Updated: 2 December 1999 Speeches

the Defence
2 Dec. 1999

Statement to the press

by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,

We have just finished an intensive and productive meeting of Defence Ministers. We focussed on three main issues:

  • The situation in the Balkans;
  • The follow-up to NATO's Washington Summit last April and, in particular our Defence Capabilities Initiative;
  • And the development of the European Security and Defence Identity.

First, Kosovo and Bosnia.

The Deputy SACEUR, General Smith and COMKFOR, General Reinhardt, briefed us on the current situation.

KFOR has been in Kosovo for just over 150 days and we have made real progress in bringing peace and stability to this province. I have a fact sheet available giving a great deal of data about the many positive recent developments in both Kosovo and Bosnia. I encourage you to draw on it in your reporting. I want to stress that there is a positive side to the situation in Kosovo today.

For the vast majority of the population life is far better now NATO than it was under Milosevic. Of course we are still facing considerable challenges which we discussed today with General Reinhardt. We invested heavily in winning the air campaign; now we have to invest in winning the peace and we will see it through.

Our second main topic was the Defence Capabilities Initiative. The success of this initiative will be crucial if the Allies, and particularly the European Allies, are to be able to carry out all of NATO's missions in the future. We need troops which are trained, equipped and ready for actual use, not just forces which exist on paper alone. These troops have to be mobile, sustainable and survivable and backed up by the best command and control and intelligence.

The success of this project depends critically on resources. As I have visited NATO capitals over the past four weeks, I have urged the Allies to spend more, but above all to spend smarter, and on the right things. Money is important but what it buys is even more important.

Many Allies this morning reported on how they are restructuring their armed forces, drawing on the lessons of Kosovo. Some are now spending more on defence. I hope that these countries will be an example to the others.

What I found particularly encouraging during the discussion is that the NATO nations are now on the business of sharing critical assets, such as transport and logistics. They also are putting more emphasis on developing multinational formations, such as mobile military headquarters.

We are starting to move in the right direction. Defence Ministers are committed to preparing NATO for the challenges of the next century.

Let there be no doubt: I will be pushing to ensure that NATO's Force Proposals fully incorporate our Defence Capabilities Initiative. I will push for the Allies to accept these Force Proposals as a reasonable challenge I will also push for the resources to be allocated to these Force Proposals so that they are actually implemented.

The time for a peace dividend is over because there is no permanent peace - in Europe, or elsewhere. If NATO is to do its job of protecting future generations, we can no longer expect to have security on the cheap.

Our third main topic was the European Security and Defence Identity where we had a very positive discussion, one week in advance of the EU's Helsinki summit.. We welcome the EU's intention to develop headline goals, and in particular the proposal for a European rapid reaction force of 40, - 50,000 available within 60 days. Together with our Defence Capabilities Initiative, additional assets of this kind will help to make NATO stronger, and provide more options for both NATO-led and EU-led operations. In this respect, I detected broad support for my three "I's": the European Security and Defence Identity must bring an improvement in capabilities; it must be inclusive of all Allies; and it must reaffirm the indivisibility of Allied security.

Let me say a brief word about this morning's meetings of the Defence Planning Committee and the Nuclear Planning Group. The DPC, which is responsible for the Alliance's collective defence planning, reviewed our progress in turning decisions on DCI into on-the-ground capabilities. And the Nuclear Planning Group received a briefing by Secretary Cohen on the US assessment of the capabilities of many proliferant states to develop weapons of mass destruction.

Secretary Cohen also provided us over lunch with an update on US consideration of a possible "National Missile Defense" system. He reiterated that no final decision to develop and deploy such a system has been taken as yet. And he re-emphasized that the decision, when it is taken, will take into account the views of Allies.

I would be happy now to take your questions.

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