''Renewing the Transatlantic security community in the age of globalisation''

Speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the Central Military Club, Sofia, Bulgaria

  • 20 May. 2010
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  • Last updated: 21 May. 2010 09:15

Let me first of all thank the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria, the Open Society Institute, and the Central Military Club for hosting this event. I am delighted to be here today, to meet so many good friends, and to share with you my views on NATO’s future.

Let me begin with a quote by Elias Canetti, the Nobel Prize winning author who was born here in Bulgaria. He once said that “It does not matter how new an idea is. What matters is how new it becomes.”

One can hardly find a better description of NATO and the transatlantic security community. The idea of an Atlantic Alliance is now more than 60 years old. Yet the idea becomes “new” time and time again. Because our Alliance continues to transform. And my message to you here today is that we must not only continue this transformation – we must accelerate it.

When the Washington Treaty was signed, in April 1949, it created a new partnership between North America and Western Europe, with a pledge of mutual defence at its core. Yet common fear was not the main motivating principle for this unique Alliance. The true inspiration was a common democratic ethos. From its very beginning, the Atlantic Alliance was not only about protecting territory. It was also about preserving our democratic values.

NATO was a new type of partnership: unlike the shifting alliances of convenience, which had brought so much tragedy upon Europe, NATO was permanent. It was democratic. And it was transatlantic.

In short, NATO was unlike any other alliance in the past. And this explains why the end of the Cold War did not mean the end of NATO. It only meant the end of the first chapter of NATO’s evolution. With the crumbling of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain, we were able to start writing the second chapter of NATO: the consolidation of Europe as an undivided, democratic security space.

This second chapter saw our transatlantic community reach out to the whole of Europe. It saw the creation of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the Partnership for Peace, and the Mediterranean Dialogue. It saw the evolution of a new relationship with Russia and Ukraine. And it saw the historic success of our Open Door policy – a success that manifested itself in the accession of many new members, including, of course, Bulgaria in 2004.

The post-Cold War chapter of NATO also saw the Alliance acting militarily – first as a peacekeeper in Bosnia, then as a peace enforcer in Kosovo. These challenging missions were not about immediate self-defence. They were about defending our core values – and about protecting a region at the very heart of Europe from sliding back into darkness and chaos.

The transatlantic community succeeded, because we combined power with purpose. And if this entire region is on its way back into the European mainstream today, it is because the transatlantic community was willing to take responsibility – and risks – at a crucial juncture in Europe’s history.

To come back to Elias Canetti’s observation, by the time the Cold War ended, the idea of a transatlantic community was certainly no longer “new”. But by applying it to all of Europe, and by creating new policies and new mechanisms to expand democracy, security and integration across the entire continent, the idea of a transatlantic community was renewed.

Today, the transatlantic community is once again faced with the challenge of transformation. We have to understand that security today is no longer just about security for Europe and in Europe. In the age of globalisation, our security is no longer determined by geography.

The terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 demonstrated that our security can be affected by developments halfway around the globe. Terrorism, failing states, and the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction have security implications that reach far beyond the region in which they originate. We either tackle these problems where they emerge, or they will end up at our doorstep.

Absorbing this lesson – and adapting NATO accordingly – is the greatest challenge for our Alliance since its creation over 60 years ago. But in Afghanistan today, NATO’s most demanding mission ever, we are demonstrating our strong determination to meet this challenge. If we were to allow this country to become again a safe haven for terrorists, instability would spread throughout Central Asia. And it would only be a matter of time until that instability would spread to the Black Sea region, too.

Like its NATO Allies, Bulgaria fully understands this. It also understands that we must do more in Afghanistan now in order to do less later. ISAF will continue to grow in strength this year. More and more nations are joining the mission – 46 countries are now participating. I want to use this opportunity to thank Bulgaria for its valuable contribution to our ISAF mission. Despite many challenges, Bulgaria has not lessened its efforts, and I welcome its intention to even increase its contribution in the coming months.

Together, we will protect the population and pull the rug from under the insurgency. We will then start to transfer additional security responsibilities to the Afghan forces themselves, district by district, province by province. And as the effectiveness and strength of the Afghan army and police grow, ISAF will reduce its own security operations, and focus more on support and training of the Afghans.

Afghanistan will remain our number one operational priority for a long time to come. But if we want NATO to remain as successful in the future as it was in the past, we also have to look beyond Afghanistan – and to aim for a thorough transformation of our Alliance, both in terms of its policies and its capabilities.

What does such a thorough transformation of NATO entail? Let me offer a few pointers.

First, we must re-juvenate NATO as a place for frank and forward-looking discussion on new security developments. Of course, NATO should be more than a mere talking shop. But it should also be more than a management tool to run operations. We should broaden and intensify our political debate. We need to constantly scan the strategic horizon in order to be better prepared for what the future may bring. And whenever any Ally feels threatened, we should make more active use of consultations under Article 4 of the NATO Treaty -- to consider if, and how, we should respond.

Second, we must continue to transform our military capabilities. This means investing in more deployable and usable forces; and reviewing the way we plan and fund our operations. But it also means thoroughly examining new ways of defending against new threats.

One key element of any effective defence is the defence against missiles. In the Cold War, many people thought of missile defence as destabilising. They argued that defences might upset the mutual deterrence relationship between the superpowers. Today, however, 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. And several countries are seeking nuclear weapons. This is a deadly combination.

Iran is a case in point. Statements from Iranian officials declare the range of their modified Shahab-3 missiles to be 2000 kilometres. That will already put Allied countries within reach: Turkey, Greece, Romania – and Bulgaria.

It is why I believe that the time has come for us to move ahead and make missile defence a genuine Alliance mission. This is my target for the next NATO Summit in Lisbon in November.

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 also be able to 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 it can be even more – it can be a catalyst for a new dynamic in European and Euro-Atlantic security. How? By cooperating with Russia.

I am aware that Russia’s current views on missile defence range from hostile to ambivalent. And I am also aware that there are technical hurdles that would have to be overcome in linking up our systems.

But I do not believe these obstacles are insurmountable. Once Russia starts to feel the effects of proliferation on her, I am sure she will begin to see missile defence as an opportunity rather than a threat. And what may look like a daring proposal today may soon turn into a mainstream view: One security roof, that we build together, that we support together, and that protects us all – by linking up our systems.

My third point: we must develop closer relations with civilian actors. Today’s security challenges cannot be met with military means alone. Afghanistan shows this very clearly. Military force can buy time – time to launch political reconciliation, to re-build infrastructure, and jump-start the economy. These tasks, however, are the responsibility of civilian actors.

That is why we need a coordinated approach – a true Comprehensive Approach – that links NATO with the other international civilian actors, notably the UN, the EU, and the NGO community. Bringing such diverse actors together is difficult. But it is the key to security in this century.

Fourth, we must expand our partnerships to enhance our ability to deal with global challenges. Whether Australia or New Zealand, whether Japan or the Republic of Korea, we need to cooperate with partners from across the globe. The logic of globalisation demands nothing less. Indeed, I predict that in just a few years’ time, it will become completely natural for us to discuss global security issues with China, India, and other major powers.

Fifth, we need a unified NATO approach to deal with new, non-traditional security challenges. One of these challenges is cyber defence. Our Ally Estonia suffered a massive cyber attack a few years ago, and our NATO Headquarters is attacked about 100 times each day. Clearly, cyber attacks have become a new form of permanent, low-level warfare, and we must be prepared to counter this threat. Effective cyber defence requires the means to prevent, detect, respond to, and recover from attacks. We have started to address all of these dimensions. But we but we need to do even better. Because the next major attack on our Alliance may well come down a fibre optic cable.

Another, non-traditional security challenge is energy security. And I know that is a particular concern here in Bulgaria. Your country has experienced the impact of an energy cut-off several times. You know that it can severely disrupt a country’s economic and social fabric. Clearly, this is not just a political and economic challenge, it is also a security challenge – and this makes energy security a legitimate subject for NATO.

Of course, energy security is a complex issue that involves producers, consumers, and transit countries. That’s why a “one-size-fits-all” approach will not work. But we need to develop a better understanding of the security dimension. We must intensify our relations with energy-producing countries. And we must also develop our means to protect critical energy infrastructure, and to mitigate the effects of accidents.

At NATO Headquarters in Brussels, we have just set up a new Division on Emerging Security Challenges that will become operational in August. It will deal with – amongst other things - terrorism, proliferation, cyber defence, and energy security. And it will support a much more focussed, regular and open debate among the Allies on these vital issues.

And then my last point in this list of transformational issues: we must continue our European consolidation agenda. This task is not yet complete. It will only be complete once all countries in Europe are where they want to be, and once Russia, our largest neighbour, has also found her rightful place in our continent’s new architecture. NATO’s Open Door policy will remain part and parcel of this agenda, as will be our policy of constructively engaging Russia.

Taken together, all this makes for a most demanding transformation agenda. That is why the work on our new Strategic Concept for NATO has attracted so much interest. A new document will facilitate this transformation – by defining the Alliance’s core tasks and strategies.

Just a few days ago, Madeleine Albright and her Group of Experts published their analyses and recommendations on NATO’s future. It is a solid piece of work, and it will help me to prepare my own first draft of the new Strategic Concept. The process is well on track, and I am more optimistic than ever that our Lisbon Summit in November will produce a truly innovative document.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The idea of transatlantic security community is now over six decades old. And yet it remains a tremendously attractive notion. We may talk a lot today about rising powers, about the emergence of new economic centres of gravity. All true. But the partnership between North America and Europe will remain unique.

North America and Europe will remain the world's strongest community of like-minded nations: democratic, outward-looking, and with a sense of global responsibility. No other community of nations can generate such a powerful positive momentum. And no other community is as attractive to others who want to help shoulder the burden of common security.

NATO remains the institutional foundation for this community. By continuing NATO’s transformation, we will ensure that our Alliance remains fit for purpose, and that we can look to the future with confidence.

Thank you.