish to thank you for honouring me with the opportunity to address such a distinguished gathering.

I am particularly pleased to be speaking before this audience on the importance of the Alliance for a new European order. We need at this juncture of history a combination of continuity and vision, of constancy and innovation, of devotion to the Atlantic partnership and to the unity of Europe. These have been the hallmarks of Italian policy for the past 40 years, and are precisely the qualities demanded now. Italy has always been in the forefront of the search for a future Europe, deriving strength and stability from our Alliance, in which we can achieve the true stability and peace which have eluded Europeans throughout history. My message to you is that we now have a chance, a real chance, to succeed. To do so will require the wisdom and vision to build on that which we have achieved.

Since NATO's 40th anniversary twelve months ago, we have witnessed a revolution not only on the streets of Central and Eastern Europe but also in the assumptions that for forty years have under-pinned East-West relations. The prospect of war in Europe is at its lowest ebb in nearly half a century.

Risks to our security remain, and instability has proved explosive in the past. But the situation in Europe has nonetheless evolved to the point where the Alliance's concept of political rather than exclusively military security is coming into its own. We have an opportunity, not yet realized, to develop a new European architecture of peaceful cooperation that deals as well with potential conflicts or reversals.

With the conventional threat now diminishing, has NATO developed into something beyond the classic Alliance of nations to meet an external threat? What remains uniquely important about the Alliance in the context of a new European order ?

First and foremost, the Alliance has oriented the United States away from isolationism and towards a lasting commitment to uphold peace and stability in Europe. The US is prepared to maintain this commitment for as long as the Allies wish. Traditionally, Europe has not enjoyed stability. And the search for a new Europe is complicated by Russia's predominant military might and geography. It is the link to the United States - and Canada - which for the last forty years has given Europe security and stability. The Atlantic Alliance has not only cemented the union of destiny between Europe and North America; it has also shown that democracies are most secure and strong when they bind together.

NATO has in fact become a unique model of the collective management of broadly defined security among free nations. It has established a political as well as a military partnership. This is a major factor in the deterrence ofwar, and in the vitality of the values on which this partnership is based. Within the Alliance former enemies have been reconciled; all enjoy equal security; the Alliance's stabilizing framework has extended outwards to protect the neutral states of Europe, and the newly democratizing states of Central and Eastern Europe recognize that without NATO they would not have recovered their independence and liberty.

Without this stabilizing Alliance framework, Europe would become once more vulnerable to the shifting alliances and power politics of the past. Security would be "renationalized". The lessons of European history are clear on the subject of nation states searching alone to find an elusive security. Only the Atlantic collective security system can balance and hedge the preponderance of Soviet power in Europe, and ensure that the relatively weaker feel confident vis-a-vis the relatively stronger.

One of the historic achievements of the Alliance has been to convert nuclear weapons into the ultimate instrument of peace keeping. The Alliance has secured nuclear deterrence; it has also facilitated its members' participation in collective nuclear planning. Given that arms control can reduce but never disinvent the nuclear weapon, Europeans would be well advised to retain the controlling structure that the Alliance represents.

NATO is not, of course, alone in striving to put in place the architecture of a future European order. But talking about one or the other institution as the basis for the future misses the essential point: it is on all our existing bodies and successes that we must build.

The European Community, for instance, is playing an important political role, not least in the economic reconstruction of Central and Eastern Europe. It has an ultimate goal of political union and to this end has achieved already an impressive degree of interaction among its 12 members. It is obviously the most attractive and dynamic European political organisation. Yet despite its emerging political identity, it has no security dimension, nor will it acquire one for the foreseeable future.

NATO and the EC have provided the cohesion and stability at the centre of Western success. Building on that, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) also has a promising future as the framework for the new European architecture. Yet it lacks the legal solidity of binding obligations, a permanent institutional status, or a conflict-resolution machinery backed up by effective powers of enforcement and sanction. Given the differing values, interests and views of its 35 members, each with a right of veto, it cannot guarantee security. Essential as its work is in promoting democratic values, human rights and breaking down barriers, the CSCE cannot replace the Atlantic Alliance, which remains an essential pillar of every future European security structure.

Our challenge is how to extend security without diminishing it. Neither the European Community nor the CSCE, either alone or jointly, can substitute for the transatlantic Alliance in carrying the burdens of stability and democracy across the whole of Europe. Only the Alliance can keep the United States and Canada tied to Europe; ensure that change can unfold without fear of setbacks and reversals; co-ordinate overall Western strategy for the reconstruction of Central and Eastern Europe; and firmly anchor a united Germany in the West in conditions of maximum security for both itself and its neighbours. In that light, the Alliance will face three tasks in the 1990s: First is that of building a new European order, not only more just but also more durable than that of the Cold War. Europe will continue to change for many years yet. The demise of the Warsaw Pact, the end of the military confrontation of the Cold War, the imminent prospect of German unity ha ve all fundamentally changed the terrain before the Alliance. We are already adjusting in military and political terms to the new environment, and there are two immediate and essential contributions that we will make to a future European architecture.

In supporting Gorbachev both politically and materially as long as he moves towards democracy and reform, the Allies are proving to the Soviet Union that they do not intend to take advantage of Soviet weakness, but to assist it in its difficult transformation. In particular, the Allies will respect the legitimate security interests of the Soviet Union in Europe so that it can embrace reform in full confidence. There is no doubt: we want successful reform in the Soviet Union, and for it to take place in security, safely. The second contribution is in offering the new Germany a membership in the Alliance that ensures its continued anchorage in the West. This makes the inherent right of self-determination of the Germans compatible with stability in Europe. It is in the Soviet interest as much as that of Germany's neighbours and partners. At the same time, the Alliance will contribute to the CSCE process, speed up the establishment of solid democratic institutions, promote the respect of human and minority rights and the rule of law in all the nations of Europe. It will also use the CSCE process to break down barriers to human, cultural and economic exchanges across Europe's vanishing line of division, and to promote economic progress in the East.

Indeed our Alliance understands that peace is more than military security. It also depends on tackling the pressing problems of mankind. For this reason we have a NATO Third Dimension, our programmes dealing with science and the environment. More and more the Alliance is helping to build up scientific expertise in fields ranging from global climatic change to condensed matter physics. Italy has been a great contributor to these programmes and a guiding influence over their development. In June we are meeting in Erice to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Committee on the Challenges of Modern Society. I want to emphasize how grateful we in NATO are for the continuing support of the Italian authorities, and particularly Prime Minister Andreotti.

The Alliance is also stimulating arms control negotiations to make the ebbing of the East-West confrontation an irreversible process. If the Alliance can bring the states of Europe to cooperate over their vital security interests, they will find it much easier to cooperate over everything else. An agreement on conventional forces, which we hope to secure this year, is thus the indis-pensable foundation of a new European architecture. Wherever you look -strategic nuclear arms, a chemical weapons ban, confidence building measures - we are pushing ahead.

But conflict cannot be prevented by arms control or diplomacy alone. We havenot yet secured the future. Developments in the Soviet Union, for instance, are unpredictable. The prospect of a conventional disarmament treaty must not obscure the fact that the Soviet Union will remain a superpower. It is modernizing its nuclear arsenal both inside and outside its national territory. Although the Soviets are following through their promised unilateral reductions, they have restructured their remaining forces. The power of the Soviet armed forces to intimidate will remain, even with all Soviet forces back within their national borders. We must also remember that the collapse of the Soviet imperium has stirred both regional tensions and nationalism throughout much of the Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe.

The second task must therefore be to maintain a secure peace. Our defence structure will continue to be the main guarantee of peace as well as the necessary element for crisis management. War at the close of the twentieth century is so potentially catastrophic that we cannot take its prevention less seriously just because it is now less probable.

But within the overall premise that we maintain a credible defence capability, results in conventional arms control and the changes taking place in the East offer us more flexibility than in the past in planning our force structure. Clearly the forces NATO needs to deal with the risks in Europe today and in the future do not have to have the same level of readiness and availability as at present. These adjustments will not be limited to our obligations under a forthcoming CFE treaty; the Alliance is looking ahead to a new European security system going beyond confrontation, based on cooperation, transpar-ency and minimal force levels commensurate with deterrence.

Third, and finally, NATO must ensure the partnership between North America and an increasingly self-aware and politically unified Europe, while managing all the complexities of their relationship. This is a fundamental political choice for partnership, and preserving what we have worked for. Erosion of the transatlantic linkage will leave all of us worse off, including our partners to the East.

The future of NATO is not tied to that of the Warsaw Pact. There is no equivalence between the two alliances. NATO is the expression of the solidarity and will of 16 democratic nations; the Warsaw Pactonthe other hand has served as the instrument of Soviet domination of Central and Eastern Europe. Its future can be determined only by the free decision of the Pact's own members.

Equally, US troops in Europe cannot be compared to Soviet troops. They are here expressly at the invitation of Allied governments and parliaments. The Soviet Union now recognizes their wholly defensive intention and their reas-suring influence. Moscow has even accepted President Bush's proposal for a higher ceiling of US forces in Europe than Soviet forces stationed outside Soviet territory.

To answer the question I posed at the outset, this is an Alliance for a vision of peace, security and prosperity. Our values are inclusive, not exclusive. NATO is not simply an Alliance against threat or intimidation, but a model of partnership, success, and a vision of a future Europe of peace in freedom. The historical developments of our day allow us finally the prospect of realizing this vision, and to go beyond confrontation to cooperation, as the Alliance has for decades hoped to do.