Updated: 12-Mar-2001 NATO Speeches

6 October

40 years of the Federal Republic of Germany
40 years of NATO

Speech by Secretary General, Manfred Wörner
on the Occasion of the 40th
Anniversary of the Federal Republic of Germany

The fact that both dates coincide is no accident.The efforts for Germany's revival in a democratic form after the devastation of the Second World War and the uniting of the Western world are part and parcel of the endeavour to re-establish our system of states after the war under the aegis of freedom and democracy -although the Federal Republic of Germany was able to join the Alliance only in 1955.

Today I should like to take an integral look at these two events both dating back to 1949, with the intent of coming nearer to answering a simple question: what will NATO signify in future for the security and freedom of our country and for our political fate? What has the Alliance given us, what is it going to give us? What can it achieve?

First of all: hardly any other date stands as much for the return of the Federal Republic of Germany to the community of equal democratic states as its accession to NATO. Ten years after Hitler's war erupted, the former war allies entered into the NATO Alliance - ten years after the end of the devastating military adventure of the Third Reich, a free German state has been received into the circle of these former war adversaries. The Federal Republic of Germany thus became a partner of the West in the key area of political existence, i.e. security policy. It is not accidental that the foundation of the Bundeswehr, the accession to the Western Alliance and the new German state regaining full sovereignty came to pass at the same time.

Equal rights, hence, in spite of the remaining responsibility of the Four Powers which is so essential to the option of a unitary German state, and apart from equal rights,the Alliance brought us security and protected us from war in the longest peace period in European history since the fall of the Roman Empire. At the same time, it elevated our security policy, with its enormous intellectual and political achievement of military integration, to a new political height. The establishment of an integrated military system is unparalleled in history. If NATO is founded on common values, on the joint will for freedom, then this collective confirmation of the will for defence of free peoples possibly constitutes the paramount expression of this community of values. On this will for defence, the Soviet expansionist aspirations foundered. This will has preserved freedom and made peace secure.

Above and beyond that, the Alliance's major achievement in the past lies in creating stability. Co-operation within the Alliance has provided us with the firm framework within which the liberal system of the Federal Republic of Germany could come into its own in economic prosperity and intellectual liberty, within which the path towards Europe could be constantly and con-sistently pursued. The crucial difference between the endeavours to re-establish the system of states after the First and the Second World Wars lies in the inclusion of the United States. The fact that America, which already in 1919 was the dominant economic power of the West and of the world, did not stand aloof any longer, but coupled its fate conventionally and factually to the fate of the European Continent for better or for worse, is the historical achievement of the founding generation of our Alliance. Without the Alliance and the lasting commitment of the United States to Europe's fate, Western Europe would at best have become a fragmented adjunct to the Soviet Union, and if there had been no Western European unification process, no pressure to democratize would have come to bear upon the Soviet Union. A security community of freedom, including the superpower USA and Canada, extending from the Pacific coastline to the boundaries of Iran, creates stability by its mere existence. NATO is a community of values and of stability. In the past 40 years, it provided a protective shield for the modern system of states of the free world.

This achievement of stability made the Alliance also the firm anchor and security-affording point of departure also for the realization of the political vision of the North Atlantic Treaty. Above all for the other part of Germany, for Eastern Europe and, not least, for the peoples of the Soviet Union, the freedom, strength and consistency of Western political action provided the pillar of hope to which the will to overcome the domination by violence and to achieve self-determination could be made fast. The Alliance has furnished a factual guarantee for the survival of the German capital Berlin and thus became a guarantor also of the German national aspiration. In the Harmel Doctrine, the Alliance as early as 1967 formulated its basic tenet: credible defence posture as a basis for political dialogue with the East, combined with political co-operation, to make it possible to scale down the requirements for a military security potential. NATO has always been a political alliance, not only a military one.

Equal and active co-operation of our country in the Western system of states, security, stability, common political action for overcoming the calamitous division of our continent - those are the beneficial effects which arose from our accession to the Alliance and which endured over successive decades. During that epoch, the identity of interests of the Federal Republic and of the Alliance has never been called into question.

What will the Alliance give us in the future?

Are those right who today diagnose a dramatic recession of military threat and conclude therefrom that NATO as a military alliance has fulfilled its raison-d'etre and might as well fade away? Is NATO a cold war relic, must it hence disappear along with it?

To find the answer to that, you only need to imagine the Atlantic Alliance did not exist. We are living through a phase of rapid transformation in the European Community of states. The historical landscape so familiar to us from the post-war years is altering at a hardly believable pace. Communism as an ideology as well as an economic system is done for. Its leaders are fully aware of that. Almost every day confronts us with new developments. Who would hold together the free world in such a situation? Can anyone imagine this might be possible without the active commitment of the United States? Who would keep Europe's fate tied to that of the United States? Who would co-ordinate our policy vis-a-vis the East? Who could warrant our stability in times of violent turbulences and thus risks? Where were we to find security? Where unity? Torn apart, the free nations would soon fall victim to history's progress. It is only the Atlantic Alliance that enables us to dominate that progress, to shape history as the strongest, grandest and most successful alliance of free nations in the history of mankind. As a community of fate of free nations the Alliance affords us influence, security and stability.

We need the Alliance first and foremost as an instrument of change. This has been reconfirmed by the Summit: overcoming the division of Europe is and remains our paramount goal. We are certainly not married to the status quo. We wish to overcome it. We do not long for the cold war, although at that time fronts were easier to survey and many a situation may have been clearer. We wish to pave the way for a new peace order. On the basis of reliable defence the Alliance can now vigorously realise its political vision:

1. An undivided Europe which is founded upon human rights, democracy, pluralism and free self-determination of nations. NATO's objective is not only to overcome the division of Europe, but also of Germany. A new order in Europe can and will not pass up the German question. The latest Summit Meeting of NATO made a clear and unambiguous commitment to German unity.

2. A global order of co-operation between East and West with the aim of resolving the urgent problems of mankind.

3. An equal partnership between the nations of North America and of Europe.

This vision determines our political action. This is why we support Gorbachev and the reform forces in Eastern Europe. Such a policy lies in our own interest, to the extent that it amplifies human rights, opens the closed systems of the East, clears the way for freedom and democratization and benefits the free encounter among nations. We shall not miss the historical chance of change.

We know: change always entails a goodly measure of unrest, unpredictability, insecurity and instability. But this can be no reason for maintaining the obsolete post-war landscape. It cannot be maintained - should even the one or other wish to do that - as has been proved by the events of these days and the flight of tens of thousands of our countrymen. Stability is not tantamount to fearful preservation of the status quo but the farthest possible assurance of an organic, evolutionary change avoiding all dangers of a violent upheaval.

All peoples of Eastern and Central Europe must be given the right to self-determination. How they are going to decide is up to them. We have no intention of tutoring them in the exercise of their right. The Soviet Union should concede a free choice to these peoples. Not only in theory, but also in actual practice; that would be in its very own interest. Only in this manner will fruitful neighbourship, peaceful partnership and economic stability be imaginable in the long run.

We also need our Atlantic Alliance as an instrument of stability. Change must take place in security.

It is not us who triggered this process. And least of all, it is revanchism which is at work here, as the Soviet Foreign Minister Shevardnadze wanted to make the world believe by his speech at the United Nations. One dares hope that he himself does not truly think so. It is, after all, the natural urge for freedom of individuals and nations which is spontaneously coming to the fore.

Truly, chances for disarmament, for a further regression of threat and for comprehensive co-operative East-West relations have increased manifold. Our population is right if it is not afraid of war at the present time. We would be foolish if we were to forego the chance of breaking the centuries old, long-term cycle of war and peace.

This, however, will be a time-consuming process. Success in the arms control negotiations, too, will depend on our cohesion and defence posture in this phase of transition. It is not the immediate danger of war in the East-West relationship that we must keep an eye on; it is the long-term risks of instability and insecurity against which we must provide.

Nobody knows what can happen and how rapidly. Historical experience proves that times of change are always times of risk. The reform processes in the East and the relaxation of Soviet control over Eastern and Central Europe cause long-suppressed ethnic and national currents to erupt.

The historical process of re-orientation can only be mastered in conditions of stability ensured by a well-functioning alliance. The transatlantic connection provides the firm back-up by means of which we can derive historical advantages from the enormous restructuring process in the East.

The vigour of our defence efforts within the Atlantic Alliance makes it clear to every Soviet politician that there is but one way to resolve his country's problems: the peaceful one. Our defence efforts do not hinder detente. On the contrary: they afford us a firm foundation for dialogue and co-operation.

It is for yet another reason that undiminished defence efforts are essential. At present, the Soviet potential is nearly undiminished. We cannot be guided by the present intentions of the Soviet leadership which are certainly not focussed on war. But intentions may change, politicians can be replaced; we can found security only on our own efforts. This is why the Bundeswehr and the Allied forces remain so important; their strength and operational readiness must not be reduced before mutually agreed disarmament becomes reality.

The future vital interests of the Germans - freedom, unity, security and transformation - can also only be safeguarded by the Atlantic Alliance; it remains essential.

Within its framework the free Germans are offered the chance of con-tributing to solving two major tasks of our time: a new security structure and, even more so, a new political order in Europe.

With our Comprehensive Concept we in the Alliance defined the objective of disarmament: security and stability with less weapons: an order of mutual security in which both sides are incapable of surprise attacks or large-scale operations. This restriction so far only applied to the Atlantic Alliance.

Especially in recent weeks and months it has become clear: the initiative for the disarmament process rests with the West.

Important though disarmament is, it is no substitute for a political new order. Soldiers and weapons are not the cause of political tensions, but rather their consequence. This is why the building of a new peace order must be given precedence. However, it must be founded upon freedom, democracy and human rights. Within such an order, armies lose their threatening character, as is borne out by the German-French example.

There can be no doubt: history is on our side. The dynamism of the historical process favours us. Our ideas are advancing. The future of the East lies in the West and not vice-versa.

We, therefore, have reason to be optimistic. Our economic system is far more productive, our social order more flexible and creative. Above all, our system of values corresponds to nature and the aspirations of the human being.

Nothing happens automatically, though. Everything depends on us, on our resolve, on our cohesion, on our capacity for leadership and creativeness.

This Alliance has a future, and only together with it do we have a future. Thus I see the decades ahead also under the sign of this strong and history-making association of states ensuring freedom and peace for us.

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