NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson
Saturday Evening Public Lecture
"NATO and the Challenges of the New
It is sometimes said that most speakers
in fact have four speeches:
- what they have prepared;
- what they actually say;
- what they wish afterwards they
- and what they are quoted as
I hope I have only one speech for
you today, not four, but this saying
does illustrate the challenge of communication
-- a challenge we at NATO know only
too well. After all, NATO remains
frequently misunderstood -- its character
as well as its policies. Too many
observers still tend to judge NATO
by the outdated yardsticks of the
And outdated they are. I would like
to illustrate this point with a true
story. In the early 1980s, a prominent
peace researcher published an assessment
of Europe's most secure states. Switzerland
was the front-runner -- hardly a surprise
to anyone. Yet his choice of second
and third seemed peculiar even at
the time: Yugoslavia and Albania.
But there was a distinct logic to
this. In the view of this analyst,
the military alliances NATO and Warsaw
Pact were clearly the most dangerous
places, as these two would almost
certainly go to war with one another.
Consequently, those countries farthest
removed from the so-called "blocs"
would fare best.
Today, Yugoslavia has disintegrated
in a series of wars -- Europe's bloodiest
conflicts since World War Two. A NATO-led
coalition is picking up the pieces,
trying to create a framework for long-term
stability and reconciliation. Albania
was the first country to formally
ask for NATO membership after the
Cold War ended. And, to complete the
irony, Switzerland -- Europe's most
secure country by any standards --
is now actively cooperating with NATO
in the framework of the Partnership
for Peace initiative, and even cooperates
with us in Kosovo.
This story illustrates how far off
one can be if one remains stuck in
Cold War imagery. No, if you really
want to understand NATO today -- why
it still around, and why it is still
so relevant to everyone's safety --
you have to look at NATO in a different
way. Not only as a military Alliance,
created to counter a specific threat,
but as a community of nations. As
19 countries interlinked and interlocked
by history and habit. As an Alliance
bound together by a profound belief
in democratic values, and ready and
able to protect them. As a family
of free countries, which for four
decades preserved the safety of its
members against the Soviet threat.
As an Alliance which is now shaping
the peace for future generations.
During the Cold War, the yardstick
we applied to NATO was how well it
maintained the status quo. Today,
the measure is how good NATO is at
managing change. Rather than focus
on preventing the "worst case",
we should look at how to create the
"best case" -- a Euro-Atlantic
area where security cooperation is
the norm rather than the exception;
a Euro-Atlantic area where regional
crises are challenges that are to
be tackled together, rather than challenges
that pull us apart; a Russia that
sees itself as part of the team, not
as a humiliated outsider; and a transatlantic
relationship in which the Europeans
finally shoulder their fair share
of the common burden.
Is such a "best case" achievable?
Absolutely. Because we have the right
instruments that help us get there,
including a dynamic NATO.
Let me give you a few examples of
NATO's new agenda -- because each
element of that agenda shows how the
Alliance is making a direct contribution
to our safety, on a daily basis, and
shaping tomorrow's safer world.
Let me begin by discussing Russia,
because the relationship between Russia
and the West remains absolutely central
to our security. But whereas, for
forty years NATO was focused on "keeping
Russia out", today we are working
to manage Russia's entry in -- into
Europe, into cooperative relationships,
into agreement with the rest of the
Euro-Atlantic community on common
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.
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 means
encouraging change and reform in Russia.
We are doing that as well, by helping
Russia get rid of its nuclear material,
and by encouraging defence reform.
It means working together with Russia
today on tomorrow 's threat to safety:
arms proliferation, ethnic violence,
fragmented states, economic turbulence,
chemical and biological warfare. We
are doing that too.
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 underlines the importance of
me going to Moscow in a just a few
days from now, to 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
community. 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
Similarly, NATO now has an important
relationship with Ukraine. Ukraine
may seem very far away from here,
sometimes, and not nearly the challenge
that Russia can be. But it is important
to remember where Ukraine sits: at
a vital strategic point in Europe.
On the one side, two NATO members
- Poland and Hungary, and two countries
working hard to join Slovakia and
Romania. On the other side, Russia.
Obviously, Ukraine's stability is
important to us all.
That is why NATO is working so closely
with Ukraine, on a range of issues
designed to preclude any breakdown
in stability that might compromise
wider strategic security in Europe.
The Alliance is assisting Ukraine
in an area of vital importance: defence
reform. NATO is helping Ukraine to
develop and maintain the kind of versatile
and affordable armed forces that every
modern European country needs. From
our perspective, this is an investment
in the future of Ukraine itself --
and therefore, in the safety of future
generations of all Europeans.
These are the two most prominent
of NATO's Partnerships. But there
are many more -- and they are all
vitally important. Indeed, I believe
that NATO's Partnerships are one of
the most important contributions to
European stability today -- and as
such, deserve a little more time in
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,
nasty 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, 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 own doorstep,
if it spreads too far.
It was to prevent this scenario happening
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
-- all the NATO members, even the
former Warsaw Pact countries and all
the ex-Soviet states, and even neutrals,
-- now train together, talk about
security issues together and even
carry out peacekeeping operations
together. And even Switzerland --
the European security champion that
is not even in the United Nations
-- is part of this endeavour.
What do we do together? Practical,
realistic things -- with clear deliverables.
We work together on defence reform,
to help all countries in Europe to
have the kind of modern military they
need, and can afford. We train together,
so that when multinational peacekeeping
missions take place, Partner and NATO
countries can work together seamlessly.
We cooperate on scientific and environmental
issues, to address some of the security
challenges our Partner countries face
sometimes a little more acutely than
NATO countries do.
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 unilateral solutions are required.
Through PfP and EAPC, security across
Europe has been structured towards
inclusion and cooperation. Step by
step, we are creating an area of peaceful
cooperation in a part of the world
that had every chance to be unstable,
violent and dangerous. That alone
is, in my opinion, a massive change
from the past, and a major contribution
to the stability of the continent.
Some of NATO's Partners, however,
are not satisfied with Partnership.
They want more. As free and independent
nations, they want membership in NATO
-- the most successful defence Alliance
in history. 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.
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. It is erasing
ancient dividing lines, resolving
old conflicts, and driving reform.
Why? Because all of the aspirants
know that if they want to join NATO
-- or 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.
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 testament to
the stabilizing power of integration
Unfortunately, several European
countries have chosen the other path.
They have rejected cooperation and
common values, and instead chosen
ethnic violence and expulsion - the
dark manifestations of a Europe we
have come closer to putting behind
us for good. I am referring, of course,
to the Balkan wars of the past decade.
As NATO Secretary General, it would
be almost impossible for me 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 in Kosovo.
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 damaging effect on
both our security interests, and in
the 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 easily have 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 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 waiting
to roll in. We saw the Yugoslav Government
training the army, police and paramilitary
thugs to work together to organise
the expulsion of the Kosovar Albanians.
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 militarily. The alternative
would have been bloody chaos
The results vindicate that decision.
NATO's 19 nations, together with 19
Partners - including Russia -- have
been keeping the peace in Kosovo for
close to two years now. 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
And the effects of this victory
are being felt not only in Kosovo
but also 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
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. We need
forces that can face the security
challenges of the future and not the
enemies of the past. And it is obvious
that the forces we built up in the
Cold War don't fit that description.
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 released a budget that
foresees the first real increase in
defence investment 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.
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 and will
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 is only common 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 hormones 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,
I think this overview over NATO's
agenda makes it abundantly clear why
NATO remains at the centre of Euro-Atlantic
security. NATO remains at the centre
because we have realised that in today's
security environment, it is no longer
enough to focus on preventing the
"worst case", but that one
must try to achieve the "best
case" -- a stable, cooperative
Euro-Atlantic area. That is why the
Alliance has adopted its broad range
of security-building tasks, and why
the Alliance makes such a significant
contribution to the security of its
members. As we enter the 21st century,
NATO is your best-ever investment
in a safer world tomorrow, and a stable
international order for your grandkids.