Keynote speech

by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Prague

  • 12 Nov. 2012
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  • Mis à jour le: 12 Nov. 2012 12:22

Monday 30th May 2011. The Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen delivered a speech in the plenary session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Varna.

Mr. Presidents, Excellencies, Ministers, Distinguished Members of Parliament, Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, let me thank you Karl Lamers, for your kind introduction. You continue to be a highly active, extremely committed and tireless President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. I have really enjoyed working with you and I thank you for your strong commitment to the transatlantic link.  

Let me thank the NATO Parliamentary Assembly as a whole for inviting me to speak this morning. And let me also thank President Stech, Speaker Nemcova and Prime Minister Necas for their gracious hospitality in this extraordinary city.

It is always a great pleasure to be in Prague. I still remember coming here ten years ago for NATO’s Prague Summit. I was Danish Prime Minister at the time. It was the first NATO Summit to be held behind what had formerly been an Iron Curtain. It was the first Summit of this 21st century. The first Summit after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

Mais c’est aussi ici, à notre sommet de Prague, que nous avons invité sept pays à entamer des pourparlers d’adhésion avec notre Alliance. C’est le plus grand groupe de pays à avoir franchi d’un coup la porte de l’OTAN. Chacun de ces pays est aujourd’hui un Allié sur lequel on peut compter. Cela prouve que la politique de la porte ouverte de l’OTAN a favorisé une Europe unie, libre et en paix. Et le processus se poursuit. La porte de l’OTAN reste ouverte.

Ce sommet a donc été, à bien des égards, un événement d’une portée historique. Et il est devenu synonyme de la transformation de l’OTAN. Le slogan du sommet de Prague n’était-il pas « de nouveaux membres, de nouvelles capacités, et de nouveaux partenariats » ?

Ces dix dernières années, notre Alliance a continué à se réformer et à s’adapter. Nous avons préservé, et renforcé, notre capacité de sauvegarder la sécurité. De jouer un rôle influent dans les développements internationaux. Et de façonner un monde meilleur.

Ce ne sont pas des objectifs abstraits. Il y a deux ans, à Lisbonne, nous avons adopté notre nouveau concept stratégique. Celui-ci présente la défense collective, la gestion de crise et la sécurité coopérative comme les trois tâches fondamentales de l’OTAN. Plus tôt cette année, à Chicago, nous avons pris de nouvelles décisions, qui nous permettront de mener à bien ces tâches. Elles sont le résultat d’une forte volonté politique. Nous devons à présent investir dans les ressources nécessaires pour les concrétiser.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is what I wish to discuss with you today.

Defence spending is declining across the Alliance. We need an economic recovery. And based on that, we need a defence recovery. We need to stop the decline. And then we need to reverse it.

I believe that is possible. But it is going to require commitment, and active support. From NATO’s leaders, and from you, NATO’s parliamentarians.

I am a politician like you. So I understand the political reality. When people are asked where governments should cut spending, defence is often the first area they mention.

But as politicians, we all need to explain that there is also the security reality. Freedom does not come for free. And any decisions taken to improve our economy must not lead us into a different sort of crisis – a security crisis.

To protect our people effectively, governments must continue to invest in real security. We need to have the right forces and capabilities to deter and defend against any threat to keep our nations safe.

And let us be under no illusion, our safety and security will be challenged.

Crises will remain unpredictable, just as Libya was last year. Failed states will continue to host terrorist organisations that threaten us.

Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the missile systems to deliver them, is unlikely to stop overnight.

And our sea lanes and other vital transport and communication systems will still need to be protected.

All these complex challenges will not disappear while we focus on the economic crisis. They will not wait for our economies to recover. In fact, they may become even harder to tackle if we look away. So we need to continue to keep our defences strong.

It’s a fact that the economic crisis has hit our defence spending hard. Compared to 2009, total Allied defence expenditure last year declined by over 56 billion US dollars in real terms. In Europe, six Allies actually increased defence spending last year compared with 2009. But it was not by a large amount. And it was outweighed by the deep cuts made by the other nineteen Allies.

Among the European Allies, only two devoted more than 2% of their Gross Domestic Product to defence last year. Four devoted less than 1%. The United States, too, has just started to reduce its defence spending. And more cuts are in the pipeline.

This is worrying. And the statistics reveal another worrying trend. Since 1991, the non-US share of NATO’s defence spending has fallen from 35% to 23% today. This growing transatlantic gap is unsustainable. It undermines the Alliance principle of solidarity.

NATO is about sharing. Allies share the risks and the responsibilities, just as they share the security benefits. And if we look at what’s happening in the world around us, the clear message to Europe is this: we need to take on greater responsibility for our security, not less.

We also need to look at these figures in the context of what is happening around us. While we are cutting, others around the world are spending and investing.

By some estimates, defence spending in Asia has doubled this past decade and this year it will overtake defence spending in NATO’s European Allies for the first time.

By 2015, China will outspend the eight major NATO European Allies combined. And Russia intends to double its defence budget from 3% to 6% of Gross Domestic Product within the next 10 years.

So unless we act, and act now, I can see us facing three serious gaps:

First, the deep cuts in some European defence budgets will create a gap within Europe itself. Many Allies here will find it increasingly difficult to acquire the necessary defence capabilities. This will lead to an inability to act collectively in international crisis management.

Second, the growing gap in transatlantic defence spending risks weakening United States support for the Alliance. There is already a worrying perception on the other side of the Atlantic that Europeans are free-loaders. Whenever I meet lawmakers on the Hill, I get asked, “why should we commit and engage in NATO if the Europeans are not prepared to?” This is a fair point, and it requires the right response.

And third, the rise of emerging powers will create a gap between their ability to act, and ours. Now, do not get me wrong. I am not implying their rise will pose a direct threat to the Alliance. But if we continue on our current path and further diminish defence spending, we will see our influence diminish on the international stage just as fast.

This may sound like “doom and gloom”. That is not my intention. Because I believe there is a way forward. For now, we need to hold the line on defence spending. And as our economies improve, we need to consider increasing our investment in defence again. And throughout, we need to make the most of the taxpayers’ money that we do have.

We have already decided how to do just that. We have our roadmap. At our Summit in Chicago in May, we set ourselves the goal of “NATO Forces 2020” – forces that are more capable, more compatible, and more complementary. And we can get there through Smart Defence and the Connected Forces Initiative – if we back them up with the necessary political willpower.

Let me say a few words about each of these initiatives.

Smart Defence is a new guiding principle for capability development. By joining together to acquire capabilities, nations will be able to afford what they cannot do alone. It is about greater resource efficiency and doing better with what we have. This is not an excuse to do less with less. The key to Smart Defence is greater prioritisation, specialisation and, most importantly, multinational cooperation.

Since Chicago, we have already made encouraging progress. For example, we are buying drones that will give us a NATO-owned and operated intelligence and surveillance system. Our missile defence system to protect our populations and territories is now operational. And here in Prague, we have the example of the Multinational Logistics Coordination Centre which enables Allies to work together more effectively. Many more projects are coming through the pipeline.

We need to maintain the momentum. We must continue to push ahead with those projects we have agreed. And we must push forward with the other projects that we have identified as being suitable for multinational approaches.

The Connected Forces Initiative is focussed on our operational effectiveness. Every day, NATO forces are working shoulder-to-shoulder from Afghanistan to Kosovo and off the coast of Somalia. They have also developed the habit of working with partners from outside the Alliance. This is a vital skill, and it’s one we need to retain after we complete our ISAF mission in Afghanistan. Here again, multinational approaches can help.

There is considerable scope for making our training and education more multinational. For boosting multinational contributions to our exercise programme, especially where the NATO Response Force is concerned.

In sum, multinational solutions will be vital for sustaining our effectiveness as an Alliance. They will allow us to get more bang for the buck – or euro; and more security for our limited resources. They will lead to savings that can be reinvested in other vital defence areas. They will ensure we focus on priorities, and on developing capabilities that can operate together. And they will help defence industry by offering multinational contracts, and jobs, where otherwise there would be none.

Quite simply, in today’s security and economic climate, multinational solutions are essential if we are to maintain our edge.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Our Alliance has stood the test of time. Both in good times, and bad. Despite the current economic difficulties, it continues to provide the framework that enables Allies to achieve greater security together than they could ever achieve on their own. That’s why we need to keep our Alliance strong.

As Secretary General, I will continue to play my part. I will look for new solutions and multinational approaches. For more possibilities to connect our forces together, both within Europe, across the Atlantic, and with our partners. For ways to engage directly with industry. And to make better use of common funding. So that we keep both our capabilities and our partnerships strong in the 21st century.

But the Alliance also needs you to do more. As members of your national parliaments, you have considerable responsibilities. You have to make the difficult choices about protecting our security, our prosperity, and the sovereignty of our nations.

You also have considerable responsibilities as members of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. NATO needs you to continue explaining to your colleagues in parliament, and to your voters at home, why investment in defence and security remains essential to protecting the values that underpin our way of life..

NATO needs you – the decision-makers -- to look for the multinational solutions so that Smart Defence and the Connected Forces Initiative are fully implemented to help us through these difficult economic times. And, most importantly, NATO needs you to help hold the line on defence spending, to avoid the risks that would be created through further cuts. We need you to increase defence spending as soon as the economic situation allows.

What I have laid out for you today is how you can meet your national and NATO responsibilities. Your choices will determine whether NATO will be as successful in the future as it was in the past. And whether we can protect our values and our security in the future as effectively as we have done in the past. I count on you to make the right choices for our future.

Thank you.