Building a Euro-Atlantic Security Architecture

Speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the Brussels Forum 2010 organised by the German Marshall Fund, Brussels, Belgium

  • 27 Mar. 2010
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  • Last updated: 27 Mar. 2010 14:07

Dear Craig,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to be here today at the Brussels Forum.  Brussels Forum has quickly become one of the true “can’t miss events” on the Transatlantic agenda.  I am grateful to the German Marshall Fund for its unflinching commitment to bringing Europe and North America even closer together.

In long marriages, partners sometimes start to take each other for granted.  We should never let that happen in the Transatlantic relationship.  Europe and North America have an enduring, strong foundation of shared values, a shared commitment to democracy, and the willingness to stand together when times are tough. In a nutshell, we have basically very little that divides us and very much to cooperate on. 

For more than 60 years, we have been building a strong Euro-Atlantic security architecture on that foundation. And when I look at Europe, I see a real success story. After two World Wars and one Cold War, Europe has emerged as a continent of cooperation and integration, on a scale that makes it absolutely unique in the world.

Today, I will outline how this success story can be carried forward. I will sketch out how we can further develop an inclusive Euro-Atlantic security architecture. And set out how this will bring even more unity and security to Europe.

Ladies and gentlemen.

Europe’s success would have been inconceivable without NATO.  The Atlantic Alliance not only kept the Cold War from getting hot.  It also provided the security umbrella that enabled former enemies to become friends. And it paved the way for ever closer European integration.

Protected by NATO, the Europeans started an ambitious integration project which eventually became the European Union. And after the end of the Cold War, NATO, along with the EU, was instrumental in consolidating Europe as an undivided, democratic security space. 

Both institutions have opened their doors to new members, and they made a determined attempt to reach out to Russia.

Of course, this post-Cold War consolidation of Europe was not without convulsions.  There was bloodshed, notably in the Balkans.  And NATO made a tremendous effort to bring that region back into the European mainstream.  But earlier in Europe’s history, power shifts of the magnitude we witnessed after 1990 were much more violent. No doubt that our Atlantic Alliance has played a pivotal role in Europe’s rather soft landing from the Cold War.

We have followed three basic principles upon which a  peaceful Europe must be built: first, the principle that the security of all states in the Euro-Atlantic community is indivisible – by which I mean that each state’s security is equally important, intimately interlinked, and interdependent; second, the principle that every state has the right to choose is security alignments; and third, the principle that no state, or group of states, can consider any part of the Euro-Atlantic area as its sphere of influence. 

These three principles constitute a solid framework for our common security architecture. In short, Europe is now largely free and at peace with itself.  And we should celebrate that.

However, we should not rest on our laurels. On the contrary. Having been relieved of the internal struggles, Europe should now take on more responsibility for external challenges.

After the end of the Cold War, a new international security environment has emerged. Security challenges that call upon an active European engagement alongside our North American Allies. That became very clear on “9/11”.

The terrorist attacks on New York and Washington were not just directed against the United States.  They were an attack on the transatlantic community at large.  And so were the attacks that followed – in London, Madrid, Istanbul and elsewhere.  They demonstrated that the major threats to our security no longer emanate from within Europe, but from outside of it. 

The Alliance has already adjusted to this new reality.  NATO invoked Article 5 for the first time ever after the terrorist attacks of “9/11”.  And it took the lead of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.  These actions clearly demonstrate that NATO is no longer a purely “Eurocentric” institution. We have to be prepared to tackle security challenges outside of Europe if we are to make territorial defence of our member-states and our populations effective and credible.

But terrorism is not the only manifestation of our new security environment.  There are other threats that we need to guard against.  One of them is the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and their means of delivery.

Up to now, that threat has remained largely abstract.  But a look at current trends shows that the proliferation threat is real and growing – over 30 countries have or are developing missile capabilities, with greater and greater ranges.  In many cases, these missiles could eventually threaten our populations and territories.

Iran is a case in point. It has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a Non-Nuclear Weapon State, and it is developing a nuclear programme that it claims is for civilian purposes only.

However, Iran has gone far beyond what is necessary for a purely civilian programme.  It has concealed several nuclear facilities from the International Atomic Energy Agency.  It has played hide-and-seek with the international community, and it has rejected all offers of cooperation that the US, the EU and others have made.

And most recently, Tehran has announced it will enrich its uranium to levels that appear incompatible with civilian use. In defiance of several UN Security Council resolutions.

Iran also has an extensive missile development programme.  Statements from Iranian officials declare the range of their modified Shahab-3 missiles to be 2000 kilometres. That will already put Allied countries such as Turkey, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria within reach.

In February last year, Tehran introduced the SAFIR 2 space launch vehicle.  This is a key stage in the development of missiles of intermediate and intercontinental range.  If Iran were to complete this development, then the whole of the European continent, as well as all of Russia, would be in range.

Proliferators must know that we are unwavering in our determination to collective defence. That includes nuclear deterrence.

But confronted with the spread of missile technology, and unpredictable regimes and leaders, we owe it to our populations to complement our deterrence capabilities with an effective missile defence capability

We are not starting from scratch.  NATO Allies have been looking at various missile defence options for some time. NATO itself is developing protections for our deployed troops.

But with the new US approach to missile defence there are now much better opportunities for an effective NATO-wide system. A system that would add to the territorial defence of our populations and nations.

A true joint Euro-Atlantic missile defence would demonstrate our collective will, not only to defend ourselves against the new threats of today and tomorrow, but also to shoulder the responsibility.

It would send a clear message to proliferators that there is nothing to be gained from missile proliferation.

It would be an opportunity for Europe to demonstrate again to the United States that the Allies are ready and willing to invest in the capabilities we need to defend ourselves.

And it would allow Europe to play an active role in a process which, until now, is conducted largely over their heads, by the US and Russia.

But I believe there is yet another reason for developing missile defence.  And that is to create a new dynamic in European and Euro-Atlantic security.

There is a lot of talk these days about the Euro-Atlantic security architecture. Russia, in particular, has focused on treaties, on conferences, and on political arrangements. 

Clearly, all of these can be useful and important.  We should talk.  We should look for common political approaches, many of which we have already agreed, and could easily endorse again.

But to my mind, architecture has to move beyond blueprints.  It needs to be built.  And missile defence is a concrete way to do that.

In this respect yesterdays welcomed news from Washington and Moscow on follow-up to START is a good backdrop. Not only will it by itself contribute to a safer world. It will also give impetus to cooperation with Russia in other fields. Including NATO – Russia relations.

Ever since I took office last summer, I have invested considerable time and effort in revitalising the NATO-Russia relationship.  I am pleased that we have been able to make progress in several areas, including our joint review of common threats and challenges.

It is now time to take the next step. We should look at missile defence as another opportunity to bring us together.

We need a missile defence system that includes not just all countries of NATO, but Russia too. One security roof, that we build together, that we support together, and that we operate together. One security roof that protects us all.

The more that missile defence can be seen as a security roof in which we all have a share, the more people from Vancouver to Vladivostok would know that they were part of one community. One community, sharing real security, against a real threat, using real technologies.

One security roof would be a very strong political symbol that Russia is fully part of the Euro-Atlantic family, sharing the benefits and the costs – not outside, but very much inside.

That would be real, new Euro-Atlantic security architecture.

Of course, there are many practical challenges.  We would have to hook up our systems.  Share intelligence assessments.  And link sensitive technologies.  But that’s precisely the point. 

If we do decide that this makes sense, then we would link up our systems; we would share technology; and we would share intelligence.  That is a concrete way to build trust and confidence in each other. 

For all these reasons, I think the time has come for us to move forward on missile defence.  We need a decision, by NATO’s next Summit in November, that missile defence for our populations and territories is an Alliance mission.  And that we will explore every opportunity to cooperate with Russia.

But we also need a decision from Russia – a decision to view missile defence as an opportunity, rather than a threat.

And when those steps are accomplished, we can move forward to create a missile defence system that not only defends the Euro-Atlantic community, but one that also brings it together. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The end of the Cold War has given us an enormous opportunity: to achieve our goal of a Europe whole, free and at peace.  We are not quite there yet, but we are very close.  Our transatlantic community has already changed things for the better.  We must now lock in this positive change, and make the European project complete.

Two things will help us to achieve this.  We must make it clear that we welcome Russia into the fold, and, together, we must seek ways to protect our continent from the challenges of a volatile global environment, notably from the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

I am suggesting nothing less than a radical change in the way we think about European security, about missile defence, and about Russia.  So I am asking a lot.  But the result will be worth the effort. 

Thank you.