NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson
Earl Grey Memorial Lecture
"NATO: what have you done for me lately?"
It is a pleasure to be here this
evening. I have a particular soft
spot for Earl Grey, after whom these
lectures are named. This is a man
who once described Scotland as a place
"no less famed for its genuine
love of liberty than for its general
intelligence, for the cultivation
of the arts of peace, for its distinction
in literature and science, and above
all of its sober, calm and reflective
sense." A very perceptive man
indeed, Earl Grey - and I am pleased
to speak at a lecture named in his
It is a fine British tradition to
remember the past, and to honour it.
And I suspect that, ten years ago,
a lot of experts would have predicted
that there would soon be a "NATO
memorial lecture". Because when
the Cold War ended, many analysts
believed NATO would soon be dissolved
From their perspective, NATO had
existed for one basic purpose: to
"keep the Russians out".
But by the early 1990s, when it had
become clear that the Russians weren't
coming, many people were wondering
how NATO still helped them. Basically,
they were saying: "Sure, you
won the Cold War -- but what have
you done for me lately?"
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 completely different way. NATO
has moved beyond preventing the worst
possible threat to our citizens. Instead,
as we enter the 21st Century, the
Alliance is engaged in a much broader
range of activities, all designed
with one fundamental goal -- to build
security. To go out and address proactively
the security challenges which could,
or already do, affect the safety or
the interests of its members and their
populations. And the Alliance is as
vital to Euro-Atlantic security today
as it is because of its success in
accomplishing that mission.
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
I will begin by discussing perhaps
the least known element of NATO's
agenda: Partnership. And I begin with
Partnership because I believe that
it is one of the most important contributions
to European stability today -- and
as such, it deserves a little more
time in the sun.
NATO has spent the majority 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 countries
feel alone, and nervous. In an unpredictable
environment, they 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 always 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 can itself also
make a visit to our doorstep, if it
spreads too far.
It was to preclude this scenario that
NATO set up our Partnership for Peace
Program, and created the little-known,
but historic, Euro-Atlantic Partnership
Council. Today the Alliance is the
dynamo at the hub of a profound new
set of defence relationships across
the continent. Forty six countries
-- NATO members, former Warsaw Pact
countries and even neutrals, including
Switzerland which is not even in the
United Nations -- now train together,
talk about security issues together
and even carry out peacekeeping operations
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.
That alone is, in my opinion, a massive
change from the past, and a major
contribution to the stability of the
Some of NATO's Partners, however,
are not satisfied with Partnership.
They want more. They want membership
in NATO. And NATO is keeping its door
to membership open, because the Alliance
feels strongly that the enlargement
process is making a direct contribution,
today, to the safety and security
of our citizens.
Now, some of you might be thinking
that I'm exaggerating. After all,
how can NATO taking in new members
enhance the security of the existing
The logic is very clear. Our enlargement
process helps to preclude major conflicts
in Europe, because the mere prospect
of NATO membership is serving as an
incentive for aspirants to get their
house 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 border disputes.
It has also encouraged many serious
attempts 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 indeed 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. NATO's
willingness to enlarge 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 and modernisation. NATO
membership helps "lock in reform".
This, from my perspective, is a direct
contribution to security in Europe
-- and another reason why NATO remains
so healthy today.
One country that is watching the
enlargement process carefully is,
of course, Russia. But while NATO's
enlargement remains a certain source
of concern for the Russians, what
is new is that our discussions over
enlargement take place in the context
of a broad cooperative NATO-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. The days of "zero-sum"
diplomacy - what's good for you is
bad for us.
When the Cold War ended, NATO was
determined that this pattern, too,
should be consigned to the dustbin
of history. 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 important 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 musings about the
day when Russia itself might join
NATO. A far cry from the hostility
of the past, and a major contribution
to European security.
We do not yet have the NATO-Russia
relationship we want. There is still
too much residual Cold War mistrust,
and too many out-of-date stereotypes.
That is why I am going to Moscow in
a just a few days, to officially open
a NATO Information Office which will
provide accurate information about
NATO to all interested Russians. I
believe this is another important
step in the process of putting the
past behind us, and moving towards
a future where Russia takes her place
as a modern European country -- sharing
common values, and working in cooperation
with the rest of the Euro-Atlantic
The importance of this project to
the security of all NATO members goes
without saying, and the Alliance is
playing a key role in making it happen,
through dialogue and cooperation.
Another major element on NATO's
agenda are our peacekeeping operations
in the Balkans. It would, of course,
be impossible to make a speech without
mentioning Bosnia and Kosovo. Indeed,
I think most people's mental image
of NATO consists largely of news footage
of fighter planes taking off, or of
NATO peacekeepers controlling riots
Many people ask me why we got involved
in these operations. After all, the
Balkans are far away, aren't they?
How could it possibly help the security
of NATO's citizens to get involved
in areas which Bismarck said were
"Not worth the bones of one Pomeranian
Of course, the answer is that these
conflicts do affect our security.
Before they were stopped, the conflicts
in Bosnia and Kosovo were having a
clear and very negative effect on
both our security interests, and represented
a major challenge to our values.
Let me use Kosovo as an example.
First, Kosovo sits at a vital strategic
point in Europe, a volatile powderkeg
that could have easily ignited the
whole region. The ongoing repression
of Kosovar Albanians was causing hundreds
of thousands of them to flee to safety
in neighbouring countries - new, democracies
that did not have the capacity to
cope with them. Had this process continued,
the fragile democracies of the region
could never have withstood the strain.
And the floods of refugees fleeing
the violence would have washed ashore
all over Europe.
For all these reasons, it was in
our own clear security interest to
stop the repression of the Kosovar
Albanians. But more than that -- we
had to take action to uphold our values.
To have done nothing, in the face
of clear evidence of what was happening,
would have been to do everything we
had promised never to repeat.
In Kosovo, we knew a disaster was
coming. We saw the troops massing
in Kosovo, and the heavy armour beginning
to roll in. We saw the Yugoslav Government
training the army, police and paramilitary
thugs to work together to organize
the expulsion of the Kosovar Albanians.
We knew that Milosevic had moved the
most barbaric paramilitaries, including
the notorious Arkan, into Northern
Kosovo -- and where Arkan and his
like went, the worst depredations
were always soon to follow.
We gave peace every chance. But
despite our best efforts, 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.
The results vindicate that decision.
The hundreds of thousands of refugees
have returned, schools and homes have
been rebuilt, multiethnic institutions
are slowly getting off the ground,
and free and fair elections have been
held. 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 message: that where we can be decisive,
massive violations of human rights
will not go unopposed.
And the effects of this victory
are not only being felt in Kosovo
-- they have been felt in Belgrade.
I remember very clearly how many so-called
experts suggested that the Kosovo
operation would only strengthen support
for Milosevic; that the people of
Yugoslavia would rally around him
as a hero. Instead, they saw Milosevic
for what he is: a man who has led
them progressively, over ten years,
to four lost wars, political isolation,
and economic ruin.
With great courage, they made a
change. They voted for a new direction
-- towards peace, greater prosperity
and the assumption of their rightful
place in Europe. The challenge the
international community faces now
is to help turn that hope into reality,
through economic and political assistance.
That work has already begun. And I
am very pleased indeed that Yugoslavia
has taken that vital first step in
a new direction -- towards the Europe
of the 21st Century.
Bosnia and Kosovo taught us that
determined action can make a difference.
But these operations have also reinforced
a lesson we have always known: that
diplomatic credibility requires military
capability. If diplomacy is to be
successful in preventing tensions
from degenerating into 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, which inevitably
comes to London, Paris, Brussels and
Amsterdam. And before the idea of
violence as a tool of ethnic hatred
becomes accepted as common currency
in Europe -- something which we know
too well can 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 their mission.
The forces we built up in the Cold
War don't always fit that description.
We no longer need heavy armoured forces
designed for a massive tank battle
in Germany. Kosovo made that very
clear. Basically, today, these forces
are waste of money. If we can't use
them for the crises we actually face
today, then they basically exist only
on paper -- and paper armies don't
When I took up my post as Secretary
General, I said that I had three priorities:
capabilities, capabilities, capabilities.
And our Heads of State and Government
agree. They have 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 period of time.
This direction to improve our capabilities
was a recognition by NATO countries
that there is still not complete and
solid peace across Europe -- 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 investment, 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 am very
pleased to see that the British Government
has recently published a budget that
foresees the first real increase in
defence spending since the end of
the Cold War. This is a welcome step
in the right direction. Many other
members are taking similar steps,
to increase their defence budgets,
and improve the way they spend them.
We have finally turned the corner
on defence spending. The Kosovo alarm
bell has woken up NATO's members that
they have to do more, if they want
to be able to deal with the security
challenges we face today.
But the imbalance within NATO is
not just military. It is also political.
Kosovo made it very clear to everyone
that Europe might be an economic giant,
but when it comes to peace and security,
Europe still isn't pulling its weight.
When push comes to shove, the US still
has to carry a disproportionate share
of the burden.
That is why the European Union and
NATO are now working together to enhance
European capabilities. As Europe becomes
more capable, the burden on North
America will ease, for two reasons:
first, because Europe will be able
to contribute more to NATO operations;
and second, because Europe will be
able to take the lead in crisis management
operations when NATO does not wish
Will this help enhance Euro-Atlantic
security? Definitely. Is it good for
the transatlantic relationship? Definitely.
It only makes sense: if Europe is
more capable, it will be a better
partner for North America. The relationship
between North America and Europe will
remain balanced, and therefore more
healthy, over the long term, on the
most fundamental issue of all: peace
and security. We can have all the
transatlantic arguments we want over
bananas and hormone implants in beef--
but we have to get the security relationship
right. The development of European
capabilities is the right way - indeed,
the only way -- to make sure we do.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In today's world, there is no credibility
without capability. And NATO goes
into the 21st century as the most
credible security organization in
the Euro-Atlantic area 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 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 significant contribution
to the security of its members, and
the safety of future generations.