A Strong Transatlantic Bond for an Unpredictable World

Speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the Atlantic Council of the United States in Washington

  • 07 Jul. 2014 -
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  • Last updated: 08 Jul. 2014 18:19

Speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the Atlantic Council

Thank you Jim for that kind and very generous introduction. It's wonderful to see you again. And thank you for your remarkable service over the decades - as a Marine, as the supreme commander of NATO forces, and as the National Security Adviser. And I remember with great pleasure our cooperation during your term as National Security Advisor. You know NATO from the inside, you know what it takes to keep the Alliance united, and your commitment to the transatlantic relationship is firm and strong.

Also a very big thank you to Fred, Damon, and your dedicated team here at the Atlantic Council. I truly value your strong commitment and service to the transatlantic community and to NATO.

Fred, it's a great privilege and a pleasure to work with you. You've done an amazing job in making the Atlantic Council such an influential forum in international affairs in Washington and world-wide.

The Atlantic Council shapes and informs an important debate. On the challenges we face and the opportunities we must grasp in a world that is more competitive, dynamic and disorderly. Through your tireless work, you play a key role in keeping the bond between North America and Europe strong. Now and into the future.

We recently marked the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. A stark reminder of the horrors of war. But also of what is possible when our nations unite against tyranny.

Since then, the NATO Alliance has underpinned freedom, peace and prosperity across Europe and North America. Protecting our values. Individual liberty. Democracy. Human rights. And the rule of law.

Today, those values and our way of life are once more under threat.

We are surrounded by conflict, danger, disorder and autocratic regimes. An arc of instability from the Middle East to North Africa and the Sahel. Rising tensions and territorial disputes in Asia. And a revisionist Russia breaking international rules and undermining trust.

But Russia is not just trying to recreate a sphere of influence. It has dealt a dangerous blow to the international rules-based system we have built up over decades. And its illegal and illegitimate actions encourage other autocratic regimes to follow suit.

The best way to face such threats is clear. We must be confident in our values. Reinforce our readiness. And strengthen the transatlantic bond that remains the bedrock of our international order.

Since World War Two, the solution to every strategic challenge has been transatlantic. Be it the Cold War, the Balkans, Afghanistan, or the financial crisis.

America and Europe working together. Trading together. And, when necessary, fighting together. This is how we have protected our nations and promoted our values.

But even the most successful relationship needs work. We cannot take our transatlantic bond for granted. We must renew our commitment. And continue to invest time, energy, and resources, to keep it strong.

To meet the challenges we face, we need a truly integrated transatlantic community. And I believe there are three things we must do. Reinforce our economic ties. Deepen our personal and cultural links. And strengthen our security.

First, the economy.

Trade encourages the creation of wealth. It discourages conflict and conquest. It generates greater prosperity. And this in turn leads to greater security, as people do not want to put their prosperity at risk. So a healthy economy and sound security create a virtuous circle.

In today's interconnected world, the link between economics and security - and between peace and prosperity -- is stronger than ever. And it is particularly strong in the relationship between Europe and North America. Together, we represent the most powerful economic block the world has ever known. But with greater global competition, we need to work harder to ensure our prosperity for the future.

A Transatlantic Free Trade Area is a unique opportunity to reinforce our economic ties. And to lock in our prosperity.

The trade deals currently being negotiated between North America and Europe are the next step. And the right step. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership will eliminate tariffs, cut red tape and open up new markets. It is potentially the biggest trade and investment deal in history.

Well, as a former Prime Minister, I know just how difficult trade negotiations can be. But we must look beyond the technical details. To see the big gains within our reach. And to move forward. Because this is an opportunity we cannot miss. To promote growth. Create jobs. And improve our quality of life.

We also need a new focus on energy security. Much of Europe is now reliant on Russia's oil and gas. We have, so to speak, burned our way into a position of dependence. And as we see in Ukraine, Russia is quite capable of turning off the taps. Putting an end to that dependency is now of the utmost strategic importance.

European nations are already doing more to reduce this dependency. They are increasing their storage reserves. Engineering pipelines to redirect energy to where it is needed. And bringing in energy from other sources.

We must also find new ways to generate, extract and distribute energy. Be that oil and gas, or renewables. And we need to open our markets to each other. Because if you have to depend on anyone, it is better to depend on your friends.

And those friendships must be fostered.

So this is my second point. We have to deepen the personal and cultural ties that bind us so closely.

Thirty years ago, I came to the United States as a guest of the International Visitor Leadership Programme. I can tell you, a life changing experience. It helped me to know and appreciate this great country and its people. As many people as possible should have that same opportunity.

I want to further strengthen the personal bonds across the Atlantic. So, in preparation for our Summit in Wales in September, I asked young, emerging leaders from all nations of the Alliance how they think we should do it. And I would like to thank the Atlantic Council for facilitating this work. The results have been truly enlightening and valuable.

One of the main recommendations of the emerging leaders is to enhance mutual understanding between the nations of the Alliance through personal ties. And I think they are right. We need to increase our transatlantic student scholarships and exchange programmes. To increase our scientific and cultural cooperation. To appoint honorary ambassadors to spread the word about the value of the transatlantic bond and of NATO. And to form those lifelong relationships that have bound our people together for so long.

Now, my third point, underpinning everything we do, is we need to strengthen our security.

The English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, wrote of a world without rules. A world without security. He described this world as having no industry, no movement, no culture, no society. Of nothing but the continual fear of "violent death". Of a world where the life of man was "nasty, brutish, and short."

Security is necessary for us to live free from fear. But security takes work. And for 65 years, that work has been led by the countries of the NATO Alliance.

In today's dangerous world, NATO must be ready to respond to whatever threats we face. To act quickly whenever, wherever and however needed. This means Europe and North America consulting together. Acting together. And sharing the responsibility together.

I know very well that, from this side of the Atlantic, it can appear that European Allies expect the United States to defend them, but they are not prepared to defend themselves. But I have to say, this is simply not true.

Remember. During the Cold War, European soldiers were confined to barracks. Not so now. Europeans have placed themselves in the line of fire in the Balkans and over Libya. In Afghanistan, for every two American soldiers who have served, one European soldier has served with them. And many paid the ultimate sacrifice in our common cause.

Responding to Russia's aggression in our Eastern neighbourhood, all twenty-eight Allies have stepped up to the plate to reinforce our collective defence. From the Baltics to the Black Sea, we have more planes in the air, more ships at sea and more troops on the ground. The United States took the lead. And its continuing leadership remains crucial. But most of the planes are European, most of the ships are European, and many of the troops are European.

This is NATO solidarity in action. Truly, 'all for one, and one for all'.

But we must also plan for the future, and be ready to deal with any threats from wherever they come. So for our Wales Summit, we will ensure that NATO is always prepared, through our new Readiness Action Plan.

We are looking closely at how we deploy our forces for defence and deterrence. What combination of forces we need. Where they should be deployed. And their readiness.

We are also considering reinforcement measures, such as necessary infrastructure, the designation of bases and pre-positioning of equipment and supplies. We are reviewing our defence plans, threat assessments, intelligence-sharing arrangements and early-warning procedures.

We are also developing a new exercise schedule, adapted to the new security environment. And we want to further strengthen our NATO Response Force and Special Forces. So we can respond more quickly to any threat against any member of the Alliance, including when we have little warning.

But readiness requires resources.

So I welcome President Obama's proposed one billion dollar European Reassurance Initiative. It shows the United States' enduring commitment to the security of Europe. Now other Allies need to strengthen their commitment.

I am the first to say that some European nations can - and should - do more. NATO is an insurance policy. An insurance policy against instability. All members must pay their premiums. And that premium has just gone up.

At our Summit in Wales, I expect all Alliance leaders to commit to change course on defence spending. To reverse the decline. And to back up that commitment with concrete action.

Estonia, as an example, has shown that despite a severe economic crisis, it can be done. Estonia has joined the United States, Greece and the United Kingdom as Allies that invest at least 2% of the Gross Domestic Product in defence. And I welcome the commitments of Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Turkey to do the same.

And if all the European Allies spent 2% of their national income on defence this year, we would have another 90 billion dollars to spend. That is the equivalent of today's defence budgets of Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Norway combined.

Now, I am not naïve. I know we will not achieve this overnight. But at the summit in Wales, we need to turn a corner. To start to see defence spending in Europe rise in real terms for the first time since the end of the Cold War.

Of course, national budgets have been under incredible stress. But things are changing. Public finances are coming under control. And our economies are beginning to grow. I know very well that increasing defence spending is never easy. But in light of the threats we face, it has become a necessity.

But of course this is not just about what we spend. It is also about how we spend. We need to focus on what we really need to keep our nations safe in the 21st century. On capabilities and skills for the future. And we must do more together, as Allies and with partners.

In Afghanistan we forged the biggest coalition in recent history. 50 nations from many continents united in a single cause. And in all our operations, from the Balkans to Libya, partners have made invaluable contributions. So we must maintain our political and military cooperation with them to build stability in the world.

We must also do more to help those who require our assistance to reform and develop effective local forces. In Wales, we will launch a Defence Capacity Building initiative. This Defence Capacity Building initiative will allow us to help other nations build up effective defence structures and forces of their own. So that they are better able to take care of security in their own region. And so we can project stability without always deploying large numbers of our own troops.

So our Wales Summit will ensure that NATO stands ready, robust and resolute to face the future.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are fortunate to live in lands that are free. But freedom is not a natural state.

It has been fought for. Suffered for. Died for.

To safeguard the flame of freedom, we must stand ready to protect and promote our values, stay strong, confident and united, and strengthen our transatlantic community.

Thank you.

Damon Wilson (Executive Vice-President, Atlantic Council of the United States): (...) Let me turn to the audience in taking some comments and questions in our remaining time. Let me start here in the front. And then I'll pick up a few of them; maybe collect a couple if I may.
Please... please introduce yourself.

Q: Indeed... indeed... My name is Karim Wasfia (?). I'm the former conductor of the reconnaissance of the Orchestra. But also, I happen to be an independent adviser, culture. And I was in Iraq for nine years or so as a political adviser for the NM Fisewell (?).

My question concerning the current situation in the Middle East and focussing on Iraq if and only if there was an initiative of awakening similar to the situation back in 2006 in areas that are not necessarily under the control of the central government, central legitimate government in Bagdad. And if such groups or such initiative requires the assistance of NATO directly, would that be something that would be of even discussion or consideration?

Damon Wilson: Thank you, let me go ahead and pick up Ambassador Hunter right here as well.

Q: Thank you very much Secretary General. I'd like to start with economics and then move to security later on. But as you know, the relationship between NATO and the EU is imperfect. Is there any chance between now and Wales or afterwards to get... I'm going to use a strong phrase... the three recalcitrant countries, Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, to allow these two institutions to work together.

And also an idea that's been around a long time to have an extra half day after the NATO Summit to bring the European Union leaders in so that could start being some kind of active serious coordination between the two institutions for common purposes.

Damon Wilson: Terrific, maybe you'll take these two. And we'll pick up a few more.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen (NATO Secretary General): Yes! First, on Iraq, if I understood the question correctly, it was, in essence, could we imagine NATO assist Iraq upon request?

Q: Awakening, Minister, resonant to the tribal system, to the social, populist community fighting back against ISIS versus the government is not being able to be launching in and obviously Muslims that are (inaudible)...

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Got it.

Q: Same as 2006.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Yes, I don't see NATO engaged directly in Iraq. But as you know, the Iraqi government has requested assistance from individual NATO Allies, primarily from the United States. As regards NATO, we are focussed on providing effective defensive protection of our Allies, in this case, of course Turkey in particular.

It is very much focussed on the security situation in the region. And I visited Ankara recently. And we've discussed it in depth. We've also had consultation within NATO upon request from Turkey. That's how I see NATO’s role right now.

On NATO-EU, you're right, we have not reached the full potential of NATO-EU cooperation. But having said that, I would add that we have made a lot of progress during recent years. When it comes to operations we coordinate and cooperate seamlessly in theatres where the EU and NATO operate together. So from a practical point of view, it works quite efficiently.

When it comes to capability development, we have achieved a lot of progress. The European Defence Agency and Allied Command Transformation Norfolk work very closely together. And I think I could safely say that we avoid duplication and waste of resources through close coordination and I would say an efficient division of labour.

Finally, on political consultations, here I think we have the biggest problem. Because of these well-known topics and disputes it's sometimes difficult to organize joint NATO-EU meetings. There's one area we are allowed to discuss in formal meetings, namely Bosnia. Because the EU operates a so-called Berlin Plus Operation which means that the EU can use NATO assets to conduct their operations. So in such an operation, we are allowed to have formal NATO-EU meetings.

And while Bosnia, of course, is important, I could easily think of other issues that warrant close NATO-EU cooperation. But even in this area, we have seen progress recently. Actually, we have had two joint NATO-EU meetings on Ukraine. So it's an example that when the situation so warrants, it is possible to find a pragmatic way forward. So all in all, I wouldn't provide such a bleak picture as you did Ambassador. I see.... I see....so... yes, I see some light! I see some light! But there's still progress to be made. And of course, ultimately, we need to find a solution to the Cyprus conflict.

Damon Wilson: So let me move from a former NATO ambassador to a former NATO SACEUR with us today, Wes Clark please.

Q: Wes Clark here. Hum, so it looks to me like in Ukraine, they're fighting back, pretty effectively right now. But what is NATO able to do to help the other countries deal with the internal challenges that are present in the Baltics, and in countries like Bulgaria? Do we have a role in that? Or are we ceding that to the EU?

Damon Wilson: In terms of inside NATO countries themselves. Let me move to this young woman right here, please. Is there a mike on that side of the room? Oh it's in the back, sorry.

Q: Thank you, Leandra Bernstein with RIA Novosti. My question is you've created quite a narrative as far as Russia... giving an enemy image. And it's just questionable whether creating that image of Russia is intended to reinvigorate somehow the NATO Alliance which has seen a lot of... in certain analysts' views... defeats in the 21st century in particular and significant struggles economically and likewise. So is this creation of Russia as a bogeyman an attempt... a defensive attempt to try to pull the Alliance back together.

Damon Wilson: And let me go and pick Ambassador Cutelli (?) as well. Please.

Q: About (inaudible)... Secretary General, you mentioned the necessary conditions for the enlargement of the NATO, could you describe more specifically what the necessary conditions are? Are they measureable? And will enhanced cooperation cover those necessary conditions? And as a result will it pave the way towards a NATO membership for the aspiring countries? Thank you.

Damon Wilson: Terrific, we'll come back to you Mister Secretary General.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Yes, first to Wes Clark. What we are witnessing is maybe not entirely a new kind of warfare. But we call it hybrid warfare: a combination of traditional methods and more sophisticated covert military operations combined with sophisticated information and disinformation operations.
And you're right in pointing to the risk that such hybrid warfare could be used against some NATO Allies. For instance, in the Baltic States, taking into account the Russian doctrine that they preserve the rights to interfere or intervene to protect what they consider the interest of Russian speaking communities. And as we all know, in particular, in Estonia and Latvia, we have quite substantial Russian speaking minorities. Russia... Bulgaria is another case. But still, we know for historical reasons that there are special ties.

So it's a relevant. It's a highly relevant issue. We are dealing with that. We will address this particular issue as part of our Readiness Action Plan. Because it is also necessary to be ready to counter such hybrid warfare.

Having said that, and also in response to your questions, is this purely a NATO issue? No, it's not. It goes beyond traditional military means. As I mentioned it also includes propaganda information and disinformation operations. And that goes beyond traditional NATO operations. So I think it's an excellent example of an area where we need close cooperation and coordination with all organizations like the European Union. But I could also think of other organizations. But it is of utmost importance that we improve our ability to counter that kind of warfare.

Now, on Russia, there's no... First of all, there's no need to develop or create a specific picture of Russia to reinvigorate our Alliance. I think it's quite obvious to everybody why NATO is needed. We need a strong collective defence to protect our populations against any kind of threat. So I would argue that it's Russia herself that creates a very particular picture right now. Let me remind you that in November 2010 at the NATO-Russia Summit in Lisbon, we decided to develop a true Strategic Partnership between NATO and Russia. We have done a lot during the last more than 20 years to develop a constructive cooperation with Russia. Because we do believe that a positive engagement with Russia is the right way forward; just to discover that Russia sees it differently. And if you read the Russian military doctrine they point to NATO not as a partner; but as an adversary. So it's Russia that creates this particular picture.

Finally, on the Open Door Policy, well, let me put it this way. At the end of the day, it is a political decision, whether time is ripe to open for membership, we are in close dialogue with applicant countries. For some of them, we have developed what we call a Membership Action Plan.

And within that Membership Action Plan we define certain reforms, certain criteria... certain reforms to be carried out, certain criteria that must be fulfilled. And as regards Montenegro as an example, we have pointed to reforms of their security sector as a particular issue. And we will now focus and intensify our talks with Montenegro on that specific issue. So, the aspiring countries know very well what is needed to enter the door.

Damon Wilson: Mister Secretary General, if I may, we're coming to the end of an hour. But I'd like to ask you a question. I know that we've got a ton of questions remaining in the audience. But I'd ask you a question to help wrap up our conversation today. Even as we talk about looking forward this fall to the end of your tenure, when you stepped down, you have an enormous plate, an enormous agenda still on your plate.

But I want to ask you as you think back on your time as Secretary General, when you first came to the Atlantic Council in 2009, you said something that struck me as I was looking back in your original remarks, as a NATO SecGen: "I had to straddle the Atlantic with one foot in Europe and one foot in North America. And when Europe and North America come together, I'm comfortable. When they drift apart, I'm the one that feels the pain."

So if you think back...

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: (LAUGHTER)

Damon Wilson: If you think back of your tenure as NATO SecGen where have you felt the most pain? What has been the biggest challenge for you to manage as someone who represents both sides of the Atlantic at one time?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: But I haven't felt pain... I'm quite comfortable. Because we have... I would argue we have seen a closer Transatlantic relationship during my tenure as Secretary General.

You have, of course, seen our operation in Afghanistan. And as Jim Jones mentioned in his introduction tonight, we decided on a surge in late 2009. The American decision was followed by a European commitment and also the Europeans' surge in Libya in 2011 you saw the Europeans take the lead actually for the first time, in the history of our Alliance.

And I have experienced during my tenure as Secretary General that we have had more political consultations in the NATO Council than we had in the past, also following the new strategic concept in which we declared that any Ally can request consultations on any issue of interest. So we have had a lot of consultations also on issues where we didn't have any intention to intervene as a NATO Alliance. But we have seen the North Atlantic Council as a forum for a very intensive Transatlantic Dialogue. So both, when we are speaking about operations and when we're speaking about the Transatlantic Dialogue, I think we have seen a closer cooperation developed during those five years. And that's why I don't feel pain; but I'm quite comfortable.

Damon Wilson: Terrific, terrific. Well, I apologize for those of you... questions that I was not able to take. I do want to remind those of you that are watching online or through television, if you want to join the Secretary General in Wales and you're under 35, we're recruiting right now for our NATO future leaders to travel to the NATO Summit in September, please get your applications in at www.atlanticcouncil.org. Thank you, Mister Secretary General. Thank you to your team. It has been terrific to work with as well as the Atlantic Council team. It's a delight to have you here at the Atlantic Council on the eve of the summit. So please join me and congratulate the Secretary General. Thank you.