Vol. 47 - No. 1
Spring 1999
p. 3-6

The Washington Summit:
NATO steps boldly into the 21st century

Javier Solana

NATO Secretary General and Chairman of the North Atlantic Council

In April, Alliance Heads of State and Government will gather in Washington to commemorate a historic event: NATO's 50th anniversary. In the same room in which the North Atlantic treaty was signed, they will pay tribute to a most remarkable achievement: five decades of preserving peace and security in Europe. But the Summit is not only about celebrating past achievements, or renewing vows. It is also about preparing for the future. It is about ensuring that the Alliance is ready and equipped to face the security challenges of the next 50 years - many of which will be different in nature and origin than those of the past. The decisions of the Washington Summit will guide the evolution of the Alliance into the next century.

The new Euro-Atlantic Security Environment

NATO Secretary General Javier Solana
(NATO photo 21Kb)
The face of European security has changed immeasurably over the past ten years, and largely for the better. The ideological wall that divided Europe is gone for good and, for the most part, the countries of Central and Eastern Europe are seeing a remarkably peaceful transition to democracy, manifested by free elections and the rule of law.

Despite these very positive developments, however, the challenges to European security remain. We have also seen instances of minority and ethnic conflict, refugee flows, and systematic human rights violations. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery is also of growing concern.

Since 1991, NATO has been adapting to meet these new security challenges effectively by adjusting its internal structures and taking on new missions. At the same time, the Alliance has been establishing cooperative relations with countries across Europe to help shape the security environment and create a framework of stability across the continent. All these adaptations will be highlighted at the Summit.

The Washington Summit

The most prominent adaptation will be obvious in Washington simply by the increased number of national flags flying:19 instead of 16. By April, the Czech Republic, the Republic of Hungary and the Republic of Poland will formally be members of the Alliance. Through this round of enlargement we will demonstrate clearly that there are no more dividing lines in Europe.

Moreover, this round of enlargement is only part of an ongoing process. The door to NATO membership will remain open to countries ready and willing to contribute to allied security, taking into account political and security developments in the whole of Europe. We are now working on a "package" of measures designed to bring partner countries closer to the Alliance and to help those countries that aspire to future membership in meeting NATO standards. The Summit is the occasion when this "package" will be formally unveiled.

At the same time, we will continue to enhance our relations with non-member countries throughout the Euro-Atlantic region. We wish to expand the climate of trust and confidence throughout the region by using the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) to its fullest potential. This institution brings the representatives of 44 countries together around the NATO table on a regular basis. The EAPC is evolving into a significant consultative forum, which has proven its worth most recently in connection with the crisis in Kosovo and will take on an increasing role in future in such areas as disaster relief and civil emergency planning.

We will also develop specific measures to enhance the Partnership for Peace. Now entering its fifth year, PfP has proven a very successful means to help restructure armed forces and to help them find their appropriate place in modern democratic societies. PfP has also provided the means by which the 27 partners and the 16 allies have engaged in new patterns of practical, military-to-military cooperation. Without PfP, for example, it would have been impossible to put together the multinational peacekeeping force in Bosnia and Herzegovina in such a short time.

Involving partners more

The Foreign Ministers of the three nations about to join NATO, Janos Martonyi of Hungary, Jan Kavan of the Czech Republic and Bronislaw Geremek of Poland, meeting with US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright during the ministerial meetings in Brussels last December.
(NATO Photo 55Kb)

To enhance PfP even further, we are working with our partners on developing a political-military framework for NATO-led crisis response and peace support operations, which will give partners a greater say in planning and conducting such operations. Some of the ideas on the table include PfP training centres, multinational formations within PfP, and the use of simulation techniques to improve our capacity to work together. In short, NATO leaders and their counterparts in partner countries will use the Washington Summit to continue the substantial progress made towards a Europe where military forces cooperate with, rather than confront, each other.

We are also working hard to finalise the revision of the Strategic Concept, as mandated by NATO's Heads of State and Government at the last Summit meeting in Madrid in 1997. This revision will take account of the many changes that have taken place in Euro-Atlantic security since the current concept was endorsed at the 1991 Rome Summit.

A strong relationship with Russia

One very significant change in Euro-Atlantic security is the new, positive relationship that is being built between NATO and Russia. Our view is that Russia's constructive engagement is fundamental to the emerging new European security order and we are determined to pursue that engagement.

For more than a year now, we have had an extensive relationship of consultation and cooperation that would simply have been unimaginable during the Cold War. Built on the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act, the Permanent Joint Council is now a prominent forum in which Allies and Russia exchange views on current security issues such as Bosnia and Kosovo, bring experts together on a range of defence and military-related subjects, and look to deepening the areas of practical cooperation. The year ahead promises even greater consultation and cooperative activity.

The Kosovo crisis has proven the value of this new relationship. Since the crisis began, NATO and Russia have continued to consult each other in the Permanent Joint Council and are both working to help resolve this conflict peacefully.

Enhancing cooperation

We also look forward to expanding and deepening other elements of our cooperative security activities. The Work Programme developed under the auspices of the NATO-Ukraine Charter, for example, is contributing to peace and stability in Europe, and the Summit will recognise the value of the NATO-Ukraine relationship. We will also acknowledge the work of the Mediterranean Cooperation Group, which brings together NATO and six participating countries of the Mediterranean region in an evolving programme of contact, consultation and cooperation.

New command structure

NATO and partner troops take part in the Partnership for Peace exercise "Cooperative Best Effort" in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (a) Krivolak Training Area last September.
(NATO photo 66Kb)

  1. Turkey recognizes the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name.
The Washington Summit will also put the finishing touches on the range of internal adaptations the Alliance has made to meet the security challenges of today and tomorrow. We are implementing a reformed command structure which is streamlined and more flexible, and therefore better able to carry out peace support and crisis management missions. We are also preparing a defence-capabilities initiative to improve interoperability, mobility and sustainability among Alliance forces. Put simply, Alliance forces need to be on the same wavelength and be able to cover distances quickly, and then be supplied properly in the field. They must be able to communicate with each other, service to service, ally to ally, in a world where computer and information technologies are becoming part of a modern soldier's kit.

Meeting new challenges

The security environment in Europe is very different from what it was just a decade ago. There is no longer a requirement for heavy, static NATO forces and headquarters. Today, challenges can come from any direction, in a variety of forms, and can lie beyond Alliance borders. Peacekeeping in Bosnia, crisis management in Kosovo - these serve as vivid examples of the complexity and range of NATO's new missions.

In Bosnia, the NATO-led Stabilisation Force has helped consolidate peace by providing a secure environment in which the difficult, but essential, task of reconstruction and reconciliation can take place. Moreover, the Alliance has forged new relations with various international organisations and agencies working to re-build the country, thus putting into practice our concept of mutually reinforcing institutions as an important source of synergy in peacekeeping and peace-building.

In Kosovo, the impending humanitarian crisis and escalating violence has caused intense concern in the international community, which has sought to put diplomatic pressure on the parties to stop the fighting and find a political settlement. Diplomatic pressure has had, however, to be backed up by the threat of military force. The Alliance has taken the necessary decisions to provide for this possibility. At the same time, NATO has carried out detailed operational planning and preparation for implementing the international military aspects of a possible peace settlement. This shows that crisis management today requires a close coordination between political objectives and the means of arriving at and sustaining them. It also shows that we need to rise to the challenge posed by such rampant ethnic conflicts if we are truly to realise our goal of a Europe whole, free and at peace.

Ivanov & Solana
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov (left) talking to NATO Secretary General Javier Solana during the ministerial meeting of the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council on 9 December 1998.
(NATO photo 30Kb)

At the same time, we are addressing other new challenges. It is of growing importance to Alliance governments, for example, to address the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. The principal goal of the Alliance and its members is to prevent proliferation from occurring, or should it occur, to reverse it through diplomatic means. Still, we must be prepared for the fact that weapons of mass destruction pose a risk not only to our national territories but also to our troops involved in peacekeeping missions.

NATO is preparing proposals for the Washington Summit for an initiative to ensure that the Alliance has the political and military capabilities to address this challenge appropriately and effectively. In addition to sharing information on the WMD problem among allies, we could foresee coordinating Alliance support for non-proliferation efforts.

Even as NATO is adapting, so is Europe. The European Union has adopted a common currency and a Common Foreign and Security Policy. It is only natural that NATO reflects and helps support this evolution. That is why I foresee an Alliance with a stronger European identity - a goal which all allies support.

New arrangements are helping shape a stronger European Security and Defence Identity within the Alliance. The adjustments made to the command structure now allow for European-led NATO operations and the Combined Joint Task Force initiative, soon to be fully implemented, will allow European allies to use NATO assets without necessarily involving the North American allies directly.

By making sure that the development of a robust European Security and Defence Identity remains firmly within a transatlantic framework, NATO will be able to ensure the indispensable material support of North America to European operations. This in turn will contribute to a more mature transatlantic relationship, where roles and responsibilities are shared more equally. The key elements of this new relationship, too, will be in place by the Summit.

Achieving the Alliance's full potential

The Washington Summit will mark a historic stage in the evolution of the Atlantic Alliance. For the first 40 years, NATO was mainly preoccupied with collective defence against a unitary challenge. Over the last decade or so, the Alliance has been adapting to meet the rapid changes taking place in Euro-Atlantic security.

The Summit represents the culmination of that process and brings us closer than ever to achieving the full potential of the Washington Treaty as foreseen by its early fathers. In Washington, we will put the finishing touches to the new NATO: an Alliance committed and designed to enhancing stability and security for the entire Euro-Atlantic area through new mechanisms, new partnerships and new missions, well into the 21st century.

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