by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the Spring Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assemby in Riga

  • 01 Jun. 2010
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  • Last updated: 01 Jun. 2010 13:14

Keynote speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the Spring session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.

Mr. President, Mr Speaker, Ministers, Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear friends,

It is a real privilege for me to attend this NATO Parliamentary Assembly Spring Session in Riga – to discuss the security challenges facing our nations, NATO’s evolving role in meeting those challenges, and your vital role in supporting that effort.

I want, in particular, to talk with you about NATO’s current top priority, Afghanistan – and how you can help in making a success of our engagement there. But I also want to look further ahead with you. I want to discuss the Alliance’s longer-term, strategic orientation, and to seek your support for that crucial process as well.

Let me start with Afghanistan – because I think the time has come for a very frank discussion about this mission.

It has been nine years since international forces first deployed into Afghanistan. And it is no surprise that there are doubts about this mission today. As we get further from 9/11, people increasingly wonder if our security is really affected by what happens in Afghanistan. They wonder if the price we are paying is worth it. And they wonder if this fight can actually be won.

I fully understand these questions. But like most people in this room, I am a politician. I believe strongly that it is our responsibility, as politicians, to lead. To explain to our populations what we need to do together.

And on this operation, my view is very clear. This mission must succeed. It can succeed. And if we are resolute, it will succeed.

It must succeed because Afghanistan is still the front line in the fight against international terrorism. Less than ten years ago, Afghanistan was the training camp for international terrorists from over a dozen countries. When the Taliban were toppled they lost that safe haven. But they are fighting now to get it back.

Does it matter? Let me ask you this: how many people would have died a few weeks ago in Times Square if that car bomb had gone off? How many citizens from how many countries around the world would have been victims? We were all very lucky when that bomb failed. But we should not be blind to what it meant.

The fact is that if we were to walk away prematurely, the Taliban would be back. So would Al-Qaeda. Terrorism would spread through Central Asia and into Europe. Instability would spread to neighbouring Pakistan – nuclear armed Pakistan – and the wider region. And we would once again face attacks in our airports, in our metros and in our streets. That is a cost we simply cannot afford.

The other side of the coin is what Afghanistan looks like if we stay the course, and finish the job we started. Terrorism would find no home, no safe haven and no inspiration in Afghanistan anymore. Afghans – including women and girls -- would have more political freedom, more education and better health care than ever before. And Afghanistan would become a powerful symbol in the region, and beyond, that change is possible.

Some of you might be thinking to yourselves: nice vision, Secretary General. But we’ve seen the headlines the past few weeks, of Taliban attacks on our troops and our bases. Is success possible? Can it be done?

My answer is simple: yes. This mission can succeed. Despite the steady drip of difficult news, there is real progress being made in meeting the real aim of our mission.

That aim is political. To change the political foundations in key strategic areas of Afghanistan. To marginalise the most extreme elements. To isolate from the rest of the population those terrorists who will never put down their weapons. To strengthen the elected government. This will in turn give the citizens a better life.

Our strategy to achieve that aim is on display now in Central Helmand and Kandahar. This is Taliban heartland. They know that if they lose support there, they lose it where it hurts them the most. So they are fighting back – mining the roads at night and terrorising the locals. Which means it is slow going.

But it is going in the right direction. For the first time, local political leaders are meeting freely to choose their own future. 3000 children, many of them girls, are now in newly built schools. Markets are flourishing. And people have more and more confidence to come out and travel the roads.

It will be many months until we know if this progress is irreversible. Much will depend on whether the Afghan Government can deliver on its responsibilities to its own people, and we’re helping them to do that. But the first signs are that our strategy can work and is working.

Which brings me to my final point: if we stay the course, we will succeed. The political road map ahead is already clear.

This week, President Karzai will lead a Peace Jirga. It will set out the road to reconciliation and reintegration for extremists who want to stop fighting and find their place in Afghan society.

In a few weeks, the Kabul Conference will set out the way forward for transition to Afghan lead.

And the September elections will give a new mandate to the Parliament, and further strengthen the legitimate institutions of the country.

So things are moving, and in the right direction. Which is why now is not the time to waver. It is not the time to give the Taliban the false idea that we can be driven out or waited out. It is the time to send a clear signal -- that we will stay as long as it takes to finish the job.

The recent troop surge sends that signal. We now have the combat forces our Commanders need. But we are still short a few hundred trainers. And I would appeal to all of you to go back to your capitals and see what you can do to fill that gap.

It is very simple. The sooner we train the Afghan forces, the sooner they can take the lead. We need to invest a little more now, so that we can, in the near future, start doing less. And that is where we all want to be.

Afghanistan will remain NATO’s operational priority for some time to come. But while we must do everything in our power to succeed in Afghanistan, we must also look at the broader security picture.

More and more, globalisation impacts on our lives. Many of the effects of globalisation are beneficial: more trade, more information, more freedom. But globalisation also creates new security challenges, and magnifies their destructive effect: terrorism, failed states, proliferation, cyber attacks, or the disruption of energy supplies.

If we want to protect ourselves against these challenges, we need to bring NATO into the globalisation age – by adapting our Alliance both politically and militarily. And this, as well, is an area where I am looking for your support.

With the publication of the report of the Expert Group under Madeleine Albright two weeks ago, the work on a new Strategic Concept for NATO has entered a new stage. I am grateful for the work of the Expert Group. I also appreciate the advice that I have received from other interested parties. And I thank the NATO Parliamentary Assembly for its valuable contribution.

I will use this input and my own consultations with Allies and Partners to produce a first draft of the Strategic Concept. This will form the basis for negotiations after the summer on a text for approval by Heads of State and Government at the next NATO Summit in Lisbon in November.

This will be our first Strategic Concept in the 21st century. It must explain – in clear terms – how the Alliance is building security in an ever more complex world.

To achieve this aim, we must recognise three dimensions in NATO’s role: assured security, cooperative security, and complementary security.

First, assured security. NATO’s core business was, is, and remains the collective defence of its member states -- the promise to help each other in case of an attack. It is enshrined in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty. And it is the strongest commitment that sovereign nations can make. In an uncertain world, this is a most precious asset – an asset that we must, and will, preserve.

An indispensable element in the protection of our populations is to deter any adversary from attacking us. Deterrence will remain fundamental for NATO. And I firmly believe that, for the foreseeable future, credible deterrence will require a mix of conventional and nuclear capabilities.

I share the grand vision of a world without nuclear weapons. Let us work towards that goal. Let us engage in arms control and arms reductions. Let us reduce the role of nuclear weapons.

But let’s also be realistic: as long as nuclear weapons exist, as long as there are rogue regimes or terrorist groupings that may pose a nuclear threat to us, we must retain a nuclear deterrent.

At the same time, we need to realise that deterrence alone may not be sufficient to assure our security. The world does not stand still. Technology progresses. And this confronts us with new challenges that require new solutions.

Proliferation is a case in point. Today, 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. And it is why I believe the time has come to build an effective missile defence to protect our populations.

The United States already has a missile defence capability. Some European countries have a missile defence capability as well, to protect deployed troops. And NATO, too, is working on a missile defence system to protect deployed troops.

But why should we limit ourselves to only protecting our soldiers? Why should we not protect our populations?

If we link the US and European systems, we can achieve far greater coverage. In fact, we can protect all the 900 million people living in our member nations. And we can do it at a very low additional cost – less than 200 million Euros, beyond what NATO is planning to spend to protect deployed forces. 200 million Euros over 10 years, shared among the 28 Allies.

Some people ask: Won’t a NATO missile defence capability create new trouble with Russia? I believe the opposite is true. I believe that missile defence can bring NATO and Russia closer together. I see missile defence as a perfect opportunity for cooperation. And I am optimistic that we can encourage Russia to work with us.

And this brings me to the second dimension in NATO’s promotion of security: Cooperative security.

Cooperation is vital to assure security in the 21st Century. In a globalised world, the security threats are trans-national. That’s why we need effective cooperation on a global scale.

We have already achieved a lot. Today, NATO is more closely connected with other nations than ever before in its history. Our partnership policy has been a real success story. And we must reinforce this success.

This means that we must engage our ISAF and KFOR partners even more actively in consultations and decision making on these operations.

It also means that we must constantly explore new possibilities to make our traditional partnership frameworks more dynamic and effective.

But reinforcing the success of our partnerships also means that we must connect with major players outside our established partnerships.

Afghanistan is a case in point. The challenges in that country cannot be met without Pakistan. So our engagement with Pakistan is indispensable. But Afghanistan also borders China. And India, too, is a major player in the region with a strong interest in a more stable Afghanistan.

To me, these facts point to one clear and simple conclusion – that we need a security dialogue with India and China. If we are serious about promoting cooperative security in an age of globalisation, we must acknowledge that the time for such a dialogue has come.

The third and final dimension in NATO’s promotion of security is complementary security.

NATO is the world’s strongest military Alliance. However, we have to realise that there is rarely a purely military solution to conflicts.

Again, Afghanistan is a case in point. If we are to ensure long term peace and stability in that country, we must build strong and stable institutions, develop a sustainable economy and provide people with a better livelihood.

Security is therefore more than military strength. It is also economic strength, social coherence and good governance.

In order to promote this complementary security, we need a comprehensive approach. An approach where our military efforts go hand in hand with civilian development.

This means that we must continue to improve our capacity to cooperate with other international actors - like the UN, the EU, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and other civilian institutions and donors.

It also means that we should get even better at sharing our unique assets and expertise. We have had considerable success, for example in training Iraqi and Afghan security forces, and helping the African Union to develop its own peacekeeping capabilities. We should build upon that success, and reinforce it.

Assured security; cooperative security; and complementary security. These are three principles on which we can build a new NATO. An Alliance fit to manage security in the 21st century.

But this will also require fundamental changes in the way we go about our daily business. Every Ally has a responsibility not only to help another Ally in need but also to contribute to Alliance operations. And that requires a much more flexible military – with soldiers who are not stuck in barracks, but who can be deployed abroad.

This means that limited resources must be spent more wisely. That more must be done to match resources to priorities. And that Allies should take a closer look at joint procurement, common funding, and role specialisation related to NATO’s real needs.

At the same time, NATO must be a more efficient service provider for its member nations. I have started a number of reforms to streamline NATO’s decision-making, as well as our internal structures, procedures and working practices.

Next week, I will present options to Defence Ministers for making our Command Structure leaner, more effective and less costly.

And I hope that you will also give those organisational changes your full support.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear friends,

This is a time of critical challenges before NATO. The challenge of doing more in Afghanistan now to be able to do less later. The challenge of adapting to a fundamentally different strategic environment. The challenge of making sure that we can continue to deliver real security effectively into the future.

If we are to meet these challenges, your help will be vital. To encourage and assist governments in taking and implementing bold decisions. To make sure that the necessary resources are available for NATO to be able to do its job. And to help foster greater understanding and support among our publics for our Alliance.

For many years, NATO has been able to rely on solid support among the parliaments of its member nations and especially this Parliamentary Assembly. I hope, and expect, that we can continue to count on that support in the future.

NATO is the most successful defence Alliance the world has ever seen. For over 60 years, NATO has provided security for Europe and North America. And for over 60 years, this Alliance has safeguarded the fundamental principles on which our societies are built: individual liberty, democracy and the rule of law.

It is our obligation now to make sure that NATO will be just as strong and successful in the 21st century as it was in the past.

That NATO is ready to counter the new security threats.

That NATO will develop an ever-stronger link between Europe and North America.

Thank you.