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Prague predictions

Vaclav Havel describes his aspirations for the forthcoming Prague Summit, the first NATO summit to take place behind the former Iron Curtain.

The admission of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to NATO and the opening of this possibility to other countries has been the greatest and most visible demonstration of the transformation of the Alliance since the end of the Cold War. Three years on, as Alliance members prepare for the forthcoming Prague Summit, NATO enlargement will again be on the agenda, as will the future of the Alliance.

Within a relatively short period of time, two historical milestones have completely and definitively changed the perception of NATO's mission both inside and outside the Alliance. These are NATO's intervention in Kosovo in 1999 and the terrorist attacks of 11 September against the United States, which led, among other things, to the invocation of Article 5 of the Washington Treaty on collective defence for the first time in the Alliance's history.

These two events — symptoms of historical processes that were set in motion by the end of the Cold War and the drift of our civilisation that we now call globalisation — have brought home the magnitude of the security challeges we face at the beginning of the 21st century. These new threats include local conflicts, that are difficult to predict and that have the potential to grow into large-scale confrontations; attacks with the most sophisticated weapons coming unexpectedly from various directions; and a wide range of dangers emanating from the grey area between organised crime, terrorism and civil war. The time is right, therefore, for the Alliance to undertake a fundamental review of its identity, its historical mission and the role it intends to play in the world.

Initiatives taken at the most recent NATO summits indicate that the Alliance has been aware of these new security threats for some time. Indeed, the Alliance demonstrated this awareness most visibly by inviting countries that used to be members of the Warsaw Pact and lived under Soviet domination before the fall of Communism to join at the 1997 Madrid Summit. This was the first tangible proof that the West was determined to break down the division of Europe. Moreover, this year's summit will, for the first time, take place behind the former Iron Curtain in a new member state.

I have long believed that the future of the world lies in the cooperation of clearly defined regional groupings based on shared values. On cultural and geographic grounds, therefore, I believe that Alliance membership should be offered to the three Baltic Republics, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia, as well as to other states, particularly those in Southeastern Europe. Although it will probably not be possible to admit all these countries at the same time, and some of them are not yet prepared for membership, the Alliance should declare at the Prague Summit which nations could potentially become members in the future.

Such a declaration is an essential prerequisite for establishing and advancing truly effective collaboration between the Alliance and other entities and regional groupings, such as with the Russian Federation whose present cooperation with NATO has the potential to develop into a long-term relationship to the benefit of both sides. The Prague Summit should therefore help to find a new form of partnership between NATO and Russia. It should also chart possible new avenues for the Alliance's cooperation with the countries of the Mediterranean region, with the former Soviet republics, especially those in Central Asia and the Caucasus, and with the countries of Southeastern Europe.

NATO's transformation and modernisation and the requirements resulting from its enlargement have involved, and will continue to involve, far-reaching changes in military doctrine, in the institutions and structures of the Alliance, in the character of its armed forces and their command and control systems, as well as a shift of emphasis toward different weapons systems. If the number of NATO members grows as substantially as I believe it will in the near future, it will also undoubtedly be necessary to give new consideration to the existing mechanisms of internal decision-making.

The Kosovo campaign inspired both the new Strategic Concept, the document which describes the Alliance's objectives and the political and military ways of achieving them, and the Defence Capabilities Initiative, the high-level programme to raise Alliance capabilities, that were approved at the Washington Summit in 1999. But the events of 11 September have put today's security environment into a yet sharper focus. For the Alliance to define clearly the role it wants to play in the global campaign against terrorism, the Prague Summit will have to involve a fundamental reexamination of the way in which NATO operates. Moreover, it will have to set in motion a still more radical transformation of the Alliance in order for NATO to reaffirm its position as a key pillar of international security and serve as a model of an organisation committed to the defence of human liberty.

While the terrorist attacks of 11 September marked a truly dark beginning to the third millennium, the Prague Summit has the potential to light the way forward. Only time will tell as to the exact significance of these tragic events and the message it contains for our civilisation. Already now, however, we should be able to draw certain conclusions concerning the present, for which Prague will hopefully provide an inspiring and auspicious setting. It would be truly wonderful if we all, both inside and outside the Alliance, lived to see the end of the era of the artificial division of the world. And it would be equally magnificent if, through its own positive example, the Alliance helped to shape a world with less suffering and fewer victims of violence.

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