by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the conference ''Strengthening the Transatlantic Bond’’

  • 10 Jun. 2014
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  • Last updated: 10 Jun. 2014 11:41

Thank you Kolinda

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I should like to start by welcoming you all.  And in particular all those of you who have contributed to the transatlantic bond project that we launched earlier this year. I welcome the many ideas in your reports.

I have a very strong and personal interest in this project.  As a young parliamentarian, over thirty years ago, I travelled to the United States as a guest of the International Visitor Leadership Program.  It was a great experience. And it instilled in me a great appreciation of the bond between North America and Europe.

This bond has deep historical roots, and was further strengthened  during the Second World War. Just last week,  the 70th anniversary of the D-day landings was an emotional reminder of the vital role that North Americans played in saving this continent from itself.  And then in helping it to remain safe and secure, and able to recover economically. But the memory of those times is inevitably fading.

So it is natural that most young people today should see the transatlantic bond differently from their parents and grandparents. Because their lives have been so different. Their view of the world is shaped not by the Second World War or Cold War confrontation, but by Facebook and unparalleled opportunity.

But history has taught us that freedom does not come for free.  We must work for it.  Invest in it.  And, if necessary, fight for it. 

Russia’s aggression against Ukraine demonstrates that freedom is not a given.  Russia has ripped up the rule book.  And in doing so, it has undermined the international order that has been the foundation of our peace and prosperity.

By standing together, North America and Europe have been the inspiration and the driving force of that order.  To uphold it now, we must continue to stand together.

This means we must reinforce our economic ties.  And here the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is key.  We must make energy diversification a strategic transatlantic priority and reduce Europe’s dependency on Russian oil and gas. We must increase defence investment in Europe.  And we must strengthen our security cooperation in NATO.   

But the challenge now posed by Russia is not the only challenge we face.  There are a wide range of other, global security risks and threats.  Like terrorism and extremism.  Proliferation and piracy.  Cyber and energy security.  And the security implications of climate change. 

Transatlantic resolve and unity will be critical in meeting all these complex challenges.  And NATO is the unique political and military instrument that allows us to muster that transatlantic resolve, and translate it into unified action.

There is already a broad political consensus about the need for Europe and North America to continue to stand as one -- militarily, politically, culturally and economically.  And I launched our transatlantic bond project to explore how we can further extend that support.  Nurture it.  And sustain it.

I want to foster a new transatlantic spirit among our publics.  So we can build for the future.  And for the security of future generations.

For this initiative, we created three carefully chosen working groups.  First, a group of NATO-country politicians, members of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.  Second, a group of security experts from 10 different nations.  And third, a group of emerging leaders who represent the future of the Alliance.

Last week, the three groups submitted their conclusions about the state of the transatlantic relationship.  And they also offered a range of interesting recommendations.

You have their reports.  And during the course of today, representatives of all three groups will elaborate on their findings.  But let me just say that it has been reassuring to see many of our own judgments confirmed.  And that many of the recommendations are consistent across the three groups. 

There is a strong emphasis on protecting our principles.  Encouraging strong leadership.  And preserving the Alliance’s credibility.  There’s also an affirmation of the growing value of NATO’s partnerships.  And a helpful reminder of the big financial gains that we can make through deeper economic cooperation.

The politicians remind us of the need to engage our publics, on both sides of the Atlantic.  And they highlight that we should not let narrow national economic interests weaken our security or our principles.

I particularly value their strong call for continued investment in credible defence.  To preserve our ability to protect our territories and our populations.  And to achieve a better, fairer sharing of the transatlantic responsibility for our shared security.

As part of their work, the security experts examined shifts in NATO policy over the years.  They note that NATO offers a proven structure for the transatlantic community to build upon.  And that it is essential now to invest in the hard power to back up our soft power.

I also value the experts’ call for better working relations between NATO and the European Union.  The many complex challenges before us require a comprehensive political, civilian and military approach.  And NATO and the European Union are key players in making it happen. 

Finally, it is no surprise that the young leaders focus on the energy and vitality of the transatlantic community.  And I welcome their strong stance on our shared identity. The notion that “we” are NATO, through our choices and our actions.

This belief in our shared identity is linked to a call for greater NATO outreach. To better promote and protect our shared values together with like-minded partners from around the world. These partnerships are especially important when we see our values come under threat.

I also welcome the young leaders’ practical ideas, such as the appointment of “honorary Ambassadors” who can engage with diverse audiences about the importance of the transatlantic bond and of NATO.  

Indeed, I believe that the young leaders themselves would all make excellent honorary Ambassadors.  Unfortunately, NATO won’t be able to pay you an Ambassadorial salary.  But I am sure there other ways in which we can help you to help us.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The three reports, and today’s conference, will provide a valuable contribution to the Transatlantic Declaration that I hope we will adopt at our Summit in Wales in September. 

And so I want to finish by thanking all the members of the three groups for their hard work over the past few months.  And encouraging all of you to help take this work forward.  By spreading the word.  In the run-up to the Summit.  At the Summit.  And beyond.

So don’t hold back.  Ask your toughest questions.  And offer your most innovative ideas.  Because this is our future and our Alliance.  And a strong transatlantic bond remains vital for both. 

Thank you.