by Deputy Secretary General of NATO, Ambassador Claudio Bisogniero at the Second Annual NATO-Israel symposium in Herzliya, Israel

  • 23 Oct. 2007 -
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  • Last updated: 14 Dec. 2009 10:53

NATO Deputy Secretary General, H.E. Amb. Claudio Bisogniero, delivering the keynote address.

Minister Livni,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me start by extending my heartfelt appreciation to the Atlantic Forum of Israel and the Institute for Policy and Strategy for their initiative in organising this second annual NATO-Israel Symposium, together with NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division.  Uzi Arad and Tommy Steiner have really been instrumental in bringing NATO and Israel closer together these last few years, and my colleagues and I at NATO Headquarters look forward to continuing our excellent cooperation.

I am very pleased that Herzliya is the venue for my first public speech on one of the principal subjects that I will be focusing on as NATO’s new Deputy Secretary General, which is the Alliance’s developing relationship with countries across the Mediterranean region and into the Middle East.

I am pleased and honoured, Ladies and Gentlemen -- but I am also a little apprehensive.  There is a proverb which says that “nothing must disturb a man of worth at dinner”.  I am quite convinced that advice applies to ladies of worth as well, Minister Livni.  And so I am going to err on the side of caution certainly as far as the length of my remarks is concerned.  After such an excellent meal, the last thing I would want to do is to put you all to sleep and discourage you from coming back tomorrow morning to what, I am sure, will be a most interesting conference.

In order to help set the scene for our discussion tomorrow, I would like to first of all remind you of the basic rationale for NATO’s engagement with Israel, as well as with many other countries here in this region and well beyond.  That basic rationale is grounded in today’s volatile security environment – an environment which some have gone as far as to describe as “globalised insecurity”.

Never before have we been confronted with more rapid and more fundamental international change.  And never before has the international environment confronted us with so many contradictions.  Globalisation continues to open up economies, create new wealth, and connect many regions to the global economy.  Yet we also increasingly see globalisation’s darker side – as a phenomenon that also nurtures radicalism, fanaticism and terrorism in some societies and at the same time provides a vehicle to import these into our societies.

In some parts of the world, notably in Europe, countries decide to associate, and even integrate, to better cope with the challenges posed by globalisation.  Elsewhere, however, some states disintegrate into anarchy.  The term “failed states” was introduced only a few years ago.  Today, regrettably, it has become a household term.  Because we have seen that failing states can quickly become a threat to international security -- if they turn into a safe haven for terrorist training camps or a “black hole” for the trafficking of people and drugs.

We also must come to terms with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  So far, with a lot of political and diplomatic effort, we have managed to slow down the process.  Lybia abandoned its WMD programmes almost four years ago – revealing a more extensive programme than usually believed.  And Iran’s nuclear programme, whose peaceful intent remains very much in doubt, coupled with a fast-growing missile programme, are a source of concern for regional, and global, peace and stability.  A nuclear-armed Iran would deal a major blow to the international non-proliferation regime and could also produce a “domino effect” throughout the Middle East as other states may feel compelled to develop nuclear technology as well.  And we must not underestimate the risk that terrorist groups may gain access to such weapons of mass destruction.

So how do we meet all these different challenges?  How do we tackle the darker side of globalisation, without compromising the enormous benefits that it also brings?  I believe that there is really only one answer – and that is to explore new, innovative approaches of security cooperation which break through and reach out well beyond established geographical, cultural or religious boundaries.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, for its part, has taken this logic to heart  – by leaving well and truly behind its Cold War vocation, and transforming into a very flexible framework for dealing with the new risks and challenges to our security.

As before, NATO continues to link North America and Europe – two continents that not only enjoy a unique level of cooperation with one another, but which also feel a strong obligation to contribute to global stability.  NATO also continues to feature both an exceptional political consultation mechanism and an integrated, multinational military structure to implement the decisions taken by its members.  Those have always been strong points of the Alliance, and they remain vital assets in dealing with the new challenges before us.  But the new, 21st century NATO does differ from the old, Cold War Alliance in several other, important respects.

Perhaps the most fundamental change is the way we look at security in NATO today.  While collective defence remains a core purpose of the Alliance, all our 26 member nations agree that a geographical, territorial understanding of security is simply too narrow to cope with the new security challenges.  That we can not afford to wait for these challenges to come to us.  And that, instead, we must be prepared to tackle them as and where they emerge – even if that may mean sending our forces far away from our traditional European borders.

As I speak, well over 50,000 troops are deployed under NATO’s operational command on three different continents.  More than 40,000 brave men and women serve in Afghanistan, where NATO leads a most challenging mission that includes peacekeeping tasks as well as combat operations.  But we are also keeping the peace in Kosovo.  NATO ships are patrolling the Mediterranean in an anti-terrorist mission.  We are assisting the African Union with transport and logistics support for its operation in Darfur.  We are training Iraqi and Afghan security forces.  And we have been involved in major disaster response and humanitarian relief operations, especially after the devastating earthquake that struck Pakistan two years ago.

In all these different missions and operations, the Alliance is a team player, working closely with the rest of the international community – and that is another key characteristic of NATO today.  We realise that – whether in Afghanistan, the Balkans, Darfur or elsewhere – other, civilian actors must be involved together with us, because there can be no security without development, and no development without security.  And that is why NATO is keen to engage international institutions such as the United Nations, the European Union, and the World Bank – but also Non-Governmental Organisations – in a comprehensive approach to the security challenges before us.

We are determined, at the same time, to develop closer cooperation with individual nations as well.  Countries that realise that they, too, are not immune from the new global risks and threats.  And countries that are interested in working together with us, in a joint effort, to tackle those common challenges.

And there are more and more of those countries.  Today, NATO is at the centre of a wide network of security partnerships that stretches well beyond the Euro-Atlantic area.  Several of our partner countries – such as Australia and New Zealand -- have actually put forces under NATO command, notably in Afghanistan.  We engage in regular political dialogue with all our partners to discuss security issues of common concern.  And all our partners have access to a wide menu of programmes and instruments to help them in meeting their own security needs -- but also to reform their military establishments, and increase their interoperability with NATO, if they so desire.

That being said, what NATO is trying to achieve is not a global NATO.  As the Secretary General regularly says, NATO does not need to become the “gendarme du monde”.  Taking a global approach to security does not mean growing into a global organization.  The logic of NATO’s partnerships is to make the transition from a geographical towards a functional approach to security.

A key element of this Partnership policy is the Mediterranean Dialogue process that we started back in 1994, and which currently comprises seven countries in Northern Africa and the Middle East, including Israel.  More recently, with our Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, the Alliance has also reached out to countries around the Persian Gulf.  And we are very pleased indeed with the strong interest that many countries in these regions have shown in greater dialogue and cooperation with NATO.

Among all these countries, Israel occupies a special place.  Over the years, this country has been among the most active participants in the Mediterranean Dialogue process.  There has been a steady increase in our political dialogue, at various levels, including through the involvement of Minister Livni.  In 2006, there were close to 500 Israeli participants in a wide range of Mediterranean Dialogue activities, which amounted to an impressive fifty per cent increase over the previous year.  And so it was no surprise that Israel was also the first of our seven Mediterranean partners to conclude an Individual Cooperation Programme with NATO late last year, in order to better structure and focus its cooperation with the Alliance. Egypt concluded a similar programme with NATO a few days ago.

We are currently in the process of implementing the Cooperation Programme with Israel, which covers activities in a number of different areas that hold considerable potential.  One obvious priority area is the fight against terrorism, where we are sharing experiences and intelligence.  Other promising areas include armaments cooperation, defence research and technology, airspace management and logistics cooperation.  And given what I said earlier about the risks associated with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, we obviously have a mutual interest in deepening our consultation and cooperation on that important issue as well.

Another promising area for closer cooperation is in training and education.  Last year NATO launched a specific initiative to make available more widely to interested Mediterranean and Persian Gulf partners its unique expertise in training military forces – to help them to build forces that are interoperable with those of the NATO Allies, and able to work together effectively in actual missions and operations.  Several more training opportunities have already been created.  We have also made progress towards the establishment of a dedicated faculty at the NATO Defense College in Rome, and the creation of a network of national training and educational establishments.  And this is another area where we hope Israel will continue to work with us.

Finally, NATO also attaches considerable importance to promoting actual participation by its partner countries in Alliance-led operations.  One operation that is particularly relevant to our Mediterranean partners is “Operation Active Endeavour”, NATO’s counter-terrorist maritime operation in the Mediterranean Sea.  Israel recognizes that this operation is as important to its own security as that of the European continent.  And so we are pleased that we have been able to organise for an Israeli liaison officer to join the NATO command in Naples from where this maritime operation is directed.

My conclusion is clear, ladies and gentlemen.  NATO and Israel are doing a lot together – and there are excellent opportunities for us to deepen that cooperation still further, as with other countries of NATO Mediterranean Dialogue.  Now obviously, those prospects would be even better if there were genuine progress in the Middle East peace process.  That would lead to greater trust and confidence throughout this region, including vis-à-vis NATO, the European Union and the international community more generally, from which Israel would certainly be among the first to benefit.  And so even if NATO has always been careful not to get involved in an issue that is well beyond its mandate nor to appear as giving advice to any party, I personally hope that the renewed political engagement that is clearly visible in several key capitals will help to move the peace process forward again at the planned high-level meeting in the United states next month.

At the same time, however, we in NATO have always made clear -- and will continue to underline -- that the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict should not be used as an alibi to preclude closer relations.  That our Mediterranean Dialogue should be judged on its own merits.  That all our countries now face common challenges which demand common responses.  And that pragmatism, and a genuine willingness to look to the future rather than the past, is vital in meeting those challenges.  I believe that message has started to resonate throughout this region, but especially here in Israel.

Minister Livni,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Golda Meir once famously said that internationalism does not mean the end of individual nations, just as orchestras do not mean the end of violins.  In the current, volatile international security environment, cooperation between nations and institutions is more important than ever.  To promote such cooperation is a major objective of NATO today.  By reaching out across the Mediterranean, the new, 21st century NATO wants to build greater trust and mutual understanding – to involve more countries in a common struggle against common security challenges – and in so doing, to increase all our chances of meeting those challenges successfully.

Judging by its increasingly active involvement in the Mediterranean Dialogue process, Israel not only understands the need for closer cooperation, but is actually willing, and able, to take that cooperation to a qualitatively new level.  NATO very much welcomes Israel’s active engagement.  The mutual benefits are clear.  The opportunities are there for us to seize.  And I have no doubt that this second annual NATO-Israel symposium here in Herzliya will help us to grasp those opportunities.

I wish us all a very successful conference, and I thank you for your attention.