Updated: 02-Feb-2001 NATO Speeches

Oslo, Norway
2 Feb. 2001


by NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson
at Nobel Institute

Dear Chris Prebensen,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to speak here at the Nobel Institute upon invitation by the Norwegian Atlantic Committee. At NATO HQ everybody remembers the outstanding contribution which Chris Prebensen made during his years of service in different positions. I would like to thank you, Chris, for your service, for arranging this event today and for your kind words of introduction.

I am aware that many in Norway feel that it has become more difficult to attract NATO's attention to the northern part of Europe in general, and to Norwegian concerns in particular. As someone who comes from "the North" myself, I have a certain sympathy for such feelings. One could get the impression that the main centre of attention is elsewhere.

In part, you are the victim of your success: the Nordic nations are doing so exceptionally well in managing the challenges that confront them, that elsewhere in Europe people think that "all is well in the North".

Indeed, the North of Europe has been at the forefront of the new, post-Cold War security agenda. You were engaged in environmental security before most others could even spell it. You have worked to fight organised crime while others were only talking about it. And, in a region that features Allies and NATO aspirants, EU members and non-members, neutrals and, last but not least, Russia, you have built patterns of regional cooperation that are exemplary.

Norway, for one, is conducting a very activist foreign policy -- its roles in the Middle East Peace Process and in Sri Lanka are only the most visible examples. In short, although situated in a most complex security environment, the nations of Northern Europe have been extremely forward-looking and pragmatic. Compare this to the current challenges in Europe's Southeast, and you know why people believe that the North is in such good shape that it doesn't need tending.

But, of course, the North does need attention. Because we want the North to remain the success story that it is. And my visit here today is meant to prove that the concerns of Norway are unfounded: because the North of Europe, and in particular the interests of our Ally Norway, are featuring as prominently on our radar screen as are those of our other Allies. Indeed, if NATO could not reconcile the interests of all our Allies, we would have a major problem. But, as I hope to demonstrate in my remarks today, the Alliance remains responsive to the security concerns of all Allies, including Norway.

And I will do so by focussing on four key issues: The Balkans, Russia, enlargement and ESDI. Each of these challenges affects Norway's national security interests. Each of these challenges requires multinational cooperation. And in confronting each of these challenges, NATO is an indispensable part of the solution.

First the Balkans. As you all know, NATO has taken up so much air time and newsprint in these past weeks because of the controversy surrounding the use of depleted uranium munitions. Because it is important, I will address it right at the start.

First: No NATO country, nor NATO itself, has any interest whatsoever in using munitions that would pose significant long-term health risks to our forces or to the civilians in the regions we set out to help. Everything we know about Depleted Uranium, and there is a lot, makes clear that these munitions are not in this category.

Second: We have a collective duty to ensure that the rhetoric on this issue doesn't rapidly outpace the reality. The reality, to date, is that a wealth of experts, from a variety of countries and institutions, have looked at DU, and none of them have found a link between its use and illnesses among people who have served in the Balkans or live there. We must, of course, always be alert to new information and be prepared to take measures if the evidence warrants it. Meanwhile, we have to take the current scientific evidence fully into account, and not be stampeded into unwise and hasty decisions.

Let me stress again: NATO countries have every reason to expose the truth, and nothing whatsoever to hide. The measures we are taking will help us highlight the facts, coordinate information from experts and nations and act as our clearing house for maximum openness.

January 10th, 2001 was, however, an important day at NATO headquarters for more than the meeting on the issue of depleted uranium. There was another meeting that I believe will come, over time, to be seen as much more historically significant. On that day, the Foreign Minister of Yugoslavia, Mr. Goran Svilanovic, came to NATO Headquarters. He met with me, and he met with NATO's Ambassadors. And he made perhaps the most important statement made so far this year in international politics, when he said that "NATO and the FRY are no longer enemies".

Now, I don't know who among us, even six months ago, would have dared to bet that this meeting, and that statement, would take place so quickly. But they did happen -- and they illustrate vividly the dramatic importance of the change of government in Yugoslavia.

We don't have to look very far back in time to realise how significant that change is. Just six months ago, the Milosevic regime was still in power. Milosevic was still looking for ways to cause trouble in Kosovo, and exploit the volatility in the Presevo Valley, adjoining Kosovo. He was threatening to use force to overthrow the democratically elected Government of Montenegro. He refused to recognise the legitimacy of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a country. He provided a safe haven for fellow individuals indicted for war crimes. He refused to participate in clearing the Danube, with enormous financial implications for the region.

Milosevic, personally responsible for four Balkan wars, for so much suffering, so much dislocation, and so many grave abuses of human rights and outrages against human decency, his very existence as a Balkan leader was an affront to his neighbours, and to the broader international community. He represented a permanent threat to peace and stability in Europe.

Today, things are very, very different. Yugoslavia is no longer a pariah state. On the contrary -- President Kostunica has moved quickly to bring his country in from the cold, and the international community has moved with equal speed to open the door. Yugoslavia has now retaken its seat in the United Nations and the OSCE, and it is working hard to join the Council of Europe. Relations between Serbia and Montenegro -- so recently seen as the next potential Balkan conflict -- are now following a peaceful path. Yugoslavia has recognised Bosnia-Herzegovina as a country. The countries of the region have welcomed Yugoslavia back into the fold. And in a true sign of the times, NATO and Yugoslavia are working on a daily basis towards a common purpose: preventing extremists from causing more violence in the Presevo Valley.

Simply put, a black hole has been closed in South East Europe. When the people of Yugoslavia bravely and decisively removed the Milosevic regime from office, Yugoslavia began the transition that the other countries of the region have already embraced: towards democracy, peaceful resolution of disputes, and integration into the wider Europe.

This is an historic success - for the Yugoslavs and for those who helped them topple Milosevic. And our most important challenge of the year 2001, in NATO and in the broader international community, is to reinforce that success. To support Yugoslavia, where possible, in making that positive transition. And in so doing, to continue to contribute to the steady democratisation and growing stability of South East Europe.

Of course, for there to be stability in South East Europe, there must be stability in Kosovo and Bosnia.

For Kosovo, the year 2000 was a good one, in terms of setting the foundations for a peaceful, self-sustaining future. The people of Kosovo held their first free and fair democratic election perhaps ever, and they mainly chose representatives who espouse a non-violent, democratic approach to accomplishing their goals. This is a sign of political maturity, and it bodes well, I believe, for stability in Yugoslavia.

This does not mean that there are no more challenges. There most certainly are. The security situation for minorities, and support from inside Kosovo to the insurgent activity in the Presovo Valley and the 5km wide Ground Safety Zone on the Serb side of the boundary with Kosovo, are real causes for concern, and NATO is fully engaged in tackling them. But overall, I believe that Kosovo is heading in the right direction.

Norway has been with us, in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in Kosovo, to respond to the critical challenges the international community faced. Yet another sign of the Norwegian commitment is the fact that Lt. Gen. Skiaker will become COMKFOR in April. I think I can speak on behalf of all NATO allies in thanking Norway - and indeed General Skiaker - to respond to this call.
Let me now turn to the second challenge: Russia. All of us here are familiar with the ups and down of this relationship over the past decade. Kosovo was the most obvious low point. Relations are, however, once again back on track. Russian forces are working very well with NATO forces in the Balkans. The NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council is meeting regularly, and discussing cooperation on a wide range of the most serious security issues. And just last December, Foreign Minister Ivanov met with his NATO counterparts at NATO Headquarters, to discuss deepening our relations further.

One of the most important ways in which we can deepen our relations is, very simply, through better communication. NATO needs to be more effective at conveying to 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.

I believe that Norway, through its quick response to the Kursk disaster, has sent a powerful message: We must work together, we simply cannot afford to ignore each other. I want to reinforce this very message when I will be travelling to Moscow in less than three weeks' time to open the NATO Information Office. This Office will provide accurate and timely information to anyone interested in NATO and NATO issues. It will thus help eliminate some of the myths and illusions that sometimes get in the way of practical cooperation. Today NATO and Russia are indeed partners - and no longer opponents.

A third challenge we need to face is NATO enlargement. Two years ago, Norway was among the first countries to ratify the accession of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. The parliamentary support was overwhelming. It is this kind of success that we need to aim for as we continue the process of enlargement. Because continuing the process is our best insurance against new dividing lines.

Now, as Secretary General, my job is not to make the decision as to who should join. That is for NATO's member states, and as many of you know, NATO's Heads of State and Government will be gathering at a Summit next year to consider issuing further invitations for NATO membership. Between now and then, my job is to ensure that the enlargement process proceeds as it should. This means ensuring that all the issues are debated fully, by all the interested parties. It means giving the nine applicant countries as much feedback as possible, through our Membership Action Plan. It means reminding those aspirants that they will have to make difficult decisions, and tough decisions, if they are to meet NATO's standards, in particular on defence reform.

Needless to say, the final decision on enlargement remains fundamentally political. But one thing should be clear: in today's Europe, every democratic country must have the free right to choose its own security arrangements. Europe can never be fully stable and secure if countries are not in control over their own destiny, but have that destiny decided for them by others. For NATO, adhering to this principle means that when a European democracy is able and willing to make a real contribution to Euro-Atlantic security, then the Alliance has an obligation to consider their application for membership. In the new Europe of the 21st century, geography can no longer be destiny.

Fourth and finally, let me talk about the challenge of building a European Security and Defence Identity -- ESDI.

Clearly, ESDI has sparked quite a debate here in Norway. And how could it be otherwise? After all, here we have a European Union determined to play a security role commensurate with its economic weight. And there we have the well-established, well-oiled machinery of NATO. How is this going to go together? Will the Atlantic Alliance be hollowed out by an EU that sees itself increasingly as a competitor to NATO? Or, to put the question as bluntly as possible: Does ESDI mean the marginalisation of Norway?

The way I see it, the debate on ESDI is hampered by what Norwegians call "vardoger" -- a sound that arrives at your destination before you do. Some people already claim to know that ESDI is bad news, even before it gets off the ground. Indeed, if one were to take some of the press commentary of recent months at face value, one could almost believe that NATO's demise was imminent. But as Mark Twain used to say, "the rumours about my death are greatly exaggerated". NATO is not going to commit suicide anytime soon, nor is our support of ESDI some kind of blind sell-out to the European Union.

NATO supports an ESDI because our Atlantic Alliance has its own clear-cut strategic interests to do so. Those who fear ESDI are concerned that it may undermine NATO's existence. But it is precisely the other way around: In the post-Cold War world, ESDI is becoming ever more important for the Alliance's long-term health.

Let me dwell on just two reasons why ESDI is becoming ever more significant:

The first reason why we support ESDI is one of burden-sharing. Europe spends 60% of what the US spends on defence but it clearly does not generate 60% of the capabilities. The asymmetry revealed during the Kosovo campaign, where the US carried a disproportionate share of the military burden, is not politically sustainable in the long run. It will be increasingly difficult to explain this asymmetry to a US audience, in particular to a fiscally minded US Congress. In short, the US expects a fairer sharing of the transatlantic burden -- and Europe, for its own sake, must be prepared and willing to do more.

The second reason we support ESDI has to do with the nature of today's conflicts. Simply put, not every conflict in Europe may engage the strategic interests of the United States in the same way as those of the Europeans. So we have a responsibility to prepare for situations in which the United States would not want to be in the lead. In such cases, the Europeans must be able to act themselves. They must be organised to provide leadership -- politically, and also militarily. It will be major progress indeed when, in times of crisis, we have more options than just "NATO or nothing".

Today, ESDI, rather than being an optional "extra", is increasingly becoming a precondition for a more balanced transatlantic relationship -- and thus for a healthy NATO. ESDI is thus not about institutional rivalry with the EU, but about synergy. It is not about institutional competition, but about broadening our spectrum of crisis response options.

These are the new realities we must factor into our deliberations whenever we talk about ESDI. And I am glad to report that the relationship that is currently emerging between NATO and the EU reflects these realities. Again, let me offer the reasons why:

First, we will make sure that there is no unnecessary duplication between NATO and the EU. NATO remains the only game in town when it comes to our collective defence. Equally important, NATO will also remain the instrument of choice when it is in the interest of Europe and North America to be engaged together. Since all our nations have only one set of forces at their disposal, it would make no sense whatsoever to build a European "mini-NATO" alongside the one we already have, let alone create a "European Army".

Rather, the key is to make existing arrangements more flexible, so that a future EU-led operation can use NATO assets and capabilities, including critically important US capabilities in reconnaissance or logistics, as required. That is why NATO is prepared to support the EU with its collective assets and capabilities for operations where NATO as a whole is not engaged.

A key to achieving this is to establish close working relations between NATO and the EU. The idea to establish such relations is quite an old one, but until recently politics got in the way. There was a saying that although NATO and EU are both based in Brussels, they might as well be on different planets.

Today, this is changing, and fundamentally so. NATO and the EU are establishing permanent arrangements that will link these two major organisations in a close and trusting way. Politically as well as militarily, then, we are setting the stage for a stronger European role in crisis management.
The second reason why NATO-EU relations are in line with the new realities has to do with the role of non-EU Allies. Simply put, non-EU NATO members, such as Norway, will have an opportunity to participate in EU-led operations. These countries are an important part of the European security equation, and the EU acknowledges this fact. Indeed, the EU would be acting against its own strategic interests if it were to ignore such extra capabilities. That is why NATO welcomes the latest EU proposals to develop arrangements for consultation and participation with the non-EU Allies. Because these proposals indicate that the EU understands -- and appreciates -- the great potential the non-EU Allies can bring to the table.

The third reason why ESDI is on the right track is its capabilities. You all know that previous incarnations of ESDI were long on philosophy but short on results. But this time it is different. ESDI today is focussing on concrete capabilities. The "Headline Goal" of establishing a 60,000-strong rapid reaction capability by 2003 is an indication that the EU has understood the need to go beyond mere institution-building.

Indeed, there are encouraging signs: most EU nations have already begun to stop the fall in their defence budgets, and many have set new priorities on procuring the equipment required by the new security environment. Such a renewed emphasis on capabilities is welcomed by NATO, for a very selfish reason: improved European capabilities will also be available to the Alliance. So ESDI will not only strengthen the EU, it will also strengthen NATO.

Norway is currently undertaking steps that will enable it to make valuable contributions across the board to Alliance missions. In particular, Norway is playing a key role in looking at new strategic air and sealift capabilities, and at precision-guided munitions. I do not think that a nation that is so engaged has any reason to fear ESDI. Rather, the onus is on the EU. Could they afford not to have Norway on board in managing a crisis?

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Since the end of the Cold War, Norway has moved being an importer to becoming an exporter of security. If I may borrow the terminology from the late philosopher Isaiah Berlin, Norway has changed from being a "hedgehog" to becoming a "fox". This change mirrors the change of NATO as a whole. We are still fully capable of safeguarding our territorial security; in that respect we remain -- and will always remain -- "hedgehogs".

But we are also acting to shape the security environment in the wider Europe -- through our engagement in the Balkans, through our relationship with Russia, through NATO enlargement, and through ESDI. We have all turned into foxes. Because in today's complex security environment, it is the fox that ultimately survives.

Go to Homepage Go to Index