New York

29 July 1997


by NATO Secretary General Javier Solana

Columbia University
New York

I am pleased to be here at Columbia University, which is one of America's oldest and most distinguished universities. Indeed, Columbia has a connection with NATO in that the first Supreme Allied Commander, General Eisenhower, is a former President of this university. Columbia has contributed more than its fair share of high-calibre statesmen and diplomats to the United States over the years. So I can think of no better platform here in New York or, for that matter, anywhere in the United States, from which to discuss the new role of NATO.

I am particularly pleased to be able to speak to you so soon after the Madrid Summit. This Summit was indeed a crucial one in the history of NATO. It provided a comprehensive action plan for the future. It gave NATO the means it needs to fulfil its wider purpose in this new Europe.

The commitments made by the 16 in Madrid show how creative the Alliance has been over the past year. The Summit was bold, innovative, and it showed leadership. It confirmed that NATO remains at the very centre of European security. We have set out the policies and the vision for the next century.

Indeed, just listing the major Summit achievements makes it perfectly clear that NATO today has become a catalyst for a new, comprehensive security order:

  • We have invited the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to start accession negotiations with the Alliance;
  • We have committed ourselves to a robust "open door" policy concerning further accessions;
  • We have substantially enhanced our Partnership for Peace programme;
  • We launched the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC);
  • We have signed a Charter with Ukraine on a distinct and effective partnership;
  • We have enhanced the dialogue with our Mediterranean neighbours;
  • We have made further progress in developing European Security and Defence Identity within the Alliance; and
  • We have moved ahead on a radically reformed NATO command structure.

These achievements make it obvious that the Summit has delivered on all aspects of the new NATO. So the Alliance emerged stronger from Madrid. We emerged stronger, because our vision for the future offers increased security for all the countries of Europe. We emerged stronger also because we have the resources - political, diplomatic, military - to achieve what we promise.

If we look back at NATO's history, NATO has always achieved the most when it has been most bold. Thirty years ago, the Alliance embraced what was called the Harmel approach to security. At that time the East-West confrontation looked set to last, and Europe and the world looked forever locked into deep division - ideological, military and geographic.

Despite some setbacks, the risk the Alliance took by promoting change paid spectacular dividends. Indeed, almost every key security development in Europe since the 1960s can be credited to NATO's daring to take the risk for change at the right time. The historic nuclear arms control treaties of the 1980s, the CFE Treaty of 1990; the end of the Cold War itself. All these came about because the Alliance was bold and strong.

Tomorrow as today and yesterday, there is one fundamental condition for success. That the Alliance itself remain strong and politically united.

This will be particularly true of our future relationship with Russia. As you know, we have created a new Joint Permanent Council with Russia, in which Russia and NATO will meet regularly to discuss issues of common interest and concern. The first meeting took place barely two weeks ago. The first Ministerial meeting is scheduled for September in New York.

I am aware that some observers have voiced concern that this new forum could give Russia too much influence over NATO's policies. Let me assure you that these concerns are unfounded. The NATO-Russia Council is entirely separate from the North Atlantic Council. What we discuss with the Russians is what we agree to discuss with them - and, in my view, as we see the fruits of consultation, we can broaden the agenda.

So Russia cannot expect to block NATO's own decision-taking. But what it can expect is that NATO will listen and take Russia's legitimate concerns seriously.

Our desire to build a security architecture with Russia is a genuine one. And I believe we have conveyed this point to Russia convincingly. Only six months ago, many commentators were arguing that we would have to choose between NATO enlargement and Russia. We have since learned that we can have both - first class new members of NATO and a transformed NATO-Russia relationship.

The new NATO-Russia relationship is well on track. So is another major objective of our strategic agenda: opening NATO to those nations who had been eprived of their free choice 50 years ago. That is why NATO's recent decision to invite the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland is so crucial. It is the most visible sign that our Atlantic community is dynamic and growing.

Opening NATO to new democracies is as inevitable politically as it is necessary morally. It will remove the invisible barriers that still divide Europe. It will give the new democracies to our East confidence in their further political and economic development. And it will prevent the expensive and potentially dangerous re-nationalisation of their defence policies. Enlargement is therefore about much more than military interoperability. What we are doing is building "political interoperability" across the continent.

By contrast, not to enlarge NATO would spread a sense of abandonment and insecurity across Europe. It would lead to a new strategic division in Europe, a division into a selfish and self-centred West and a disappointed, insecure East. It would deprive Central and Eastern Europe of a major incentive to political, economic and military reform. And it would encourage purely national solutions to their security needs - the bane of European history of the earlier half of this century. This cannot be in our interest. And it is in our hands not to let it happen.

So, the decision to invite Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to join NATO should be seen for what it is - a new start for a new re-shaped Europe. And a strategic gain for the entire Atlantic community.

But what about those who have not been invited this time? My simple answer: enlargement is an open process, not a single event. No democratic country will be excluded from consideration. So those who want to join will and should continue to advance their case. They will continue their political and military reforms. And they will continue to improve relations with their neighbours.

What about costs? Yes, enlargement of our Alliance will add costs. But they will be manageable, and at Madrid the Allies agreed to make available the necessary resources. For the new Allies, what is important is that, for the first time in their history, they will be joining a strong, stable collective defence system. And that, in the long run, will be the most cost-effective security formula for both the United States and Europe.

And while we are preparing to accept the first three new members, those who are serious candidates for the next wave, will also be preparing to join - by moving toward greater interoperability with NATO and by taking a greater part in the enhanced Partnership for Peace.

This Partnership for Peace is one of the big success stories in NATO over the past three years. It has allowed us to develop practical military-to-military cooperation with 27 countries of Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Such a network of cooperation is unprecedented in European history.

After Madrid, the Partnership for Peace will be even more operational. Military exercises will become more complex and robust. Our Partners will have a stronger presence at NATO Headquarters and will be involved more deeply in our decision-making and planning than ever before. All in all, the more demanding activities that we are introducing into the Partnership for Peace will greatly facilitate our ability to integrate Partner forces into future operations.

Our experience in Bosnia, where 16 NATO countries are cooperating in the NATO-led peacekeeping force SFOR with no fewer than 20 non-NATO countries, is the model for the future. Without the Partnership for Peace, such a broad but also highly effective military coalition would have been unthinkable.

Equally importantly, we have created the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. This forum will provide Partners with greater participation both in the normal peacetime work of the Partnership as well as in crisis. It provides opportunities for Partners to be more closely involved in NATO-led operations they participate in. This has to some extent already been the case in our joint Bosnia operation. The EAPC is thus the logical political complement to a stronger, more operational Partnership for Peace.

All this means that the Atlantic community is growing, both in quantity and quality. The pool of resources we can draw on in managing crises in Europe is growing. The share of the security burden is being spread more evenly. And the possibilities for the Alliance to exercise decisive influence on security developments throughout Europe have grown.

Increasingly, this transatlantic Alliance has a pan-European vocation. It has a tremendous attraction for countries throughout the Euro-Atlantic area, either as partners or as prospective members. Even countries who come from a strongly neutral tradition are eager to involve themselves with NATO through PfP and the EAPC - ready to help in peace support operations and increasingly sympathetic to the ideals and goals of our Alliance.

There is no other organisation which can fulfil the range of functions as NATO, or have the same stabilising effect.

But let me say that to maintain this position requires sustained commitment from both sides of the Atlantic.

The United States, as the most powerful member of the Alliance, must continue to lead. This does not mean, however, that the US has to accept the full burden of leadership in every case, and in every contingency. It does mean that the US has to be fully engaged in everything the Alliance does, if not always, then in political support.

This is a moment of great opportunity for both the United States and Europe. The war in Bosnia has been stopped finally by our joint actions. Countries across Central and Eastern Europe are transforming their societies and reconciling with their neighbours to meet the requirements for NATO membership. And Russia and Ukraine have accepted our offer of partnership. This is not the moment to squander our achievements through distracting internal differences.

This brings me finally to the part to be played by the other Allies and particularly the Europeans.

The Europeans are committed to meeting their fair share of Alliance obligations. They will continue to strengthen the Alliance in many ways. In particular, the Europeans are now fully committed to building the European Security and Defence Identity within NATO. This is a marked advance on the confusion of the beginning of the decade, when it appeared that some Europeans were trying to create a military capability outside the alliance.

As the European arrangement develops within NATO, it will add to our options. We will create the genuine capacity for the Europeans to take on more responsibility, drawing on NATO assets and working with the United States.

No longer will the Alliance be caught in a false choice between US engagement or no engagement in a crisis. Where the Alliance - and I stress the Alliance - agrees that an operation can and should be led by Europeans, it will, for the first time, be a realistic option.

I believe also that as Europeans begin to take on greater responsibilities for their own security, they will be in a better position to support the United States in contingencies beyond Europe. In short, a new transatlantic bargain is in the making - a bargain that will reflect the new realities of a new century.

Ladies and Gentlemen, NATO is in excellent shape. We have made a successful transition from the old NATO to the new NATO. We are not resting on our laurels, but are looking ahead and preparing for the challenges of the year 2000 and beyond. Only by being oriented to the future will this great Alliance survive and prosper.

By keeping the course we set out in Madrid - enlargement, partnership, internal reform, we have a real chance to make the 21st century a much better one for Europe than this 20th century we are now leaving behind. Thank you.


Columbia University
School of International and Public Affairs

 [ Go to Speeches Menu ]  [ Go to Homepage ]