Updated: 12-Mar-2001 NATO Speeches

7 July 1989

Address to the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung

Speech by Secretary General, Manfred Wörner

As the 1980s draw to a close, the Alliance is already rising to the challenge of the 21 st century. Our recent summit meeting proves two things: that we fully grasp the dimensions of this challenge; and that this Alliance has the vitality, the unity and the forward-looking policies to faithfully serve our Western inter-ests.

We are dealing not with inevitabilities, but with choices. What type of continent, based on which foundations, do we want to emerge from this dynamic of change? And how can we impose our preferences on those of others? This was the theme of our summit; but it concerns not just Heads of State and Government. It is the collective responsibility of all Western policy-makers to think long and hard about our options and to formulate our goals. Thus I am glad to see the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung prove by this meeting that it too is responding to the challenge.

All of us are aware that we are living in a time of historic transition. The post-war world is coming to an end. Nobody regrets this. It was the Cold War world, characterised by oppres-sion, injustice and lack of freedom in Eastern Europe. However, in the current phase of transition and uncertainty, history is like the Roman god, Janus, with his two faces: on the one hand, there are opportunities, new possibilities to create a more peaceful and stable Europe, to bring greater democracy, freedom and economic prosperity to Eastern Europe, and in doing so to make a substan-tial contribution to world peace and development. Yet on the other hand, the very scope of change means that there are risks and dangers. We must not over-estimate the risks, but at the same time we cannot afford to ignore them.

This fundamental duality determines the future role and tasks of our Alliance. We must help peaceful change to move along at its natural speed while preserving a framework of stability. Indeed the two aspects are interrelated: without stability there can be no real progress; without real progress no stability. This is one of those rare junctures in history when we can actively shape events. To succeed, we will need vision, courage and inspired political leadership; just like that displayed by the Atlantic Alliance's founding fathers 40 years ago when they responded to the need, hunger and despair that dominated post-war Europe. In a similar period of great historic change, they had a clear purpose that turned the situation around, replacing fear with hope, pessimism with optimism. Western Europe recovered, and we regained our security, prosperity and freedom.

We have reaped the fruit planted by our predecessors. It is the success of this Alliance in keeping the peace in Europe for the longest period since Roman times, in containing Soviet expansionism, and in giving the West the cohesion to re-emerge as the driving force of democracy and social progress that explains the pressure for change in the Communist world today.

We owe it to ourselves to complete the task that they began: to create the basis of a permanent peace in Europe and of democratic political change in the East. With our ideas of pluralism, freedom and economic liberalism in the ascendancy, not only in Europe but throughout the world, we have never had a better opportunity. For everywhere you care to look, these ideas race across borders. The desires of some Eastern leaders to keep their walls, barbed wire and border guards, or even introduce them anew, remind me of King Canute's attempt to roll back the waves.

The Alliance is the reason why we are at this hopeful juncture today. We must therefore remember that it is only with firm cohesion that we can manage the process of change successfully. If we forget this all-important lesson of our past - and allow our opportunity to slip away - we will have only ourselves to blame.

I have outlined the challenge. It brings me to my essential point. The Alliance is fully capable of meeting it. NATO is no prisoner of its past, nor victim of its own success. It is geared to the future. Better East-West relations or reform in parts of the East do not mean that our agenda is exhausted. On the contrary, they give us a fuller agenda and many new tasks. Our Alliance has always been indispensable as a framework of stability and war prevention. In addition, it is just as indispensable as an instrument of peaceful political change. The two go together. No other framework brings the combined weight of Western Europe and North America to bear on this great challenge of promoting and managing change; and without both continents working together, we cannot hope to succeed.

We will use this time of change to our full advantage. Already we are actively shaping events. Each day brings the achievement of our goals closer. It is only in the military sphere that this is a defensive alliance. When it comes to our vision of the world in the year 2000, to our values, ideas and concepts, we are on the political offensive.

Our ultimate aim is nothing less than to overcome the division of Europe, including that of Germany. A bold ambition, but finally after forty years of NATO, it is now within our grasp. Today the Communist countries are no longer able to sustain indefinitely the artificial barriers which sheltered them. They cannot operate in isolation from the international community or world economic system. If they now persevere with the past, their crisis becomes only worse. If some leaders are turning finally to our values, it is not simply because they find no answers within the traditional reference points of their ideology; nor simply because they see their peoples attracted overwhelmingly to these values. It is first and foremost because Western notions - human rights, the rule of law, market forces - are the only ones that experience has shown to work in practice. There is no alternative.

As a consequence, the political role and function of NATO is increasing in importance. Something that was occasionally lost sight of during the Cold War is acknowledged again: NATO is a political Alliance, a community of the destinies and values of the free world.

In our Summit Declaration you will find our vision of Europe in the year 2000 and beyond. It is not a vague concept. It indicates clear foundations and an architecture for the future Europe:

  • open borders, civil freedoms and human rights, the rule of law;

  • a Europe in which a peoples can exercise their right of self-determi-nation;

  • a Europe in which vastly reduced military forces lose their threatening character.

The message of the summit is that we are for movement, for dynamic change of the status quo, to overcome confrontation and end the Cold War, sweeping away its most offensive symbols such as walls and barbed wire, and we are for doing so quickly, in a manner which builds on the security and stability we have created over the years. We know that the worst enemies of security are not weapons, even if they are nuclear weapons. It is not missiles which prevent lasting peace, but political confrontation, the division of Europe and the suppression of human rights. Weapons and soldiers are not the cause of tension and conflict - they are rather the consequence.

This is why we must concentrate on the political future of Europe. It is time to free the political debate from its fixation with weapons, strategy and disarmament and turn it towards the decisive questions of the political reshap-ing of Europe. We cannot finally resolve the problem of security by military means. What we must achieve is a Europe in which armed might becomes unimportant. The shining example for this is the Franco-German rapproche-ment.

We have an interest in Gorbachev's success. We are not standing passively aside. We support his reform policies as well as we can when they enhance openness, human rights and pluralism. However, we will not let ourselves be deceived by illusions. The Soviet Union is not democratic. It is still - and will be for a long time - a great military power, and thus dangerous. And of course the actions of its leader are determined by the national superpower interests of the Soviet Union, and not by consideration for us. Reform policies could still fail, and of course people and aims could change.

Therefore we must remain on our guard and not neglect our security. It would be foolish to remain passive and suspicious, but equally we cannot entrust security and freedom to the goodwill of a Soviet leader alone. We can and must do both things: encourage detente and maintain a credible defence. Then we are ready for anything.

That is our Alliance's policy as it is set out in the Summit Declaration. Unfortunately this important and even visionary document has not yet received the attention it deserves. I am confident that it will.

Our Declaration makes clear: we will reward those Eastern countries determined to move forward and to embrace our values irreversibly. On the other hand, we will withold our assistance to those other countries that still seem intent on resisting the winds of change and on clinging desperately to a discredited, outmoded system.

We will redouble our efforts and use all possibilities for co-operation and dialogue. Some examples are:

  • increased economic and trade relations with the East;

  • technological and management exchanges, the setting up of co-opera-tive training programmes;

  • common strategies in the fields of the environment, terrorism, drugs, etc.;

  • scholarship programmes for study and research.

At the same time, we must make sure that our support leads to more democracy and freedom in the East. We therefore expect actions such as:

  • formal renunciation of the Brezhnev doctrine;

  • guarantees of free travel and emigration;

  • progress in making the protection of human rights a reality in the law and legal practice of the Eastern nations;

  • the removal of the Berlin wall;

  • co-operation in preventing regional conflicts.

In particular, the statement on the right to self-determination of all peoples contained in the German-Soviet Declaration of 13 June 1989 must now be reflected in practice. This will be a measure of the progress in our relations.

Attention has tended to focus on arms control and strategic nuclear forces. And indeed disarmament and arms control are important factors for increasing stability in Europe. The comprehensive concept of disarmament and arms control, which the Heads of State and Government approved at the Summit, shows that our governments have developed clear and extensive foundations for negotiations. In all areas we seek security at the lowest possible level of armament.

Indeed, in the field of disarmament the decisive initiatives have also come from the West. For example:

  • the zero option for intermediate range missiles;

  • the 50% reduction in strategic weapons;

  • the total prohibition of chemical weapons;

  • the security and confidence-building measures;

  • the conference on conventional arms control in Vienna.

Yet at the same time disarmament and arms control cannot be substitutes for political solutions. And they are only possible if our security remains guaranteed. Detente and defence do not contradict each other. I must warn against attempts to set up these two goals against each other as if the Alliance and its defensive strategy stood in the way of an understanding between East and West.

In the field of conventional weapons we have set ourselves particularly ambitious goals, as the new initiative of US President Bush makes clear. Obviously for this Alliance the Vienna negotiations have overriding importance. For it is there that our security interests intersect most closely with our political goals. Major Soviet force reductions and withdrawals will not only allow but also accelerate the political changes we wish to encourage. So I invite all of you to watch Vienna as the reliable barometer of the real Soviet intentions for Europe.

The new proposal confirms once again that the true initiative in East-West relations lies with the West. It is true of ideas and conceptual leadership, of the dynamic energy to change history and of the proposals in the disarm-ament process. The East is turning to the West. Communism has proved incapable of solving the problems of modern industrial societies. Its attraction is faded and its leaders know it. So we are right to be optimistic - history is on the side of freedom. The wind is against the dictatorships.

So, for me at least, the answer to the question you have set me this morning is clear. The West does not need a new strategy for its security.

Indeed, I am convinced that the principles of our political and military strategy, which have guaranteed our peace for decades, are today as valid as ever. This strategy has contributed decisively to protecting Europe from war, while all about us there have been 150 conflicts since the Second World War. There is no other currently conceivable strategy which could so successfully protect us. And when I say "us", I mean all 16 Allies, not simply the nations on or near the East-West border in Central Europe. A NATO strategy must give equal protection to all, despite immense geographical disparities and problems of reinforcement and resupply. Of course: no strategy is for eternity. And every strategy has to be adapted to changing circumstances. A conventional balance in Europe at minimum levels would have consequences for our strategy -without eliminating the need for a minimum nuclear deterrent.

Nuclear weapons have prevented not merely atomic conflicts, but also conventional wars between states which possess nuclear weapons. They have achieved something which conventional weapons could not through the milleniums of our history: they have prevented the use of military force. The complete elimination of nuclear weapons would not make the world safer. In any case it would not be possible, because the knowledge of how to make them could not be removed from human minds. A Europe free of nuclear weapons would not bring more but less security against military conflicts. Nuclear deterrence has proven to be superior to previous methods in displacing war as a political option.

Thus, it is false to see a contradiction between the existence of nuclear weapons and the construction of a peaceful European order. Our strategy of deterrence and our weapons are no barrier to political progress. They cannot conceivably be used for any other purpose but self-defence. Our goal remains a militarily stable situation with an agreed minimum of conventional and nuclear weapons on both sides to exclude any thought of war.

It is equally nonsensical to imagine a contradiction between the Alliance strategy and German interests, as has been done in recent months in connection with the discussion on short-range nuclear weapons. A special threat to Germany has mistakenly been raised. This culminated in the specially foolish slogan "the shorter the range the deader the Germans". Those who argue like this have thoroughly misunderstood our strategy. It is not a strategy of war, but of war prevention, and that is how it has worked in practice. Germans have had the greatest benefit from the peace which it has maintained - the security, freedom and well-being of our country has rested on this foundation for four decades. It is first and foremost in the German interest that the strategy of flexible response and forward defence remains credible in the future.

Thinking in war scenarios will thus certainly lead us astray. There is no special threat to Germany except that inherent in its geographical situation on the dividing line between East and West. From that situation we can see that there is only one real German interest: to prevent all wars whether nuclear or conventional, for any war in Europe would destroy our country.

The Soviet Union would do well to give up its attempts to denuclearise Europe. Together with us it should create a security structure for Europe including an agreed minimum of nuclear weapons which would guarantee military stability and plainly show any war or even the threat of military force to be senseless and useless. Such a mutually agreed security order in Europe and between the global powers would maintain deterrence as a safeguard in a security system which is governed by stability, legitimacy and confidence in the displacement of war as an instrument of politics.

The two outstanding tasks of the Alliance in the next decade are mapped out. The first is the political guidance of historical change towards a new, more just and lasting order of peace and freedom. The second is maintenance of a stable basis for preventing war and guaranteeing peace. "Change in security" should be our motto.

Courage and leadership are now more necessary than ever. On the one hand to boldly point the way ahead in East-West relations; on the other hand to persuade our publics that success has its conditions: without a robust defence, their hopes for a brighter tomorrow could fade even more rapidly than they arose.

The recent Summit of Heads of State and Government was a triumph for the understanding that we can only approach our political goals together. We are ready to take up the challenge of history. Our vision of an undivided and free Europe is a great one which it is worth striving for. And this Atlantic Alliance, provided we keep it strong and united, gives us the opportunity to make it a reality in our lifetime.

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