At the Orange
County World
Affairs Council

16 Oct. 1997


by the Secretary General of NATO, Dr. Javier Solana

It is a pleasure to have this opportunity to address the Orange County World Affairs Council. In advancing public understanding of foreign and security issues, your Council makes a vital contribution to the free and open debate that characterises our democratic societies.

Here in California, the immediate view is obviously the Pacific. But it is fair to say that few other parts of the world have so quickly grasped the implications of global interdependence in the information age. Coupled with that is California's reputations for dynamism, innovation - in short, being "ahead of the curve". This gives you a unique capacity and inclination to look beyond geographical boundaries and parochial concerns to see better how the world works, and where in particular American interests lie.

Despite its Pacific location, this state has produced more than its fair share of committed Atlanticists. Some of NATO's finest public servants are and have been from California. And the many prominent universities and think tanks here have put their intellectual stamp on ideas, policies and initiatives that have influenced European security. Europe has benefitted from California's contribution.

One of my reasons for being here today is to express my appreciation - as NATO Secretary General and as a European - for a long-standing and continuing support for the transatlantic partnership.

This partnership, embodied by NATO, has made possible nearly 50 years of unprecedented peace, security and prosperity throughout the transatlantic area.

Much has changed since NATO was created in 1949, but the basics cultural, political and economic ties that brought the U.S. and its Allies together then are even more important and dynamic today. Indeed, a stable and secure Europe is, and will remain, of vital importance to the prosperity, political interests and security of the United States.

That is the theme I wish to address today. And I believe it timely to do so, now that the U.S. public and Congress are taking up the issue of NATO enlargement.

NATO, today as yesterday, is based on the recognition that Europe's security and stability are indivisible from North America's security and stability. This is as true now as it was during the period of the Cold War. It is for the following reasons.

First and foremost, even a quick glance at the historical record shows how profoundly war and conflict in Europe have affected the lives of ordinary Americans. Two world wars - and the immense costs of intervening, of achieving hard-fought victory, and then of reconstruction - is testament enough.

The record also shows that, when the US is firmly engaged in Europe, not only do the wars not happen, but democracy advances. The clear trend in Western Europe since the Second World War has been towards greater sharing of democratic values, integration and peaceful relations. So much so that the thought of ever going to war against each other is now absurd. Much blood and treasure have been spent learning this simple axiom about the importance of U.S. engagement. Let us not forget it at the moment of our success.

Europe is still America's primary source of like-minded allies sharing values and willing to support the US when the chips are down. Consider the Gulf War. Then and now, it is the Europeans who join the U.S. in meeting global responsibilities. Of course, this does not exclude frictions in the transatlantic relationship for time to time. But such differences should not be a distraction from the larger truth - we solve problems best when we stick together.

In an age of interdependence, a prosperous and united Europe with a more stable and growing economy means more prosperity and jobs in the U.S. And we are not just talking about the economic opportunities that lie in Western Europe alone. The potential of the vast area that stretches from Central and Eastern Europe to the Caucasus and to Central Asia is enormous - offering new markets and investments, as well as considerable human and natural resources. Clearly, preserving security and stability throughout the Euro-Atlantic area is as much in our mutual interest now and in the future as it was in the past.

At the end of the Cold War, some argued that we should disband the Alliance, for the reason that NATO had successfully overcome the threat that first brought it into existence. Alternatively, we could have rested on our laurels, basing the transatlantic partnership solely on nostalgia, on telling stories of past glories and of great crises successfully overcome., But fortunately the U.S. and its Allies recognised that NATO is an Alliance bound together primarily from within by common values, interests and visions, not just from outside by threat of fear of war. The Allies have therefore reaffirmed their fundamental bonds, and have even gone beyond the status quo to renew NATO to meet new missions and new challenges.

For what came with the relief of the end of decades of East-West confrontation was the realisation taht the job was only partly completed. We saw that we could not be indifferent to the fate of the newly independent countries and new democracies of Central and Eastern Europe. If we were serious in our rhetoric about supporting their recovery of independence and internal democracy, the choice was clear. They had to become permanently based in our Euro-Atlantic structures, if democracy and market economy were to take root, and not be reversed at the first set back.

Today, this decision has paid dividends. Our goal of a united, secure Europe, permanently at peace, is closer than it ever has been in history. And it has come from acting together, from showing boldness and imagination.

Our achievements over the last year tell the story:

  • three countries that cooperate closely with NATO, countries we call Partners - the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland - have begun accession talks, with a view to NATO membership;

  • we have committed ourselves to keeping the NATO door open for future members;

  • we have embarked on a new partnership with Russia through the NATO-Russia Founding Act;

  • we have created opportunities for intensified consultations with our Cooperation Partners, of whom there are 27, through the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council;

  • we have substantially enhanced the Partnership for Peace programme - a programme we began in 1994 that has dramatically increased mutual understanding and cooperation between NATO and former Warsaw Pact, neutral and other non-NATO European countries;

  • we have signed a Charter on a Distinctive Partnership with Ukraine;

  • we are enhancing our dialogue with non-NATO Mediterranean neighbours; and

  • we have made further progress in reforming NATO's command structure, and in developing arrangements within the Alliance that will allow European Allies to assume greater responsibility for their security, including in future operations that the U.S. may choose not to participate in.

And, as if that were not already an impressive list of accomplishments, the Alliance - along with many of its Partners - has continued to guarantee peace in Bosnia through the Stabilisation Force, which is helping to implement the Dayton Accords.

The work I have just described is ongoing. There is still much work to be done.

In my view, we still face four crucial challenges, which will be key tests to our vision of transatlantic security. And all will require Alliance determination and purpose if we are to forge ahead.

The first crucial challenge. Making a success of our enlargement policy.

We are enlarging NATO because, quite simply, we want the peace that has become the hallmark of Western Europe to last and to be extended; we want freedom and democracy to take root; we want a situation in which no country of Europe will ever again look upon its neighbours as a potential or actual threat.

By enlarging NATO, we are enlarging the zone of security enjoyed by only half of Europe in the past fifty years. And where will face the challenges of the future working together, not against each other.

It seems of late that we have tended to overlook the larger context of NATO enlargement, and the concrete security benefits it can bring. Instead, the focus has narrowed to the projected costs of enlargement. While it is, of course, the responsibility of our citizens and parliamentarians to examine all aspects of important issues such as NATO enlargement, we also need to ensure that we base such examination on balanced and accurate information.

For instance, I often hear it said that the costs of enlargement will be excessive or that they will fall unfairly on certain Allies. This is not true. Our preliminary estimates indicate that costs will be manageable. And all Allies have agreed to provide the resources necessary to meet these costs. We are currently working hard to estimate the costs, and will present an objective and accurate report to NATO's Foreign and Defence Ministers in December.

Furthermore, the costs of enlargement will be shared fairly by 19 future Allies. And these costs will pale in comparision to the costs we all have to pay when security breaks down. Think of how much it has cost us - and continues to cost us everyday - to bring peace to Bosnia. So I would say frankly: NATO enlargement is a wise investment, and never before has building security been so cost-effective.

Our second challenge will be to make a success of the Alliance's new relationship with Russia.

It has long been my view that NATO and Russia are destined to cooperate. We both share an interest in building a peaceful and democratic Europe; and we both share an interest in responding more effectively to new security challenges such as instability, nuclear proliferation or civil emergencies in and around Europe.

With the new NATO-Russia Founding Act, signed in Paris last May, we now have with Russia the institutional basis for our future relationslhip. And it is already functioning. The NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council - the key body in our new relationship - has already held its first meetings and launched a programme of actiivites for this autumn.

Most importantly, we have established a new spirit of confidence and mutual understanding that will doubtless flow over time from such cooperation and consultation. We have succeeded in bringing Russia closer to our cooperative security structures, making room for her at the table in a manner that befits her size and weight in security matters.

One important element in our new partnership with Russia is the military one. Greater military-to-military cooperation between NATO and Russia is a development we have been counting on for some time after the end of the Cold War. Now, we hope, it will finally start soon, and at a high level of Russian representation.

Let us not overlook the nuclear dialogue which is foreseen in the Founding Act. Exchanging views with our Russian partners on issues of nuclear doctrine, nuclear safety, the risks of proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction - and what to do about it. These exhanges of views will act to bolster mutual confidence while giving a high-level forum in which Russia can voice particular concerns on such issues. I think this dialogue on nuclear matters is a crucial element of our new partnership.

A word about what was agreed and what was not on Russia's new relationship with NATO.

Russia has to be an integrated player, not a bystander, in the new security order that we are building in Europe. Our whole approach to Russia is based on this belief. Yes, it's true that we have made a bold step in bringing Russia closer to the Euro-Atlantic structures. But I want to underline: we are giving Russia a voice, not a veto on Alliance activiites.

The North Atlantic Council retains its full autonomy. We have taken extreme care in the negotiations to protect NATO's decision-making process, while establishing the foundations for the development of joint activities with Russia which will enhance our mutual understanding and cooperation. The Founding Act makes this quite clear. So NATO will not be any less cohesive and capable of carrying out its core missions because of the Permanent Joint Council.

On the other hand, consider for a moment what the pay-off will be for our security and that of other countries of Europe if we have a strong, constructive relationship with Russia. A Russia accustomed to cooperation and joint activities with the allies, a more stable and predictable Russia. A Russia closely engaged with the Alliance in consultations across a wide stretch of security-related issues would be in all our interests.

The third challenge concerns the need to stay together over Bosnia. If we lose our focus, our sense of purpose, then the chances of stabilising Bosnia will be all the more difficult. Bosnia is relevant to the stability of Southeastern Europe and therefore to peace and security of Europe as a whole. That is why we have to get it right.

Bosnia has now been at peace for almost two years. The warring factions have been separated and disarmed in a way which makes resumption of hostilities much more difficult, thanks in great part to NATO.

But we have not done this alone. The contirbution of 21 Partners and other non-NATO countries has made SFOR a true international coalition for peace. But let us remember the key element of its success. The Multinational Force in Bosnia is NATO-led, it was NATO-planned, and Allies contribute the bulk of the forces and equipment.

Now we are starting to see the signs of progress. Not only has the fighting stopped, heavy weapons have been cantoned. Infrastructure is being reconnected and rebuilt, roads put back in service, thousands of housing units repaired, electrric power service re-installed.

Normalcy is returning increasingly to everyday life. Unemployment has dropped, GDP growth has occurred in the Federation; roughly 175,000 refugees have returned to Bosnia from residence abroad; more than 160,000 other persons displaced by the war inside Bosnia have returned to their homes.

The media is being democratised; the Specialist Police are being brought to heel; elections are being held without violence; the common institutions are beginning to function; and airports are re-opening. Perhaps most importantly of all, our pressure on the parties to transfer their indicted war criminals to The Hague has yielded important results.

Of course, there must be greater additional progress in a number of key areas - refugee returns, apprehension of war criminals, common currency, passports and citizenship - to name several. We need to keep the presssure on all parties to comply with their commitments under these Accords. It is they who bear the responsibility for making Dayton work; it is they whose signatures are on the Accords and who have promised to implement them fully.

Nevertheless, much remains to be done before our goal of a self-sustaining peace in Bosnia is achievable. At times like this it is easy to succumb to frustration and defeatism. I have been struck by some voices calling for the abandonment of Dayton, and some even advocating partition.

I want to tell you categorically here today that such a course of action would be catastrophic - morally, politically, economically. Partition would violate all our principles. It would reward aggression and extremism - with potentially terrible consequences elsewhere. It would also waste our massive international effort to create a better future for Bosnia. Now is not the moment to give up, but to stay the course. And stay together.

The fourth challenge is to make NATO fully fit for the challenges of the 21st century, completing the job of reforming Alliance structures. We want to make our forces more flexible, more mobile - and hence better suited for the new tasks and missions of the Alliance.

In addition, the command structure reform we have almost completed will:

  • provide a means to allow the greatest participation of our Partners in peackeeping and crisis management planning, training and operations;

  • make possible the idea of European-only operations, whether carried out by European Allies acting within NATO or under the direction of the Western European Union.

This will create greater possibilities for Euiropeans to take on a greater share of responsibility in security matters. And inviting our Partners in the Partnership for Peace to associate themselves more closely NATO's military structures, defence planning processes and exercises in peacetime will expand the number of countries able and willing to cooperate with NATO Allies.

This means more possibilities in future for building international coalitions for peace. And with greater participation, there can be a wider political and resource base for peacekeeping and crisis management operations. Let us not forget, for instance, that there are 37 countries contributing to SFOR and around 65% of the land forces today in SFOR are European, both from Allied and Partner countries.

Thus, in getting NATO's new structures right, the Alliance gains a greater number of Partners who can - as in the case of SFOR - share the burden for building stability in Europe.

To conclude, NATO's political agenda is not primarily about giving a new lease of life to a long-standing and venerable institution. It is about strengthening the bonds that have kept the Alliance together, stable and secure, for the past half-century. It is about adapting Alliance structures to meet new challenges. Finally, it is about a vision of partnership and cooperation extending throughout the Euro-Atlantic region. This vision is not only of a peaceful Europe - but also a Europe with the stability, confidence and prosperity to be a true partner of the United States in dealing with the challenges we will undoubtedly face in the 21st century.

But first the challenges I outlined must be successfully tackled. And this will require effort. But I am confident we can do it - if we stick together and keep our Alliance strong.

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