by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the second Strategic Concept Seminar (Brdo, Slovenia)

  • 13 Nov. 2009
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  • Last updated: 01 Dec. 2009 09:27

Secretary Albright,
Ladies and Gentlemen

I am delighted to be with you this morning and to join Secretary Albright and Minister Žbogar in opening this second Strategic Concept seminar. As I know only too well, the purpose of these seminars is not to have long speeches but rather an intense, interactive discussion among the leading experts on the key issues facing NATO’s future. 

I also do not myself want at this stage to give a detailed set of views or proposals to Madeleine Albright and her fellow members of the Group of Experts. When I nominated the Group and asked Madeleine to serve as the chair back in August, I made it clear that the Group was to be fully independent and to have the freedom to look at every aspect of the Alliance. 

The one requirement is that they report back to me with their analysis and conclusions by 1st May next year. Therefore, and at this still very early stage of the Group’s work, this is definitely not the time for NATO or for me personally to pronounce.

First of all, let me thank the Slovene authorities for their very gracious hospitality and for all the hard work that they have put into organising this seminar and at very short notice for an event of this size and level of ambition. The first seminar on NATO’s fundamental tasks was held only one month ago in Luxembourg and already set a very high standard. Looking around me today I can see that Slovenia, ably assisted by the Royal United Services Institute, has been able to emulate that very high standard and organise an event which will certainly carry our discussions forward. 

We have initiated a very important process leading to a new Strategic Concept. NATO needs a new Strategic Concept to clarify our principal roles and missions in the 21st century and to re-engage not just our public opinions but also our governments and parliaments with the Alliance. 

I am convinced that having an independent Group of Experts under the able chairmanship of Madeleine Albright and supported by her vice chair, Jeroen van der Veer, is the best way of ensuring that we have an honest and thorough examination of where NATO stands today and come up also with bold but realistic proposals for transforming NATO to meet the 21st century challenges. So I am pleased to see that the Group is now fully up and running and is using the Strategic Concept seminars productively, not only to examine the issues in depth, but also to hold its own private discussions.

Ladies and Gentlemen, This second seminar is on a topic which is very close to my heart. Today’s NATO cannot succeed as a provider of security and stability if it is not connected to the wider world. All of our operations now involve our partner countries and we are increasingly aware that those operations need a comprehensive approach, involving all of the major international actors, if they are to be successful.

When I look at the comprehensive approach, I see four particular issues where we do need to collectively improve. 

The first is about strategic alignment. When I look at NATO, the United Nations, and the European Union, I often see different priorities and different geographical areas of engagement. To some extent this is understandable: there are many conflicts in the world to be resolved. 

But I do believe that we need to identify together key priority areas on which we should all focus our resources. One of these is clearly Afghanistan. So the question is: how can NATO’s governments help to ensure that the major international organisations do not disperse their efforts and resources too widely but concentrate those resources on certain key areas in order to maximise our chances of success? 

The second issue concerns planning. We tend not to work out how we are going to cooperate until we have all arrived in theatre. Then we have to improvise ad hoc arrangements on the spot. I believe that it would be much easier for our NATO military authorities, when they are planning an operation, if they could have an immediate dialogue with the UN, the EU, the World Bank and other organisations.

With the aim to understand better what they are planning to do and with which means. Then we would not need to have a separate military plan which has to be tortuously integrated into a separate civilian plan at a later stage and we would save a good deal of precious time.

My third issue concerns the relationship between security and development. It has become a mantra in NATO to say that there “is no development without security and no security without development”. This is no doubt true in theory but we have discovered in Afghanistan that this interdependence is much more complicated in practice. 

You need a very great deal of security before any real development starts to happen. Moreover, development efforts seem to be much more fragmented than the military efforts because an infinitely greater number of organisations are involved. So what can we do to bring security and development together into a true synergy? How can we strengthen civil-military cooperation, and how can we strengthen the coordination of the civilian reconstruction and development efforts?

My final issue concerns partnerships. As partners take on more demanding and dangerous missions, they obviously seek more involvement in NATO’s planning, consultation and decision shaping. Is our political-military framework to involve partners still adequate to the task? How should we involve our partners even more?

I hope that your discussions will illuminate some of these issues and that the Group of Experts will also spend some time reflecting on them. 

I am particularly glad to see at this seminar today a well-balanced mix of civilian and military experts and also many senior representatives of the other international organisations with which NATO works. 

We also have representatives from those partner countries who have contributed most to our operations in recent years. All of you have plenty of experience and also undoubtedly good ideas on how we can do better in the future. 

I invite you to use this intimate atmosphere under the Chatham House Rule to share that experience and ideas with no holds barred, not only for the benefit of our Group of Experts but also for the NATO community gathered here today. 

I unfortunately cannot stay with you for the whole day as this is my official visit to Slovenia. But I want to encourage you to be bold and innovative. I will certainly look forward to hearing the results. 

All good ideas are welcome – and they will be taken into consideration in our preparation of the new strategic concept.

Good luck and good discussions.