|Updated: 12-Mar-2001||NATO Speeches|
25 October 1989
Address to the German American Roundtable of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung
Speech by Secretary General, Manfred WörnerIt is curious how the human mind adjusts to even extra-ordinary events and developments. As we move through these times of rapid, indeed breath-taking change, some of its astounding features seem to become almost routine events for many. We are becoming used to a steady flow of news that would have struck us as earth-shaking only a few years ago and that is changing East-West relations almost beyond recognition.
We thus become almost oblivious to the revolutionary importance of changes around us. In less than five years we have seen huge fissures in the edifice of the Soviet empire, have seen this same empire seized by an economic crisis of dramatic proportions, and may be witnessing the systemic collapse of the official structures of the entire Communist group of states. Five years are no longer than the design phase of a single modern automobile or aircraft. In our immediate political geographical vicinity, these five years have witnessed a whole political uni-verse begin first to shake and then disintegrate and totally revamp the preconditions on which a new such universe could be predicated.
Let me use this recollection to make two points: about the way historical
processes work, and about the historical logic that presides over the
rise and fall of political structures.
Twice in this century, each time in a post-war environment, the attempt has been undertaken to create a stable order of states in Europe. The crucial contribution to a stable future was made after the Second World War with the inclusion of the United States of America and the firm commitment of the USA to the destiny of Europe. Our stability and mutual reassurance stems from our transatlantic cohesion. This insight must preside over the present third-major effort of this century to remodel the European community of states. The Alliance must play an essential role in the management of a Western integrated strategy vis-a-vis the East, functioning increasingly as a conceptual focus for defining the Western role in the management of change in Eastern Europe. That is my interpretation of the course the NATO Summit charted with a view to overcoming Europe's division.
And what of our rationale for defence in response to comprehensive change? Why is defence still necessary in the age of perestro'ka and glasnost? There is no need to cite here the whole list of valid reasons: the primary fact remains that the military potentials stacked up against the Alliance have not yet significantly decreased, whatever the prospects of Soviet unilateral reductions, and of dramatic progress in arms control. No doubt the Soviet military machine is being re-dimensioned in a major way, but the transition period will be long and difficult and the outcome uncertain. Our task will be to influence this process prudently, to be prepared for periods in which reversals occur and in which the feeling of reassurance and confidence in a less militarily marked future are shaken. However positively arms control and the general East-West relationship will develop, geo-strategic factors and the gigantic size of the Soviet Union will be immutable. This means that it cannot be handled without an effective coalition security structure in Western Europe. NATO remains the only way of providing this underpinning of stable security, as a predictable and cohesive negotiating partnership for difficult years to come. This is especially true in a time of historic transition full of instability, uncertainty and unpredictability.
There is a fine line to be drawn between our deliberate planning and forward thinking in anticipation of a successful conclusion in Vienna, and a premature one-sided restructuring of our own defence potential. If we build down our defence lightheartedly, we would only undermine our CFE negoti-ating position and the restructuring of our defences afterwards. And we would not even do the Eastern forces of political reform a favour. Their efforts to peacefully reform their countries can only be strengthened by the perception of their supporters and rivals that there is no military solution to their problems.
Our armed forces must be modern and effective at all times. Allowing them to age and decay, based on the mere hope of future reductions and restructuring would be a recipe for insecurity. Let us not forget that the Soviets, even under the auspices of economic crisis and with the prospect of having to relinquish huge, over-proportionate numbers of forces, continue to modernise their forces across the entire spread of their arsenals. Specifically we must be aware that their current reductions are coupled with the simultaneous mod-ernisation and streamlining of residual forces.
The security gains from a successful CFE agreement will be enormous, and the promise of ongoing negotiations in the 1990s, aiming at a more defensive structure of the Eastern side at yet lower numbers, even more attractive. Now is the time to provide to our populations a rationale for the ineluctable fact that a nuclear posture will nevertheless remain essential for the Alliance. But the role of nuclear weapons, as the ultimate guarantor of peace will be unaffected by any measure of conventional arms build-down - it will even be strengthened. At lower levels of conventional forces, the stabilising effects of a well-conceived residual nuclear posture would even become more apparent. The Alliance's Comprehensive Concept of Arms Control and Disar-mament states this principle with unmistakeable clarity. It also stresses that our nuclear needs for the future must retain a highly stratified and diversified structure, whatever the numbers of weapons needed to retain essential deter-rent options. There are now first indications that the East, beyond the facile talk of denuclearisation, may come to accept the basically stabilising effect of a cooperatively structured, nuclear element on the part of both alliances.
In London one year ago, I called on the Soviet Union to join in our concept of nuclear deterrence, at lower levels of weapons. I said, on that occasion, that it "would be very odd if the Alliance were to jeopardize its policy of deterrence just at a time when there are prospects of making the Soviet leadership understand the importance of its contribution to maintaining the sort of stability in Europe that is the necessary precondition for peaceful change".
We now hear Soviet experts speak of minimum deterrence - Gorbachev himself has used that term. This is important movement in the right direction. I, for one, find the term "minimum deterrence" misleading: what we really want is maximum deterrence with a minimum of weapons. What needs to be retained from this novel Soviet concept is that it could well provide a starting point for the establishment of stable yet relatively small deterrent structures to underpin the future East-West security equation. In this sense I find myself rather encouraged.
All of the objectives I have set out for you are only achievable if the transatlantic partnership holds good. As our Summit leaders stressed last May, none of us can do it alone. All our resources and all our imagination and moral strength are needed, on both sides of the Atlantic, to play our role of midwife of change in the East while maintaining security in difficult times of transition. Throughout its 40-year history, NATO has always had the vital role of managing the intra-Alliance relationship. We have never allowed strife and diversity of interest - so natural among 16 sovereign states - to get in the way of our common endeavour.
All Allies have equal significance, enjoy equal privileges and the common benefit of security, share the common responsibilities in ways that make each and every one indispensable. But, as a matter of sheer geography and size of the two countries, the German-American relationship has always been of pivotal importance. No Ally needs America more than the Germans; no other Allied country had a stronger and more beneficial role in the creation of the Federal Republic of Germany. Partners of uneven size and uneven power in the early decades, the two countries now grow more and more into a mature partnership based on a higher level of mutual political responsibility. I am deeply convinced that our two countries have a rewarding and an assured joint future before them and this clearly benefits the whole Alliance.