''On Alliance Solidarity in the 21st Century''

Speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen - Tallinn, Estonia

  • 22 Apr. 2010
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  • Last updated: 13 Sep. 2010 17:08

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am truly sorry for the organisers of the Lennart Meri conference that they had to cancel this year’s event due to the problems in the skies over Europe this past week. But I am very glad to have made it to Tallin. And that you have come to hear me speak this morning.

There are close historical ties between Estonia and my native Denmark. My great great grandfather was a merchant who settled in Tartu in the late 19th century, where he traded in timber and dairy products and ran a bread factory.

I have very fond, personal memories of several visits to Estonia during my time as Prime Minister. I remember taking part in a bike marathon in Tartu, together with the then Prime Minister, Siim Kallas, and the then mayor of Tartu, Andrus Ansip, who is Prime Minister today.

I also had the great privilege to meet Lennart Meri on a few occasions. Lennart Meri worked hard to get Estonia into NATO. And I am sure that, if he were still alive today, Lennart Meri would be very proud to see how well his beloved Estonia has integrated into NATO – politically as well as militarily.

In Afghanistan today, in the most challenging military operation that NATO has ever undertaken, Estonian forces are doing a superb job, working closely with Danish forces. Estonia’s strong commitment to transatlantic solidarity is also clearly visible at the political level. And I am sure we will see it demonstrated again at our Ministerial meeting here in Tallinn.

More than six decades after NATO’s creation, solidarity remains the Alliance’s most precious asset. But like all precious assets, it cannot be taken for granted. That is why I am determined to ensure that NATO remains the bastion of solidarity that it needs to be. And it is why I have chosen to make solidarity the focus of my speech before you here this morning.

During the Cold War, NATO solidarity was perfectly demonstrated through our military deployment plans. These plans were agreed in advance, and saw all Allies assume responsibility for certain tasks or geographic areas.

Many NATO nations sent their forces to be permanently stationed forward on their Allies’ territory, knowing full well that any attack on their Ally would also be an attack against them.

With our pre-planned options, and our regular training of these options, NATO was the very epitome of solidarity. Other nations were well aware that if they took on one Ally, then they would be taking on them all -- and that is why we prevailed.

After the Cold War ended, it was Alliance solidarity that was the determining factor in restoring stability to the Balkans. Every member of the Alliance contributed. NATO-led, UN-mandated stabilisation forces in Bosnia and Kosovo were an example of NATO solidarity in action. Alliance solidarity that was strengthened by a range of NATO partners and other countries, which all saw merit in working with NATO to restore peace and stability in South East Europe.

Allies continue to demonstrate an unfailing commitment to solidarity today -- every day. By its very nature, the NATO Alliance encourages and promotes solidarity -- through its consensus based decision making, but also through the way it implements those decisions.

To illustrate this point, let me give you three specific examples of how the Alliance is delivering solidarity – and hence security --today.

First, we are delivering solidarity through our unflinching commitment to territorial defence. This core task of NATO is embodied in Article 5 of our founding treaty: An attack on one Ally is considered an attack on all. This is the very foundation of our Alliance -- and it is what makes our members feel safe and secure.

To be successful in defending our territories and protecting our populations, we need a number of things.

We need the right type of military capabilities. We need modern and mobile armed forces. Armed forces that are not static. Forces that are able to deploy quickly to assist an Ally in need.

We also need a visible presence of NATO across the entire territory of our Alliance. And we see a perfect example here in this region. We have put in place arrangements to police the Baltic airspace. A range of NATO members are actively engaged -- sharing responsibility -- showing solidarity – and demonstrating a capable and credible Alliance that is determined to defend our territory and to protect our populations.

We also need to guard against new risks and threats to the security of our nations, such as energy cut-offs or cyber attacks. And here as well, we have a good example right here in Estonia, with the Alliance’s Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence.

What we also need is a credible nuclear deterrent. We should work towards a world without nuclear weapons. I share that great vision.

But we must retain a nuclear capability as long as there are rogue regimes or terrorist groupings that may pose a nuclear threat to us.

And for this reason, we also need a credible missile defence system, providing coverage for all the Allies.

The United States already has a missile defence system. Some European Allies have a capacity to protect deployed forces against missile attacks. But of course we must be able to also protect our populations – all our populations.

If we connect national systems into a NATO wide missile shield to protect all our Allies, that would be a very powerful demonstration of NATO solidarity in the 21st Century. And I hope we can make progress in that direction by the time of the next NATO Summit in Lisbon in November.

Ladies and gentlemen, our security today cannot be viewed only through the narrow perspective of defence at our borders, in the way it used to be in the Cold War. Today, threats can originate a long way from our borders, yet still have the potential to hit us at home. Responding to those threats far away from our borders is the second area where NATO is delivering solidarity today. And nowhere is this strong, common sense of purpose more visible than in Afghanistan.

The terrorists who attacked the United States on “9/11” were trained in and instructed from Afghanistan. The day after – on 12 September – the Allies invoked the Article 5 collective defence clause, for the first time in NATO’s history. That decision was the strongest possible expression of Alliance solidarity. And it was taken swiftly and without hesitation. We all considered the attack on the US an attack against us all. And we all stood by the United States in their hour of need.

Today, that same solidarity remains a key feature of our engagement in Afghanistan. Every single Ally, as well as many partners, are actively contributing to our UN-mandated mission. When President Obama last year decided to contribute 30.000 more American troops to Afghanistan, the other Allies stepped up to the plate as well and pledged almost 10,000 extra troops. Despite the difficulties, all the Allies showed a clear commitment to solidarity within the Alliance.

We all want to see a stable and secure Afghanistan – an Afghanistan that is no longer a threat to its region and to the rest of the world. We will stay in Afghanistan as long as it takes to achieve that goal. We want to continue to empower the Afghans. And gradually hand over to them greater responsibility for the security of their own country when conditions permit.

This means that we must continue to train and educate Afghan soldiers and Afghan police. And it is why I will continue to urge all Allies and partners to contribute to our NATO training mission in Afghanistan. This, as well, is very much a matter of solidarity. Because the more that we, together, invest in transition now, the sooner the Afghans can take over themselves.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is a third dimension of NATO solidarity that I want to mention – and that is common funding and collective solutions. And in this area, as well, I believe we are doing well – but could do even better.

Participation in multinational operations such as our engagement in Afghanistan can be very expensive. And the same can be said for the procurement of modern capabilities that are relevant to today’s security challenges.

NATO nations all contribute to some of the Alliance’s day-to-day running costs – including parts of our infrastructure, special communication systems, and our headquarters. But as a total percentage of Allied defence budgets, this common funding represents less than a half per cent.

When it comes to operations, the basic principle is that “costs lie where they fall”. Which means that Estonia pays for the deployment of Estonian troops to Afghanistan, just as the United States, Poland and all the other Allies pay for their own contribution. To my mind, this is not the best incentive for Allies to participate.

I personally would like to see a much greater use of common funding to finance our Alliance and our operations. And I see at least three arguments in favour of that.

First: There may be Allies who have troops or equipment to contribute to a NATO operation, but not the money to get those assets into theatre. If they could tap into a common budget to help them do this it would strengthen our capability as an Alliance.

Second: There may be Allies that – for one reason or another – do not want to actually participate in an operation. If we have better common funding arrangements in place, those Allies can still be part of the Alliance solidarity that is vital to the success of any of our operations, now and in the future.

Third: Certain military capabilities are so expensive that the only way for smaller Allies to acquire and operate such capabilities is by pooling together with other Allies.

Allies have discussed resources, requirements and common funding for many years. As yet, there is no agreement. Some Allies strongly favour an increased use of common funding. Others fear that, especially when it comes to operations, they will be obliged to pay twice. First of all for their own deployment, according to the principle that costs lie where they fall. But on top of that, they would pay into a common budget to help other nations to deploy.

These concerns are understandable. And they should be addressed. However, I do believe that a wider use of common funding and collective solutions is the way forward if we want to get the right capabilities, to conduct military operations in a cost effective manner, and to strengthen our cohesion and solidarity as Allies.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Solidarity is the lifeblood of NATO. Solidarity has enabled us to succeed in the past; it is what helps us to succeed today; and it is what will enable us to be successful in the future

But new challenges are putting our Alliance solidarity to the test. And that is why the development of a new Strategic Concept for the Alliance is so opportune.

The new Strategic Concept provides the perfect opportunity to make a sober assessment of the new security environment; to agree what that new security environment means for us as an Alliance; and to agree on a way ahead to ensure that we continue to deliver security effectively.

In my view, one important answer to this challenge lies in making far greater use of the Alliance as a forum for consultation. Article 4 of our founding treaty states that the Allies will consult whenever the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any one of them is threatened.

Traditionally, we have tended not to discuss issues until we were required to deal with them. But I think we should discuss a far greater range of security issues that are of concern to Allies, not just those issues that demand an immediate response. Because this will allow us to develop the necessary common position on these potentially difficult issues.

I have highlighted where we are already delivering solidarity. I have also set out where we should push for continued improvements. I believe that our new Strategic Concept will encourage us further in this direction. It will reinforce and enhance the solidarity that we have consistently demonstrated as NATO Allies. And I am sure that reinforced and enhanced solidarity will help us to meet the challenges of the future. Thank you.