Updated: 21-Feb-2002 NATO Speeches

25 Jan. 2001

"NATO in the New Millennium"

Speech by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank Volker Rühe, my former Ministerial colleague and good friend, for his very kind introduction. Within one hour today I have had a chance to see both the present and the former German Defence Minister. Almost an embarrassment of riches.

I would also like to thank the Konrad Adenauer Foundation for inviting me to deliver this year's Manfred Wörner Memorial Lecture. I am well aware that Manfred Wörner was an active member not only of the Christian Democratic Union (the party which this Foundation is related to), but also of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation itself and a member of its Board.

Manfred Wörner was also one of the few Defence Ministers to become Secretary General of NATO. His performance at the helm of this Alliance put to rest the notion that only Foreign Ministers could be entrusted with this job. So, as a former Defence Minister myself, I owe Manfred Wörner a great deal. He cleared the path for the practitioners of Defence.

When Manfred Wörner took office, in 1988, having been a Defence Minister was considered by some as a liability. He was regarded by some to be too much of a hawk, and too little of a diplomat. Indeed, one German weekly went so far as to proclaim that Wörner would likely turn out to be "the wrong man at the wrong time". Six years later, at Manfred Wörner's funeral, British Foreign Minister Douglas Hurd characterised him as "the right man in the right place at the right time ". Few could disagree.

In describing NATO's new role at the beginning of the new Millennium, let me compare it with the role of NATO at the time when Manfred Wörner took office. You will see for yourself then how much we all owe to him for his outstanding contribution in transforming the Atlantic Alliance to ensure that it copes with the new and serious challenges which have emerged after the end of the Cold War.

I believe this is the best way to pay tribute to him.

So what happened within these six years?

One part of the answer lies, of course, in Manfred Wörner's unique personality. But the other part of the answer lies in NATO itself: in its tremendous ability to change, to adapt, to transform itself.

Where should I begin? Perhaps with a look at the role of the Secretary General. In 1988, when Wörner took on the job, NATO's role was business-as-usual -- essentially it was about the stately management of the Cold War. So the post of NATO Secretary General did not exactly seem like a case study in excitement. Indeed, when Wörner met with his predecessor Lord Carrington, Carrington joked: "Now its up to you to bore yourself for the next four years, Manfred".

But that promised boredom never came. Soon after Wörner took office, the Berlin Wall fell, the "velvet revolutions" in Central and Eastern Europe swept away Communist rule, and the mighty Soviet Union itself dissolved. All this meant that NATO's role had to change. Instead of maintaining the status quo, the Alliance had to become a midwife of political change -- and the Secretary General of this organisation had to spearhead this transformation.

Wörner succeeded in transforming NATO, because he -- like the Allies -- did not view NATO policy in static terms. He saw NATO's policies as leading somewhere -- a means to an end. That end went beyond winding down the Cold War and pointed towards a permanently cooperative Euro-Atlantic community, held together by the values which characterise NATO.

This is why Wörner did not share the pessimist outlook of some others. Where the pessimists saw risks, Wörner saw only opportunities.

German Unification

For Manfred Wörner, German unification represented a key step towards the goal of a lasting Euro-Atlantic peace order . He regarded it as a highlight of his political career that he could welcome the newly united Germany as a full member of the Alliance. It is easy to forget now that this outcome was not a foregone conclusion.

Today, the united Germany is a key member of the Alliance. It continues to play a major role in NATO's transformation and modernisation, and it also plays a key role in our efforts to bring lasting peace to the Balkans. Manfred Wörner had tried hard to convince the Germans that they should not shed responsibility for the Balkans by hiding behind their history. And we all know the role that Volker Rühe played in this process of German transition.

Today, German soldiers serve alongside those of almost 40 other NATO and Partner nations. As we enter the new century, this is seen as simply normal and appropriate. Nobody raises his or her eyebrows when the German Defence Minister visits the German troops in the Balkans. And having an outstanding German Commander of all NATO's forces in Kosovo, Klaus Reinhardt, seemed only natural from one of NATO's biggest members.


For Manfred Wörner, the enlargement of NATO did not end with German unification. Already in 1990, during a visit to the Polish City of Gdansk, the crowd had welcomed him by cheering "NATO, Solidarnosc, NATO...". For Wörner, with his vision of a broader Euro-Atlantic community, it was inevitable that the new democracies in Central and Eastern Europe would ultimately join the Alliance as well.

Today, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland have joined NATO as full members, and nine more countries aspire to do the same. Our Membership Action Plan gives these aspirant countries a framework to help them in their reforms, and it gives them feedback and advice

At our Summit probably in Prague in 2002 our Heads of State and Government will review the process. It is too soon to tell what will happen then. But one thing is clear: NATO's door will remain open. Because, ultimately, Europe will only be at peace with itself if each state is free to chose where it wants to belong.


Manfred Wörner believed passionately in doing what he could to improve relations between people as well as between countries. So when it came to extending the hand of friendship to the new democracies of Central and Eastern Europe, there could have been no-one better suited to the task. He visited many Partner nations and strongly supported what came to be known as NATO's "outreach" efforts.

Today, NATO's outreach programmes have long left their experimental character behind. Partnership for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council have become permanent fixtures of the European security landscape. Without PfP, our unique coalitions in Bosnia and Kosovo could not have been set up so rapidly and effectively. And without the EAPC, we would not have the opportunity to engage with our Partners in discussions on regional security, arms control, or disaster response.

Today, Partnership has become a fundamental security task of NATO - with PfP and EAPC having acquired a major strategic value of their own. Today, a NATO without Partnerships has simply become unthinkable. That is why we will continue to make these partnerships ever more operational and valuable -- as investments in the future of this continent.


The last country to join PfP during Wörner's term was Russia. "It is simply impossible to exaggerate the importance of what happens today," he wrote in his own personal draft of the welcoming address to Russia's joining the Partnership in June 1994. By that time he had already become too sick to deliver the speech himself, yet all those present at the signing ceremony knew that it was Manfred Wörner who dominated that day even in his absence, reminding Russia of its weight in European security and of the responsibilities flowing from that very weight: to build a Europe "not only free of war but also free of fear."

Today, the NATO Russia relationship has progressed much further. In 1997 we signed the Founding Act and launched the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council. Our joint Work Plan covers the full range of issues of common concern: Balkan security, arms control, nuclear safety, and more. And Russian and NATO troops serve side-by-side in Bosnia and Kosovo.

True, our relationship has not been the complete success story we might have wished for. During the Kosovo air campaign, as NATO stopped and reversed the ethnic cleansing of Milosevic, Russia turned away. But this "ice age" is over now. Russia is coming to realise that NATO is here to stay, and that we need to have a modus vivendi with each other. NATO needs to be more effective at conveying to the Russians what the Alliance is, what it does and why - because Russians need to understand more clearly that NATO is not, nor does it want to be, any threat to their security. Eliminating myths and illusions is a task of quite some order - but it is central in NATO's relations with Russia.

Next month, I will be visiting Moscow to open the NATO Information Office in the heart of Russia's capital city. And I will use this opportunity to convey a clear message to Russia: we are ready to go much further in our cooperation, if you are.

Crisis Management

In the early 1990s, the Alliance was still suffering from what Wörner called "NATO's out-of-area syndrome". At that time, many observers argued that NATO could not act outside the borders of its members. In Wörner's view, the bloody wars in Yugoslavia showed how difficult this self-inflicted restraint had become.

True, NATO eventually became involved in finding a solution to the conflict -- but it became involved only as a subcontractor of the UN, with little influence over the policy pursued. In Wörner's eyes, all international efforts fell far short of what was required. Having been raised amid the ruins of post-war Germany, Wörner regarded the Yugoslav war as a moral challenge of the highest order. In his personal capacity he supported various efforts at helping victims of the war. As the Secretary General of NATO, he chastised the international community for its hesitation to become more fully engaged.

Only after Wörner's death was NATO finally able to heed his advice and make the cause of Bosnia its own. In 1995 the Alliance stepped in -- and its intervention made the difference between war and peace. Today, Bosnia is slowly -- very slowly -- making progress towards a self-sustaining peace. Manfred Wörner, I have no doubt, would have fully approved of what we did - and been proud of it.

Neither do I have any doubt that Wörner would have appreciated our tough stance in the Kosovo crisis.

In ending the slaughter in Kosovo, NATO took considerable risks. But it paid off. And if it wasn't for NATO and if it wasn't for nineteen countries standing up for decency and human rights and humanity, then Milosevic would still be the President of Serbia, he would still be running Yugoslavia, the refugees would still be out, and the ruthless killing would have gone on. He would still be looking for ways to cause trouble in Kosovo, or in Montenegro or in Vojvodina, whatever he saw fit to serve his purposes. The turmoil in South Eastern Europe and the resultant misery would still be going agonisingly on.

Manfred Wörner often joked that had someone told him in 1988 that only four years later he would chair meetings with the Russian or Ukrainian Foreign Ministers present, he would have urged that individual to immediately have his head examined. Well, here's another example. Three weeks ago, the Foreign Minister of Yugoslavia, Mr. Goran Svilanovic, came to NATO Headquarters, to talk about matters of common concern to us: How we are going to deal with the ground safety zone between Kosovo and Serbia; and how we are going to tackle the issues of South Eastern Europe. And he made an important statement when he said that "NATO and the FRY" are no longer enemies".

It was almost a routine meeting with yet another Foreign Minister -- and yet: can you imagine, if anybody had said to you this time last year that on January 10th, 2001 the Foreign Minister of Yugoslavia would be at NATO -- well, I guess you would have reacted like Wörner: you would have told me to go and have my head examined. But such is the pace of change. Yugoslavia has been re-admitted to the international community, and the countries of the region have welcomed Yugoslavia back into the fold. The Balkans now have an even bigger chance in their efforts towards democracy and integration into the wider Europe.

This does not mean that there are no more challenges: security for minorities in Kosovo, the Presevo Valley, the relationship between Serbia and Montenegro, and ultimately Kosovo's status. But I believe we are heading in the right direction. That is real, and perhaps, lasting success.

Defence Capabilities

Manfred Wörner was always fond of quoting Frederick the Great's dictum: "Diplomacy without force is like music without instruments." I couldn't agree more. That is why I have made it a personal priority of mine to see to it that NATO's defence capabilities are being improved and modernised. The requirement for this is clear to all of us, and Kosovo was merely another reminder. Military capability is the heart and soul of NATO. To carry out all of our missions -- from crisis management, to peacekeeping, to Partnership and cooperation, to collective defence -- NATO's forces must be effective, and able to work together effectively.

This means taking advantage of technology to enhance our teamwork, rather than letting technology get between us. And it means structuring and equipping our forces for modern operations. For such operations, we need forces that that can move fast, adjust quickly to changing requirements, engage effectively, and then stay in the field for as long as it takes to get the job done.

The purpose of our Defence Capabilities Initiative is to address these challenges. We have made significant progress since the Initiative was put in place a year and a half ago. An essential step has been the identification of areas of NATO's military capabilities that need improvement. And I have been very clear to Alliance Governments that they must make the necessary investments to make the Initiative work.


When Manfred Wörner headed the Alliance in the early 1990s, it had already become clear to many that the transatlantic relationship needed an overhaul. The Cold War was over, European integration was making headway, and the US was asking for a fairer sharing of the transatlantic defence burden. However, at that time, no one seemed to have a clear idea how a stronger Europe and a strong Alliance could be reconciled. And so the quarrel between "Atlanticists" and "Europeanists", remained in full swing.

In Wörner's view, it was an absurd quarrel. He was an unabashed Atlanticist, yet he never regarded a stronger European role as a threat to NATO's survival. On the contrary, he argued that a stronger European role was a precondition for NATO's long-term health. For him, transatlantic cooperation and European integration were simply two sides of the same coin. Again, he saw opportunities where others saw risks.

And today? Once again, the opportunities far outweigh the risks. An ESDI is finally taking shape -- reconciling a stronger Europe with a healthy NATO. The European Union is finally getting its act together and has agreed on an ambitious Headline Goal. It is only logical that a Union of equal economic strength to the US should also have a credible defence dimension. Europe must make a greater contribution within NATO. This became crystal clear in the Kosovo campaign. The imbalance of capabilities between the US and Europe is neither fair, nor politically sustainable over the long tem. There will be times when Europe needs to be able to take the lead in handling some of the security challenges, different to those of the Cold War.

When Wörner met with EU Commission President Jacques Delors in 1991, it was treated like an illicit affair. Today, the NATO-EU relationship is out in the open. We have agreed to establish permanent arrangements between the two organisations. The NATO defence planning process is being revamped to be more responsive to EU requirements. And arrangements are being developed to ensure the participation of non-EU Allies in EU-led operations.

The cooperation between NATO and the EU must be based on the true spirit of mutual cooperation, in the fullest possible transparency, and in respect of the autonomy of decision of each organisation. The defence planning by the two organisations must be fully coherent and compatible, and all of NATO's members, as well as the EU, must be satisfied with the provisions we put in place for the participation of non-EU NATO members, including Canada, in EU-led operations. These are the main principles of this cooperation.

The relationship is definitely moving in the right direction: a new, more mature transatlantic relationship for the 21st century. It is vitally important in this respect that the Europeans improve their capabilities: there is a strong link between DCI and ESDI. Only then can we reassure our North American friends that this process is complementary to NATO and its continuing vital role for the transatlantic link.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

NATO's transformation will continue. Compared to the NATO of today, the Alliance of the future will have more members, even more operational relations with Partners, even closer relationships with Russia and with Ukraine, a more intensive Dialogue with nations from the Southern Mediterranean, and improved defence capabilities. And the close relationship between NATO and the EU will increase our range of options for crisis management. All in all, the Alliance of the future will be as indispensable for our safety and security than the Alliance of today.

Clearly, it would be an exaggeration to claim that Manfred Wörner would have transformed this Alliance single-handedly. I speak from experience -- painful experience, sometimes -- when I tell you that, at the end of the day, it is the member nations that decide NATO's policy. But Manfred Wörner acted as a visionary catalyst for NATO's transformation.

In a time of uncertainty about the future of NATO, it was he who reminded the Allies of the tremendous value this Alliance represented. Sooner than others he realised the enormous potential this Alliance held for advancing political change. "Von der Friedenserhaltung zur Friedensgestaltung" -- from keeping the peace to shaping it -- this was his motto.

I believe that NATO today is acting fully in line with this dictum. That is why this Alliance will remain at the very heart of Euro-Atlantic security. Thank You.

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