''Success generates success: the next steps with Russia''

Speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the Aspen Institute in Rome

  • 17 Sep. 2010 -
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  • Last updated: 17 Sep. 2010 12:55

''Success generates success: the next steps with Russia'' Speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the Aspen Institute in Rome.

Dear Secretary General of the UniCredit Group,
Dear Directors,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thanks to you Ambassador Stefanini for your kind introduction and also thanks to the Aspen Institute, the Istituto Affari Internazionali and the UniCredit Group for hosting this event. An invitation to Rome is, of course, always welcome, and I am looking forward to my talks later today with Prime Minister Berlusconi and his Cabinet. But I’m also very pleased to have the opportunity to discuss with you today an issue of importance to us all: taking the next steps in European security.

I’ve chosen this topic because I vividly remember being in this city in 2002, in one of my first trips as Prime Minister of Denmark, to sign the Rome Declaration on NATO-Russia Relations, along with all the NATO Allies and President - at the time - Putin.

We came together, then, because we knew the world was changing fundamentally, and fast. The Cold War was over; nuclear arms reduction talks between Russia and the United States were going well; there was a great swell of optimism that we could finally build a Europe whole, free and at peace.

But we were also brought together by shared dangers. The terrorist attacks of 9/11, 2001, were very vivid in our minds. So were acts of terrorism taking place in Russia as well. Instability in many parts of the world threatened our security, including here in Europe. And we could foresee that proliferation of weapons of mass destruction would become a menace looming over us all.

The NATO-Russia Council was born that day out of a desire to build a lasting, inclusive peace in the Euro-Atlantic area, on the principles of democracy, cooperation, and the indivisibility of security of all states. To quote Prime Minister Berlusconi on that day, our aim with that agreement was to secure a more peaceful future for our children.

For his part, President Putin said, that signing the Agreement was only the beginning. If we were to build fundamentally different relations, there was plenty more to do. And of course, he was quite right.

The record of the past eight years shows how far we have come. We have had troops in the field together to help stabilise the Balkans.

Russia is supporting our operations in Afghanistan, and together we are fighting the flow of narcotics into our countries.

We cooperate to fight terrorism, including by exchanging threat assessments, and we are working on doing more, for example defending against road-side bombs.

NATO and Russia have ships sailing off the Horn of Africa, fighting piracy alongside each other.

We are working together on improving protection against missile attack for our troops in the field.

And we consult together, as equals, on a regular basis in Brussels.

It’s a lot. And it matters. This bridge across Europe, between NATO and Russia, makes Europe more stable and more secure. Yes, we disagree every once in a while, and fundamentally on some issues, such as over Georgia. But we have learned not to let that overshadow the importance and the potential of this relationship, to make us all safer.

To my mind, the time has come to look to the next steps. We now need more than a bridge. We need a safe and solid home, in which all European countries can feel welcome – and from which, together, we can make our neighbourhood safer as well.

There are three tracks, in particular, where I believe we should look to make progress within Europe – progress in each of which can stimulate progress in the others.

Let me start with missile defence. And I think we need to begin by clarifying the reality in which we are working.

First: there is a growing missile threat to Europe. All of Europe. That’s the consensus view of all 28 Allies, and I suspect other European countries share that view. More than 30 countries have or are developing missiles. And one of those is Iran, which already has missiles that can hit NATO territory and Russia too, which is expanding their range, and which is in violation of its international obligations with regards to its nuclear program as well.

The second fact is this: missile defence is coming to Europe. The United States new so-called Phased Adaptive Approach, based on proven technology, is on its way. Right now, it is founded on bilateral cooperation between the United States and some individual countries. The question is, should European missile defence be done in a NATO context – and, flowing from that, how can we cooperate with other European countries as well?

And my position is clear. I think we need missile defence for all European citizens. I believe we should do it through NATO, which – by the way - is the only way to get full coverage. I think we should agree that at the upcoming NATO Summit in Lisbon, in about nine weeks. And I am convinced that we must also invite Russia to cooperate, linking a system of ours with capabilities of theirs.

The reality is, this will go one of only two ways. If we build missile defences in Europe outside of a NATO framework, it will create new dividing lines, between who is in and who is out. Even between Allies. And unless we make a clear offer to Russia we would risk that Russia, rightly or wrongly, would be kept outside the tent, and, as a result, unsure of how this might affect her security.

The other way is to make missile defence a unifier, not a divider. Territorial missile defence can become a security roof under which all Allies find shelter, not just some. And I am convinced that this roof can be wide enough to include other European countries as well, including Russia.

Of course, the technical aspects need to be worked out, and there are very smart people whose job it is to do that. My job, and the job of my fellow politicians, is to map out the best way forward. To lay out the vision. And to have the political courage to move forward.

Missile defence is important for another reason as well. Progress in missile defence can create a better climate for progress in other areas critical to European security, including when it comes to conventional weapons.

And conventional arms control is the second track where we should make progress. One of the true unsung heroes of the post-Cold War period is something called the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. It set limits on how much of these things - tanks, armoured vehicles, and fighters’ airplanes, for example – how much of these things each country can hold. It puts limits on how much of them each country can move around, and to where they can move it. And it puts in place a robust system of inspections.

But I have to say: that treaty is now on life support. Russia has suspended its participation, for a variety of reasons which I won’t go into here. For now, all the NATO Allies are abiding by its provisions.

I also have to say that this situation cannot continue. It will become politically difficult – and then impossible – for Allies to continue to comply with the requirements of the Treaty if Russia doesn’t. And if we get to that situation, it will introduce real instability into Europe – something we do not need or want.

We have an opportunity, now, to fix this problem before it gets worse. The United States is leading an effort to re-energise the Treaty. All the Allies have now agreed a NATO framework of principles for a new negotiation with all the CFE countries, including of course Russia.

The principles are clear: reciprocal transparency regarding conventional forces – holdings, movements, basing, exercises, training etc.; reciprocal limitations, restraint and verification of these forces; and last, but not least, host nation consent for the stationing of foreign forces.

Based on this, there are now talks in the framework of the OSCE. And I strongly encourage all parties to agree to this framework. Our aim is to strengthen security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area.

And if we manage to create an inclusive missile defence system, it can reinforce a virtuous circle. If Russia and other countries feel like they are inside the tent with the rest of us, rather than outside the tent looking in, it will build trust. And trust builds trust. Progress builds progress. And progress on conventional arms control can create progress in other areas as well.

Which brings me to the third track where we must make progress, sooner or later: reducing the number of short-range nuclear weapons in Europe.

Forty years ago, almost all countries in the world subscribed to the vision of complete nuclear disarmament. They did so in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. So, I think most people share the goal laid out by President Obama of a world without nuclear weapons.

And we have made real progress over the past years in de-nuclearising the European continent. In fact NATO has cut the number of its short range nuclear weapons in Europe by over 90%.

However, we must realise that nuclear weapons exist. And some countries may still have the ambition to acquire a nuclear weapon capability.

And if we are to protect our populations effectively, we will still need a credible nuclear deterrence capacity as long as there are nuclear weapons in the world. So, as long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear Alliance – but of course, we want to maintain our conventional and nuclear weapons at the minimum possible level.

The problem is that there are literally thousands of these short-range nuclear weapons left over from the Cold War – most, in fact, in Russia. And this is the one category of weapons not covered by any arms control regime, and therefore with no transparency. And this makes Allies cautious. They would like to see arms control talks, at a certain stage, which include those weapons as well.

And here too, I think there is a virtuous circle to be had. Controls on conventional weapons make it easier to contemplate diminishing reliance on nukes. Trust builds trust.

There is more that can be done to build confidence between NATO nations and Russia. We could invite each other consistently to military exercises.

We could discuss our strategic and military doctrines in the developmental phase, not just after publication – which is just what NATO has done in developing our new Strategic Concept.

And we need to accelerate the work underway on assessing and agreeing the common threats we all face, which can help us move forward on missile defence.

But overall, when it comes to internal European security, I think we have before us three tracks, which, if we follow them, will lead to a different, better and safer Europe: where we don’t look over our shoulders for someone else’s tanks or fighters; where missile defences bind us together, and protect us too; and where steadily, the number of short-range nuclear weapons on the continent is going down. All of which will be based on trust. And which would build more trust as well.

Why am I so devoted to making progress inside Europe? The answer is simple: because the real threats we face come from outside. Terrorism; extremism; narcotics; proliferation of missiles and weapons of mass destruction, and piracy, to name a few.

It is time we stop spending our time and resources watching each other, and instead look together, outward, at how to reinforce our common security home.

Now, I can imagine a few of you thinking: nice image, but a little bit rosy. What about the areas where NATO countries and Russia disagree? For example, what about Georgia?

And I fully share those concerns. There will certainly be issues on which we simply can’t agree. The massive numbers of Russian forces in Georgia, against the will of the Government, is one of those. So is the recent Russian decision to move missiles into Georgia, which we believe to be a dangerous move that is clearly in violation of the ceasefire agreement between Presidents Medvedev and Sarkozy. The recognition by Russia of the so-called independence of the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is also unacceptable to NATO Allies. So as you can see, over Georgia – and by the way, also over the continued presence of Russian military assets in Moldova – we cannot see eye to eye.

But we cannot let this paralyze everything. It is counterproductive for everyone. We must and will continue to stand on the point of principle of host-nation consent – which, as I mentioned, is part of the CFE package. Here too, there is potential for positive reinforcement.

If conventional arms control in Europe is to move forward, it can only do so if host-nation consent is respected. That’s fundamental. And it applies to Georgia as much as to any other country. There is no way around it. Which is why I think that the shared desire to see progress on CFE can help energise efforts to unfreeze the deadlock over Georgia, in a way that fully respects host-nation consent and Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have the opportunity to move forward on three tracks in the coming months and years, to make our European home safer. No track will be without twists, turns or speed bumps. But progress will mean a more secure continent for our children, and that’s worth the effort. It would be the dividend of the NATO-Russia Founding Act, and the Rome declaration, signed here not so many years ago.

To close, I’m going now to break my first rule of giving speeches, which is: not to quote myself. But being back in Rome, the city where the NATO-Russia Council was established, I’ll make an exception. When signing the Rome declaration in 2002, I said: “success generates success”. It did. It is doing so. And it still can.

Thank you.