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
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
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
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
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
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 --
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
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.