future Tasks of the Alliance
by Secretary General, Manfred Wörner
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
to the Quadrangular Forum
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
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
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.