by NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Halifax

  • 19 Nov. 2018 -
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  • Mis à jour le: 21 Nov. 2018 14:47

NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller delivering a keynote address to the 64th Annual Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Halifax, Canada.

Thank you Rasa. It is a real pleasure to be with you all today.

For more than sixty years, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly has provided an essential link between the NATO Headquarters in Brussels and the people our Alliance exists to protect.

The first duty of any government is the security of its citizens. As elected representatives, you play a central role in holding your governments to account. Holding their feet to the fire when it comes to the money they spend, and the actions they take. Actions which, when it comes to security, often centre on the NATO Alliance.

You also act as our promoters in chief, fostering public understanding and support for our Alliance. In the age of active disinformation campaigns, that particular role is more important than ever. So I want to first thank you all for taking on these immense responsibilities.

This month, in ceremonies around the world, we have been remembering The Fallen from the First World War, and all wars and conflict since then.

I myself was in Brussels to mark the Armistice, at a ceremony led by the King of Belgium to honour those who had made the ultimate sacrifice. Those men and women came not just from Europe, but from all over the world. Thousands of American and Canadian soldiers found their final resting place in Flanders Fields, a place immortalised by the Canadian poet, John McCrae. And we honoured them.

What touched me most about the ceremony that I attended was the children involved. Children of all ages from Scouts and Guides and Cadet groups. Some spoke beautifully about remembrance. It is heartening to see how the young are learning to remember, 100 years on.

Sadly, the Great War was not "the war to end all wars." Little more than two decades later, the lure of nationalism and hatred led us to another devastating global conflict, in which millions more lost their lives.

In the years after World War Two, our leaders sought a new way, a better way of conducting international relations. They came together to re-shape our world with multilateral institutions, such as the United Nations and also NATO. Institutions that unified our nations in the pursuit of peace.

Human nature may mean there will always be disagreement, but that doesn’t mean we must accept war as inevitable.

Unity among Allies has underpinned our security since NATO’s beginning. For nearly seven decades, the United States, Canada and Europe have depended on each other. A stronger, safer, more prosperous Europe means a stronger, safer, more prosperous North America.

Of course, in some ways, the bonds that unite us are under strain. There are significant differences of opinion over issues of trade, climate change and the Iran Nuclear deal. These disagreements will not vanish overnight, and there may well be others to come.

But differences of view are normal among friends and Allies. And we have had our share in NATO. The Suez Crisis in the 1950s put a great strain on the Alliance. France actually left the command structure in the 1960s, forcing NATO to move its headquarters from Paris to Brussels. And more recently, there was the Iraq War. But despite all of this, when it came to the crunch, when it came to our commitment to stand together and protect each other, we remained united.

It is clearly in our interest for Europe and North America to stand together. That is why young Canadian and American soldiers fought on the Western Front in World War One, and why so many of their sons fought their way across the beaches of Normandy. And it is why hundreds of thousands of European troops fought side-by-side with their North American brothers and sisters in Afghanistan following the attacks on 9/11.

We saw this unity of action once more last month in the biggest NATO exercise since the end of the Cold War. Trident Juncture brought together 50,000 troops from all 29 Allies – plus Finland and Sweden – to Norway. Nearly half of them came from across the Atlantic. As I saw for myself, it was a huge logistical undertaking and a real test of our military mobility and interoperability. A test that we passed.

Let me give you one example. German tanks arrived in Norway on a Danish vessel, were checked by Norwegian specialists, fueled by a Belgian fuel truck, and loaded on Dutch and Polish transporters by road and rail, to their final destination. All of which was supervised by an American movement control team and organized by Bulgarian logisticians. Now THAT’S NATO in action!

When I was there, I spoke to a French CBRN team. They told me about the level of resilience we would need if we were to come into contact with chemical, biological or radiological weapons. Now that we have seen chemical weapons being used in Syria and even in the UK, it was good to know that NATO teams are practicing our abilities on the ground.

I also spoke with another group, part of a refueling team. This is the sort of thing where the rubber really hits the road when it comes to interoperability. They were telling me about the different sized hoses they need for different vehicles, and the challenge of having to deal with both the metric system and, because of one Ally that shall remain nameless, the imperial system!

So I want to pay tribute to all the capable men and women who worked so hard to move all the forces and equipment in and around Norway for Trident Juncture, and who made the exercise such a success.

Trident Juncture demonstrated the increasing capabilities of our armed forces. Defence budgets across the Alliance have risen every year for the last four years. Together, European nations and Canada have been responsible for an additional $87 billion of defence spending since 2014.

I am very much heartened by renewed efforts to strengthen European defence. If adequately implemented, they can benefit Europe as well as NATO. They can mean greater European defence spending, and stronger European capabilities. And they can contribute to better transatlantic burden sharing. A stronger Europe means a stronger NATO. But it is important that all of this remains within the framework of the transatlantic Alliance.

Our exercise Trident Juncture also sent a very clear message to any who may think to challenge the Alliance: that NATO stands ready to defend all Allies against any threat.

This is an important message as we deal with a more challenging and complex security environment. International terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and of course, an increasingly aggressive Russia.

Russia has illegally annexed Crimea; it continues to actively destabilize Eastern Ukraine, where more than 10,000 people have lost their lives since 2014; Russia has used a military-grade nerve agent on the streets of the United Kingdom; they initiate a constant barrage of cyber-attacks; and they interfere in our elections and domestic affairs.

In addition, they have also undergone a vast expansion and modernization of their military. One particularly worrying aspect of this re-armament is their development of a new intermediate-range missile, the SSC-8, capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to the heart of Europe in minutes.

This directly undermines one of the most important arms control treaties of the Cold War, the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or the INF Treaty. When it was signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, it not only reduced the number of nuclear missiles held by both Super Powers, it eliminated an entire category of weapons. The INF Treaty made Europe, and the world, a much safer place.

Allies first raised concerns that Russia might be in violation of the INF treaty under President Obama. At the time, Russia categorically denied developing a new missile. Now they have finally admitted that it does exist. And this new weapons system has placed the INF Treaty at serious risk. If a treaty is only respected by one party, it cannot effectively keep us safe.

As this issue is debated, remember one thing. There are no new US missiles in Europe. But there are new Russian missiles in Europe. Missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

NATO has repeatedly urged Russia to address our concerns and to ensure it is in full compliance with the INF Treaty. Nobody in this room wants a new arms race or a new Cold War. Now is the time for dialogue, but it is also time for action by Russia to allay our very serious concerns.

It is vital that when NATO talks, we do so with one voice and from a position of strength. Our NATO Summit in July was a strong affirmation of an Alliance that delivers. In achieving fairer burden sharing. Stepping up in the fight against terrorism. Strengthening our deterrence and defence. Reaching out to partner countries and organisations. And keeping our door open for new members.

But the work continues. At our meeting of Foreign Ministers in December, we will discuss a wide range of important subjects. We will discuss transatlantic security, including burden sharing, and the challenge posed by Russia, including the threat to the INF Treaty.

We will meet with our partners in the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan. And we will also discuss the strategic threat coming from instability in North Africa and the Middle East. We will discuss NATO’s new Canadian-led training mission in Iraq, and the implications to our mission of the recent elections there. And we will discuss what NATO can do to strengthen the Libyan state.

Another focus of the Ministerial will be the Western Balkans. A lot is happening in the Western Balkans at the moment. Progress on the name agreement between Skopje and Athens opens the way towards NATO membership. But there are continuing tensions elsewhere in the region and we see increasing levels of Russian interference.

We have had relative stability and calm in the Western Balkans for almost twenty years now. It is very important to NATO, and for European security, that that continues.

Ladies and gentlemen, next year we will celebrate the seventieth anniversary of the signing in 1949 of the Washington Treaty, NATO’s founding document. We will also mark the enlargement of our Alliance by over a dozen countries of Central Europe in 1999, 2004 and 2009.

These anniversaries will be an opportunity to cement in the eyes of our publics the urgent need for the NATO Alliance, not as a Cold War relic, but as an anchor of stability, and an essential tool for our nations’ security today.

In this we will need your full support. Your support for NATO within your Parliaments, within budget discussions, and with your publics will make all the difference. There is nothing stronger than this Alliance when it is united, and when our publics are behind it. In that, your support is essential.

Thank you and I am now happy to answer your questions.