given at the 36th Annual Session of the North Atlantic Assembly
by Secretary General, Manfred Wörner
When we last met in Rome, the Berlin Wall had not yet fallen, German unification
was a hopeful but still distant prospect, the Soviet Union did not seem
likely to withdraw soon from its strategic position in the heart of Europe
and a CFE agreement was still the subject of some very hard bargaining.
So, my focus then was on how the Alliance could bring about these essential
first objectives in achieving its ultimate aim: a Europe whole and free,
prosperous and secure. Now they have all been realised, more rapidly and
smoothly than we would have dared to dream. At our London Summit, NATO drew
the consequences from these seismic changes. Our transformed Alliance ushered
in a new era of cooperation supported by concrete actions. The hand of friendship
we extended to all the nations of Central and Eastern Europe has been accepted.
Europe is rapidly recovering not only its political but also its strategic
unity. Now everybody is asking: What next? What is the new agenda? How conceptually
does the Atlantic Alliance fit into a new architecture which does not need
to address a single, collective and overwhelming threat?
Three views are often put forward in the debate regarding NATO's future.
A first view sees the Alliance as the victim of its own success. It has
realised a long-standing dream of creating a Europe in which politico-military
alliances such as NATO would no longer be necessary. Most people do not
of course go so far as to argue that security is no longer a basic need,
but they believe it is now easier and cheaper to obtain; or no longer needs
a military component, so that it can be handled just as well by a body such
as CSCE which lacks a common defence structure.
A second view sees our Alliance losing its political importance, becoming
more a technical organization that would manage the integrated defence structure
and oversee the implementation and verification of arms control agreements.
In this view, NATO should stick to what it knows and does best: fostering
military cooperation among its 16 members. High politics - the nurturing
of transatlantic relations, the coordination of Western policies towards
Central and Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, the building of a new European
architecture and the response to the new global challenges are seen to move
either to the CSCE or to the emerging bilateral EC/US relationship, or to
a mixture of both. Holders of this view often believe that a stronger European
political and defence union is incompatible with a strong Atlantic Alliance.
Thus, in order to survive, NATO should adopt a low profile and emphasize
its military dimension.
The third view is that our Alliance is playing and should play not only
a military but also a more important political role. It should adapt to
changing circumstances and deal with new challenges to the security of Alliance
Who is right? The protagonists of a minimal role for NATO or the protagonists
of an enhanced role, directed to the management of change and the maintenance
of stability? To answer this question we have to examine two things. Firstly,
what are the security tasks that remain now that the Cold War is over? And
then, secondly, who can best deal with these tasks? Is it NATO or can others
do it better?
We have now to come to terms with a transformed European landscape of security
in which the direct threat by a massive Soviet aggression has disappeared
and the staving off of an imminent threat has become less urgent. With day
to day peace keeping no longer our overriding preoccupation, we have an
opportunity to lay the foundations of a more secure, durable and constructive
peace. The political conditions for success are clear: we must maintain
and develop the partnership between the European and North American democracies,
we must help the nations of Central and Eastern Europe to build solid democracies
and viable market economies, we must tie the Soviet Union to Europe through
new structures of cooperation, and we must put in place a new security system
that gives all states firm guarantees against aggression. A new European
architecture that does not manage all four tasks simultaneously, or some
less well than others, will not serve our interests.
A more peaceful world means a more prosperous and interdependent global
economy with our societies pursuing a creative economic competition instead
of a sterile military confrontation. But a more interdependent world is
also a more fragile one, more vulnerable to threats and blackmail. The Gulf
crisis underscores that the West is almost as vulnerable to a prolonged
oil crisis today as to a military threat in Europe yesterday; and the Central
and Eastern European countries are in an even more precarious position.
So clearly we need a security policy to enjoy the fruits of interdependence
without the dangers. Without the assurance of security no-one will make
the investments or the forward planning on which our continuing prosperity
Then clearly the passing of Cold War confrontation has not eliminated uncertainty.
Where is the Soviet Union going? We are less sure today than ever. Despite
our active support for the twin process of democratization and market reforms
in Central and Eastern Europe, we cannot tell if these reforms will be successful.
We must recognize the enormous burdens that transformation will place on
these countries. Domestic instability and a new division of Europe along
wealth lines could reopen nationalist options and foment ethnic strife to
an explosive degree. Already the spectre of massive migratory flows of people
away from these areas of tension and towards the West has been raised. It
will take a very long time and a combination of sustained reform efforts
by these countries and sustained help from the West before living standards
in both halves of Europe are more equal. Together we must make sure that
popular enthusiasm and hope for the future are not dented by the inevitable
pains and hardships of transition.
Equally we cannot afford just yet to write off Soviet military power. Whatever
happens tomorrow to the Soviet Union, it will remain militarily the most
powerful European nation. Who is going to balance it, for we know that power
cannot be contained only through diplomatic, economic or even institutional
ties? Reductions there have been, but also significant modernizations, particularly
in the nuclear field. Defence production is down but still at a level that
exceeds reasonable Soviet defence requirements and far ahead of anything
that NATO nations, individually or collectively, are doing. I do not doubt
Gorbachev's peaceful intentions. Indeed we no longer base our planning on
worst case scenarios for we are convinced that long term Soviet interests
he in stability, cooperation and peaceful interaction with our Alliance
countries. We trust the present leadership of the Soviet Union and are assisting
them on their way towards reform. But that does not mean that there may
not be setbacks and reversals along the way. So our relationship with the
Soviet Union is bound to preserve for the foreseeable future a dual character.
Our offer is sincere: we want the Soviet Union to become a partner and even
a friend in organizing security and protection together. But the Soviet
Union will take a long time to find a new, stable shape and its immense
strategic mass will need to be balanced. In the meantime, the residual security
risk from Soviet military power will keep alive the need for insurance and
a certain vigilance.
Finally we are now more aware of the importance of challenges from outside
our Alliance's territory. Risks can arise from new and unexpected quarters.
Moreover, the trend toward disarmament and reduced military spending in
the industrialized world magnifies the significance of Third World arsenals
that also now include ballistic missiles and technologies of mass destruction,
and gives smaller states a new, undesirable leverage. So we in the West
cannot renounce a coherent defence. Along the southern perimeter of Europe
there is to some extent an arc of tension from the Maghreb to the Middle
East. Tensions are exacerbated not only by the ambitions of dictators like
Saddam Hussein, but also by population growth, resource conflicts, migration,
underdevelopment, religious fundamentalism and terrorism. Clearly threats
to NATO's territorial integrity from beyond Europe cannot be downplayed
as out-of-area threats. Turkey is directly threatened, and our Southern
Region is an area where the collective interests of all Allies are engaged.
So security remains important because there are still risks and instabilities
- some of which are already emerging, others still latent but ominous. Increasingly
our Alliance must factor these risks into its defence planning. Nor can
we afford to sit back and wait for these risks and instabilities to develop
into direct threats that could trigger military conflicts. Most of these
risks cannot be managed by national defence policies only. They require
a collective response and a renewed focus on long-term crisis prevention.
Yet there is another reason why we need a collective approach to security.
One of NATO's unique historical achievements has been the integrated defence
structure. It has given our Alliance nations a security they could never
have achieved alone. And it has provided a deterrence in excess of the forces
actually allotted to it in peacetime. Without the underpinning of an effective
and integrated security structure, the security guarantees of the Alliance
would sooner or later be seen to be illusory. An obvious principle of a
future European architecture must therefore be to maintain collective defence
where it exists, which means maintaining NATO's integrated defence structure,
albeit with reduced forces and a different military strategy. This is not
simply because that structure maintains the nuts and bolts of a functioning
defence capability. Nations that merge their defence signal their wish to
act together in a common unity of purpose.
The alternative would be to renationalize security. Europe would run the
risk of returning to the shifting alliances, rivalries and power politics
of the past. Certainly there would be no question of the North American
democracies providing a security force if Europe were to return to a pre-1914
If the integrated defence structure were allowed to dissolve, how could
we recreate it later when we needed it? Only painfully, if at all. Moreover
we would have needlessly sacrificed the capacity of that integrated defence
structure to prevent conflicts and not only respond to them. So the collective
approach to security is not only the most cost-effective; it is also the
safest and the fairest -the only way to share the roles, risks and responsibilities
of our Alliance equitably. In an age when we cannot precisely quantify future
risks, NATO's collective security is by far the most sensible insurance
policy against every kind of uncertainty.
Can other institutions handle this new concept of security just as well
as NATO or even better? Can, for instance, a European defence identity arising
from European political integration, or a collective, pan-European security
system like the CSCE process in institutionalised form replace NATO? Both
these developments are in the interest of NATO but both of them are far
from being able to offer solid security guarantees. They are not alternatives
to the Atlantic Alliance.
A European political and security identity is a long-standing goal of our
Alliance. With the current dynamism of the European Community we are obviously
closer today to the twin-pillar Alliance that President Kennedy envisaged
in the early sixties. Security cooperation among the Twelve of the European
Community is now firmly back on the agenda. There are specific proposals
as to how Europe should organize a common security policy. I repeat this
is natural and desirable.
Yet a European security and defence identity must be organized within the
framework of our Alliance. It would be neither realistic nor sensible to
develop a completely independent European defence capability. If the Europeans
decide to go it alone, the North American democracies will receive the message
that their contribution is neither necessary nor any longer wanted. It would
thus be difficult to prevent a total withdrawal of their forces from Europe
which we know would be destabilizing, particularly as America's extended
nuclear deterrence is unlikely to remain in place either. What has kept
the peace in Europe for nearly half a century and helped to bring about
change is as much the physical presence of US and Canadian forces in Europe,
as the political commitment of these two nations, one of which is the world's
greatest industrial power, to democracy and stability on our continent.
A purely European security organisation could neither balance the Soviet
Union militarily nor provide the same kind of political stability.
Nonetheless those who affirm that you cannot have a united Europe without
a common European defence are right. Thus it is important for NATO and the
European Community that we throw the right switches now and establish a
concept for a European pillar that can be harmoniously integrated into the
Alliance. A binary relationship - North America versus Europe - or which
prevents all 16 members from participating fully in Alliance activities
is unacceptable. For if we cannot maintain a sense of a transatlantic community,
then the Alliance will fail. If the United States believes that it is being
asked to play only a military balancing role in Europe, its engagement could
disappear as rapidly as the receding Soviet threat. There has to be the
sense of a
"commonality of destiny and values" between North America and
Europe, such as our Alliance has created and nurtured since its inception.
Therefore this newly emerging European identity should not be one of distinctness
but should contribute to greater Alliance harmony, cohesion and influence.
We can handle this evolution pragmatically, through close contacts between
NATO, the European Community and WEU, avoiding competitive stances. Our
institutions are complementary. Yet if we do not coordinate our policy from
the outset, we run the risk of weakening our organizations rather than reinforcing
The other institution that is sometimes mooted as an alternative to our
Alliance is the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, or CSCE.
Since the Helsinki Final Act fifteen years ago, the CSCE process has been
a unique success story. The manifold achievements of last week's Paris Summit,
and the common democratic and market commitments enshrined in the Charter
of Paris for a New Europe have now taken CSCE a quantum leap forward, and
made it into a key element of any future European structure. Undoubtedly,
and in the light of the probable dissolution of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation,
the CSCE will acquire many important security responsibilities. The increased
institutionalisation of the CSCE process has been a common goal of all the
Allies. By endowing CSCE with a new system of political consultations and
giving it pan-European functions we have fulfilled the objectives of our
London Declaration and opened a new institutional chapter in the political
development of our entire continent.
Yet to infer from this that the collective security system of the Atlantic
Alliance will become superfluous - even over the long term - would be a
mistake. New CSCE structures can bridge old antagonisms, and can lead to
new, and common concepts for the enhancement of peace and partnership. However,
CSCE requires consensus which is difficult to obtain while each of the 34
states has a right of veto, and the CSCE states do not yet share common
values or common social systems. Nor is there any kind of enforcement mechanism.
Thus for the foreseeable future the CSCE alone cannot ensure stability and
the necessary degree of insurance against risks which is provided uniquely
by the collective defence capacities of our Alliance.
The relationship between the Alliance and CSCE must be complementary, not
one of either/or. NATO will serve as a back-up for CSCE. We will also seek
to establish a dynamic interaction with CSCE in its everyday work. For NATO
serves not only to provide direct defence for its member states but will
also serve indirectly to stabilize the CSCE system. The nations of Central
and Eastern Europe have in fact been more explicit than many of our own
Western opinion leaders in recognizing this important future role of our
This leads me to say a word about the North Atlantic Assembly. Over