Updated: 12-Mar-2001 NATO Speeches

1 April

The future Tasks of the Alliance

Speech by Secretary General, Manfred Wörner
to the Quadrangular Forum

I am experiencing the fortieth anniversary of NATO rather like the manager of a successful football team which has just won the league title. His initial instinct is to celebrate the season's glories. But instead his mind is inevitably on the team's promo-tion to the higher division. How will the team cope with the new, more demanding environment where not only the rewards, but
also the challenges, are so much greater? Such is life. The more successful we are; the more new tasks we find ourselves taking on.

At least our football manager knows that in the new divi-sion, the rules of the game will be the same. But this familiar reference point is denied us. In our case, the goalposts of East-West relations have clearly moved. The suppositions on which our Alliance policy has been based for the past four decades have not so much disappeared, as become blurred. As a result we can confidently state that the old, post-war European order is on its way out; but not so fast that we can yet distinguish the contours of the new as it appears in the distance.

Let us take, for instance, the two factors that were upper-most in the minds of our founding fathers forty years ago: the Communist challenge to Western liberalism and the threat of Soviet national power politics based on military strength.

The ideological attraction of communism is now at its lowest ebb since the publication of the Communist Manifesto nearly 150 years ago: on all fronts, the Western world, the de-veloping world, Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. The issue we face now is not the irrepressible advance of communism but its irrepressible retreat. It was our economic recovery in the 1950s that caused the demise of communism in the West; paradoxically it is the absence of such an economic recovery in the East which is today discrediting this socio-economic model.

Regimes that once based their political legitimacy on the denunciation of Western values now seek their salvation in them. While the leaders hope to rescue the Communist system through well-controlled reform, they are caught up in a dynamic of change that makes the outcome of their efforts highly unpredictable. Once the process of political evolution is under way, it may well be impossible for those leaders to stop at half-way measures. More open and pluralistic Communist parties subject to elections and parliamentary control will help reform. Yet this may well make it more manifest that only genuine pluralism and real choice will release the creative energies that moral and economic regeneration demands. Like Christopher Columbus, the Communist leaders may well be setting sail for a destination in the East only to end up in the West.

Yet we can be relatively optimistic about this current bout of Commu-nist soul-searching. In its quest for growth, the East will need to import our values as much as our technology. It must also find ways to integrate its economies into the international trading system through participation in our Western economic and financial institutions. We will therefore have more influence over the domestic evolution of these societies than we have enjoyed in the past. The only useful type of revolution is the revolution in mentalities, and this is what we see beginning today among many decision-makers in the ruling Communist elites. It bodes well for political as well as economic change in the East, and for reform based on consensus rather than diktat.

The shift in the other goalpost, that of Soviet power politics based on military strength, is more difficult to evaluate. Mr. Gorbachev has now been in power for more than four years but we are really none the wiser regarding long-term Soviet plans. The leadership would now appear to accept what we have been telling them for years: that to attempt to achieve security through superior military means and political intimidation only produces more insecurity - for the Soviet Union as well as for everyone else. The unilateral reductions announced so far, together with a constructive approach to the negotiations on conventional forces in Europe - for instance in acknowledging the asymmetries in their favour - give us grounds for hope. But there are no sufficient indications that the Soviet Union is preparing to give up its favourable "correlation of forces", let alone reduce to a point where it would no longer threaten its European neighbours. Soviet forces out of Eastern Europe and back within Soviet borders will enhance our security; but as long as they exceed the minimal levels needed for national defence and the preservation of sovereignty, they will still be a major factor in East-West relations which we will have to match. So on this topic, I am cautious. The road to Vienna has been a long and arduous one, but the road leading from it to true military stability in Europe will be even more so.

These moving goalposts have led some observers to say that the raison d'etre of the Alliance is being called into question, and to predict all kinds of trouble for the Alliance in a situation of change. I have never believed that it was either possible or desirable for us to cling to the status quo. Equally, I do not believe that the opportunities we have today are the result of a fortunate historical accident. We have these opportunities because of the dynamics of European unification and Western co-operation in an Alliance of free societies that believes in common security, economic prosperity and social progress. Perhaps the ultimate collapse of communism would be inevitable because of its internal contradictions. But this process has certainly been accelerated because of the rate of change in the West in the past decade. Recognizing the virtues of freedom and creativity, we have liberalized our economies and embraced new technologies and working practices. We have striven to remove barriers to free trade, as in the agreement between the United States and Canada and in the European Community's programme for the internal market of 1992. Our flexible and innovative societies not only cope with change but welcome it. Our peoples adapt because they know the result will be more prosperity, and thus more opportunity for individual self-fulfilment. Communist societies, on the other hand, not only see the West pull ahead, but discover that their own rigid structures make it virtually impossible for them to catch up.

Whatever the distortions of nostalgia, I do not accept that the old world of Cold War diplomacy was as safe and predictable as is assumed now, when we are fascinated with the new. Nor is order, as such, a goal to be pursued at all costs, especially when it is at the price of repression and injustice. The military stand-off of the past may have preserved the peace, but it did not - and indeed could not - remove the sources of tension and instability. Nor could political dialogue do so if it remained premissed on an eternally divided Europe. There can be no lasting peace which is not founded on justice; and for this our liberal values must be universally recognized. The mission of the Alliance is not inward-looking - only to safeguard its own security; it is outward-looking - to spread freedom, justice and security to the wider world. Only in this way can our own security genuinely be preserved over time.
Thus I see the present juncture as a great opportunity for us to move beyond the qualified and untidy peace of the past towards a new order of peace based on sturdier and more durable foundations. This can come about only as the result of a new pattern of East-West relations where co-operation and peaceful competition overtake confrontation, and ideological and military antagonism. We strive to reduce military potentials, open borders and ulti-mately end the division of Europe and Germany.

Conscious and deliberate change - as opposed to the spontaneous, chaotic sort - is the hardest of all human tasks. How can we establish the framework to encourage further this long overdue process of change, while channelling it towards constructive objectives?

Clearly NATO will have to perform two functions more or less simulta-neously: to act as a magnetic pole of stability and reassurance on which the new forces of change can anchor themselves; and to promote change by encourag-ing, supporting and actively co-operating with those forces in the East working for a transformation of their societies towards our objectives. In this process we must distinguish between what we can reasonably contribute and what is, for the time being at least, beyond our power to control.Let me discuss each of these functions in turn.

NATO has always been a stabilizing force in East-West relations. We have transformed a potentially explosive situation in Europe, based on an ideological threat and a stark imbalance of conventional military power, into the most rationally-conceived and accident-free security system that the world has ever known. Over the years we have defused many crises and prevented untold others. Yet we have never done this in the name of upholding the status quo. And we have never seen change purely in terms of accommodating ourselves to the inevitable while hoping to preserve the old East-West balance in its essential features.

The crucial role of the Alliance is to preserve what has already proved a triumphant success: to provide the conditions of confident security in which change in Western Europe and a wider Europe can take place at its own rhythm. Of course: we need a vision of the future Europe which includes Eastern Europe: a Europe in which all citizens enjoy individual freedom and all peoples self-determination, one which would be embedded in a new security framework in which the democracies of North America would still play an essential role, and to which the Soviet Union would be committed. I am reluctant however to believe that we need some institutional master plan. I tend to think of the example of a medieval cathedral. Only very few were designed by a single architect. Most were designed over centuries, molded to the sensibilities and realities of changing times. These are often the most impressive.

We can and should try to influence events and lead the mainstream of history in our direction. I very much understand and am sympathetic with imaginative efforts and designs for the future. And, of course, we have to discuss the future of Eastern Europe with the Soviet Union. We will continue to respect legitimate Soviet security interests. But we cannot, and should not, try to patronise developments in the East. We can open ways and create opportunities, and encourage these countries to make the hard choices which they and they alone must make for themselves. We wish evolution not revolution, diversification not destabilization. But it is not our task, nor within our possibilities, to control the course of events there; neither by ourselves, nor with the USSR in a new Yalta-type settlement based on fixed zones of influence. The concessions we could expect from such an agreement would not solve the deep-rooted problems of Eastern Europe, northoseof East-West relations more broadly. Change, on the basis of our values and goals, is already under way and accelerating. While the West and East may try to harmonize views on this, neither we - nor they - could have faith in an agreement which might control the pace of change in the short term, only to see magnified turmoil return to haunt us later. Stability is necessary to create the conditions for peaceful change, not frustrate it.

To function optimally, our stabilizing role must be based on an adequate defence. This can only have a deterrent function if it includes a nuclear component. Forty years ago the nuclear weapon was the ultimate war-fighting weapon. NATO has transformed it into the ultimate peace-keeping instrument. Our security concept extends its protection to all the members of our Alliance whether they are nuclear powers or not. Nuclear deterrence is the bedrock of our security. In preserving peace it also serves Soviet interests. It is incumbent on the Soviet Union to recognize this fact and to accept the concept of stable nuclear deterrence, and to restructure its own nuclear forces, down to minimal levels.

I strongly dispute recent claims by Soviet leaders that NATO's nuclear weapons in Europe are a gesture of hostility and an obstacle to the Vienna negotiations. Such considerations, after all, have not prevented the Soviet Union from completing its own modernization of a far greater number of such weapons in recent years.

Yet a robust defence is not required only for abstract deterrence. We have to consider the possibility - however much we wish otherwise - that reform in the East will go wrong, and that the Soviet leadership, present or future, will come under intense pressure. It will remain for some time to come a small leadership, in absolute control, and thus liable to change course unpredictably. Should we allow our defences to rust away, a stressed Soviet leadership might be tempted to abandon an approach that we have finally persuaded them to take, and to return to political intimidation. This failed to work in the past, but we must never give the Kremlin the impression that it could yet work in the future.

Moreover, we can only exercise a stabilizing function if we are ourselves stable. We must remain united and not allow a diminishing Soviet military threat to make us inward-looking or exaggerate our intra-Alliance economic problems. We are a role model for the East; by maintaining the momentum of Western European unification and transatlantic partnership we are forcing the
pace of change and bringing closer the day when the division of Europe can be overcome. So let us not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by allowing such issues as burden-sharing, protectionism or fiscal policy to divide us.
Certainly we will also need to adapt ourselves to our new tasks. A stronger Western Europe that can play its full part in the defence of this Alliance, as well as in our common Western global responsibilities, is a necessity. We are already taking a fresh look at how we can best use our precious resources and share our respective roles and burdens equitably. But let us not exaggerate these challenges; they are no greater than those we have faced successfully in the past. Indeed they are the consequence of the success of this Alliance.

On this foundation we can enhance East-West co-operation and move change along. There are many aspects, but the East's economic difficulties cry out for priority attention. The question of how the West can and should co-operate with the East is a complex one; but at least let me suggest here, and simply by way of example, some possibilities that we can consider.

Obviously only the East can solve its own economic problems by intro-ducing reforms - political as well as economic - that tackle the roots and not just the symptoms of its current malaise. Yet provided the current momentum of reform is maintained, the East will find in us a constructive partner. For instance, the East as a trading bloc has so far been only weakly connected with the world economy. Thus there is potential for integrating it more into our trading system. We can consider expanding joint ventures. A number of these have been established in East European countries and they already exceed one hundred and sixty in the Soviet Union. To be successful, Eastern structures must be changed, and market forces engaged. This will be even more painful and difficult than in the West.

We also have a common interest in closer co-operation in the domain of environmental protection and anti-pollution policies. Subject to the necessary safeguards, the West can perhaps assist its Eastern neighbours with developing pollution-control equipment and practices that will enable them to make their production techniques cleaner and safer.

Another promising area of economic co-operation concerns the whole domain of energy saving and corresponding investment policies.

What is certainly very important is to help the East in offering formation programmes for managers, bankers or post-graduates so that they can acquire Western-type entrepreneurial skills. This could be done bilaterally or on a multilateral basis with the help of international organizations.

Yet there is a sticking point in this improving picture of East-West co-operation: human rights. I do not contest that there have been significant gains - in emigration, freedom of expression, the rehabilitation of the past. We have seen the East agree to significant new undertakings in the final document to the latest round of the CSCE in Vienna; the Soviet Union decide to abide by the rulings of the International Court of Justice as regards a number of humanitarian treaties; and even East criticize East in the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. But the glass which is half full all too frequently reminds me of the other, empty half. Young men shot on a not so porous Berlin Wall; a playwright of international renown jailed for taking part in a demon-stration; villages systematically bulldozed into the ground to solve minority dissent.

Observance of human rights is not just a moral imperative; it is also a practical one. The states of Eastern Europe cannot extricate themselves from their current morass by measures from the top down that have little or no popular support. Reform must be based on a true social dialogue and the willingness of the populations to do what is necessary to rebuild their societies. Yet no response will be forthcoming if basic human rights and freedoms continue to be denied or granted only at the discretion of governments; instead they must be anchored in law and institutions.

The future is an open book. Into it we write our hopes for what the world will look like in the year 2000, but also our more realistic expectations. There is no contradiction here. Unless we seek the best, we will undoubtedly never come close to achieving it. And if there is one lesson from the past forty years of this Alliance, it is that with courage and conviction visions can indeed be turned into realities. In 1949 there was nothing inevitable about Western European recovery, the permanent involvement of the United States in world affairs and the Soviet Union seeking accommodation with the West. Yet a group of leaders saw the situation less in terms of obstacles than of possibilities. It was their vision that allowed them to shape events and turn around a situation that at one stage looked very bleak.

Today we are operating in much more favourable historical circumstances, but the same human qualities will still prove decisive. Our task, to function both as an anchor of stability and an instrument of change, will not be easy. We will have to cope with the inevitable setbacks we will encounter on our path, and adjust course. But I am and will remain optimistic. I count on you. You all have proven wisdom and priceless experience. So many of you have already played a major role in the success story that I have described. As we now progress from the league of peace-keeping to the league of peace-building, let us all recall the dogged perseverance and the team spirit that won us our victories, and that make us firm favourites for the future.

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