''NATO, the Strategic Concept and the way forward''

Keynote address by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to the participants of the Lisbon2010 Young Atlanticist Summit

  • 19 Nov. 2010 -
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  • Last updated 03-Dec-2010 14:55

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you, Miss Cardoso, for that kind introduction. And thank you, to the Atlantic Treaty Association, the Portuguese Atlantic Committee and the Atlantic Council, for organising this event.

It is a pleasure to appear before such a distinguished audience. We are gathering here in Lisbon this weekend to discuss how to deal with the security challenges of the 21st century. But one day, soon, these decisions will rest with you, and I am keen to hear your views and opinions.

Many of my generation look at security, and at NATO, through the prism of the Cold War. They think of defence in terms of big armies, heavy equipment, set-piece battles, country versus country.

But I suspect that, for most of you, the Cold War is like the Peloponnesian War -- ancient history. Interesting, sure, but history all the same. You look at the world the way it really is today, with no Cold War hangover. And that is exactly what we all should do. Because our security environment today – your security environment -- is completely different, even from the recent past.

In Europe today, the threat of major conflict is lower than it has ever been. This is an historic achievement. And both NATO and the EU can take some credit. We stood firmly in defence of our security and our values during the Cold War. And over the past two decades, we have helped spread peace and stability across our continent, first by creating partnerships with former adversaries, and then opening the door to partners to become members.

That’s the good news. But we now face a range of new challenges, which affect us all, in NATO and beyond. Let me mention three examples.

First: Weak states halfway across the globe can have a direct impact on our security. They can be breeding grounds for terrorism, for drugs, for trafficking of weapons or people. Afghanistan is an obvious case in point. We are fighting there because the Afghan people, and the rest of the world, have suffered the consequences. We are fighting there to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorists, once again.

But it’s not just Afghanistan – terrorists based in Yemen and Sudan have also launched attacks, including the bombs that almost took down a number of planes a few weeks ago.

Second: the steady spread of missiles. Some 30 countries have or are acquiring missiles that could be used to carry not just conventional, but also nuclear warheads. Some of those can already hit Europe. And the problem is getting worse.

Third: cyber security. We all enjoy the benefits of the information age. You take it for granted – though I must inform you that there wasn’t always the Internet, or bank machines, or GPS, let alone iPads.

And that’s the point: we take it for granted. Our societies have become totally reliant on information technology, and the cyber threat against critical infrastructure in all our nations is growing every day. There are millions of cyber attacks every day, targeting our banking systems, air traffic control, government services, and power grids. Those are systems we depend on – and which we have to protect.

These are all transnational problems. And they require multinational solutions. NATO is the pre-eminent multilateral security organisation. Which means the Alliance can and must make a real contribution. And we’re adapting to do just that.

Our Summit here in Lisbon this weekend will be a major step in that reform. We will agree an ambitious new Strategic Concept that will launch an Alliance that will be more effective, more engaged, and more efficient.

First, NATO will be more effective by investing in modern capabilities to meet modern needs. Afghanistan makes it very clear that, while the military cannot be the sole solution to ensuring our security, it is still an essential part. That is why we will agree a list of the essential military assets our armed forces need. This will include, for example, helicopter transport, medical support, and countering road-side bombs.

We will also focus more intensively on cyber defence. We will improve our collective ability within NATO to defend against cyber attacks. We will enhance our support to individual nations to allow them to better protect themselves. And we will look to step up our cooperation with the UN, the EU and other partners in this area.

I also expect that the Summit will agree that NATO develop the capability to defend Europe against missile attack. There is a clear threat. The capabilities to defend against these attacks exist, based on tested technology. And even in a time of fiscal constraint, we can afford it.

Missile defence will bind the NATO Allies closer together. But by reaching out and inviting Russia to co-operate with us, I believe we also have a real chance to build a security roof for the entire Euro-Atlantic area.

Which leads me to our second priority – which is to ensure that NATO is more actively and deeply engaged with the wider world.

NATO has gone through a huge evolution over the past two decades. We now have partners around the globe, countries and organisations. We have political discussions with them on issues of common concern. We support their reforms, when they request it. And we deploy troops together in the field. We are plugged in.

Tomorrow’s meeting on Afghanistan will put that on display. It will be attended not just by all 28 NATO Allies, but also 20 more non-NATO countries, President Karzai, the United Nations, the European Union, the World Bank and Japan.

But we need to do more. And we will launch that here in Lisbon. We will beef up our partnerships. Modernise our cooperation, to focus more on what we need today. And reach out in the spirit of openness and cooperation.

That applies, very much, when it comes to Russia. I am very pleased that President Medvedev is coming here for a meeting of our NATO-Russia Council. Because the time has now come for a fresh start in relations between the NATO nations and Russia. I think Lisbon will be the place we make that fresh start – with more cooperation on Afghanistan, a shared assessment of the security threats we face today, and, I hope, a way forward towards cooperation on missile defence.

NATO must not only be more effective in carrying out its missions, and more engaged with the wider world. The Alliance must also be more efficient in how taxpayers’ money is invested in defence. And that is the third priority for our Lisbon Summit.

I already mentioned how we are investing in key capabilities, including cyber and missile defence. This is part of a broader process of reform that we will give a boost here in Lisbon. It is all about cutting fat and building muscle -- eliminating what we no longer need, and investing where our real needs lie.

That applies to NATO countries. It also applies to NATO as an organisation. Here in Lisbon, we will take forward fundamental reform of the NATO Command Structure, the NATO Agencies and our Headquarters in Brussels. Even though NATO is 61 years old, we will slim down, speed up and become more flexible.

Ladies and gentlemen.

For all these reasons – because of what will be accomplished here in Lisbon – I believe it will be one of the most important Summit in NATO’s history. And I think the symbolism of doing it here in Portugal is important as well, because this county has always been a bridge across the Atlantic. I believe firmly that that bridge, and that bond, remains vital to our security today, and your security tomorrow as well.

Europe and North America have known more than six decades of peace and stability. But this has not come for free. It has required political vision and courage. It has required an enormous, sustained investment – in both political and financial terms – to defend not just our territories, but also our values. And it has required – above all – strong transatlantic solidarity.

The United States’ political and military presence here in Europe has been a strong expression of that transatlantic solidarity, and it has been vital. History shows that Europe is at peace when the United States is part of European security. History also shows that together, Europe and North America are a powerful force for peace, not just for the Allies themselves, but for the international community more broadly. We must never forget that. We must preserve that relationship. We must invest in it.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear friends,

You are here in Lisbon because you understand the complex security challenges before our nations, and because you care about finding the right solutions. That, to me, is enormously encouraging.

But I am conscious that, as we discuss the challenges to our security, there are other young people who are directly confronted by these challenges. The brave young men and women who are serving in our military forces in Afghanistan. Many of them are no older than most of you in this room. The luxury of our security is -- in no small way -- thanks to them. I would like to finish my remarks by paying tribute to all of them today.

Thank you.