To the Oxford
Union Society

13 May 1998

"NATO and European Security
into the 21st Century"

Speech by Dr. Javier Solana,
Secretary General of NATO

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Being invited to speak at this joint meeting of the Oxford Union and the European Affairs Society is a great honour. I am very pleased to again be in a university environment, as I recall with fondness my own days in academia as a professor of physics.

The Oxford Union has been a bastion of free speech for 175 years - a truly unique achievement. By comparison, NATO, where we celebrate next year our 50th anniversary, seems almost new! Debating ideas is fundamental to free speech. But debate is also fundamental to making progress. Only if you constantly challenge your own assumptions can you break new ground. My earlier career in physics taught me that, and my experience in politics reinforced it. Without debate, the earth would still be flat, and the integration of Europe would have stayed a project for political theorists alone.

The Oxford Union characterises itself as being "at the cutting edge of controversy", and certainly NATO has been quite a controversial subject over the years. There were times in this chamber when the sparks flew - as for example when the Oxford Union debated NATO's twin-track decision on nuclear modernisation in 1980 or when, in 1984, Caspar Weinberger was here to defend the leading US role in the Alliance. NATO has never failed to respond to the challenges that the Oxford Union has given us to come here and explain ourselves. I am here tonight because NATO, like the Union, is a body that is alive, dynamic, and upholds free speech.

Over the past ten years public attitudes towards NATO and security in general have changed. They have become less ideological and more pragmatic. Today, we tend to judge institutions more by what they can actually achieve than by what they represent.

Of course, we may still argue over specific policies. That is natural. But we do so within the framework of certain widely accepted precepts. And of these precepts, one of the most important is that NATO is an instrument of fundamental strategic value - and it is here to stay. Why does NATO remain in business? Because it offers us a unique tool to shape the strategic environment creatively - and in ways we could not have imagined only a few years ago.

But we can't just use this instrument aimlessly. It must be task-oriented. It must address and respond to the security challenges of today and in the future. If NATO is to remain as relevant to security in the 21st century as it has been in the second half of the 20th, we must address three major challenges.

First, to overcome once and for all Europe's historical division by firmly integrating Central and Eastern Europe into our political, economic and security structures.

Second, to help Russia find its rightful place in this emerging new architecture.

Third, to provide stability for those areas of Europe where the end of the Cold War has not yet brought the benefits it has yielded elsewhere.

To manage these three tasks successfully is the key to a stable 21st century. Each of these tasks is far too challenging for NATO to handle alone. Other institutions - the EU, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, the UN - all have vital roles to play. Yet without NATO, none of these tasks could be tackled with any measure of confidence.

Let us look at the first challenge - overcoming Europe's division for good.

The rationale is clear. For Europe to enjoy long-term stability in the next century it must not only deepen, but also widen. There can be no durable order if the continent remains divided between a prosperous, self-confident West and a stagnant, frustrated East. To leave the East's legitimate quest for integration unanswered would not only be wrong morally. It would also be a recipe for major social and economic crises - crises from which the West could not hope to insulate or distance itself.

The opportunity to draw this continent closer together is there. And NATO has created the policies to help us realise it: partnership, cooperation and enlargement.

The Partnership for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council are the key mechanisms of NATO's cooperative approach. Together, these initiatives represent the strongest impulse for security cooperation that this continent has ever seen. Almost 30 nations from the Euro-Atlantic area - from Armenia to Ukraine, from Switzerland to the countries of Central Asia - engage with the 16 NATO Allies in a unique network for security consultation, joint crisis management, regional cooperation, and for joint humanitarian action and disaster response. Every month, Ambassadors from 44 countries meet around the table at NATO Headquarters. In a fortnight, their Foreign Ministers will meet in Brussels. There is no comparable project anywhere else. And only NATO could have generated such a strong momentum.

Partnership for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council are not fair-weather talking shops. Both respond to clear-cut requirements. They provide a practical mechanism for working together, developing common procedures, and sharing knowledge. Practical assistance is channelled through the Partnership for Peace, whilst the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council provides a political forum for consultation and discussion.

There is no better example of the direct practical benefits of this cooperation than IFOR and SFOR. The smooth establishment of the NATO-led coalition that has brought peace to Bosnia was only possible because of the experience acquired through working together and operating together under Partnership for Peace. Soldiers from Bulgaria, Russia, Sweden work alongside their NATO counterparts every day to achieve a common goal.

Nor is security cooperation confined to traditionally military matters. NATO's civil emergency planners are working with our Partners to establish a disaster response capability. NATO played a key role in providing advice and coordinating assistance during last summer's floods in Poland and the Czech Republic. Through our Science for Peace programme, Western expertise can be shared to tackle problems as diverse as the conversion of obsolete and often dangerous defence equipment and the environmental disaster in the Aral Sea.

Of more immediate concern, Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have both made use of the consultation opportunities provided by PfP in response to the growing crisis in the Balkans. By the same token, we have stepped up our military assistance through the Partnership for Peace to neighbouring Albania and FYROM to avoid a spillover of the crisis. We are advising them on how best to guard their borders; we are holding an impressive set of exercises and training activities for their armed forces; and we are offering advice on how to deal with the possible influx of refugees. We are actively looking at what more can be done. All this demonstrates that NATO's cooperative approach is a genuine one. It is part and parcel of this Alliance's post-Cold War transformation.

The enlargement of our major institutions - NATO and EU - is a natural consequence of this transformation. As we work ever more closely with our Partners it is inevitable that some will want - and will be able to - make the step from partnership to membership. To say 'no' would be to perpetuate the division of Europe into winners and losers. NATO's vision, my vision, is a Europe where concepts of division are consigned to where they belong - the dustbin of history. Yes, there have been arguments about the timing of NATO's enlargement, its cost or the number of invitees. But none of these can alter a basic truth: An open Europe cannot be based on closed institutions.

Several Allied parliaments - most recently the US Senate - have already ratified the accession of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. The Senate's vote in favour of enlargement was overwhelming. It sends a powerful signal of hope and confidence to the new democracies in Central and Eastern Europe. And it encourages future aspirants to continue on the course of reform. NATO's enlargement process - like that of the EU - remains a powerful incentive for Central and Eastern Europe to get its house in order. Partnership for Peace gives us the tools to do so.

The parliaments that have ratified NATO enlargement were unimpressed by the cost issue - and rightly so. The costs of enlargement are manageable. We are no longer in an arms race. Neither the current nor the future Allies need to spend excessive sums on defence. The new members will have to make some challenging adjustments. But they are prepared to make them. And they know that the costs of ensuring security on their own would be far greater than within a solid collective framework.

The fundamental logic of NATO enlargement is now widely accepted. NATO's enlargement is part and parcel of Europe's post-Cold War reconstruction. We have made it clear that enlargement is not a one-off process. No decisions have been made about when further invitations to join NATO may be issued, or to whom. But one thing is clear. NATO's door will remain open.

This process of reconstruction would remain incomplete if it did not embrace Europe's largest country - Russia.

Indeed, how Russia settles herself in this new Europe is perhaps the single most important issue of European security today. That is why our major Western institutions must seek to constructively engage this country. But how? It seems to me that the debate on how to engage Russia is still conducted in extremes - extremes which I would characterise as the social engineers on the one hand, and the fatalists on the other.

The social engineers believe that Russia's future is largely determined by Western policies. I find this a highly condescending position. It treats Russia as if she was unable to have a mind of her own. Most importantly, this position holds Europe hostage to Russia's domestic evolution. And it relegates the legitimate aspirations of Central and Eastern Europe to a mere afterthought.

At the other extreme there are the fatalists. In their view, by history and by nature, Russia will always seek to dominate Europe. They feel that Russia does not belong to Europe, and that we can discard Russia's sensitivities as mere propaganda. Their policy advice for the West usually amounts to grabbing as much advantage as possible while Russia is still weak. Some of these analysts call themselves historians. But to me their advice contains the seed of a self-fulfilling prophecy of perpetual antagonism.

I am neither a social engineer nor a fatalist. I am a realist.

In dealing with Russia, our Alliance has not succumbed to either extreme. NATO has always been about pragmatism. And our way of dealing with Russia is no exception. We believe that the current transformation of Russia offers major opportunities for a new, cooperative relationship - opportunities we must seize. We believe that we both share an interest in building a peaceful and democratic Europe; and in responding more effectively to new security challenges such as regional crises, nuclear proliferation or civil emergencies in and around Europe. We believe that cooperation with Russia is possible even if we disagree on some specific issues. And we believe that a sound NATO-Russia relationship need not be at the expense of the integration of Central and Eastern Europe.

Our bilateral relationship with Russia reflects this pragmatism. It wasn't easy to achieve and it took a long time to come about. But the NATO-Russia Founding Act, signed almost exactly a year ago, and the Permanent Joint NATO-Russia Council now provide us with a solid basis for developing our future relationship.

The Permanent Joint Council is working at a high pace. Ambassadors meet monthly, and we have already had several meetings of Foreign and Defence Ministers - with more to come in a fortnight's time. More practically: we are in the midst of an ambitious work programme.

To put it bluntly: the NATO-Russia relationship works. It works because both NATO and Russia want it to work. It works because both NATO and Russia know that, despite occasional ups and downs in their relationship, they are destined to cooperate. The strong cooperative momentum that has become so visible in our relations with Central and Eastern Europe and with Russia must be extended further. It must also take root in other regions - regions for which the end of communism did not simply mean liberation, but, paradoxically, also created new uncertainty and fear.

The Balkans are a case in point. Without a comprehensive strategy for this volatile region, our continent will not find the tranquility it so urgently needs. The history of the Balkans has vividly demonstrated that, as long as there is instability, Europe's consolidation cannot be fully completed.

By making the security of the Balkans our concern, NATO has destroyed the myth that outside involvement can never make a difference in this conflict-prone region. By uniting different nations behind a common strategy, we broke the fateful cycle of great powers supporting their client-states in the Balkans. And, in exorcising these Balkan ghosts, we also dispelled the notion that NATO was confined to the role of a bystander.

The current NATO-led operation in Bosnia is a unique and unprecedented international coalition for peace. Together, NATO and its Partners are pushing Bosnia towards a sustainable peace, where all parties realise that their stakes in peace are higher than their possible gains in war.

We are still a long way from true reconciliation. But the overall trends are encouraging. Infrastructure is being rebuilt. The economy is slowly re-gaining momentum. A new currency will soon be introduced. Refugees are returning home. War criminals are being put where they belong - in the Hague. Bosnia is moving in the right direction. And we will persevere. The next challenge is Kosovo, where again the spectre of war looms. We are following the situation in Kosovo very closely, and have given full support to the efforts of the international community, including those of the Contact Group in encouraging political solutions to the growing tension and violence in that part of the former Yugoslavia. At the same time, we are developing concrete stabilisation measures through our Partnership for Peace to support two of our Partner countries bordering on Kosovo - Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Let me make two things quite clear. Firstly, the status quo is not acceptable. Equally, independence for Kosovo is not an option. A diplomatic solution must be found within existing frontiers. And secondly, NATO, and the international community, are not prepared to stand by and watch another part of the former Yugoslavia burn.

NATO's experience in Bosnia holds many lessons. But the first and foremost lesson is about the uniqueness of the transatlantic link.

The transatlantic community can create irresistible momentum if it only stands together. This has been a key lesson of the 20th century. It should also underpin our security strategies in the 21st. The challenges I outlined - integrating Central and Eastern Europe, bringing Russia into the fold, preventing and managing crises in the wider Europe - these challenges must be tackled by both sides of the Atlantic. For Europe or North America to work in isolation would seriously overtax the capabilities of both. We have to stick together.

Now, I don't have to impress an audience like you about the enduring value of the transatlantic link. In many respects, you represent this very link. As NATO enters its next half-century, this link must be kept dynamic, not static. It must be kept up-to-date and reflect the broader changes in our environment. In short, the transatlantic relationship must complete its transition from a community of shared threats to a community of shared interests.

Clearly, Europe is not yet the strategic actor it wants to be, nor the global Partner the US seeks. We may have to live for some time with an asymmetry between what the US expects from Europe and what Europe can deliver. But I predict that in the years to come we shall see the emergence of a more mature transatlantic relationship, in which Europe plays a role commensurate with its economic strength. This is why it is so essential to develop a European Security and Defence Identity within NATO.

Ladies and gentlemen:

The 20th century started with hope and optimism, which were cruelly shattered on the plains of Flanders. Through NATO, as a result of the transatlantic link, there has not been a major war in Europe for half a century. As we approach the beginning of the new century, as NATO approaches its 50th anniversary, it is a time to look forward, to celebrate the future, not the past, to ensure that we grasp the advantage that history offers us. You here today are that future. In the careers ahead of you, whether in government, industry, business, science or the arts, you will shape the 21st century. It will be you who, in the long term, bear the responsibility for keeping the transatlantic relationship dynamic and healthy. It is the personal level, the people-to-people links, that ultimately make our Atlantic community tick. It is the attachment to common values and shared principles that make the Atlantic community so unique.

Clearly, NATO cannot bear the full traffic of such a broader transatlantic relationship. No one body can do everything. Yet the Alliance remains the institutionalised sine qua non of our wider transatlantic partnership. That is why NATO remains in business - today, tomorrow, and in the coming century.

Thank you.

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