Updated: 13-May-2002 Speeches

North Atlantic
15 Dec. 1999

The State of the Alliance:
An American Perspective

by Strobe Talbott,
Deputy Secretary of State

Mr. Secretary-General and distinguished colleagues: I bring greetings from Secretary Albright. She had hoped to be with you today, but, as I think all of you know, it was necessary for her to be in Washington to work with President Clinton in seizing the opportunity for fresh progress in the search for peace in the Middle East.

This ministerial meeting of the North Atlantic Council comes at the end of a climactic year and a turbulent century. In some ways, it was perhaps fitting that, earlier this year, our common resolve and common purpose were put to the test just as we entered our sixth decade as an Alliance. Fortunately - and to the credit of every nation represented here - we rose to that challenge and passed that test. We acted together, and successfully, to end ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, and we forged together a blueprint for NATO's next half century at the Washington Summit.

We are all proud to have an outstanding new Secretary General. Among the other accomplishments he brings to his new post, Lord Robertson conducted the United Kingdom's Strategic Defense Review, which is a model for enacting the kind of reforms all Allies need to make.

We are also fortunate to have three new Allies. I will only repeat what Secretary Albright said in Missouri nine months ago: the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland are finally where they belong, at home in the family of freedom. Over the past decade, first President Bush, then President Clinton worked with their counterparts in your countries to address the question of NATO's future - and yours - in a dramatically altered security environment. All our leaders understood the risks of complacency and confusion, division and drift. They responded by taking steps to modernize and strengthen our Alliance, prepare it for new missions, invite new members, establish partnerships with Europe's new democracies and develop strategies for the future. Unfortunately, they are also beginning to make the sacrifices that come with being an Ally; we extend our condolences to Poland on the death of its KFOR soldier yesterday in Kosovo.

But they have done more than plan, practice and prepare, and a good thing it is, too, because history does not sit patiently in the waiting room while leaders and foreign ministers deliberate. In the Balkans, events dictated that we answer hard questions about our purpose and will.

In Bosnia, we were, for a time, less than sure-footed, not least because the trouble was beyond NATO's own borders. But when we found our footing, NATO and its partners performed effectively in Bosnia.

As a result, Bosnia is at peace today. The arteries of air, rail, road and power have re-opened. Democratic elections have been held - and held again - at every level. Multi-ethnic institutions have come into existence and are growing in strength. Refugee returns to minority areas have increased. The gradual easing of tensions has enabled us to reduce the size of SFOR. But we all know that, four years after the Dayton Peace Accords, our job in Bosnia is far from over. More than a million people are still displaced. The quality of governance is low. True inter-ethnic cooperation remains elusive, and where it exists, it's the exception. We must press the leaders there to assume greater responsibility and achieve further progress in democratization.

In Kosovo, NATO was right to stop Milosevic, and we did it the right way: together, striving to minimize civilian casualties, determined to persist until we prevailed. Having won on the battlefield, we face the even harder task of bringing the people of Kosovo together around basic principles of democracy and law. In less than half a year, there has been real progress. Large-scale violence has ended. Almost a million refugees and displaced persons have returned home. The Kosovo Liberation Army has effectively met its promise to demilitarize. A civilian, multi-ethnic Kosovo Protection Corps is forming as we meet here today.

Nevertheless, the situation remains tense and unpredictable. There can be no excuse for further acts of violence in Kosovo. Whatever the past provocation, no one has the license to murder or intimidate or harass others. No one has the right to take the law into his own hands. We must be united in backing KFOR, the UN mission, and the war crimes tribunal, both through our diplomacy and also through our willingness to provide the resources necessary to get the job done.

Enduring peace is not possible for either Bosnia or Kosovo until there is a democracy in Serbia. We need to work with the Serbian democratic opposition to attain this goal, even as we maintain our sanctions until Belgrade complies with the will of the international community. In so doing, we should rebut anyone who would argue that we are trying to impose our ways on the people of Serbia. That is nonsense. Our goal is to see that the people of Serbia have the right to determine their own destiny. Democracy, by definition, can never be imposed. In any country under any circumstances, it's dictatorship that is, by definition, an imposition, while democracy is, and can only be, a choice.

This is the last NATO Ministerial of the twentieth century. But our focus is on the future, not the past. Kosovo underlined the need, stressed by our leaders in Washington last April, for military forces that are mobile, flexible, survivable, sustainable and capable of operating effectively together. Kosovo demonstrated that there is a wide gap between U.S. and European military capabilities. It is in the interests of each nation represented here that this gap be narrowed.

Two efforts - both pre-dating the Kosovo conflict and reaffirmed during the Washington Summit - will, if pursued vigorously, help us move towards a solution. These are NATO's Defense Capabilities Initiative (DCI) and the effort to establish a European Security and Defense Identity (ESDI). The Untied States is committed to seeing both succeed.

Two weeks ago, at this table, Secretary Cohen made a strong, clear presentation of America's position. I don't think anyone disputes the basic facts. Too many Allies have too many men and women under arms focused on missions of the past. Too many resources are going to the wrong priorities. And not enough are going to the task of building the kind of agile, genuinely inter-operable forces we will need for many years to come.

As Lord Robertson said at the recent meeting of our defense colleagues, "The time for a peace dividend is over because there is no permanent peace in Europe or elsewhere, and if NATO is to do its job protecting future generations, it can no longer expect to do its job on the cheap." He has also pointed out that Europe has over 2 million men and women under arms, but is hard-pressed to deploy and maintain 40,000 troops in Kosovo. That's why DCI is so important.

As for ESDI, I think I should repeat what I said a moment ago. There should be no confusion about America's position on the need for a stronger Europe. We are not against; we are not ambivalent; we are not anxious; we are for it. We want to see a Europe that can act effectively through the Alliance or, if NATO is not engaged, on its own. Period, end of debate.

At Washington we reached a basic understanding. We would look to NATO as the preferred institution to act "wherever possible." At the same time, we recognized that the Alliance might not act. And in those circumstances, we agreed to make NATO assets and capabilities available to the European Union.

Several speakers have stressed the imperative that we learn the lessons of Kosovo. In our view, that's what ESDI and DCI are all about. That's also why we followed closely and supportively the EU Summit in Helsinki this past week. We saw the leaders assembled there grappling seriously and promisingly with the question of how their countries can improve Europe's capacity to act by enhancing capabilities without duplicating NATO.

In the past, American officials have discussed ESDI in terms of "the three D's": no decoupling of Europe's security from that of its North American Allies; no duplication of effort or capabilities; and no discrimination against those Allies who are not EU members. But Lord Robertson has come up with another formulation: "the three I's" - indivisibility of the trans-Atlantic link, improvement of capabilities and inclusiveness of all Allies. The concept binding them together should borrow the motto of those famous three heroes of French romantic literature: "One for all and all for one."

So Helsinki represented, from our perspective, a step - indeed, several steps - in the right direction. We welcome Helsinki's focus on improving European military capabilities, its recognition of NATO's central role in collective defense and crisis management and that the EU can act "where the Alliance as a whole is not engaged." Still, we hope that as ESDI moves from the realm of an acronym to that of reality, it will continue to assume both form and substance that increase its chances for its own success and therefore for our continuing support.

Specifically, during the Portuguese Presidency, we look forward to developing links between the Alliance and the EU required for transparency and cooperation. We also believe that those Allies who, like us, are not members of the EU but who, unlike us, live on this side of the Atlantic deserve special status in the EU's security and defense deliberations. Why? For three reasons: first, because of their Article 5 commitment in the event that a crisis should escalate; second, because of their readiness to contribute NATO and national assets to EU-led operations; and third, because they are both willing and able to contribute to European security in their own right.

We are right to focus at this ministerial on getting ESDI and DCI right. That is our top priority. But we must not forget the other commitments our leaders made in Washington.

For example, the Strategic Concept agreed in Washington is now being translated from theory to practice; that is, it's being incorporated into military guidance for NATO planners. Under no circumstances should the Strategic Concept be interpreted as allowing NATO to focus on only lower-end missions. Kosovo is clearly one type of mission envisioned under the Strategic Concept. But we also recognize two key points reflected in the military guidance: that NATO must be able to deal with Article 5 threats to our nations' homelands; and that non-Article 5 missions can be as demanding - and perhaps even more challenging - as Article 5 ones.

Another area where we have committed to improving our military capabilities is dealing with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. We should all recognize that, as time and technology march on, Alliance territory and forces will increasingly be at risk to a weapons of mass destruction (WMD) attack. It could come from a terrorist strike against Alliance forces deployed beyond our borders or another state's missile attack against our forces or territory.

For several years we have been talking about this new threat, building on work at NATO since 1994. Now that danger is coming more sharply into focus. I realize that America's approach to these issues - in terms of arms control and defensive capability, especially missile defense - has generated some controversy on both sides of the Atlantic. Secretary Cohen and I have both engaged on these issues around this table over the past month. But I do believe there is enough common ground for us to move forward together as an Alliance.

Our overall WMD policy must have three parts: first, we must pursue diplomatic prevention, including arms control; second, we need strong conventional and nuclear forces capable of acting as a deterrent; and third, we must consider how missile defense -national and collective - fits into the equation.

We are taking a key step in establishing the WMD Center to coordinate NATO's response to the WMD threat. This will increase the information-sharing among Allies on issues of WMD concern. It is our hope that the Center will open as early as possible next year.

With respect to arms control, we must keep our eyes on the big picture. NATO has a solid arms control record. Since the end of the Cold War, the Alliance has radically reduced its reliance on nuclear forces, including dramatic reductions in the forces themselves. NATO was also a leader in achieving an adapted Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty in Istanbul last month.

Let me now turn to the issue of NATO membership and enlargement. Our strategy on that issue is central to our vision of a Europe free, democratic, undivided and in lasting partnership with North America.

Today Central Europe is secure, in large part because of NATO enlargement. It has always been the U.S. position that NATO enlargement is not a one-time event, but an on-going process. Our newest members must not be the last. Our leaders committed to review enlargement again at our next summit, no later than 2002. The standard for membership must be kept high. As both Kosovo and Bosnia demonstrated, NATO is a working military alliance, and only by keeping it ready and in peak condition can we ensure that it will be able to fulfill its responsibilities.

Our goal should be to work as closely as possible with all aspirants to help each of them become strong candidates. Working together, we want to create conditions under which the best candidates can walk through the Open Door when they are ready and when we judge it to be in the overall interests of the Alliance.

That's what the Membership Action Plan (MAP) is all about. MAP ensures we maintain our high standards but also redouble our efforts to help candidates meet those standards. We welcome the national programs submitted by aspirants under the MAP, and I think these programs will help aspirants focus on the steps they need to take to establish strong performance-based track records. An added benefit of this approach is that it will also help build public support for expanded membership over the long run.

We also remain deeply committed to developing other forms of partnership. With the recent accession of Ireland, the Partnership for Peace is now up to 26 nations. At Washington, in the midst of the Kosovo campaign, we agreed with Partners on a Political-Military Framework for cooperation in NATO-led missions and on a concept for making our partnership more operational.

Now it's time for us to use these new tools on the ground, in Kosovo. We need to fulfill our obligation to involve NATO's Partners in planning and conducting KFOR's operations, and to discuss this work in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC). We need to convey our commitment to that effort in tomorrow's EAPC meeting. Tomorrow, we should also make a point of applauding the Partners' political and practical support to NATO during the air campaign and for their very real support with peacekeepers in KFOR and SFOR. In stepping up our efforts to bring democracy to Serbia, we need to draw on Partners' intimate knowledge of the region and their experiences in transforming their own societies.

Our meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission later today is evidence of the importance the Alliance places on a critical European country, whose success in establishing itself as a secure, stable, prosperous, integrated and democratic state is a keystone in the architecture of this continent and the broader Euro-Atlantic community. As President Clinton told President Kuchma in Washington last week, we are counting on the leadership in Kiyev following the recent elections, to intensify its commitment to political, economic and defense reform.

Finally, it is regrettable that Russia decided not to participate today or tomorrow in a Permanent Joint Council (PJC) Ministerial. As an Alliance, we have made clear to Moscow that we are prepared to engage on the full agenda we laid out in the Founding Act and build further on the cooperation we have established in SFOR and KFOR.

Our goal when we set up the PJC was to have a venue and a mechanism -in good times and bad - for consultation, cooperation and transparency. The PJC is where we should work out our disagreements when they arise.
That brings me to the greatest current threat to Russia's relations with Europe and North America: Chechnya. We are deeply troubled by events in Chechnya. Unfolding events in the region are profoundly disturbing - most particularly, the cost to civilians of the on-going military campaign and the use of last week's ultimatum to the residents of Groznyy that flies in the face of acceptable standards of international conduct. We reiterate that under the Geneva Conventions and the OSCE Code of Conduct, Russia is obliged to take care to avoid injury to civilians and their property. While we recognize Russia's territorial integrity and its right to protect its citizens from terrorism, a purely military solution to the conflict in the North Caucasus is not possible. Russia's tactics are making it harder, not easier, for them to achieve their goals in the region.

We urge Russia to pursue meaningful steps now toward a political solution, including a substantive role for the OSCE. We welcome the mission that Foreign Minister Vollebaek, in his capacity as OSCE Chairman-in-Office, undertook to the region and look forward to hearing from him tomorrow.

At the Istanbul summit last month, all the leaders of the OSCE states - notably, and to his credit, including President Yeltsin - signed a Charter for European Security that recognizes that preventing conflict within states is as important to stability as preventing conflicts between states. We also achieved dramatic results in Istanbul on CFE. Again, that breakthrough included President Yeltsin and the other leaders of the democracies of Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia. We not only agreed on an adapted CFE Treaty that will provide for military stability in Europe in the next century, but we welcomed bilateral agreements associated with the CFE Final Act that will lead to withdrawal of Russian forces from Moldova and Georgia. To achieve the full promise of those landmark agreements we count on Russia for their full implementation, as pledged by President Yeltsin and Prime Minister Putin.

We also need to be ready to offer concrete support through the OSCE to destroy or dismantle the military equipment necessary to ensure all CFE signatories meet their treaty commitments. That organization, like the EU, includes Allies and non-Allies alike, and thus represents the strengthening of the ties that bind our community together. The mutual reinforcement of these and other structures should make us proud of what we have accomplished during this eventful and challenging year, and optimistic about what we can accomplish in the future.

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