Updated: 12-Mar-2001 NATO Speeches

13 June

Address to the Eighth NATO Maritime

Speech by Secretary General, Manfred Wörner

I am sure that you all know that speech-making is the staple diet of a NATO Secretary General. But when the invitation came from Admiral Kelso to be the keynote speaker at this Eighth SEALINK Symposium I responded with more than my usual alacrity. For one thing I love a varied audience. It is indeed remarkable for one event to bring together some 300 eminent personalities from all walks of life - military, political, educational, industrial and commercial. Moreover, land-locked in Brussels and so near to SHAPE, I welcome this opportunity to salute another great expression of our Alliance solidarity, namely SACLANTand with it the maritime side of our Atlantic Alliance. The fact that this symposium is taking place in the ennobling environment of the US Naval Academy provided the winning touch.

Before you judge my naval expertise, however, I am certain that you will want to hear me address an area where my authority rests on sounder foundations: namely the state of our Alliance.

Our Alliance is strong and cohesive. We have just finished a highly successful summit meeting. It gave us the opportunity to turn towards the future. From all participants there was a strong common will:

  • to meet the challenges ahead of us;

  • to define our common policy towards the East;

  • to determine the future role of our Alliance.

In all three areas we succeeded. It was a triumph for each of us; but much more importantly, for the Alliance as a whole. And as I stand on American soil today, it is wholly appropriate that I mention President Bush. His leadership set the tone for the whole meeting. It was positive, imaginative and farsighted.

Our Alliance is actively shaping events. We are not sitting back waiting for others. We are setting the agenda in East-West relations. We are striving hard to overcome the status quo and end the division of Europe, It is only in the military sphere that this is a defensive alliance. When it comes to our Western vision of the world tomorrow, to our values, ideas and concepts, we are on the political offensive. We know from our stable democracies, from our prosperity that our values appeal because they work. So we offer them to all peoples with energy and conviction.

This Alliance is turning towards the future. I regret that our Summit Declaration has not received the attention which it deserves, but I am sure that it will play a major role in our future work. It contains the outline of our active, forward-looking strategy towards the East. We are determined to seize our historic opportunity not just to improve, but to fundamentally reshape East-West relations, stamping our imprint on the process of change. Our opportunity is to bring the world closer to our vision: open borders, more freedom, less weapons and the rule of law. A Europe undivided in which all citizens enjoy their human rights and all peoples can exercise their right of self-determination. A global order not of confrontation, but of co-operation between West and East to solve the pressing problems of mankind.

After 40, sometimes frustrating years, the historic change in the East brings the realization of this vision finally within our grasp. Our forward-looking strategy will help us move ever closer to it, overcoming the status quo in successive stages, while preserving our hard-won peace and freedom. We can have both stability and political progress because our strategy is a balanced one. It contains offers, but also reasonable challenges. Our Declaration reminds us that East-West relations are not only about arms control. This Alliance intends to make progress across the entire gamut of our common East-West preoccupations.

The other result of our summit meeting is a resounding reaffirmation of one clear fact: this Alliance has the initiative - in whatever area of the East-West relationship you care to choose.

  • Take human rights and individual freedoms: look at how our Western initiatives were taken up by the East in Vienna last year at the end of the CSCE follow-up meeting.

  • Take East-West co-operation: we have been calling on the Soviet leaders for a long time to engage with us on international problems, such as environment, drugs and terrorism, and now they have started taking up these themes in their speeches.

  • Or arms control and security: in every East-West negotiation it is our proposals and negotiating objectives that lead the way, whether we think of a 50% cut in strategic nuclear weapons, a worldwide ban on chemical weapons or the aim of eliminating surprise attack and major offensive capabilities in the Vienna CSCE talks.

So, our 40th anniversary NATO Summit confirms that the Alliance has fully responded to the time of historic change in which we live today. Clearly the post-war world is coming to an end. Everywhere you look change is not only in the air. It is also visible on the ground. The East is turning to the West. One hundred and fifty years after the Communist Manifesto, communism has manifestly failed. Outdated ideology and inefficiency stand in stark contrast to our values and concepts, and the responsiveness of our system to human aspirations. Events follow our conceptual leadership. But they will continue to do so only if we have the dynamic policies to shape them. So it is essential that the political dimension of our great Alliance now comes into its own as never before.

First in the field of arms control. The Comprehensive Concept which we also produced at our summit is precisely that: a comprehensive analysis of all areas of arms control that makes it clear that we have ambitious goals across the entire spectrum of negotiations. We are determined to fully exploit the greater potential for fruitful arms control today - provided that it remains compatible with our security. In each negotiation we seek security at the lowest possible levels for both sides. We seek greater openness and transparency, as demon-strated recently with the "open skies" initiative. And President Bush has now come forward with a bold new initiative to reduce both American and Soviet manpower in Europe, together with equipment, by 1993. It is an ambitious schedule but this Alliance is fully prepared to meet it.

For we are serious about conventional arms control. Indeed it is an Alliance priority. It is the conventional imbalance that gives expression to, and supports, the division of Europe; that limits the sovereignty of six Eastern European countries; that casts its shadow of intimidation over Western Europe. These are the forces that are used to seize and hold territory and to conduct short-warning and major offensive operations. So we cannot have military stability in Europe until this heavy shadow of Soviet military power is removed once and for all.

The second area of our political activity will be overcoming the division of Europe. Arms control is the agenda of stability through radical change. The same is true of our overall political agenda. We will challenge the Soviet leadership to see how serious they are about a new relationship with us - one based on real reform and political change. Our challenges are not only addressed to arms control. They focus on all those political topics which our
Western values lead us to care deeply about - and from which alone real, irreversible improvements in the daily lives of Eastern Europeans can come.

Thus I ask the questions. Will Mr. Gorbachev formally renounce the Brezhnev Doctrine? Will he open borders still further: irrevocably allow free travel and emigration, permit his people to enjoy all those freedoms that the Soviet constitution and Soviet international agreements have always promised them? Will he agree to military stability in Europe? - because there is no co-operation that can take place in the shadow of the gun, or when one side has an enormous military superiority over the other. This will be the test: Soviet willingness to join with us as partners in building a new political architecture in Europe; one based on democracy and the rule of law, not the permanent monopoly of arbitrary power; one based on human rights and freedom, not oppression and mistrust; one in which military forces lose their threatening character.

It is now up to Mr. Gorbachev to respond to our offers and meet our challenges. This is not only in our interest. It is even more so in his. For how can he hope to make his country prosperous, stable and productive if he does not integrate it into the international trading system? And on which basis can such an integration be feasible, except with the full recognition of liberal values? They generate the dynamism and innovation on which all progress - social, economic, technological - depends. And they alone ensure real and lasting peace on which that social progress also, ultimately, depends.

The message of our Alliance Summit is that we will leave no avenue of fruitful East-West dialogue unexplored. We are indeed living through a time of great opportunity. But we must also recognize that it is a time accompanied by considerable potential risk. Historical turning points also combine both elements - and both require equal skill in management.

Mr. Gorbachev is the very incarnation of this duality. I am convinced he is serious. We encourage and support his reform efforts. He offers us hope and raises our expectations. Yet at the same time he certainly has no intention of presiding over the decline of the Soviet Union. He will pursue his nation's interests as he sees them. He is and wants to remain a Communist. He still exercises dictatorial powers. He is neither democrat nor pacifist. So a firm and durable security posture is an essential precondition for the pursuit of our political agenda. In the security field we see encouraging signs of progress although Soviet military potential is still overwhelming. The Soviets obviously still pursue the objective of the total removal of American nuclear weapons from Europe. Their long-term goal remains clearly to decouple North America from Western Europe. Mr. Gorbachev should understand the true meaning of military stability in Europe which must include a substantial American pres-ence and a nuclear deterrent, at minimum levels.

So although East-West relations are moving our way, let us guard against complacency. Historic periods of deep change, such as we are living through, inevitably produce uncertainty, fragility and instability. Reversals and setbacks cannot be discounted - the tragic events we have witnessed in China in the last few days should remind all of us of this reality of life. We need to maintain the base of our stability, a secure defence. And it is up to us, the opinion leaders of this Alliance, to convince our publics that structural disarmament through neglect is not an alternative form of arms control. If we are to convince the Soviet Union that there is no military alternative to the long and difficult process of internal reform, we need to maintain a credible deterrent - and that means an adequate mix of conventional and nuclear weapons that are kept up to date.

This is true of the naval domain as of all the others. NATO, as its very name suggests, is a maritime alliance par excellence. There is more water in the NATO area than land. Proximity to the sea has made us into outward-looking dynamic trading societies. We carry 95% of imports and the exports on which our prosperity depends by sea. The defence of both the central front and the flanks lacks the advantage of depth. In times of tension, crisis and war, we are totally dependent on our ability to reinforce Europe over great expanses of water. Our sea lines of communication are the equivalent of the Warsaw Pact's roads and railways. Take one example. Seventy-five per cent of the Warsaw Pact's reinforcement equipment is moved by rail (the rest goes by road or by Black Sea and Baltic ferries). Yet NATO moves 90% of all its reinforcement equipment by sea.

I only have to remind you of the two World Wars this century to drive my point home. Military historians may disagree as to the precise cause of victory or defeat, but one thing is certain: control of the sea, and in particular anti-submarine warfare, played a crucial role. In the first six months of World War Two the Allies lost 100 merchant ships per month. It was not until May 1943 that they managed to organize effective convoy systems. Failure to do so would have been to court disaster.

Today we face 200 operational Soviet submarines, with a further 100 in reserve: by far the largest underwater force in the world. And yet the problem of the reinforcement of Europe from the United States and Canada remains as it has always been. We can only dispatch a limited number of troops by air; most, together with all their heavy equipment and supplies, must come by sea. Indeed to come to grips with this problem, we are currently carrying out a "Study on the Supply and Demand for Merchant Shipping in Times of Crisis and War".This is being jointly financed by NATO Headquarters and SACLANT. Looking towards the year 2000, the study will give us a clearer idea of how much we actually need to transport, and if our NATO merchant fleet is up to the job. It has, as you all know, declined severely in recent years and we may already be dependent on neutral and flag-of-convenience shipping.

What is clear, however, is that whatever ships we have to use, we need Allied naval forces to defend them, and to keep open the sea lines of commu-nication. These naval forces have other vital tasks to perform too: in times of peace in forming an essential part of deterrence by their presence on the world's oceans; in times of war by their ability to bottle up the powerful Soviet navy, which might otherwise be used to assist a Soviet offensive against our flank countries while its submarines attempted to choke NATO into surrender. Our naval forces also play a key role in protecting vital out-of-area Western interests. I need only to refer to recent Western success in the Gulf to stress how powerless we would have been had we not had first-class naval forces.

For these reasons the Alliance rejects demands by the Warsaw Pact to include naval forces in the Vienna Conventional Forces. The use of the sea is not an option for NATO; it is a necessity. Because of the multiple functions our navies carry out, NATO ships cannot be directly compared to Soviet ships whose roles are more circumscribed. I would not for one moment deny Soviet claims that we have more frigates, destroyers and aircraft carriers - some 500 to their 300. But our ships perform an essential role in compensating for our severe geographical disadvantages. They fulfil multiple roles simultaneously. With-out them we could not organize a credible defence of Western Europe, beyond a few days. We therefore resist the concept of reductions, limited zones or other constraints that would impair the operational flexibility of our navies. Why should this worry the Soviet Union? Our ships cannot seize and hold territory like tanks, artillery and armoured fighting vehicles. So they do not form part of the offensive equipment that we are focussing on in Vienna,

There is another reason too: if we are successful in the years ahead in negotiating a new regime of conventional stability in Europe, we will have smaller forces in place in Central Europe and our flank countries. As a result, our common defence will become increasingly dependent on reserve and reinforcement forces; on their availability, their readiness and, above all, on our ability to transport them rapidly and safely to our forward lines in a crisis.

Does this mean that NATO is not interested in greater military stability on the seas? Of course not. Many naval confidence- and security-building measures already exist. Indeed our naval colleagues can take justifiable pride in having often been ahead of their army and air force counterparts in this domain. There are bilateral agreements for Eastern and Western navies to observe each other at close quarters and to avoid incidents at sea. Our Alliance member states will no doubt be exploring other such transparency measures in the future. They give us a valuable opportunity to underscore our purely defensive intentions.

Our senior service forms an intrinsic part of the lifeblood of our Alliance. I am thus perturbed that in recent years many of our nations have been forced
by budgetary constraints to cut back on their naval forces. We need to face realities and look for better ways of using our scarce resources - through armaments co-operation as in, for instance, the NATO Frigate for the 1990s project and task specialization. But there are limits to what we can live with if we are to protect our citizens, given our maritime requirements. Our gov-ernments must know that to maintain effective maritime forces is the best investment in our security and in the maintenance of peace.

In the meantime, in this 40th anniversary year of our great Alliance, let us thank our NATO navies - their officers, their crews and their shore-based personnel - for protecting us so well for so long. They bind the defence of North America to Western Europe. To our NATO airmen the Atlantic may today be no more than "the Pond". But to our navies it is 12 million square miles - or 20 times the land mass of Europe - of lonely and potentially hostile sea. SACLANT has to defend it all. We are indebted to you for being there and for maintaining over it your constant vigil.

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