Meeting Future Challenges Together

Speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the Bucharest University

  • 07 May. 2010
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  • Last updated: 07 May. 2010 11:56

Speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at Bucharest University.

I am delighted to be here today, and to share with you my views on the future of our Alliance.

About a year ago, when I was preparing for my new job as Secretary General, I did some reading on NATO’s origins. One of the pieces I came across was an article by Lester Pearson, the Canadian Foreign Minister who was one of NATO's founding fathers. In an article that he published in 1949 he offered one of the shortest and clearest definitions of the reasons for this Alliance: "peace and freedom can be secured only if those who love peace and freedom pool their resources and stand together".

This unique solidarity between North American and European democracies has already proved its worth many times over. Alliance solidarity kept the Cold War from getting hot. It also provided the security umbrella that enabled former enemies to become friends, and opt for ever closer European integration. And after the end of the Cold War, Alliance solidarity was instrumental in consolidating Europe as an undivided, democratic space of security and stability.

The solidarity among Allies was equally crucial in ending the Balkan wars of the 1990s and in bringing that region back into the European mainstream. And today, Alliance solidarity is helping to bring stability to Afghanistan and give this war-torn country a new lease of life.

Clearly, nowhere is Alliance solidarity required more than in Afghanistan. NATO has never before undertaken such a demanding mission, and many Allies have suffered severe losses. It is therefore all the more reassuring to see that our member nations not only continue standing together, but even increase their contribution. Romania is a case in point, and I want to use this opportunity to thank Romania not only for its current contribution, but also for its recent decision to increase this contribution in the coming months.

Romania’s decision is based on a simple but powerful logic: we must do more now in order to do less later. ISAF will continue to grow in strength this year. More and more nations are joining the mission – 46 countries are now participating.

Together, we will protect the population and pull the rug from under the insurgency. We will then start to transfer additional security responsibilities to the Afghan forces themselves, district by district, province by province. And as the effectiveness and strength of the Afghan army and police grow, ISAF will reduce its own security operations, and focus more on support and training of the Afghans.

Afghanistan will remain our operational priority for a long time to come. But while we must do everything in our power to succeed in Afghanistan, we must not neglect other security developments that may affect us. In short, as well as addressing current challenges, we must also look to the future.

And as somebody once put it, the question when looking at the future is not: "What should I do tomorrow?" The real question is: "What should I do today to meet the challenges of tomorrow?"

So let us look beyond Afghanistan. Let us look at some of the other security challenges that we will have to confront – challenges where acting now is paramount: coping with proliferation, energy security, and cyber defence.

First, proliferation. A look at current trends shows that the proliferation threat is real and growing – over 30 countries have or are developing missile capabilities, with greater and greater ranges. In many cases, these missiles could eventually threaten our populations and territories. And several countries are seeking nuclear weapons. This is a deadly combination.

Iran is a case in point. Tehran is pursuing its nuclear activities in defiance of several UN Security Council resolutions. And in parallel with these nuclear programmes, Iran also runs an extensive missile development programme. Statements from Iranian officials declare the range of their modified Shahab-3 missiles to be 2000 kilometres. That will already put Allied countries within reach: Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria – and Romania.

What does this mean for our Alliance? It means two things.

First, it means that we need to maintain an appropriate nuclear deterrent. I would very much like to see a nuclear-free world. I share that vision. And let us work in that direction. But we need to realise that nuclear weapons will be around for a long time to come. And as long as nuclear weapons exist we need to deter their use.

Furthermore, it means that we must take a fresh look at missile defence – not as a substitute for nuclear deterrence, but as a complement to it.

The United States already has a missile defence system. Some European Allies have a capacity to protect deployed forces against missile attacks. But of course we must also be able to protect our populations – all our populations.

If we connect national systems into a NATO wide missile shield to protect all our Allies, that would be a very powerful demonstration of NATO solidarity in the 21st Century. And it can be even more – it can be a catalyst for a new dynamic in European and Euro-Atlantic security. How? By cooperating with Russia.

I am aware that Russia’s current views on missile defence range from hostile to ambivalent. And I am also aware that there are technical hurdles that would have to be overcome in linking up our systems.

But I do not believe these obstacles are insurmountable. Once Russia starts to feel the effects of proliferation on her, I am sure she will begin to see missile defence as an opportunity rather than a threat. And what may look like a daring proposal today may soon turn into a mainstream view: One security roof, that we build together, that we support together, and that protects us all – by linking up our systems.

My second example is energy security. We need to develop a better understanding of the security dimension. North America and Europe are becoming increasingly dependent on imported energy, The dependence on imported energy can make a country vulnerable to political and economic blackmail. An energy cut-off can severely disrupt a country’s economic and social fabric. And a growing number of countries rely on long, vulnerable transport routes, such as pipelines or super tankers.

For these reasons, energy security has become a legitimate issue of debate in our Alliance – among NATO Allies, and also among Allies and partner countries.

Clearly, energy security is a complex issue that involves producers, consumers, and transit countries. That’s why a “one-size-fits-all” approach will not work. Nor will it be a good idea to overplay the military dimensions of this challenge. Energy security is certainly not a call to arms; but it is a call for us to think long-term.

If we want to be secure tomorrow, we must act today. This is why we need to become much more conscious of NATO’s potential contribution to energy security. Because we have more to offer than meets the eye.

NATO is a unique mechanism for collecting information from different sources. Through our partnerships, we have established trustful relations with many energy-producing countries. We have the means to protect critical energy infrastructure. We have experience in consequence management, for example when it comes to mitigate the effects of accidents. In that area, we can provide training and capacity-building for interested nations. And we have a solid record on maritime security – a record that now includes even counter-piracy operations.

My third example is cyber defence. Nowhere is the need to act today rather than tomorrow more evident than in this area. A well orchestrated cyber attack can turn off the power in your house, your city, your country. It can shut down air traffic control. It can shut down banks. In short, a cyber attack can bring a country down without a single soldier having to cross its borders.

This is not science fiction. It is the real world. Three years ago, our Ally Estonia suffered a coordinated cyber attack that temporarily crippled key governmental, financial and media services. Several other NATO and partner nations have experienced similar attacks, although without suffering the same degree of disruption.

So it is no exaggeration to state that cyber attacks have become a new form of permanent, low-level warfare. Our NATO Headquarters, for example, suffers over 100 attacks per day.

Of course, we have been looking at the "threat from the net" since long before the attack on Estonia. But it is fair to say that this attack served as a wake up call. Since then, we have made major improvements. We can respond to attacks in a concerted manner, and provide immediate and effective assistance to Allies who request it.

Above all, we set up the NATO Centre of Excellence on cyber defence in Estonia. So we now have a focal point for developing practical action programmes and for sharing lessons learned and best practice – both among Allies and with partners.

These steps are important. But I do not consider that they go far enough. We need to develop the means for identifying attacks in their incipient stage; and for better detecting the source of any attack. And I would like to see NATO Allies cooperate even more closely with each other, with our partner countries, with industry, and with other international organisations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Missile defence, energy security and cyber defence are new dimensions for NATO. And we have to address them while other pressing tasks – notably our Afghanistan mission – call for our political attention and our financial resources. This will inevitably raise questions about the proper balance between the various tasks of NATO.

We will outline NATO’s core tasks in a new Strategic Concept. In just a few days’ time, a group of experts under the leadership of Madeleine Albright will submit a report with proposals and recommendations. Their report will serve as the basis for my own first draft of the new Concept. After consultations with our Allies, I will submit my draft in September. At our Lisbon Summit in November, the new Strategic Concept should see the light of day.

I am not going to prejudge the new Strategic Concept. But I’ll make one point very clear: We cannot afford to put missile defence, energy security or cyber defence on the back burner. Because new challenges don’t wait until we feel ready to meet them. It is our job – indeed, our duty – to prepare ourselves. We need to look ahead. To prevent unwelcome developments, or to mitigate their consequences.

In short, we need to act in line with Lester Pearson’s observation from 1949: "peace and freedom can be secured only if those who love peace and freedom pool their resources and stand together".

Yes, this was written 61 years ago. Yes, the world has changed a lot since then, and we face a new set of entirely new security challenges. But the call to pool our resources and stand together – to demonstrate Alliance solidarity – is as vital now as it was then.

Thank you.