Updated: 06-Dec-2000 NATO Review

Web edition
Vol. 47 - No. 3
Autumn 1999
p. 3

An Alliance fit for the 21st century

Letter from the Secretary General

Javier Solana waves goodbye to the citizens of Prizren after a one-day visit to Kosovo on 6 September 1999.
(Belga photo 32 Kb)

This will be my last letter to the readers of the NATO Review. After four years as Secretary General of NATO, I will be leaving to become the Secretary General of the Council and High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union. Given the growing importance of creating a European Security and Defence Identity in NATO, I consider my new job as a logical continuity of the old. By working towards a Europe that acts more coherently on security matters, I will in many ways be working on a more mature transatlantic relationship as well.

This transatlantic relationship will remain at the heart of NATO and of Euro-Atlantic security. Indeed, in these four years that I had the pleasure to be Secretary General of this Alliance, the dynamism of our transatlantic community has, if anything, increased even further. It has enabled NATO to accelerate the adaptation it embarked upon after the Cold War had ended. In these four years, we have changed the face of NATO and of Europe:

  • We have invited three new members while keeping the door open for future accessions;
  • We have established bilateral relationships with Russia and Ukraine, to draw these important nations into the emerging security architecture;
  • We have created the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), allowing our Partners to participate fully in the building of our future security and intensifying political consultations with them;
  • We have continuously enhanced the Partnership for Peace to make it even more operational;
  • We have created a new command structure, with the full participation of Spain, to enhance our crisis management capabilities, strengthen the role of the European Allies and thus set the stage for a more mature transatlantic link;
  • We have adopted a new Strategic Concept that strikes a new balance between NATO's traditional task of collective defence and its new missions in crisis management;
  • And, perhaps most importantly, we have engaged ourselves in the challenging task of bringing lasting peace and stability to the Balkans, first in Bosnia, and now in Kosovo.

Today, at its 50th anniversary, we can proudly say that NATO is well prepared for the 21st century.

It is impossible to sum up all the many fascinating developments I have been privileged to be a part of, but perhaps the central lessons I may draw are these:

First, security in the 21st century is what we make of it. The future can be shaped if there is a common vision, the means, and the solidarity to implement it.

Second, security policy, like any policy, must be value-based. A policy that does not reflect humanitarian concerns and protects the rights of the individual misses the mark. In Kosovo, where our values were being threatened, we decided to act - and we prevailed.

Third, an Atlantic approach to security remains our best hope to shape the future. Kosovo has demonstrated this fact with utmost clarity. Together, Europe and North America can overcome any challenge.

And yet one final observation may be in order here: NATO's dynamism is not generated by abstract political processes or military structures. It is generated by the people who work in it. Thus, my final thanks go to the people at NATO Headquarters, SHAPE and SACLANT, and to those in Allied and Partner nations. My very special thanks go to our men and women in Bosnia and Kosovo. They are building a better future for us and for the generations that will follow.

Javier Solana