in the 21st Century"
by the Secretary General
to the Millennium Year Lord Mayor's Lecture
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to be here today, among such
very distinguished company. The Lord Mayor's
Lectures have a reputation for attracting very
high-level audiences, and today's gathering
is certainly no exception.
There are, I notice, quite a number of my
colleagues from the House of Lords. This reminds
me of a concern I heard just a few days ago
from a Young Parliamentarian from a Central
European country. She has apparently being doing
some research, and, in her words, noticed a
"disturbing density of Lords" in international
politics -- a very understandable worry, in
In fact, in support of her theory, I am not
the first, but in fact the third Lord to be
Secretary General of NATO. The first Secretary
General of the Alliance was Lord Ismay, who
held the position from 1952 to 1957. As the
first head of the organisation, he of course
played a key role in defining NATO's purpose.
It was he who coined the most famous and enduring
phrase ever uttered about the organisation,
when he said that the purpose of the Alliance
was to "keep the Russians out, the Americans
in and the Germans down".
This little phrase captured perfectly the
complexity of NATO's political role during the
Cold War. But let's face it: most people in
NATO countries were not preoccupied in their
daily life by the transatlantic relationship,
nor did they spend their time endlessly talking
about Germany's place among its European neighbours.
People quite reasonably cared most about what
NATO was doing, visibly, to preserve their personal
safety - "keeping the Russians out",
by preventing a war that would have been, by
any definition, devastating.
But when the Cold War came to an end, that
understanding of "what NATO does"
was called into question. By the early 1990's,
the threat of a massive attack on NATO territory
was gone, to the great relief of us all. In
those circumstances, however, some voices called
NATO's continuing purpose into question. The
average citizen quite appropriately asked how
NATO still helped them, in the new strategic
environment. Basically, they were saying: "Sure,
you won the Cold War -- but what have you done
for me lately?"
No institution exists for its own sake. If
it does not have a useful purpose, it will wither
on the vine. And yet, a decade after the end
of the Cold War, NATO is more vibrant than ever.
Indeed, it is impossible to have a credible
conversation about security in the Euro-Atlantic
area without giving pride of place to the Atlantic
How is this possible? To my mind, the answer
is simple. NATO still plays a crucial role in
preserving the safety and security of all of
its members. But today, that mission is being
accomplished in a very different way. NATO has
moved beyond preventing and deterring the worst
possible threat to our citizens.
Instead, as we enter the new Millennium, NATO
is engaged in a much broader range of activities,
all designed with one fundamental goal -- to
address proactively the security challenges
which could, or already do, affect the safety
or the interests of its members and their populations.
And NATO remains vital to Euro-Atlantic security
today because of its success in accomplishing
that mission. In short, we are driving the security
agenda of the 21st Century.
Let me give you a few examples of NATO's new
agenda-- and how each element of that agenda
makes a direct contribution to our safety, on
a daily basis.
First and foremost: we have built a very different
relationship between the West and Russia. We
all remember the bad old days. The days in which
we could not talk to Russia except in pressure-filled
Summit meetings convened around disputes. The
days in which disagreements were expressed through
proxy wars in far away places, or through expensive
and frightening arms races. The days in which
each side would see its security interests in
simply blocking the interests of the other.
When the Cold War ended, NATO was determined
these days should end. What did that require?
It meant setting up an organic, permanent relationship
between Russia and NATO, so that consultations
occur on a regular basis. We have done that.
It meant working on certain security issues
together, so that we solve them most effectively
-- from peacekeeping to crisis management to
proliferation. We are doing that too.
And despite the occasional very real disagreement,
the proof of how far we've come is President
Putin's recent musings about the day when Russia
itself might join NATO. A far cry from the hostility
and zero-sum games of the past, and undoubtedly
a major contribution to European security.
Another major contribution to the stability
of the continent is NATO's enlargement. Last
year we welcomed three former members of the
Warsaw Pact as full members of NATO - and we
made it clear that these first new members would
not be the last. Here too, NATO is making a
direct contribution, today, to the safety and
security of all our citizens.
Now, some of you might be thinking that I'm
exaggerating. How can NATO taking in new members
enhance the security of the existing members?
The logic is very clear. Our enlargement process
helps to preclude major conflicts in Europe,
because the very prospect of NATO membership
serves as an incentive for aspirants to get
their own houses in order.
Just look at Central and Eastern Europe today.
NATO's decision to take in new members has sparked
a wave of bilateral treaties, and supported
the resolution of many border disputes. It has
encouraged countries aspiring to membership
to resolve minority issues, and to establish
proper democratic control over militaries.
Why? Because all of the aspirants know that
if they want to join NATO -- or the EU -- they
need to do their homework. They know that NATO
is not a social club, but a serious security
organisation. And they also know that NATO membership
is of enormous strategic significance for them
-- not just a political gesture or a consolation
prize for not getting into the EU as fast as
planned. In short, NATO's willingness to open
its doors has brought Europe closer together
-- in spirit and in practice.
And the strategic benefits of NATO enlargement
are not confined to the period before accession.
NATO membership helps countries in transition
to make the right choices when it comes to democracy
The latest example is that of our three newest
members, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland.
In each case, the new members were emerging
from difficult periods of transition, and were
making strong efforts to integrate with the
Euro-Atlantic community. In each case, NATO
responded -- and by offering membership, helped
"lock in reform". This, from my perspective,
is a direct contribution to security in Europe.
Another reason why NATO remains so healthy today.
The Alliance is also contributing to stability
well outside of NATO territory through a third
major element of its new agenda: partnership.
NATO has spent the major part of the last decade
developing security relationships with, and
between, almost all the new democracies of Central,
Eastern and Southern Europe.
Why? Because historically, after empires collapse,
bad things happen. Nations and peoples feel
alone, and nervous. In an unpredictable environment,
they may make fragile and dangerous security
pacts with their immediate neighbours. The result
is often a volatile security system, with no
solid foundation or structure, and a real possibility
of violent conflict. Conflict which leads to
tides of refugees and asylum seekers, which
spreads the tension to neighbouring countries.
Conflict which spawns ethnic hatred, instability,
corruption, drug-running, human trafficking,
money laundering - the dark shadows of our time.
Conflict which itself visits our own doorsteps.
It was to prevent this very scenario that NATO deliberately developed
the Partnership for Peace Programme, and created the little known, but
historymaking, Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. Today, NATO is the dynamo
at the hub of a new set of profound defence relationships across the continent.
Forty six countries -- NATO members, former Warsaw Pact countries, ex-Soviet
Republics, and neutrals, including Switzerland which is not even in the
United Nations - now train and exercise together, discuss security issues
together and even carry out peacekeeping operations together.
The value of this inclusive framework is very
clear. Every country in Europe has a structure
through which they can enhance their security
interests. No small, rigid regional alliances
are necessary. No unilateral solutions are required.
Through PfP and EAPC, security across Europe
has been structured towards inclusion and cooperation.
European countries who chose a new path are
included in Euro-Atlantic institutions. That
alone is a massive change from the past, and
another major contribution to the stability
of the continent.
Unfortunately, however, conflicts cannot always
be prevented or avoided, despite our best efforts.
In Bosnia, and again in Kosovo, the best diplomats
in the world tried to head off the violence
-- but were unable to deter leaders who would
not listen. Sanctions were employed -- but had
little effect. Lightly armed monitors and unarmed
observers weren't enough to stop the worst violence
and the most horrifying violations of human
rights from taking place, on the very doorstep
of modern Western Europe.
It is in these circumstances that NATO has
played its most visible role. Only NATO had
the robust military capability necessary to
bring such conflicts to an end, and enforce
the peace afterwards. And because military operations
are so exhaustively covered by the media, it
is with this element of NATO's agenda that the
Alliance is most identified in the public. For
most people, NATO is about making and keeping
the peace in the Balkans.
To many, this role too seems to have only
a peripheral benefit to them. After all, the
Balkans are far away, aren't they? Was it not
Bismark who dismissed the Balkans as "not
worth the bones of one Pomeranian grenadier"?
How could small wars, in places we have barely
heard of, affect our security?
Of course, the answer is that they can --
and they do. Before they were stopped, the conflicts
in Bosnia and Kosovo were having a direct and
very negative effect on both our security interests,
and on our values.
Let me use Kosovo as an example. Kosovo sits
at the crossroads of Europe, a volatile powderkeg
that could easily have ignited the whole region.
The ongoing repression of Kosovar Albanians
was causing hundreds of thousands of them to
flee to safety in neighbouring countries - some
of them very new democracies who simply did
not have the capacity to copy with them. Indeed,
by this time two years ago in 1998, after a
summer of violence, intimidation, murder and
massacre by Milosevic's thugs, over 400,000
Kosovars had been forced to leave their homes,
and more and more were on their way. Had this
process continued, without a response from NATO,
the fragile democracies of the region could
never have withstood the strain.
And let us be blunt -- those refugees were
not going to stop in Albania, or the Former
Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia . They would
inevitably have ended up travelling further,
including to our countries. Whatever our responsibilities
to welcome true refugees, the best solution
for everyone is if people can simply stay in
their homes in peace and security.
For all these reasons, it was in our own security
interest to stop the repression of the Kosovar
Albanians. But more than that -- we had to act
uphold our values. Too many times, in the past
decade alone, the international community waited
far too long to take action -- and the results
were horrific. In Bosnia, we waited almost three
years before using force to enforce peace, and
those three years saw 3 million refugees, two
hundred thousand dead, mass murders, rapes and
torture, with concentration camps and deportation
After that and just as our parent's generation
said in 1945, we said: never again.
In the last year of the 20th Century we knew
what was happening and it chilled the blood.
To have done nothing would have been to do everything
we had promised never to repeat.
In Kosovo, we knew a humanitarian disaster
was already starting. We saw the Serbian troops
massing in Kosovo, and the heavy armour rolling
in. We saw the Yugoslav Government training
the army, police and paramilitary thugs to organise
the expulsion of the majority Kosovar Albanians.
We knew that Milosevic had moved the most barbaric
paramilitaries, including the notorious Arkan,
into Northern Kosovo -- and where Arkan went,
the worst depredations were bound to follow.
We gave peace every chance. But despite our
best efforts, the diplomacy failed. In the face
of all the evidence of an impending explosion
of violence, which would betray our values,
damage our interests and spill over well beyond
Kosovo - NATO had no choice but to act.
One year later, all we know and see vindicates
that decision. Today, Kosovo is different and
better. The hundreds of thousands of refugees
have returned, schools and homes have been rebuilt,
multiethnic institutions are slowly getting
off the ground, and elections are planned for
October. Despite some continuing tensions and
hotspots, Kosovo is a success story, not only
because most Kosovars no longer fear a knock
on the door in the middle of the night, but
because the international community has delivered
a blunt message: that where we can be decisive,
massive violations of human rights will not
Now, there is one simple lesson we have learned
expensively for Bosnia and Kosovo - and from
European wars before that. It is that diplomatic
credibility requires military capability. If
diplomacy is to be successful in stopping troublespots
becoming crises, then credible military resources
have to be available to back it up.
As we enter the 21st century, we still need
capable forces -- but we need them to do very
different things. They need to be able to go
to a crisis before the crisis comes to us. Before
the refugees and the asylum seekers are forced
to flee. Before weapons go flooding into the
conflict region, and then further afield. Before
the chaos of conflict is exploited by organised
crime, drug-runners, money launderers, and the
effects are inevitably felt in London, Paris,
Brussels, Amsterdam. And before the idea of
violence as a tool of ethnic hatred becomes
accepted as common currency in Europe -- something
which we know from history can easily happen.
To manage 21st Century crises, NATO needs
21st Century forces. We need forces that can
move quickly to a conflict area, and that can
arrive in enough force to have an immediate
effect. We need forces that are high-tech enough
to dominate the situation, to accomplish their
mission as quickly as possible, and with the
lowest possible risk to them and to innocent
civilians. We need forces that are able to stay
in the field for as long as it takes to accomplish
The forces we built up in the Cold War don't
always fit that description. We no longer need
concentrations of heavy armour designed for
a massive tank battle in Germany. Across NATO,
we still have too much of that. Kosovo made
that very clear. In today's security environment,
Cold War forces are a waste of money. To all
intents and purposes, they exist only on paper
-- and paper armies don't prevent trouble.
When I took up my post as NATO's 10th Secretary
General, I said that I had three key priorities:
capabilities, capabilities, capabilities. And
at last year's Summit in Washington, our Heads
of State and Government agreed. They directed
that the Alliance take steps to make our forces
more mobile, more effective in the field, and
better able to stay in the field for extended
periods of time.
This direction to improve our capabilities
was a recognition by NATO countries that a complete
and solid peace across Europe has not yet been
achieved -- and as a result, that the peace
dividend has reached its limit. Kosovo could
not have made that more clear. NATO's members
recognise that in the 21st century, we need
better defence spending and more defence spending,
if we are to be able to address the very real
challenges to our security.
Some NATO members have already begun to put
their money where their mouth is. Britain is
one example. I was very pleased to see that,
earlier this week, the British Government released
a budget that foresees a real and significant
increase in defence spending. This is a welcome
step in the right direction. And many other
NATO members are taking similar steps. Canada,
the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg,
the Netherlands and the United States have also
announced increases to their budgets. Other
NATO Allies, like Belgium, Germany and Denmark
are embarking on significant restructuring programmes
that will achieve more efficient and effective
We have finally turned the corner on defence
spending. The Kosovo alarm bell has woken up
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In today's dangerous world, there is no credibility
without capability. And NATO goes into the 21st
century as the most credible security organization
in history precisely because we are capable.
Capable of building a strong new relationship
with Russia. Capable of encouraging reform in
new democracies. And capable of managing crises,
when they occur. That is why the NATO Alliance
is in such good shape. And as NATO's members
continue to improve their defence capabilities
and effectiveness, the Alliance will make an
even more effective contribution to the security
of its members, and to the safety of future