''NATO – Value for Security''

Speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Bratislava, Slovakia

  • 19 May. 2011
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  • Mis à jour le: 25 May. 2011 18:07

NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen during his speech entitled ''NATO – value for security'' to students in Bratislava

Minister Dzurinda,
Ambassador Kacer,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Mikulas, first of all thanks for the kind introduction.

It’s a privilege to speak here today. And I am aware that my remarks are being transmitted beyond this hall to audiences in the Czech Republic, in Hungary, in Poland, as well as to other venues here in Slovakia. So to all of you, good afternoon.

It has almost become a cliché to say that we live in times of change. But that does not mean the statement is any less true. And in times of change, it is important to have an anchor of certainty - something dependable; something reliable; something strong.

For over 60 years, NATO has been such an anchor. The Atlantic Alliance has allowed North America and Europe to deal successfully with the tremendous changes we have seen in our security environment.

For the first 40 years of its existence, NATO used defence, deterrence, and determination to prevent the Cold War from getting hot.

Thereafter, NATO played a major role in re-uniting Europe and making it whole, free and at peace.

Through its partnership policy, NATO provided invaluable assistance to many countries as they re-discovered their own independence and sovereignty. This included assistance to countries in this region.

And through its Open Door policy, NATO provided a home. NATO is where those countries feel secure. They know that they are surrounded by friends who would rush to defend their sovereignty if ever it were threatened.

NATO has played a key role in bringing peace to the Balkans following the implosion of the former Yugoslavia and the wars that ensued.

And since the start of this new century, NATO has continued to be the unique forum where Europe and North America develop new common approaches to new common challenges – such as terrorism, proliferation, and cyber warfare.

These achievements have not come for free. They have required hard work and commitment. And especially in these last few years, they have also been costly in terms of human life.

In these times of economic difficulty, many NATO countries are struggling to cope with a fundamental question: how to afford the level of security needed to defend our values, and to preserve peace, in the face of today’s security challenges?

I want to use my remarks today to provide an answer to that question. I would like to do that by making three points.

I shall look at how the global economy needs security to flourish.

I shall highlight how some new security threats can be cheap to create, yet can have significant economic impact.

And I shall then explain how we can afford the security we need to protect our prosperity by working together more closely within NATO.

Let me take those points in turn. First, the interdependency of economic well-being and security.

Many of you in the audience here are studying economics. I remember clearly my own days as an economics student. And one of the observations that struck me most was by the French economist and politician, Frederic Bastiat. In the early nineteenth century he stated that if ‘goods don’t cross borders, then armies will’.

That statement is as true today as it was then. Trade encourages the creation of wealth through economic growth – as opposed to conquest and conflict. And this becomes a virtuous cycle. Increased economic activity creates greater security. And this in turn leads to further prosperity.

But there has been a dramatic change in the economic and security dynamics within which we operate. Globalisation has fundamentally altered all of our lives.

The impact of the internet; increased global travel; and the free flow of people, money, goods, ideas, and information have all led to a remarkable degree of interdependence between our economies and our societies.

Globalisation has dramatically increased our prosperity. But at the same time, it has also dramatically increased our vulnerability.

Instability in one nation can create instability across a whole region. And any disruption to transport, communication and information systems comes at great cost to nations and the global economy.

In order to maintain the free movements on which our globalised economy depends, we need to invest wisely in our security.

And this leads me to my second point, which is the paradox of the new economics of security.

To provide adequate defence against the wide range of threats and challenges we face, we need to invest in the full range of capabilities. Many of these capabilities are complex, high-tech, and high-cost. Yet some of the threats we face can be developed at relatively low cost. And the damage they can inflict upon us is totally disproportionate.

Take for example the terrorist attacks on “9/11”. For the cost of training several pilots, terrorists were able to hi-jack four airliners and cause the tragic death of nearly 3000 innocent people. The United States’ Congressional Research Service estimated the cost to the global economy to be three hundred billion dollars worth of lower world growth in 2001 and 2002.

Or take the example of the cyber attack against Estonia in the spring 2007. A distributed denial of service attack brought one of the world’s most wired countries to its knees. Thankfully, the air traffic systems, hospitals and other critical systems that could have resulted in the loss of life, were not targeted. But the attack did disable the websites of the prime minister’s office, parliament, government ministries, political parties, newspapers and several banks.

With hijacked computers – bots - being available on the internet for less than four Euro cents each, the cost of creating botnet attacks is relatively cheap. Yet the cost of the attack to just one of the Estonian banks has been estimated at over ten million euros. And the effect on Estonia’ sense of security was also severe.

It is a similar picture with piracy. Using a relatively cheap speedboat, some AK-47s and rocket propelled grenades, pirates have been able to severely disrupt some of our major shipping lanes. They have taken people and cargoes hostage. Their actions have resulted in higher insurance premiums, in higher costs for hiring crews, and in higher costs for implementing security measures. The worldwide cost of piracy last year has been assessed to be a staggering eight point three billion dollars.

What lessons can we draw from all these facts? For me, the key lesson is that we need to continue to invest adequately in our defence capabilities. Because if we don’t, we will no longer be able to defend our common values. And we will no longer be able to provide the security and stability that is necessary for our economies to function and to flourish.

But how can we do this when all our countries are facing budgetary pressures? This is the third point I wish to make.

In seventeen Allied countries, including some here in this region, defence budgets are falling both in real terms and as a percent of gross domestic product.

If we acknowledge that there is no more money available – and there isn’t, at least for the foreseeable future – then we need to find new ways to build security that cost less money.

And I see three ways for doing this.

First, we must be bold. We must intervene early to prevent crises from developing and spiralling out of control. The old saying that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” remains valid.

Second, we must focus on supporting local capacities and local ownership. We are already following this logic with our training missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as with the support we are providing to the African Union. By training the local forces, we not only help the countries to help themselves, but we also help to reduce the security burden we have to bear.

And third, Smart Defence. Our Libya mission has reinforced the need for the Alliance to have available the full range of military capabilities, including those at the technological edge.

Certain aspects of this operation simply could not have been conducted without some of the highly advanced military capabilities of the United States: drones, surveillance equipment, and precision weapons.

Many nations are unable to provide individually some of this type of high-tech equipment. But we don’t actually need each and every Ally to have the full range of equipment. What we do need is to have the right equipment available within NATO. We need every Ally to play its part. And we need to bring it all together with strong integrated command and control capabilities. Smart Defence will help us to achieve this.

Smart Defence is about nations building greater security - not with more resources, but with more coordination and more coherence. This can encourage nations to change their approach from a purely national one to one that favours multinational solutions. And actually Slovakia has already set a very good example. By participating in the Multinational Logistics Coordination Center in Prague, you bring a valuable contribution to the development of multinational logistic capabilities for operations. I encourage you to continue on this path.

My priority is for NATO to help European nations to acquire and maintain together the capabilities and skills that they can’t afford to do alone. And I believe such multinational cooperation can yield its greatest benefits when done on a regional basis – where common geography and history can help different views to converge.

All this would help the Alliance to have the right capabilities. To keep up with the fast pace of technological change. And to share the burden of developing new capabilities for NATO.

With the collective security guarantee of the Alliance, and by using the opportunities offered by Smart Defence, NATO can help you to meet your security obligations and commitments at a price that tax payers can afford.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

For over 60 years, NATO has successfully defended our common values. It has protected our common interests. And it has provided the forum where we have developed common approaches to common challenges.

Today, we face a wide range of security challenges. But we also face a dilemma. We have to build adequate security at a time of economic difficulty.

I believe that by acting early; by helping local forces; and by pursuing Smart Defence, we can help to resolve that dilemma. And we can prevent the economic crisis from turning into a security crisis.

I am confident that with your help, and your support, we will be successful.

Thank you.