Updated: 08-May-2002 NATO Speeches

28 May 1998


by the US Secretary of State, Madeleine K.Albright
at the North Atlantic Council

Mr. Secretary-general, Mr. President d'Honneur, fellow ministers, distinguished colleagues: I am very pleased to speak with you here this morning on behalf of the United States.

In eleven months our leaders will gather in Washington to celebrate NATO's 50th anniversary and to welcome the first new democracies from central Europe as full members of our alliance. President Clinton is looking forward to hosting your heads-of-state and government for this historic event.

Two weeks ago in Berlin, the President laid out his thinking on a new Euro-Atlantic partnership for the 21st century. He reminded us that the destinies of America and Europe are joined today and in the future no less than they were fifty years ago when NATO was founded. His speech was an invitation to start a conversation on how we can shape that partnership together.

The history of the 20th century has taught us that we need a partnership in which you can count on us and we can count on you. Our goals are enduring -- providing security, ensuring prosperity and defending democracy. The institutions that unite us in pursuit of these goals are well-established. They include not only NATO but the OSCE and the relationship between the United States and the European Union.

The immediate challenges we face together are ambitious. They include completing the integration of Europe, including Russia and Ukraine; deepening the ties between the U.S. and Europe; and establishing more effective mechanisms for America and Europe to pursue common interests in Europe and beyond.

In 1999 our leaders will come together to address these challenges at the NATO summit, at two U.S.-EU summits as well as the OSCE summit. This is the right time to start a discussion about how we can use these events to set the purpose and direction of our partnership for the 21st century.

The need for that kind of discussion was brought home to me when our Senate was debating NATO enlargement last month.

As you know, an overwhelming majority of Senators from both political parties voted to ratify the admission of new members. This means that almost a decade after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the American people have decided not just to preserve our commitment to the security of Europe, but to extend it.

At the same time, the debate that preceded this decision raised many serious questions. Americans are as interested in the future mission of NATO as they are about its makeup. They are happy to see the flags of capable new allies flying outside our headquarters. But they also want to see Americans and Europeans act together to solve the most pressing real-world threats to our security.

For the last several years, our leaders have been meeting to adapt our alliance to these challenges and to a transformed Europe. They set the specific goals at summits in 1991, 1994 and 1997. And we have largely met those goals. We have streamlined NATO's command structure and increased European responsibilities; we have undertaken new missions; we have created the Partnership for Peace and the EAPC; we have redefined NATO's relations with Russia and Ukraine; and later today we will meet at 19 with the first of our future allies from central Europe.

This adapted NATO is not just an instrument through which Americans help Europeans secure Europe. Its purpose is to defend our common interest in transatlantic security.

As President Clinton said in Berlin: "Yesterday's NATO guarded our borders against direct military invasion. Tomorrow's NATO must continue to defend enlarged borders and defend against threats to our security from beyond them -- the spread of weapons of mass destruction, ethnic violence and regional conflict." It must do so in part because the very nature of potential Article V threats is changing. But it must also do so because non-Article V threats can become Article V threats if they are not addressed early.

I know that some people have suggested that our intent is to alter the original intent of the Washington Treaty, or to create some kind of new "global NATO." If I could use a polite American diplomatic term, that is just hogwash. All we are talking about is continuing the adaptation of NATO to the realities of the post-Cold War era.

Let me say that I am a conservative and a hawk when it comes to protecting the sanctity of the Washington treaty. I have made it clear to the U.S. Senate and I want to be clear today that NATO's primary mission must remain collective defense against aggression. This is the heart of our commitment under the Washington Treaty.

But we have also always had the option to use NATO's strength beyond its borders to protect our security interests. NATO's founders recognized this. In fact, 50 years ago my predecessor Dean Acheson pointed out that while the Washington Treaty involves commitments to collective defense, it also allows us to come together to meet common threats that might emanate from beyond the North Atlantic area.

That was a wise approach in 1949, and it should help frame our discussions in 1999.

If joint military action is ever needed to protect vital alliance interests, NATO should be our institution of choice. After all, in such a crisis, it would be foolish not to use the unified command that we have already built; it would be strange not to rely on the habits of cooperation that we have already developed after 50 years in this alliance.

As in the past, we should approach these issues in a manner that is evolutionary, not revolutionary. We should move forward step by step, and recognize that we have already taken many important steps - from the 1991 revision in NATO's strategic concept, which emphasized outreach to new democracies, to our decision to deploy NATO forces to defend common interests in Bosnia. Such missions have become part of what NATO is all about, as is our commitment to undertake them with our Partners whenever possible.

What does all this mean for our work together over the next eleven months?

First, at the Washington summit I hope our nations will issue a political declaration on NATO's rationale and purpose for the 21st century that reflects these considerations.

Second, we should agree on a revised strategic concept that reflects that rationale and which gives our military planners the guidance they need to address the full spectrum of military contingencies NATO forces are likely to face in the future.

Third, we must ensure that NATO can do what it says. We must expand our efforts to deal with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, to address the interoperability challenges across the Atlantic and to promote greater defense industrial cooperation in an age of shrinking defense budgets. Those efforts should culminate in a set of concrete initiatives to which our heads-of-state can agree next April.

The point is to ensure our alliance has the means to accomplish its task: to protect security, and thus to allow freedom and prosperity to flourish. But of course, for this formula to work, our nations must have the resolve to act together as well.

The recent nuclear tests in India are an example of a problem that requires our joint action and resolve. Only by acting together to impose a price on this kind of behavior can we deter others from pursuing the nuclear option. Only by rewarding restraint with tangible support can we encourage nations with the capacity to go nuclear to join the overwhelming majority that have chosen not to do so.

Last week's North Atlantic Council statement on South Asia was a good beginning. We must keep working together to show we understand the gravity of this threat and to shore up the global non-proliferation regime we built together.

In all these ways, I believe we can continue constructing an inclusive, outward looking Euro-Atlantic community that builds stability in Europe and that projects a sense of security more broadly around the globe. But we also have unfinished business closer to home that demands our attention.

We still have work to do to strengthen and modernize the partnership between Europe and North America. This is partly an economic challenge -- it requires moving step by step toward truly free and open trade across the Atlantic. But it is a political challenge as well. It requires an effort to work through our occasional differences and to find effective ways to advance together the countless interests we share.

Another vital goal remains to complete the integration of Europe. By this I do not just mean fitting the right countries into the right bureaucratic arrangements under the right acronyms. I am talking about the need to build in all of Europe what we have built together in western Europe in the last 50 years.

I mean extending as far as possible a community that upholds and enforces common standards of human rights, a community where borders are open to travel and trade, a community where nations cooperate to make war unthinkable. I mean defining Europe in the broadest and most inclusive way and overcoming the barriers that old conflicts and past prejudice have etched in our minds and on our maps. The addition of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to our alliance is a huge step in the right direction. We are erasing the last vestiges of the Iron Curtain, and we have established once and for all that this alliance and the community it represents will be open to those nations able to help advance its goals.

This means that the first new members of NATO shall not be the last. If a European country is important to our security, and if it demonstrates that it is ready -- politically, economically, and militarily -- to contribute to our security, it will be in our interest to welcome it through the open door. This is central to the logic of a larger NATO.

It also means that our approach to future rounds should be as pragmatic as our approach to the first. Our timetable should be driven not by political calculations, but by the performance of aspiring countries. There should be no artificial deadlines or premature promises. A country's place on the European map should neither rule it in nor rule it out.

Nor can we assume that our parliaments will always agree. The U.S. Senate rejected an arbitrary pause in the process of enlargement, but I can tell you there is zero chance it will ratify the admission of future candidates unless they meet the high standards we set for Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic. Success in future rounds depends on protecting NATO's reputation -- as an alliance of nations willing and able to share military and financial burdens.

It will also require working actively with candidate nations to help them reach the finish line, instead of moving the line closer and waiting for them to cross. We have to operationalize the commitment we made in Madrid - to give aspiring countries not promises but a process that helps them understand what they must do to make membership a real possibility.

NATO is not the only organization that has begun to welcome new members. We fully support the expansion of the European Union. We welcome the start of EU accession talks with the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia, and trust this process will eventually embrace others in central Europe as well as Turkey. We hope the EU will move forward as rapidly as possible, for NATO cannot guarantee military security where there is not economic security as well.

America has supported every European effort toward deeper economic integration from the Coal and Steel Community to the single market. We support the creation of a single currency today. We do so with confidence that the EU will expand on the basis of openness of outlook and access. And we are hopeful that as the EU lowers its barriers to the more prosperous countries in central Europe, it does not oblige these countries to raise barriers to other nations.

As our institutions expand eastward, we must avoid creating a new dividing line, a new gray zone, a new strategic and economic limbo further to the east.

That is why NATO's Partnership for Peace has never been more vital.

It is why when NATO takes action, we should strive whenever possible to do so with our partners in the EAPC -- and why the United States will welcome each of the EAPC's member countries to the Washington summit. The new NATO has to be better equipped to cooperate with partners, an interest that must be reflected in our new strategic concept.

It is why we have long recognized our interest in a stable and free Ukraine. We can be proud of our success in cementing cooperation between NATO and Ukraine. But we must also keep in mind that Ukraine is facing a major economic challenge in the weeks ahead. The greatest threat to its security comes from within; it can only be overcome through reform and recovery.

To complete our vision, we have also been working hard to encourage Russia's integration with Europe as a nation that upholds and defends the rules of the international system. We want Russia to be part of this new partnership. Taking the next steps in NATO's transformation will further underscore that NATO has an enduring purpose, that its mission is directed not at or against Russia, but one we can foresee pursuing with Russia. A new strategic concept will demonstrate that our military planning is no longer preoccupied with a real or imagined Russian threat.

Of course, it us up to Russia to choose how it will engage with NATO and the world. But Russia is far more likely to make the right choices about its future if we continue to make clear that its future lies with us.

Each of us and Russia as well should be working to give the OSCE a more substantial role, to make it more operational than conversational, to give it the money and the mandate not only to establish democratic standards, but to defend them on the ground. NATO cannot do this. The EU cannot do this. None of us can do it alone. But the OSCE has already begun to play this role in Bosnia, Albania, Croatia, Armenia and the Baltics. As President Clinton proposed in Berlin, we should strive to expand its presence in the Caucasus and Central Asia.

No less a challenge will be to preserve and strengthen military stability and openness in Europe by updating the CFE treaty. Progress in the CFE adaptation negotiations should be a priority for the Alliance during the remainder of the year. Having made an excellent start last year, the Alliance now needs to follow through in filling out our negotiating proposal in Vienna. We must do so in a way that reinforces NATO's role in European security. I recently wrote Foreign Minister Primakov to reaffirm our readiness to move forward with Russia to reach a CFE agreement that takes fully into account the interests of all parties involved. This will require creative thinking and tough decisions from all of us.

In short, we have a big agenda ahead of us. But it is not too ambitious for a partnership that defended freedom in Europe for half a century, a partnership that is unifying this continent, a partnership that against the expectations of so many people has survived and even flourished through a time of breathtaking change.

The Washington summit is just 11 months away. The new millennium will follow just eight months later.

My goals for the NATO summit are simple. We will be meeting not just to celebrate past achievements, or to have just another ceremony welcoming the admission of new allies. This is not just going to be the last successful summit of the 20th century. It is going to be the summit that defines the NATO of the 21st century.

Our task is to make clear what our alliance will do and what our partnership will mean in a Europe truly whole and free, and in a world that looks to us for principled and purposeful leadership for peace for prosperity and for freedom.

In this spirit, I look forward to our discussion today and to our work together in the months and years to come.


Luxembourg, May 28, 1998

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