Concluding remarks

by Madeleine K. Albright, Chair of the Group of Experts at the Third Seminar on NATO’s Strategic Concept

  • 14 Jan. 2010
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  • Last updated: 15 Jan. 2010 16:29

Let me say I come up here in a number of different roles, first of all as a guest in order to thank the Norwegian government for having done such a fabulous job in putting this together, and Madam Minister, thank you very much for all the participation in this.

Then I’m here as chair of the experts group, and I have to say on behalf of all of us that with every meeting I think we learn more and more and feel more and more honoured to have been asked to take this I won’t say job on because it’s too much fun and to really spend time learning from the speakers and from all of you and looking forward to this process going on.

We are going to Moscow next, and then we will see you in Washington, and we are really buckling down now to the work process of it, and… but I do think that we are all enjoying this very much and have learned a great deal. Even though I’m not here representing the United States, I do have to say something, and that is that our president is called Barack Partnership Obama, and some people love it – I do – some people criticize him for it, but the word “partnership” is very much a part of what the new American foreign policy is, and I think people need to see this and understand it and that I think there really is some misunderstanding about how people view America’s role, but America in Europe is one of the most important aspects, and partnership is definitely very much a part of the way that this administration is thinking about our relationships throughout the world.

I do think Volker stated very well the importance of the partnership concepts and how important it is in terms of dealing with the various problems and issues that are out there, but since I find these other roles and I don’t want to speak too much as chair yet because we have not concluded and I’m not here representing the US, so I’m going to go into my other role, which is as professor. When I teach about foreign policy decision-making, I say that every country basically makes foreign policy decisions based on five factors, and I think they work here also.

First of all, what is the objective factor? How does each country see its position geographically? That is a statement of fact, who your neighbours are. The truth is Russia has changed its geographical position. Often that doesn’t happen, but I do think it’s important as an alliance for us to understand that maybe different countries see their objective factors in a different way and we have to understand that for the alliance as well as for the partners.

The second factor is subjective: how does a country feel about itself? Mr. Yurgens talked about some psychological issues. I think we all have psychological issues, and I do think it’s important for us to understand what the subjective factors are.

Then they have to do… a third factor is how the government of a particular country is set up. We can all pretend we don’t… aren’t involved in politics, but we are, and I think everybody has to understand the political set-up within a particular country.

The fourth factor has to do with bureaucratic struggles, which I have always said translates into budget. That’s how it really comes out, who wins the budget battles, and the fifth factor are individuals, and I do think that a statement that has already been made, that we need to understand, is the new Secretary General is an individual that has made some very strong and pertinent statements and we all have our leaders and so the individual aspects are those five factors.

Now I am sitting here or standing here under a sign that has chess pieces, and I have actually always disagreed with the idea that the work that we’re involved in is chess. Chess is a game where two people sit there quietly and can actually think out their moves. I think the work that we’re involved in is more like billiards or pool, where somebody comes and there are a bunch of balls in the middle of the table and they hit a ball hoping that it will get into the pocket on the other side but usually it hits a bunch of other balls in a… some kind of a non-scientific or predictable way. It is much more horizontal and dynamic. Now I had a Chinese student who said it was all predictable, but I have never seen billiards played in a predictable way.

And that leads me to a final point, and I can state this on my own experience: how many misunderstandings we have in the kind of work that we have done, and in listening a little bit to the history of the post-Cold War NATO evolution, I can… I personally could testify to many misunderstandings. So as we go forward, I think we need to try to clarify what we’re all saying, and finally, a lot of the work that we’ve been involved in in our lives has unintended consequences, and I think we have to understand as we go forward that we are dealing in this unpredictable way and how to truly have the capability of motivating all the fine work that’s here, the partners in this particular case, in terms of really trying to solve what are very, very difficult issues.

So I am very pleased to, again, be at one of these brilliant seminars. I do think that the work is very exciting, and I return to the point that we need to be very creative, that this is our opportunity to really set the line for a long time in a most unpredictable world, and thank you very much and see you all next in Washington.