''NATO as a guarantor of territorial defence and a provider of global security''

Speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the conference ''NATO Talk around the Brandenburger Tor'' in Berlin

  • 26 Nov. 2009
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  • Last updated: 27 Nov. 2009 09:07

''NATO Talk around the Brandenburger Tor''. Speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

State Secretary Schmidt,
Members of Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is my first official visit to Germany as the new Secretary General of NATO. And l am very glad that this visit takes place in the month of the 20th Anniversary of the fall of the Wall. I vividly remember those historic events on the 9th of November 1989.

I will never forget the emotional pictures of people climbing the wall, crossing the gates, walking into freedom.

We who grew up in the shadow of the Cold War, the Wall and the Iron Curtain, could hardly believe what we saw. Could hardly believe that the world order, we grew up with, had collapsed. Could hardly believe that these very events would lay the foundation for a new Europe.

When thousands and thousands of Trabants filled Western European roads, they did not just visualise the economic failure of an oppressive regime, but also the formidable force of peoples desire for freedom.

The celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall reminded us all of the very special relationship between Germany and the NATO Alliance. During the Cold War, West Germany was the clearest example of NATO solidarity, and of collective and credible territorial defence.

There were fully prepared defence plans – including for this very city. There were regular large-scale exercises. There were large, heavy and static land forces, as well as significant air forces pre-positioned to defend Germany and Allied territory against any attack by the Warsaw Pact – and these forces were not just from Germany, but they were from several other NATO Allies too. And there was operational planning that ensured the collective risks and burdens were shared equally amongst Allies.

In short, NATO’s defence posture in West Germany exemplified the idea of security in the Cold War: if you managed to defend your national borders against an invasion from a hostile army, you were safe. Over four decades, this “territorial” idea of security became deeply ingrained in our minds. And NATO provided the deterrence that kept Germany free. It kept war from being used as a political tool in Europe. And it kept the peace until man’s irrepressible desire for freedom started to dismantle the Soviet system from within, breaking down the Iron Curtain, and bringing down the Berlin Wall.

But that was 20 years ago. And if one looks at everything that has happened since then, it is clear for all to see that a “territorial” notion of security is no longer relevant to the challenges that we face today. Today, we are no longer worried by the nexus between an expansionist ideology and an overwhelming military force. The nexus that has become the deadliest threat to our societies is entirely different: it is the nexus between failed states and international terrorism.

This was demonstrated most clearly by the attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001, and by other attacks that have followed since – in Madrid, in London, in Istanbul, and elsewhere. The attacks in Mumbai happened exactly one year ago today. Many of the terrorists who committed these attacks were inspired by Al Qaeda – a group that had enjoyed sanctuary in Afghanistan when that country was ruled by the Taliban. A failed state in a far away corner of the world, but with the potential to strike at the heart of our societies.

Did oceans or mountains shield us from this threat? No, they didn’t. Did the troops and tanks deployed at home defend us against this threat? No, they could not. The approaches of a bygone era simply no longer work. We cannot deter terrorist attacks in the same way we deterred a Soviet conventional attack during the Cold War. Nor can we simply wait until terrorism strikes us at home. Once terrorists strike, it is too late.

“9/11” made clear – in no uncertain terms – that our old, Cold War, “eurocentric” conception of security was hopelessly outdated. “9/11” demonstrated that, in the wake of economic globalisation, threats, too, are globalising: terrorism, failing states and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are phenomena that simply cannot be met with purely national or even regional approaches. Against these threats, our old, static Cold War strategy is of no use at all.

But these are not the only challenges that we will have to face in the coming years. We saw in Estonia only two years ago how a cyber attack can seriously destabilise a country, without a single soldier crossing the border, and without a single shot being fired. Piracy was long thought to be a thing of the past. Today, it has re-emerged as a serious challenge to the more than 20,000 ships that pass through the Gulf of Aden every year.

Energy security is another growing concern. If critical bottlenecks like the Straits of Hormuz were blocked, Europe would face a major economic crisis. And I predict that we will also very soon feel the effects of climate change on our security: through humanitarian disasters, conflicts over arable land, and mounting competition for natural resources.

So what are we to make of this? My answer is clear: We need to develop a new approach to security. We have to go to where the threat comes from, and tackle it at its roots –politically, economically, and militarily.

To put it bluntly: territorial defence no longer starts at our borders – it starts well away from them. And if we are really serious about defending our security collectively, then we also have to realise that we must change NATO. We must provide the Alliance with the capabilities, structures and resources it needs to deal with the challenges of today and tomorrow, not those of twenty years ago.

Our mission in Afghanistan demonstrates that we have understood this new reality. As a result of our presence, Al Qaeda no longer has any training camps in Afghanistan; they no longer have a safe haven in Afghanistan; and they haven’t managed to launch a single major attack from Afghanistan since we’ve been there. This is a major blow to them. It’s a real success for us. And it’s a clear contribution to our national security at home, including here in Berlin.

These past few months have been particularly demanding for all our forces – including those deployed by Germany, which is our third-largest contributor. And I understand when some people – including here in Germany – begin to ask whether the price of our engagement in Afghanistan is too high – whether it costs too much, both in blood and treasure.

Again, let me be very blunt: Yes, we all have to pay a high price for our security today. Some of our brave men and women in uniform are paying the ultimate price. But there is no alternative. Because the price of walking away would be higher – insecurity in our streets, our airports and our subways.

I am often asked: when will our Afghanistan mission end? My answer is twofold: first, our mission will end once the Afghans are capable of securing and running their own country. Second, the more we do now, the sooner this day will arrive.

I am confident that, starting as early as next year, we will be able to begin handing over more lead responsibility for security to the Afghan forces. We will do this in a coordinated way, where conditions permit, and we will then be able, progressively, to move into a support role. This transition does not mean exit. It means commitment to finishing our job.

We also need strong contributions by the United Nations, the European Union, and other civilian organizations, and more needs to be done by Afghanistan itself – in the fight against corruption and the drug trade, and in improving governance at all levels.

This country, Germany, has been a strong advocate of an international conference on Afghanistan. And I am glad that conference will take place early next year, led by the United Nations. I believe it will be a perfect opportunity to create a new compact between the Afghan Government and the international community, and to provide clear benchmarks for progress.

It will also be an ideal occasion for the whole of the international community to demonstrate its long-term commitment to helping Afghanistan to stand on its own feet. There is a vital role for NATO to play in those efforts. And that includes a vital role for Germany.

We will soon begin to see a new momentum in Afghanistan.

But as we see through our mission in Afghanistan, we need, at the same time, to advance the Alliance’s broader adaptation to the complex security challenges that I mentioned earlier – and to strengthen NATO’s ability to meet those challenges. In this broader process of adaptation I see four key priorities.

First, military transformation. Let there be no mistake: NATO’s fundamental value is the ability to translate political decisions into military action. This is a precious asset that we must preserve. But we cannot preserve it if we try to tackle 21st century challenges with Cold War legacy forces. And, unfortunately, we still have too many of those.

In Europe, we still have about 10.000 Main Battle Tanks – to defend against what? More than half of our troops and equipment are not deployable. This means that they cannot be used to help defend an Ally, let alone to conduct peacekeeping missions further away from home.

In Europe, we also have helicopters in abundance – but in Afghanistan, we face a helicopter shortage. Only a fraction of the helicopters we own can be used in Afghanistan, because they have the wrong engines..

These are just a few examples to demonstrate how wide the gap is between the demands that we face and our ability to meet those demand. Unless we change the way we do business, we will continue to pay too much for too little capability. So we need to change the way we do business.

We need to focus on capabilities that are relevant to the new security environment.

Second, funding. A few weeks ago I had a discussion with a NATO Minister who told me that his country could deploy additional forces to Afghanistan, but that he did not have the money to move them there.

Other countries have the necessary assets and resources, but not the actual troops. It is pretty obvious where a solution lies.

I also believe that we need to examine multinational solutions far more seriously than we have done in the past – we must look at joint funding, for example, and we must seek to pool vital assets. Given the global financial crisis, it is all the more important that we spend wisely. And to me, the wisest spending is for collective solutions.

Third, better connecting NATO to the international community. Today’s complex challenges cannot be met by military means alone, and neither can they be met by NATO alone. Today, the effectiveness of NATO depends on how well it cooperates with other nations and organisations.

We have made a lot of progress on this score. We have developed security partnerships with countries from Europe through the Caucasus to Central Asia, and from North Africa through the Middle East to the Gulf. In Afghanistan, we work together with 15 nations from across the globe. And it has been visible in our developing relations with the United Nations, the European Union and other organisations, such as the African Union.

But we must go further. Non-NATO countries like Australia, Finland and Sweden are deploying considerable numbers of troops under NATO command. The NATO-EU relationship is not even close to the strategic partnership that we seek to build. And many in the NGO community are still hesitant to engage with NATO for fear of being dominated by our Alliance. We must tackle these challenges head-on. We must move our engagement with other countries and organisations to a new level. Because in today’s globalised world, we all need each other.

Finally, Russia. Russia is an essential part of the European security architecture, and we need a NATO-Russia relationship that reflects this fact. Unfortunately, the NATO-Russia relationship is too much focussed on the past and far too little on the future. This must change – and I believe that now is the time for a new chapter in NATO-Russia relations. We must aim for a partnership that allows us to pursue common interests without sacrificing core NATO principles, including our commitment to keep NATO’s door open for new members. Some see Russia as a challenge – I see it as an opportunity. And it is in this spirit that I will travel to Moscow next month to discuss how we can move our relationship forward.

This is an ambitious agenda. The time for reform is now. We cannot afford to lose time. That is why I attach great importance to the work on NATO’s new Strategic Concept. Because this is the perfect opportunity for a fundamental discussion of NATO’s political and military future.

We have deliberately made the development of our new Strategic Concept a very open and a very inclusive process. We are engaging the public and the international strategic community through a series of conferences and other activities. I have asked a group of 12 distinguished experts, under the leadership of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, to think out-of-the-box and come up with recommendations. And following deliberations among member nations, I expect NATO’s Heads of State and Government to endorse the concept at their Summit in a year’s time.

I am confident that Germany will continue to play its full part in this process of Alliance renewal. Twenty years ago, former Secretary General Manfred Woerner played a key role in the unification of Germany within the framework of NATO. The Alliance’s subsequent strategic reorientation has benefited greatly from men such as General Klaus Naumann, whom I am very pleased to see here today. And I am very glad that Germany’s former Ambassador to NATO, Hans von Ploetz, is a member of the experts group on the Strategic Concept that I just mentioned.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our Alliance has come a long way since the fall of the wall 20 years ago. NATO has transformed from a static Cold War Alliance into a much more dynamic and flexible security provider. But we cannot rest on our laurels. The end of the Cold War did not mean the end of history. We face an entirely new set of challenges, and we must continue to adapt our Alliance – politically and militarily – to deal with them. In essence, we must transform our Alliance from a military tool-box to a broader security community.

Ever since it joined NATO 54 years ago, Germany has been both a major contributor to our Alliance and a major benefactor of transatlantic solidarity. I urge Germany to continue to play an active role in the political and military transformation of our Alliance. Such an active role will ensure that the success story of Germany in NATO will continue. And this will benefit the security of all our nations, and all our citizens.

Thank you.