''New Challenges - Better Capabilities''

Speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the Bratislava Security Conference

  • 22 Oct. 2009
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  • Last updated: 22 Oct. 2009 17:38

NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen

Ambassador Kacer,
Foreign Minister,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends,

Thank you, Ambassador, for those kind words of introduction. It is a great pleasure for me to be here today. This is my first visit to Slovakia since I took office as NATO Secretary General in August. Actually, I think Slovakia plays a special role for me. When I was appointed Prime Minister of Denmark eight years ago, I paid my first official visit as Prime Minister to Slovakia and today and tomorrow I will chair my first Ministerial in my new capacity as Secretary General of NATO in Slovakia. So you can imagine that this country plays a special role for me and I am very pleased to have the opportunity to participate in this conference, and in this splendid setting.

I am aware that my remarks are being transmitted to several universities here in Slovakia, as well as in Budapest, Brno and Warsaw. I just hope that the VTC technology is working correctly and that you are all able to hear and see me clearly.

I have looked through your programme, and I have noticed that it covers virtually all the key issues that are on NATO’s agenda today: our new Strategic Concept, the meaning of Article 5, NATO-Russia relations, military transformation, nuclear matters, and even the difficult economic climate. I would like to speak about an issue that does not feature specifically on your programme, although I am sure it will have come up in your discussions – and that is Afghanistan. My second topic of course will be the Strategic Concept.

Afghanistan is the most complex challenge which NATO has ever undertaken. And I am well aware that there are an increasing number of people, also here in Slovakia, who are asking if the cost of our engagement in Afghanistan is too high. To these people, I want to say very clearly and unambiguously that the cost of inaction would be far higher. Leaving Afghanistan behind would once again turn the country into a training ground for Al Qaeda. The pressure on nuclear-armed Pakistan would be tremendous. Instability would spread throughout Central Asia. And it would only be a matter of time until we, here in Europe, would feel the consequences of all of this.

At our meeting here in Bratislava, NATO Defence Ministers will discuss how we can make a greater effort towards transition – to encourage and to help the Afghans themselves to look after their own country. That means, from a security point of view, Afghans taking lead responsibility, province by province, with international forces in a supporting role.

To achieve this, we all have to invest more in training and equipping the Afghan security forces. And we need other international actors to redouble their efforts to help with reconstruction and development. It is in fact a very simple calculation: we have to do more today, if we want to be able to do less tomorrow.

Clearly, Afghanistan remains NATO’s number one priority. But at the same time, it provides a very clear example of the way that security challenges for the Alliance have changed. Terrorism is no longer specific to a single state or issue – it has now mutated into a global franchise.

But there are other illustrations of new, complex security challenges. The consequences of the information age for example. Yes, technological progress has lifted millions out of poverty, out of ignorance. But it has also given many more countries and many more individuals the potential to access weapons of mass destruction. And of course, associated with the information age is the challenge of cyber-attacks -- which, as we saw in Estonia two years ago, can seriously destabilise a country.

Energy security is another emerging challenge. Indeed, many countries –including your own – have already felt the effects of disruption in energy supply, and in the next few years, the competition for energy will only get more intense. This means that we need to think about how to protect our supply lines, our transit routes, and our critical infrastructure.

And let us not forget what is perhaps the most global of challenges -- climate change. We are only just beginning to wake up to the potential security implications of global warming – implications that are likely to be felt most severely in those regions of the world that are least able to deal with them.

These are just some examples of the increasingly complex risks and threats to our security that we now face. They also serve to show why reaching consensus in NATO on whether and how to respond to these challenges has become increasingly difficult.

Indeed, this is one of the main reasons why the Alliance decided earlier this year to develop a new Strategic Concept. Because this should help us to make the right political choices; to better prioritise our tasks; to clarify the political and military tools that we need to have available; and to better identify the resources needed to fulfil them. To put it simply, the new Strategic Concept will give us a vision of NATO in the changing security environment – and it will give us a firm, and agreed, foundation for all our future activity.

We have deliberately made the development of a new Strategic Concept a very open and very inclusive process. We are engaging the public through a series of conferences and other activities – and your own conference here can make a valuable contribution. We are using new media to ensure that the wider public can also stay informed and contribute. We have, for example, designed a special webpage for this purpose on the NATO website, and I would strongly encourage you to visit this.

Former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright is leading a group of 12 experts that I have selected to come up with analyses and recommendations by next spring. On the basis of those recommendations I will then prepare a draft paper for with our member nations. And I hope then to deliver a new Strategic Concept to NATO Heads of State and Government for their approval before the end of next year.

So much for the process. But what about the content? Without wanting to prejudice the debate in any way, let me mention five issues that, I personally believe, will require particular attention – and that will undoubtedly take considerable time to work out in a way that all 28 Allies will feel comfortable with.

First, NATO’s core task was, is, and will remain, the defence of our territory and our populations. For our Alliance to endure, all members must feel that they are safe and secure. NATO has never failed in this respect. And I intend that it never will. However, we must also realize that territorial defence very often starts far from our own borders, like in Afghanistan. And territorial defence also requires a capability to deal with the new security threats like terrorism and cyber defence.

Second, the new Strategic Concept will need to urge continued military transformation – to allow us to cover the full spectrum of tasks, from collective defence to peace support operations. It should also encourage Allies to work more closely together in acquiring key capabilities and in funding operations. Needless to say, the current financial crisis and the budgetary problems faced by all our nations only make this a more pressing requirement. This is also about taxpayer’s money. We have to make efficient use of our resources, through better cooperation, through better coordination and through collective solutions.

Third, our new strategy must incorporate the notion of a “Comprehensive Approach”. Today’s security challenges cannot be dealt with by NATO alone. Security in Afghanistan, and elsewhere, demands a comprehensive application of economic, political and other measures that go far beyond NATO’s capabilities. There is a vital role for NATO to play within such a comprehensive approach – but it requires the Alliance to be much better connected with other international players, including the United Nations, the European Union and the NGO community.

Fourth, our new Strategic Concept must reaffirm a long-standing NATO objective: to help complete the consolidation of Europe as a continent that is whole, free and at peace. NATO’s open door policy will continue. It will continue because it contributes to Euro-Atlantic security, and it provides a strong incentive, for aspirants, to get their house in order. And it will continue because it is an expression of a key principle on which any European security order must be based: namely the free choice of alignment. Each and every sovereign nation has the right to decide alliance affiliation itself.

And finally, relations with Russia. It is clear that we will continue to have differences with Russia but we must not let these differences hold the entire NATO-Russia relationship hostage. After all, NATO and Russia also have many common interests – in Afghanistan, in combating terrorism, and in preventing nuclear proliferation. And so what we need is a relationship that allows us to pursue these long-standing common interests, and which will not be de-railed every time we disagree.

Now don’t get me wrong. A more mature NATO-Russia relationship will not mean that the Alliance will sacrifice its core principles. Clearly we won’t. But we do need a new beginning in NATO-Russia relations and, as a first step, I have already proposed that NATO and Russia, together, should assess what the real threats to our security are. There I have suggested that NATO and Russia launch a joint review of the 21st century security challenges. And I will visit Moscow in the next few weeks, and I look forward to the opportunity to discuss not just concrete ideas for taking this idea forward, but also to discuss our relationship more broadly, including in the context of NATO’s new Strategic Concept and Russia’s own national security strategy.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

For the past 60 years, North America and Western Europe have formed a trans-atlantic community of nations. It is a community that has evolved considerably. It is a community that has achieved enormous success. It is a community that has been significantly strengthened -- politically and militarily -- with the membership of new nations, including your own. And it is a community determined to adapt further, to meet the new challenges that it faces.

Getting our new Strategic Concept right is a prerequisite for further success. This has to be a broad-based effort, grounded in solid political and public debate. This morning I have shared with you some of my thoughts on the key issues that the Concept should cover. I now look to you to make the most of the opportunities that are available so that you can contribute your thoughts and ideas too.

Thank you.

Q&A session

RASTISLAV KACER (President, Slovak Atlantic Commission): We have a little more than 15 minutes, almost 20 minutes time for discussion. Let me take a few questions for you from the audience and let me cluster those by maybe two or three so you would be able to answer, is it fine with it, and then I'll turn also to our participants in the universities and I'll take also questions from Banská Bystrica.

But first, questions from the floor. I see one hand over there, and one hand over here. Please. If you could wait for the microphone so we can... and don't forget to introduce yourself.

Q: Thank you. My name is Dominika (inaudible) and I'm a Ph.D. candidate at the Faculty of Political Sciences and International Relations at Banská Bystrica.

Mr. Secretary General, I would like to ask you, you are speaking about the new security environment, changing security environment, as well as capabilities that NATO is trying to somehow push forth. Speaking about the new security environment, there is the problem of privatization, so-called privatization of security and the emergence of new non-state actors, be it the bottom up or top down process.

I would be interested more in the top-down process, which will include the problem of private military companies. As we know some of the core member states of NATO, namely the United States, are using them in the conflict, namely the conflict in Iraq. What would be the position of NATO as such to use the private military companies or other security contactors on behalf of NATO in its operation as a means to boost its capabilities or to fill in for some possible capability caps?

And more broadly put, how is NATO ready to cope with the problem of the privatization of security and the privatization of military conflicts as such. Thank you very much.

RASTISLAV KACER: Thank you very much for very interesting questions. Second question goes to Mr. Smolar from Poland, and the third question will go to Banská Bystrica.

EUGENIUSZ SMOLAR (Senior Fellow, Center for International Relations): Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for sharing with us your thoughts and I look through the project you've presented, and one thing which I haven't seen is a modernization of NATO itself. And it's very hard to imagine that you can deliver all those good things unless NATO, as a structure, transforms itself. Three hundred committees, commissions, you know, the ambassadors' relations with U.S., Secretary General, national government, this is a very complex web of interests, and ingrained interests, I might add.

How do you see NATO in a few years time, because it has to streamline its operation and its structures itself. Thank you.

RASTISLAV KACER: Okay and the last question for this round goes to Banská Bystrica, then I would kindly ask you for the answers, Mr. Secretary General. Banská Bystrica, you are online.

Q: Good morning, and (inaudible...) and International Relations within Banská Bystrica. We all know there comes a very long tradition of threats such as cyber attacks or energy security threats or even climate change-related dangers are high on the NATO agenda. However, do you think NATO is the best forum for dealing with such problems? What is its additional value to countering these threats in comparison to other international organizations? Thank you.

RASTISLAV KACER: Thank you all for three very good questions. Now Secretary General, now you can spend additional two hours on those. (Laughs).

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN (Secretary General of NATO): I could, but I won't. I will answer briefly.

First about what you called privatization of security and more specifically the use of what you called private military companies. Well, basically I do believe that NATO operations should be conducted by what we might call official military units led by our responsible governments, so this will be my clear point of departure.

Having said that, I will not exclude the possibility that private security companies as such can be used for specific security tasks, protection of facilities, protection of people in certain areas. So I would not completely exclude the possibility of using private companies, but of course, we have to strike the right balance and basically our military operations should be conducted by our military.

Secondly, modernization of NATO. Actually, it's my ambition that the Strategic Concept as such, should serve as the leverage for modernization, transformation and reform of NATO.

And I fully agree that we need such transformation. Let me just mention a few areas. Firstly, militarily. It strikes me that 70 percent of the armed forces in Europe are stationary. I spoke about our core task territorial defence, but I also ask myself, how can we make territorial defence critical if we cannot deploy military forces, if we cannot move them around, if they are not flexible?

So we need transformation in a direction of more flexibility, more mobility, more deployability.

Which leads me to my second point. We also need to streamline our structures. Our command structures, our Headquarters, of course, including civil headquarters in Brussels. And recently I had the opportunity to present to the NATO Ambassadors in Brussels some of my ideas as to how I would like to gradually modernize and reform our Headquarters.

As far as our military headquarters are concerned, I also think there is a potential for streamlining. However, I also think this should be an integrated part of our Strategic Concept exercise.

And finally, it's my ambition to ensure that NATO can become an efficient decision-making body. If we are to ensure NATO relevance on the international stage then we also have to speed up our decision-making processes. You touched upon the number of committees, but even more important than the exact number of committees, and I agree with you, we should look closer into that. Actually we have an ongoing exercise, a review of our committee system. But even more important than the number of committees, is the procedure as to how we use the committees. I don't think they should delay decisions, but they should improve the quality of decisions. So it's a very important point.

Finally, I was asked if NATO is necessarily the best forum to deal with the broad range of new security threats. No, not necessarily, and that's not what I said. I pointed to a broad range of new security challenges, but I also stressed that the main point is to make NATO more capable to cooperate with other actors on the international scene. So the fact that I have appointed a specific threat as one of our new challenges is not the same as saying that NATO is necessarily the body to deal with them. It could take place in cooperation with the United Nations, with the European Union, or even with civil society with non-governmental organizations. And I think we should deal with that in the Strategic Concept.

Energy security is an excellent example. There is a question of protection of the physical infrastructure. Well, there might be a NATO role in that, but in the broader sense of the word energy security, I think the European Union has a much stronger role to play. How could member states diversify their energy supply to a higher degree. How could we develop new energy sources so that we reduce our dependency on imported fossil fuels, et cetera, et cetera.

So I do not see NATO in the primary role across the board. In some aspects, yes, but in other aspects we should cooperate better with other international actors.

RASTISLAV KACER: Thank you very much. I think we still have time for second round of questions. The first hand raised was Tomas Valasek, second would be Minister Onyszkiewicz.

TOMAS VALASEK (Center for European Reform): Thank you, Ambassador, and it's great to see you here, Secretary General, great to see you in Bratislava. All the more so that your visit comes so close to the 20th Anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, so your presence here takes on an added symbolic importance.

A quick and simple question on Russia. On one of your first, if not your very first public appearances, you chose to focus on Russia itself and on a need to build a constructive relationship. The question is simple: What do you expect? How would you define success?

The allies differ on the subject. We all broadly support the efforts to engage Russia and bring it into a more constructive relationship, but while some believe that western actions and attitudes can only influence Russian behaviour on the margins, there are those who believe that Russia can truly be modernized through western engagement. What do you believe?

RASTISLAV KACER: Okay, second question goes to Minister Onyszkiewicz.

JANUSZ ONYSZKIEWICZ (Chairman of the Board, Euro-Atlantic Association of Poland): Mr. General Secretary, you rightly mentioned how important are the relations between NATO and European Union. These relations could result in a good synergy between these two organizations so critical for the success of NATO and European Union to a certain extent.

It is quite a paradox that although there is a tremendous overlap in membership between NATO and the European Union, very often European Union and NATO do not speak with the same voice. What we can do, actually, to make this synergy actually a fact and not just a goal? Thank you.

RASTISLAV KACER: Thank you very much. I had previous questions on the camera, so let me take also one question from our camera audience. Please go ahead. You have the line.

Q: (Inaudible...) Euro-Atlantic (inaudible...) Warsaw. Mr. Secretary General, I would like to ask you about some recent voices about the revision of the consensus rule in decision-making, especially the NAC decision-making process. What do you think about these ideas? Thank you.

RASTISLAV KACER: Thank you very much. Mr. Secretary General, I'm having more questions. I saw one hand here, and we get more questions on the audience, but I'm afraid due to time limitations you have I'll stop at those three questions, and I apologize to every of those who wanted to raise these questions.

So the last round of questions to you.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Thank you. About Russia, what is success? I think one way to describe success would be to see development of practical cooperation in a number of areas. Let me take Afghanistan as one example.

Actually we had a meeting yesterday in the NATO-Russia Council in which Russia expressed a strong interest in further engagement. I would consider it success if we saw a stronger Russian engagement in our operation in Afghanistan. And I think we should explore how we could further Russian engagement. That's one criterion of success.

Another criterion of success would be to update the common NATO-Russia action plan against terrorism. I would also very much like to see progress in our cooperation on missile defence. Actually, we have decided in NATO at the last Summit that we should explore the possibilities to integrate Russian missile defence systems in our missile defence system, which I think has become even more easy after the U.S. has presented new missile defence plans.

So, an immediate success would be to see development of practical cooperation in these areas.

In the longer term perspective I have presented a vision to develop what I call a strategic partnership between NATO and Russia, which I think could serve the purpose to more broadly reduce tensions in Europe and create a better atmosphere broadly speaking.

NATO, EU, what could be done to further strengthen the cooperation and relationship between NATO and the EU?

Well, we all know that there is a basic challenge in solving problems connected to the division of Cyprus, to speak frankly about it. So that would be, I think, the key to solve the basic problem.

However, having said that, I also think we should look closer into how we could find pragmatic solutions in the shorter term concerning the conclusion of security agreements between NATO and the EU.

In Afghanistan, for example, NATO operates, the EU operates, but we have not between able to conclude a security agreement. Which at the end of the day, might be a risk for personnel on the ground. It's absurd. So I think we should look closer into how we could find pragmatic solutions to such operational questions.

And then I have already taken, and I will take further initiatives to ensure high level meetings between the two organizations to further the relationship.

Finally, I have no intentions whatsoever to change the consensus principle or the consensus rule in decision making in NATO. I think in a political, military alliance as NATO the consensus principle, it's absolutely vital.

Having said that, I also think we could speed up the processes leading to the consensus decision in our organization. And here I will return to the use of our committees. We have to look closer into how we could make the use of committees more efficient.

So at the end of the day I think we should stick to the consensus principle in the North Atlantic Council, it’s absolutely vital. But in the preparation for these decisions I think we could speed up the processes.

RASTISLAV KACER: Mr. Secretary General, thank you very much for your excellent speech. Thank you all for very good questions, for very good answers. I would love to hold you more for this audience, but I'm afraid protocol will kill me for that, and we have to continue with conference, and you have to continue with your programme.

Let me say how much we appreciate your presence here. I want to apologize to all of those who were not able to put questions. I even want to apologize to all of those who had to wait outside because they were not able to get inside and I apologize to all of those on the line who were not able to put their questions.

Thank you very much.