''Euro-Atlantic Security Post Chicago''

Remarks by NATO Deputy Secretary General Ambassador Alexander Vershbow at the ''Georgia Defence and Security Conference'' (GDSC) in Batumi, Georgia

  • 29 Jun. 2012 -
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  • Last updated 05-Jul-2012 11:42

From left to right: Georgian Vice Prime Minister and State Minister on European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, Giorgi Baramidze; the Ambassador of Georgia to NATO, Grigol Mgalobishvili and NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow.

Minister Baramidze,
Ambassador Mgaloblishvili,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It’s a pleasure to be here and to address this important conference.  I know that Batumi has long been a cultural, commercial and tourist centre.  In recent years, it has also become a centre for geopolitical debate.  First of all, I commend the organisers of this conference for putting together a programme that will no doubt further strengthen that reputation.

This afternoon’s discussions are looking at “NATO post-Chicago” and how to meet future threats.  I want to give you a quick overview of the three main topics that were on our Chicago Summit agenda – Afghanistan; capabilities; and partnerships – and also NATO’s role post-Chicago in shaping the Euro-Atlantic security agenda.  But I also want to use this opportunity to say a few words at the end regarding the future of the NATO-Georgia partnership.

So first, Afghanistan.  In our ISAF mission in Afghanistan today, the 28 NATO Allies stand shoulder-to-shoulder with 22 Partner nations from all over the globe.  It is quite an extraordinary coalition. Our shared goal is a stable Afghanistan that is capable of looking after its own security, and a country that will never again be a safe haven for terrorists who threaten our nations.

Georgia has been a key part of this unique, common endeavour, now the second largest contributing partner to ISAF.  That says a lot about the strong commitment of this country to help build security well beyond its own borders.

A number of Georgian soldiers have been killed or wounded during our mission.  We honour their sacrifice. And we all owe their families and the people of Georgia as a whole a deep debt of gratitude.  Together, we must, and we will, make sure that their sacrifice has not been in vain.

At Chicago, NATO leaders had a thorough discussion about Afghanistan, together with Georgia and our many other partners in this mission.  We discussed the successful transition of our security responsibilities, and the aim of Afghan forces being in charge country-wide by the end of 2014 – a date proposed by President Karzai that ISAF nations first endorsed at the Lisbon Summit two years ago.

But we also made it clear that we will continue to support Afghanistan after 2014.  From 2015, we expect to maintain a NATO-led presence to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces.  And together with our partners in ISAF, we will also pay our fair share to help sustain the army and police that have made the transition possible, and are essential for Afghanistan’s future security. Taken together, the Chicago decisions send a clear message to the Afghan people that they will not stand alone after 2014; and they also ensure that the Taliban understand that they cannot make a comeback, nor believe they can wait us out.

Georgia has made clear that it will be part of NATO's continuing commitment to Afghanistan’s future.  Even before Chicago, Georgia announced that it would be doubling its already substantial troop contribution, including by sending more trainers, in tandem with another battalion of combat troops.

As a result, this autumn, Georgia will become the largest non-NATO contributor to our mission.  For a country of just over four and a half million people, this is a remarkable achievement.  And it is an achievement for which all of us at NATO are extremely grateful.

Our second main theme in Chicago was capabilities.  All of our nations face a host of new, complex security challenges – terrorism, proliferation, cyber crime, to name but a few.  There is a strong realisation across the Alliance that these new challenges require new capabilities.  The economic crisis of the past few years however has made it difficult to acquire those modern, and often expensive capabilities.  And so, the Allied leaders agreed that we need a fresh approach to balance our resources and our requirements, so that NATO can continue to play its essential role at the core of the Euro-Atlantic security system.

In Chicago we agreed to implement a renewed culture of cooperation – in which nations will be working together to deliver capabilities that would be too expensive for any of them to deliver alone.  This is what we call Smart Defence. 

To give substance to Smart Defence, the Chicago Summit approved a concrete package of more than 20 multinational projects and more in preparation.  These projects all show that we are learning the lessons from our operations – in particular regarding better surveillance, better protection, better logistics and better maintenance.

We also agreed in Chicago to step up our exercises, training and education, including with our partner nations.  We want to maintain and strengthen the interoperability and expertise that our forces have developed during our operations in Libya, Afghanistan and Kosovo, and to continue to build on their success, even as our future operational tempo declines.

So taken together, these decisions will ensure that our Alliance remains fit for the future – no matter what the future brings. Our goal is under the rubrique “NATO Forces 2020” – Forces with the equipment they need, and the training they need, to provide us all with the security we need.
Our third main Summit theme was partnerships.  21st century security challenges demand not only new capabilities, but also a new level of cooperation between nations and organisations.  And this cooperation needs to be increasingly global in scope, since global security challenges require global solutions. That is why we agreed at Chicago to strengthen the unique, global network of partnership relations that NATO has developed over the years.   

There was a strong re-affirmation at Chicago of the need to enhance our political dialogue and our practical cooperation with our partners; to cooperate in new areas, such as cyber defence and energy security; and to boost joint training and exercises, so that we can preserve our ability to undertake operations when needed.

At Chicago, Georgia took part in the Summit-level meeting on Afghanistan that I mentioned earlier.  But it also participated in a meeting of the 28 NATO Allies with the leaders of 13 countries – from Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region – that have made exceptional contributions to the Alliance’s agenda in the last few years. So President Saakasvili was in a very distinguished company, with the leaders of Austria, Australia, Finland, Japan, Jordan, Morrocco, New Zealand, Qatar, Sweden, Switzerland, Republic of Korea, and the United Arab Emirates. Each of these countries has made important contributions to our operations.

Moreover, together with his colleagues from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia , Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Foreign Minister Vashadze also took part in a special meeting between the NATO Allies and the four countries that aspire to NATO membership – a meeting that I had the privilege to chair.

Coming on top of its major contribution to our common effort in Afghanistan, Georgia’s active participation in all these meetings at our Chicago Summit was a further, powerful demonstration of just how deep this country’s partnership with the Alliance has become.  And it was also a clear demonstration of how Georgia has successfully transformed itself from being a security consumer to being a valuable security provider, at it avances steadily toward its declared goal of NATO membership.

As you all know, at our NATO Summit in Bucharest in 2008, the Allies decided that Georgia will become a member of NATO.  The Chicago Summit made clear that Allies stand by that decision and recognized the progress Georgia has made in meeting NATO’s standards. Indeed, Allies look forward to welcoming Georgia as soon as it is able to meet the obligations and responsibilities of membership.

In the wake of the “Rose Revolution” of 2003, this country has set out on a bold reform course.  With NATO’s encouragement and practical assistance, Georgia has made remarkable progress across a wide range of areas.  But we know, and people here in Georgia know, that there is still plenty of work to be done.

Much of this work is perhaps less visible than some of the major reforms that have already been accomplished.  But it is crucial now to implement those political decisions, to strengthen the capacity and effectiveness of your institutions, and to further enhance the interoperability of Georgia’s military forces with those of the Alliance.

NATO is based on shared values and principles – freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.  Any country that hopes to become a member of NATO must be fully committed to those same values and principles.

NATO Allies have been pleased to see a very positive dynamic in Georgia’s democratic development.  Building strong democratic institutions is a vital part of this development.  But here too more needs to be done.  In particular, it is essential that there be an open and transparent political process, and level playing field for all players, with equal access to the media, and clear rules of the road applied consistently to all.  This will be one of the keys to Georgia’s success in realising its membership aspirations.  And so we expect the parliamentary elections this year, and the Presidential elections next year, to be free, fair and inclusive.

NATO has stood by Georgia, and we will continue to do so.  This includes full support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders.  We do not, and we will not, recognise the so-called independence of Georgia’s regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  We urge all participants in the Geneva talks to play a constructive role, and to work closely with the OSCE, the UN and the EU to find a peaceful solution. Georgia’s pledge  not to use force was an important step in this regard, one that Russia should reciprocate.

At the same time, NATO will also look to improve its own relations with Russia, because NATO and Russia are both key players in the security of this continent and the entire Euro-Atlantic area.  And if we work together, we can drive forward the global approach that today’s global security challenges clearly require. This includes continuing to cooperate with Russia – along with the states of Central Asia and the South Caucasus – in promoting stability and security in Afghanistan for the long term. It includes working with Russia to address common challenges like piracy and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. And it includes working with Russia on a cooperative approach to missile defence – one that would counter a real and growing threat while showing that we are now able to build security together.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

NATO Allies look back at our Chicago Summit with a great deal of satisfaction.  We have focused on securing Afghanistan’s future.  We have decided to invest smartly in our defence even in times of austerity.  We have engaged with our partners around the world to find common solutions to common problems.  And we have reaffirmed that NATO’s door remains open to those who aspire to become members.

That final pledge applies very clearly to Georgia.  As the Chicago Summit confirmed, this country is one of NATO’s strongest security partners.  It is well on its way to becoming a member of our Alliance. That said, Allies have not yet decided when that will happen, but NATO will continue to support your efforts to make that aspiration a reality.

Thank  you.