by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the NATO Defense College for the 60th anniversary meeting
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is always a pleasure to visit Rome. But a particular pleasure to visit on this special occasion -- the NATO Defense College’s 60th anniversary.
Since the day this College was founded, it has been NATO’s foremost academic center. For almost as long as NATO itself, the College has helped to shape generations of officers for the highest levels of service. And today, its reputation extends well beyond the Alliance.
A 60th anniversary is a good time to look back on past achievements. But it is also a good time to look ahead. I wish to do both in my brief remarks.
Since the end of the Cold War, the security picture has changed dramatically. And it is still changing. NATO has always responded to those changes. And so, too, has the Defense College. Let me give you just three examples.
First of all, over the past two decades, security has grown to mean much more than just military security. Increasingly, it took in many civil aspects too. And the Defense College reacted swiftly, by expanding its student base to include civilians alongside military personnel.
Today, many of the civilians who have passed through the halls of the College occupy senior positions across the Euro-Atlantic area. They are enriched by the strategic thinking they acquired here. And they understand the importance of close civil-military cooperation.
We see the enormous benefits of this joined-up approach in our capitals. And we see them even more clearly where it counts most -- on the ground. In all NATO-led missions and operations, civil-military cooperation has become increasingly important.
A second important feature of NATO over the past few decades has been its emphasis on cooperative security. Allies moved quickly to offer the hand of friendship, partnership and cooperation. Initially our focus was on Europe and Central Asia. But more recently we have reached out to countries in North Africa, the Middle East, and also the Gulf region.
We have offered a wide range of opportunities for political dialogue and practical cooperation. And the Defense College has played a vital role in cultivating this approach. By providing a common education to NATO and non-NATO participants, it has encouraged countries with different histories, different cultures and different perspectives to tackle common challenges together.
Finally, the rapid changes in our security environment require us not only to keep up. They also require us to look forward. To look into the future, to analyse implications for NATO, and to develop policy options for our Alliance. Here as well, the Defence College has built an outstanding reputation.
We saw this very clearly last year, when the College made a particularly welcome contribution to NATO’s new Strategic Concept.
We adopted our new strategy late last year in Lisbon. It is NATO’s action plan for the coming decade. And it also provides important guidance for the future development of the NATO Defense College.
And now, looking forward. I believe there are two issues that will come to the fore on NATO’s future agenda – and that of the Defense College: the further evolution of our partnerships; and helping the countries of North Africa and the broader Middle East as they manage change. Let me address each of them in turn.
First, the further evolution of partnership. In Berlin last month, the Alliance adopted a package of measures to modernize our partnerships, and to make them even more relevant. More relevant for all our partners -- old and new. And more relevant for all of us in NATO.
These measures will help us to engage our partners even more effectively in meeting the new security challenges – such as terrorism, proliferation, cyber and energy security. And they will help us to connect with new, global partners.
I am convinced that once again, the NATO Defense College can lead the way. As a link between the military and academic communities, the College is ideally placed to turn this policy into practice.
Second, North Africa and the broader Middle East. We have seen a wind of change sweeping through this entire region. And that wind is still blowing. The consequences for the countries, for the region, and for the Alliance could be far-reaching. And I firmly believe NATO can, and should, help to shape those consequences in cooperation with the countries of the region.
Many of our Allies have their own experience of the transition to democracy. We can, and we should, use that experience to help countries in the region with defence and security sector reforms – if they so wish.
I could even imagine a new generation of officers from a democratic, post–Qadhafi Libya, attending courses on civil–military cooperation at this very College. And I would hope to see that sooner rather than later.
We can also do more with our existing partners. The Mediterranean Dialogue between the Alliance and seven countries in North Africa and the Middle East promotes mutual understanding and practical cooperation. And we need to focus more on those areas where our partners need support and advice as they manage change.
We also need to think how to deepen our relationship with the members of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative. The Gulf region matters for global security. And it matters for NATO.
We share common challenges and common interests – for example in energy security and counter-piracy. And we need to find common ways to deal with them.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
For the past 60 years, the NATO Defense College has been at the heart of NATO’s successful efforts to safeguard our freedom and security, and to spread stability. The College has played a key part in sustaining the common values, common approaches, and common ideas that underpin everything we do – both as Allies, and with our partners.
To all of you who have been associated with the NATO Defense College, I want to say: thank you, congratulations – and happy anniversary !