Speech by
Mr Javier

20th Feb 1996

Renewing the Transatlantic Partnership:
NATO Confronts the Next Century

It is a great honour for me to address the students of this prestigious institution of higher learning, Georgetown University. As you know, my country has a distinguished connection with Georgetown. Prince Felipe recently graduated from here and King Juan Carlos has received an honorary doctorate from Georgetown as well.

I, too, was once a student on a Fulbright Scholarship in America some three decades ago. It is a good feeling to be back, and also to be back among students.

As I stand before you this evening, I am aware of the enormous contrast between the world of my own student days and the one you will be entering very soon. Just a few years ago, any crisis, no matter where in the world it occurred, carried the risk of rapid escalation into a major conflict, potentially more terrible than humanity had ever known. The East-West confrontation divided Europe into two quite distinct political and social systems - a divide that seemed likely to last for several decades and which deprived millions of people in Central and Eastern Europe of their basic freedoms and economic opportunities. But your generation faces a situation unique by the standards of the Twentieth century. For as you look out on the world you do not face a major threat to your security from a hostile power or coalition of powers. So you can plan your futures, with more confidence than your grandfathers whose careers were interrupted by the call to arms.

In such a climate, I could well understand if you would be tempted by isolationism. After all the Cold War is now over, without a conflict or indeed hardly a shot being fired. Every great national undertaking [- and keeping a Cold War from turning into a hot one deserves this description -] makes us look to a peace dividend, to bringing the boys home and to turning our attention - and resources - to those domestic problems which suddenly loom so large in our minds.

Security problems and instabilities there still may be, particularly in a world of rapid technological and social change. But problems such as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, mass migrations or ethnic conflicts do not have the same urgency as the threat of Soviet missile attacks on US cities. So many wonder why such problems should have priority over domestic concerns. Moreover, do they require the leadership or participation of the United States in every instance? Can't they be handled by others? Doesn't even the world's sole remaining superpower, the United States, deserve a well-earned sabbatical from history?

Isolationism may be a natural instinct, particularly for a country like the US which enjoys the protection of two vast oceans and friendly neighbours. But the historical record is that it never works, and never lasts. Indeed ironically whenever the United States turned its back on the world, the more forcefully it then had to re-engage and at much greater cost in American blood and treasure, than if it had upheld its international commitments from the outset.

This is surely the lesson of the years between the two world wars when the United States turned its back on Europe and refused to join the League of Nations. After World War Two, the battle against isolationism had to be fought again in order for the Senate to ratify only the second treaty of military alliance in the entire history of the US: the Treaty of Washington that in 1949 established NATO. The alliance of the Western democracies has not only proved to be the longest-lasting in human history, but also by far the most successful.

The reason is not only because NATO represents the definitive American rejection of isolationism but first and foremost because it is a recognition that America's most fundamental foreign policy interest is its partnership with Europe. It is in Europe that the US had discovered those allies who most profoundly share its global outlook and responsibilities and those who are most willing to share its global burdens. When Europe and America have gone their separate ways, both have suffered. When they have worked together, they have protected their security more effectively than ever before in history, and they have also projected their values across the globe and drawn others into their orbit. And above all: they have succeeded.

NATO has in fact developed into something much more than a classical military alliance. Today it is a community of destiny between two continents, North America and Europe, that together represent only 6% of global population but 40% of global GNP. The security guarantee in article 5 of the Washington Treaty is the rock on which this transatlantic partnership is built. If we allow that guarantee to dissolve because we conclude that it is no longer so urgently necessary, there is no certainty it could ever be recreated, even in a crisis.

This is the theme I would like to develop with you this evening. NATO is needed to make the transatlantic link work. That link may have overcome many crises in its long history, but it is not automatic, nor can it be taken for granted. Sometimes the lesson that America and Europe have to work together has to be painfully relearned - especially when we see just how quickly things unravel when America and Europe follow different policy agendas. Bosnia has reconfirmed this truth with brutal clarity.

Indeed, the outbreak of civil war in the former Yugoslavia has been a wake-up call, reminding us that we cannot take for granted the stability we have worked so hard to build in Europe since the founding of NATO. No European can think of Sarajevo without remembering that World War I began with shots fired in that city. And no European or American can think about Central and Eastern Europe without remembering that World War II began in this region.

And so it became clear that the ending of the Cold War left NATO not without a purpose, but rather with a job unfinished. Indeed, the time has come not for a weakening of the transatlantic partnership, but for its strengthening. The historic mission of the United States in Europe continues. The challenge for your generation and mine is to consolidate democracy by extending NATO's security community to the other half of Europe.

This great unfinished task cannot be achieved without the United States. It cannot be achieved without a strong American troop presence in Europe. Such an American presence gives confidence to the weak that they need not fear the strong, and confidence to the strong that they need not fear each other. It enables, in short, the process of European union and the assumption of greater European defence responsibilities to go forward within a long-term framework of stability.

I believe that our experience in Bosnia over the past five years has been a powerful demonstration of the continued importance of the transatlantic link. We were not condemned to repeat history in the Balkans because there was a fundamental difference between 1914 and the present: the existence of NATO and the active engagement of the United States in Europe.

The stakes for NATO in Bosnia today are profound: our aim is to bring the conflict there to a definitive end, so that we can get on with the mission of creating a security community for the whole of Europe. Having returned recently from two visits to the region, I am optimistic about the prospects for IFOR's success, but realistic about the challenges ahead.

Our troops are the finest in the world. They are magnificently led and prepared, and they are equipped and ready to deal with any challenges they may face. There will be difficulties from time to time, but I am very confident that we will succeed.

The real question has to do with the longer term: are the peoples of Bosnia ready for a definitive peace? I believe they are - they want nothing more than to resume their normal lives. There are, to be sure, leaders who are not interested in peaceful co-existence and the survival of a truly multi-ethnic Bosnian state; and some of these are indicted war criminals.

That is why the pursuit of justice is so important, and why NATO fully supports the work of the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. Equally important will be the holding of free and fair elections later this year in Bosnia, which should produce leaders committed to peace and reconciliation.

But the main key to our success will be the ability of the international community to begin to make a real difference in the everyday lives of ordinary Bosnians before IFOR departs. They have to begin to see a tangible improvement in their surroundings - rebuilt roads and bridges, reopened schools and factories.

That is why the work of the international civilian relief agencies under the High Representative, Mr. Carl Bildt, is so critical. He can succeed in this formidable task, but he can do so only if the leading nations of the international community open their hearts and, yes, their pocketbooks - now.

Beyond this, what makes me most confident about our long-range chances of success is the fact that the United States and Europe are now fully united and, through NATO, fully engaged in their approach to this crisis. This will have profound and beneficial consequences in Bosnia even after IFOR departs at the end of this year. The fact of the matter is that we will not tolerate a resumption of the war. We will retain the tools necessary to punish those who would return to aggression.

Moreover, the leaders of Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia plainly want to join in the wider transatlantic community we are in the process of creating. They want the benefit of security ties and economic integration with the West. They know that their peoples will not forgive them if, by undermining the survival of an independent Bosnia, they forsake their one chance to join in Europe's future.

Indeed, what NATO is doing today in Bosnia offers a glimpse of that future to which they, too, wish to belong. The international coalition for peace that we have assembled, through IFOR, is in fact a model of the transatlantic partnership for the 21st century.

At the core of this model is the long-standing Alliance between Western Europe and the United States. IFOR is about European and American troops serving together for peace. What could the Europeans achieve without America's unsurpassed capabilities in planning, logistics, transport, equipment and intelligence? Without your superbly capable troops? What could the Americans achieve without the strong and committed forces supplied by the 14 European Allies, who have been on the ground for almost four years? Without the European commitment and resources to help to rebuild Bosnia?

In short, IFOR is about the way NATO has worked for 47 years, with European and American troops standing shoulder to shoulder. The fact is that we were able to launch the most complex operation in Europe since World War II in Bosnia because we have been training together for 47 years, under an integrated command structure headed by an American general.

But IFOR is also more than simply a NATO operation; it is a reflection of the new things NATO has been doing since the end of the Cold War in order to widen our security community to include the new democracies of Central and Eastern Europe. Participating alongside NATO troops are forces from many countries, including Russia, who belong to NATO's Partnership for Peace. Some will be candidates for joining NATO when we expand our membership in coming years.

Also, IFOR includes neutral nations, including Finland and Sweden, and even countries from beyond Europe, such as Malaysia, Jordan and Morocco.

In sum, the stakes for NATO in Bosnia transcend Bosnia itself. If we can bring peace to the Balkans, we will in the process have strengthened the Partnership for Peace, strengthened the readiness of early candidates for NATO membership, and strengthened a special relationship between NATO and Russia which is so essential to peace and stability throughout the world.

And so, we truly have within our grasp the possibility of creating a security architecture for a united and democratic Europe, with NATO as its cornerstone. In sending our troops to Bosnia to help preserve stability in post-Cold War Europe, the American people have affirmed their commitment to this vision. For this, I can assure you, the people of Europe are profoundly grateful.

In the coming years and decades, however, the task of preserving the transatlantic partnership will fall to your generation. It will be up to you to ensure that our peoples do not drift apart but instead widen and deepen the ties that bind us across the Atlantic.

I am proud to have given encouragement to this great project last year during the Spanish presidency of the European Union, when we reached agreement with the United States on the "New Transatlantic Agenda", which envisages closer links in fields such as education, science, research, trade and the fight against organised crime and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

In short, we have to embed our security partnership in NATO within a wider context of political and economic ties for the benefit of the next generation of Europeans and Americans who may not remember the common struggles of this century. For it is a fact that NATO exists - and the US remains present in Europe - so that they do not have to face the monumental sacrifices that our peoples endured during the first half of this century.

Indeed, it should never be forgotten that NATO's aim since its inception in 1949 has not been to fight another major war in Europe, but to prevent another major war in Europe. That is what we did throughout the Cold War. That is what we are seeking to achieve now in Bosnia.

For my own part, I can only tell you that my highest priority as Secretary General of NATO will be to strengthen the transatlantic partnership. I spent some of the most important and formative years of my life here in the United States, and out of that experience grew lifelong ties of friendship and the strong personal conviction that Europe and America must continue to share a common destiny.

I truly believe that the enormous opportunities and the very real dangers that await us in the 21st century will be managed peacefully and successfully by the United States and Europe working together - or they will not be managed at all. Because it is NATO which brings us together, I welcome the opportunity to help this great Alliance meet the challenges ahead.

Thank you very much.

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