''NATO - Managing Security in a Globalised World''

Speech by Secretary General of NATO Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the Catholic University of Lisbon, Portugal

  • 02 Jul. 2010
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  • Last updated: 02 Jul. 2010 17:45

Speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the Catholic University of Lisbon

Doctor Braga de Cruz,
Doctor Espada,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I should like to start by thanking Doctor Manuel Braga de Cruz and Doctor Joao Espada for having invited me to speak to you today.  At an institution so committed to transatlantic relations.

Last week I visited Bastogne, - perhaps you do not now that small Belgian city near the border of Luxembourg.  It is the place where, in 1944, the so-called “Battle of the Bulge” took place – one of the bloodiest battles of the Second World War.  Thousands lost their lives.  But the American troops ultimately prevailed – and their success hastened the end of the war in Europe.

It was moving to see the graves the memorials and the sites, where young soldiers at your age fought each other just about 65 years ago – and many of them paid the ultimate price.

This was the second time in the 20th century that Americans and Canadians crossed the Atlantic in order to help liberate Europe.  30 years earlier, American and Canadian soldiers had been fighting in the First World War.  After that war had been won, America and Canada quickly went home.  Yet just one generation later, they had to return – because Europe proved unable to find a sustainable balance between its major powers.

The Second World War finally brought home what the First World War should already have taught us:  the security of Europe and North America is indivisible.  Instability and insecurity on one side of the Atlantic will inevitably affect the other side of the “big pond”. 

This historical lesson is the reason why visionary politicians from both sides of the Atlantic created NATO in 1949.  From now on, North America and Europe would organize their security together.  The founding members of NATO – including Portugal – vowed to consider an attack on one as an attack on all.  This promise, enshrined in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, is the strongest commitment that sovereign nations can make towards one another.

This lesson of transatlantic security cooperation was complemented by a second, equally important lesson:  the need for European integration.  If Europe was to become truly safe and secure, the countries of Europe had to put their petty rivalries aside and work towards a shared goal of economic and political integration.

This twin lesson of transatlantic security and European integration has brought spectacular dividends.  Under NATO’s security umbrella, the European integration process could flourish.  The Western part of our continent turned from a breeding ground of nationalism, rivalry and war into a model of pluralism, prosperity and peace.

And when the Cold War ended, and the Eastern half of Europe was finally able make its own free choice as well, their choice was simple and clear: they too, wanted to become part of this unique zone of stability, prosperity and common values symbolised by NATO and the European Union.  As a result, since the end of the Cold War, both institutions have almost doubled their membership.  We have achieved more than the founding fathers of the transatlantic relationship dared to dream.

I am aware that for, many of you, this may all seem like ancient history.  So why am I bringing it up?  I am recalling the lessons of the past because I believe that, today, we are in a situation that is quite similar to the one faced by the founding fathers of NATO. 

Like them, we are standing at the threshold of a new era.  Like them, we are called upon to think hard about what kind of future we want.  And, again very much like the founding fathers of NATO 61 years ago, we need to create new instruments to meet new challenges.

The bloody World War II shaped the attitudes and ideas of a whole generation. The question is: What will shape your mindset?

One possible factor is the threat from terrorism. And one specific event may have a particular impact. I think you recall the horrifying pictures from New York 9-11, 2001. Images of desperate people jumping from the burning towers.  And eventually the crash of the enormous buildings.

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 ushered us into a new era.  Terrorists from the Middle East and the Gulf region were directed from Afghanistan, plotted in Germany, took flight lessons in the US, and finally hijacked civilian airliners to turn them into weapons of mass destruction.  Nothing could illustrate more forcefully – and tragically – the dark side of globalisation.  The terrorists of “9/11” had successfully exploited the opportunities of a globalised world in support of their aims.  And as a result, we are living in a new era of globalised insecurity.

“9/11” was a challenge not just to the United States.  It was a declaration of war against the entire transatlantic community.  We all understood this.  And we acted accordingly.  Only a few hours after the attacks, NATO invoked Article 5 of its founding charter.  For the first time in the history of this Alliance, the Allies invoked the Treaty clause that says that an attack on one is an attack against all.

But we did not leave it at that.  We immediately understood that no borders, and no oceans, could shield us from these kinds of threats.  If we wanted to be secure, we had to take action.  To go to Afghanistan, the source of the attacks.  To defeat those who masterminded them.  And to create conditions that would prevent future attacks.  In a nutshell, we had to prevent Afghanistan from being a safe haven for the world’s most dangerous terrorists - ever again.

For several years now, NATO has been leading the International Security Assistance Force – ISAF – in Afghanistan.  It is the most demanding mission our Alliance has ever undertaken.  And, yes, it is a dangerous mission – almost every single day we have to deplore the loss of some of our soldiers.  And I wish to use this opportunity to offer my heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the Portuguese soldiers who have lost their lives in this mission.

But despite the many challenges, and despite the occasional setbacks, we are making progress.  Al Qaida, which once had terrorist training camps all over the country, has been dealt a heavy blow.  Yes, the Taliban are continuing to fight ferociously, but their claim to be defending Afghanistan against foreign intruders rings increasingly hollow.  Most Afghans don’t believe them anyway – indeed, they remember only too well the brutality of life under Taliban rule. Not least the suppression of women.

Most Afghans also know that the presence of ISAF is not about the occupation of their country.  It is about giving Afghanistan a new lease of life as a stable and peaceful country.  Most Afghans know it, because they can see it. 

In Central Helmand, for example, just four months after the launch of our offensive there, you can see real improvements in the lives of the Afghan people.  They feel safer.  Schools, markets and health clinics are now open.  Over three thousand students, many of them girls, attend the twenty-two new schools. 

There is real economic growth – markets are trading again, attracting vendors and shoppers and bringing in higher quality goods.  Roads are being rebuilt.  Refugees are returning. 

In the past, residents of Marja had to seek permission from the Taliban if they wanted to leave the area.  Now, they can travel to move their products and goods, or to get a job, or to meet family or friends.  And local leaders are now meeting freely to chart their own future.

These are all clear signs of progress.  Slow progress, admittedly.  But steady progress.  And I am confident that we will see even more of it – if we stay the course. 

We have the right strategy:  We are changing the political conditions in the key strategic areas of Afghanistan; we are marginalising and isolating the most extreme elements of the insurgency; we are protecting the population; and we are strengthening the authority, and the capability, of the elected government.  Most importantly, we are training the Afghan army and police, so that Afghanistan will be able to look after its own security.

We also have the right forces:  Over 120,000 troops are now serving under NATO command in Afghanistan – and more are arriving.  Portugal has contributed soldiers, including a quick reaction force, and training teams.  And more and more nations from all over the world are joining the mission – 46 countries from all over the world are now participating in ISAF.  If “9/11” was the dark side of globalisation, ISAF’s international makeup is the bright side of it.  Rarely have so many countries worked together towards a common goal.

So things are moving, and in the right direction.  This 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.

Ladies and aentlmen, 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.  “9/11” was globalisation’s wake-up call, but terrorism is by no means the only challenge that we face.  Globalisation also creates other security challenges, and magnifies their destructive effect: failed states, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, cyber attacks, piracy, and the disruption of energy supplies.

These are not abstract threats.  Cyber attacks are real: our NATO Ally Estonia was the victim of an attack just a few years ago.  The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is real:  Iran and North Korea demonstrate every day how determined countries can pursue nuclear ambitions in spite of international opposition.  Piracy is real:  off the coast of Somalia, even super tankers are being captured for ransom.  Energy security is real:  in several countries terrorists have already been attacking pipelines and refineries.

If we want to protect NATO’s 900 million citizens against these global challenges, we need to look beyond Afghanistan.  If we want NATO to continue to provide the “assured security” that we all expect from it, then we must bring this Alliance into the globalisation age – by building up the capacities to protect ourselves against these new threats, and adapting our Alliance both politically and militarily.

What kind of capacities do we need?  As far as military capabilities are concerned, the answer is obvious.  We don’t need forces that are stuck in barracks.  We need forces that can be deployed over long distances, and that can stay in theatre for as long as necessary. 

We should no longer invest in forces that we cannot use.  Instead, we should invest in military capabilities that make sense.  One such capability is missile defence.  In a world characterised by the proliferation of missiles, such a capability is indispensable for protecting NATO’s populations.  And if the Allies would finance such a system together, they could afford it without breaking the bank.

Another important capacity that we need to develop is our partnerships with other nations.  Because one thing is clear:  security in the 21st century will be cooperative security.  Security threats have become 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 – with the entire Euro-Atlantic area, including Russia; with Northern Africa, the Middle East and countries in the Gulf-region.  

Our partnership policy has been a real success story.  And we must reinforce this success – by engaging our partners even more actively in consultations and decision making on operations in which we act together.  By constantly exploring new possibilities to make our traditional partnership frameworks more dynamic and effective.  But also by connecting NATO 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 also need a security dialogue with India and China.  Such a dialogue is part and parcel of the cooperative security framework that we must seek to establish.

Building new relations with other countries is a key element of a modernised NATO.  But we must also reach out to other international organisations.  Why?  Because we have to realise that today’s conflicts cannot be solved by military means alone.

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.  And where the efforts of civilian actors complement the Alliance’s contribution to security.

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.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In November, at our Summit right here in Lisbon, we will agree a new Strategic Concept for NATO.  More than ten years have passed since we agreed our last strategy.  So we clearly need a new document – a document that defines NATO as a cooperative team player in a globalised world.  

The new Strategic Concept will describe a new NATO, a modernised Alliance.  An Alliance that is building security in new ways and in new places, and doing so with new members, new partners, and new capabilities. An Alliance assuring the security for its members.  An Alliance delivering cooperative security with its partners.  And an Alliance promoting complementary security with other international institutions.

Dear students; Generations before you have suffered from war and suppression. They learned the lesson.

They created organisations and institutions to promote peace and prosperity and prevent strife and devastation. They stood up for freedom and democracy, and dictatorships turned into democracies.

I hope you will carry that work forward. That you will safeguard individual liberty, democracy and the rule of law.

That you will cultivate, modernize and vitalize, our framework for cooperation.  That you will renew and reinforce the transatlantic bond between Europe and North America.

As much as we look towards the future, we will not forget the lessons of the past:  the lesson that transatlantic security is indivisible; and the lesson that our transatlantic community remains the strongest community of likeminded nations on the globe.  These are timeless lessons.  And they will be firmly embedded in our new Alliance.