Updated: 19-Apr-2001 NATO Speeches

29 November

Address given at the 36th Annual Session of the North Atlantic Assembly

Speech 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 member countries.

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 depends.

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 situation.

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 them.

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 Alliance.
This leads me to say a word about the North Atlantic Assembly. Over

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