|Updated: 18-Sep-2000||NATO Speeches|
Secretary General's Eisenhower Lecture
The Relevance of AtlanticismLadies and Gentlemen,
The Eisenhower Lectures have become a valued opportunity to explore that strange phenomenon that has kept the Atlantic Alliance together for over half a century: the phenomenon of two continents - Europe and North America - uniting in a community of values; the phenomenon called "Atlanticism".
What could be a useful definition
of Atlanticism? I believe that we
need to look no farther than a remarkable
discussion held on the eve of the
signing of the Washington Treaty 51
years ago. For here, in my view, all
the characteristics of the next half
century of Atlanticism were laid out
On the evening before the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty US President Truman, his Secretary of State Acheson and his Secretary of Defense met with the Foreign Ministers of the ten European nations who had come to Washington to sign the Treaty. It was a private meeting. No advisers were present - a rather unusual set-up. But the reason for this arrangement became quickly clear:
In remarkably blunt words, Truman
and Acheson told their future Allies
how the United States viewed "the
critical problems which we face today".
President Truman warned his guests that much of what he was going to say that night "would be disconcerting to many of you, that it presupposes a level of common action and understanding which will be extremely difficult to attain in practice, and, finally, that it will require of some states sacrifices of traditional security and economic objectives which they may be most unwilling to make." But, as he continued, "great problems call for great decisions".
Remember: the time was 1949. Quite
naturally, then, the Soviet threat
was at the centre of the United States'
concerns. There was also the fear
of Communism undermining the war-weary
societies of Western Europe. But as
it quickly became clear, the American
conception of this new Alliance went
much further than a military bulwark
against the Soviet Union: the conception
was that of an increasingly unified
Western Europe, a Europe with "a
new sense of unity".
President Truman made utterly clear
that the Atlantic Pact would be a
symbol "of our common determination,
a contract, as it were, under which
our new partnership must now proceed
" He made clear that the
Treaty was only a framework - a framework
for a project far wider and ambitious
than mutual defence.
This memorable discussion took place more than half a century ago. Of course, much has changed since then: the integration of Western Europe, the end of the Cold War, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the liberation of Central and Eastern Europe. And yet this episode of April 1949 remains utterly relevant today. For it encapsulates the key features of Atlanticism - features that made it durable; features that continue to make it so tremendously attractive.
There was, first and foremost, the American willingness to lead: to act as an economic and military catalyst for Europe's recovery, even when this was extremely unpopular within the United States itself. American leadership proved immensely beneficial to both sides of the Atlantic. It enable Europe to channel its energies into re-construction and reconciliation.
And despite the early American lead,
the transatlantic relationship was
intended to become, and indeed has
become, a partnership of equals, as
Europe has grown stronger and more
united. Yet understanding - and appreciating
- the unique role of the United States
as a catalyst for progress remains
at the heart of Atlanticism.
Hence, the Marshall Plan and the
Washington Treaty were "two halves
of the same walnut". Understanding
this link between security and economics
is another characteristic of Atlanticism.
And yet another distinct feature
of Atlanticism became apparent on
that memorable night in April 1949:
the readiness to take a long-term
view of things, the willingness to
state a bold vision of the future,
and even take "calculated risks",
as President Truman put it, to achieve
In short, what was expressed that evening in Washington 51 years ago was Atlanticism at its best: forward-looking, bold, pragmatic, generous.
This Atlanticism more than survived the end of the Cold War. It is prospering. In fact, the features of the "original" Atlanticism which I described are firmly entrenched in today's Europe.
The need for the United States to
play an active part in European security
remains undisputed today. The United
States retains unique capabilities
as a crisis manager.
Some of you may ask: does this logic
still hold true? Aren't Europe's recent
efforts to develop a European Security
and Defence Policy a sign that Atlanticism
is faltering - that Europe and North
America are determined to go separate
ways from now on? My answer to these
questions is a resounding "no".
The European Allies are indeed working
to turn Europe into a more serious
security actor, but they are not abandoning
the logic of transatlantic solidarity.
Today, unlike 1949, Europe does
not face a monolithic threat. What
it faces instead are regional crises
and instability. Many of these crises
will be managed by Europe and North
But not each and every regional crisis
will affect the United States the
same way as it will affect the Europeans.
So there can be cases where the United
States may not want to take the lead.
In such a case, Europe must be prepared
And there is more. Much of the political
unification of Europe that the Americans
had hoped for in 1949 has now been
achieved. Today, the European Union
is an economic equal to the United
States. So the United States has every
right to expect a more even sharing
of the security burden with its prosperous
Thus, if NATO and the European Union
today are building new ties between
each other, if Europe and North America
re-adjust their security relationship,
they remain fully within the logic
of Atlanticism - because Atlanticism
is not static. It is a constant process
of mutual adjustment.
Another feature of Atlanticism,
the need for integration, and for
linking security and economics, also
still applies today. Nowhere is it
more visible than in the complementary
efforts by NATO and EU to project
stability eastwards by offering membership
to some, while associating others.
Atlanticism has never been a concept
based on geography, but on shared
values. That is why NATO enlargement
proceeds regardless of where a country
is situated in Europe. That is why
Partnership for Peace reaches out
even as far as Central Asia. And that
is why NATO and the EU are both developing
cooperative relations with their neighbours
across the Mediterranean. To cooperate
in today's world is a matter of common-sense.
And common-sense does not know geographical
This logic also applies to Russia.
In 1949, President Truman shocked
his European interlocutors by suggesting
that Germany should become part of
the team of Atlanticist democracies.
Only four years after the end of World
War II, this seemed a far-fetched
idea. But in the end, Truman's bold
vision became reality. Today, it may
still seem far-fetched to many to
envisage Russia becoming a "part
of the team" one day.
To make bold visions a reality sometimes requires - if I may quote President Truman again - to take "calculated risks". This principle of Atlanticism - courage - has also been vindicated time and time again, most recently in the Balkans. Traditionally, people referred to the Balkans as "Europe's powder keg". That term implied a clear message: Stay out! Don't get entangled in this messy region!
Well, when Yugoslavia started to collapse, we did stay out - at first. But soon we realised that we had to become engaged.
True, our nations were not threatened
physically by the carnage in Bosnia.
But our values were. With every day
in Bosnia passing, the question became
more urgent: Can we really develop
Europe into a common political, economic
and security space if we allow mass
murder, mass rape and ethnic cleansing
In Kosovo, the problems were even more complex - militarily, politically and legally. Still, we decided to act. Because continued ethnic cleansing in Kosovo would have destabilised a much wider region. And because, like in Bosnia, our entire vision of a peaceful and democratic Europe would have been undermined if we had allowed the events to run their course. In the end, our engagement was successful.
Our air campaign ended the biggest
mass expulsions since World War Two.
Within just a few months, more than
one million refugees and displaced
persons returned to their homes.
Our engagement in the Balkans was
risky and controversial - but we carried
it through, because we knew that we
did the right thing. What helped us
in this endeavour was the fact that
NATO did not act alone. It acted together
with dozens of Partner nations - many
of which are represented by you here
today. Some of these nations supported
NATO despite considerable political
risks and economic sacrifices. But
they stood firm. Because they, too,
share the same values.
Atlanticism, as I pointed out earlier,
is about vision and about persistence.
And our vision of an Atlanticist Europe
would be incomplete without a stable
and prosperous Southeastern Europe.
That is why we did not confine our
engagement in the Balkans to a military
Creating the conditions for long-term
peace - that was the logic embraced
by European and North American leaders
after World War II. It was a tremendous
success. Now we must apply this logic
to Southeastern Europe.
And just like the Marshall Plan and NATO 50 years ago provided a powerful package of economic prosperity and security for Western Europe, so the Stability Pact and NATO's cooperative efforts will go hand in hand to provide Southeastern Europe with the framework for progress. We all know that it will take a long time until that region will be able to stand on its own feet again. But we will stay until the job is done - until the "Balkan powderkeg" is defused for good.
The need to reach beyond defence alone has also been vindicated time and time again. Today, Europe and North America have evolved into a broad transatlantic community, embracing political, economic, and security matters. It is a community based on interdependence. To give you just one example, 14 million jobs are sustained by the transatlantic trade relationship.
This pre-disposition to work together remains the key to cope with an ever-growing transatlantic agenda: bringing long-term stability to Southeastern Europe, managing regional crises, enlarging NATO and EU, supporting Russia's democratic transformation, stabilising the newly independent nations, encouraging open markets world-wide, or preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
This is a challenging agenda. But
it is doable, because yet another
characteristic of Atlanticism has
stayed alive since its very beginning:
its strong institutional foundation.
One of those foundations is this very
institution - the NATO Defense College.
Almost since the inception of NATO,
the Defense College has helped cultivate
and promote the logic of Atlanticism.
Last year's move to these new quarters have opened another chapter for this College. The new curriculum is even better tailored to the requirements of today and tomorrow. The Partnership elements and the Mediterranean dimension of the College are growing further. Today, the College has become the centre of a defence network extending to some 50 nations.
The opportunities for conducting
genuine research are growing. In short,
the College has become NATO's key
investment in strategic education.
It has become an indispensable part
of the new NATO.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
There is an Indian saying that "a
bridge never sleeps". This, I
think, is a good metaphor for Atlanticism,
and for our Atlantic Alliance. For
it acts as a bridge - a bridge of
substance and permanence - that links
two continents in a commitment to
Atlanticism is not simply a short-term marriage of convenience between Europe and North America. On the contrary, it rests on the conviction that the nations of Europe and of North America are like-minded nations - nations who trust and respect each other, nations who are better off together than apart. That is why all our nations do not only share a common past, they also share a common future.