Overcoming New Challenges
by the Rt. Hon. Lord Robertson of Port Ellen,
Secretary General of NATO
Sen. Thompson, Bill Schneider, Jeff
Gedmin, ladies and gentlemen,
I am very grateful for those introductions,
and pleased to be able to speak to
you from the home of the United Stales
Senate. I cannot think of a better
place to discuss the challenges facing
NATO and my thoughts on how we get
through them in ways that actually
leave NATO stronger and better for
I am also very pleased to speak to
you under the auspices of the American
Enterprise Institute's New Atlantic
Initiative. It is gratifying to have
a dedicated, political and think-tank
effort aimed at renewing American
support for NATO.
Eight years ago, the Carnegie Endowment
was the primary raiding ground for
filling the ranks of the new Administration,
and Carnegie itself was seen as the
top think-tank with the right connections.
Now the same is happening with AEI,
and I am pleased to be among the first
visitors to recognise that not only
tide of the government, but also the
tide of the think-tanks, is changing.
But I am here today not to talk about
the tides of political survival in
Washington, but instead the tides
of fraying and renewal in NATO relations.
It seems every few years we go through
a period where the continued validity
of trans-Atlantic ties are called
into question with mutual recrimination
from both sides. And then we realise
that the differences we have are not
as big as they seem, and that the
ties that link Europe and North America
are deeper and more fundamental that
we often realise.
Just over ten years ago, there was
a strong trans-Atlantic consensus
that the principal threat to NATO
was the USSR. If you were to ask the
question today "What is the principal
threat to NATO?" - at least some
Americans would say "ESDI"
and some Europeans would say "NMD."
But at least we continue to agree
that the principal problem is an acronym.
(There is a pattern here, because
the other main challenges I am dealing
with at the moment are the situations
in the FRY and the FYROM ).
I raise these two issues - European
defence and missile defence - because
they are two of the major sources
of the current furrowing of brows
in trans-Atlantic security. Many American
commentators continue to see ESDI
as a latent threat to NATO. I think
Mr. Gedmin's argument in the Senate
here just one week ago was that ESDI
is indeed a threat, hut since the
Europeans won't really do anything
anyway, it is less important than
many of the other issues we face.
Not exactly a rousing endorsement.
Many Europeans, meanwhile, continue
to fear the effects of the United
States proceeding with deployment
of a missile defence system. But they
feel that since such deployment is
inevitable anyway, it is better to
stop discussing whether it will happen
and start discussing how. Hardly a
resounding call for dealing with missile
In my view both of these negative
attitudes, towards ESDI and missile
defence, are wrong - wrong on the
substance, and wrong on the prescriptions.
I want to begin with missile defence,
but before I do, let me just recall
the fundamentals that underlie trans-Atlantic
relations. First and foremost, we
share common values: freedom, free
markets, human rights, and the rule
of law. Together, North America and
Europe are stronger, and better able
to promote our common values, than
Two other principles are shared risk
and shared burdens. A NATO that is
not balanced, or where its members
are not engaged equitably in addressing
common security concerns, is at long-term
risk. This is the fundamental logic
of trans-Atlantic relations, and it
still holds true. So these debates,
as tough as they can be, are not about
first principles. The first principles
For its first forty years, NATO's
job in protecting and promoting our
nations and our shared values was
dominated by the need to defend against
the Soviet Union. Today, the threats
come from different quarters.
Clearly, the most immediate risk
to peace in Europe today is in the
Balkans, and that is why NATO is engaged
in keeping the peace and pushing for
political resolution of the conflicts
there. And the KFOR and SFOR operations
are good examples of burden sharing,
where the U.S. accounts for only 15
percent of the troops on the ground.
The other new type of risk for NATO
countries comes from the proliferation
of weapons of mass destruction. And
NATO itself recognises this. The requirement
to address WMD threats is in the 1999
NATO Strategic Concept. NATO is already
conducting its own theatre missile
defence feasibility study, and some
NATO nations have already joined the
United States in plans to deploy theatre
missile defence systems in southern
When I was in Moscow two weeks ago,
Defence Minister Sergeyev handed me
his plan for non-strategic missile
defence in Europe, a plan that identifies
missile threats and acknowledges that
a military solution is part of the
answer. The details are still sketchy,
and part of the Russian impulse may
be about driving wedges between Europe
and America. But when I met with President
Putin, he mentioned four states by
name and actually used the term "rogue
states." So I believe that not
only the Allies, but also the Russians
agreed that the missile challenge
is real and must be addressed. The
question is, "How?".
The concerns previously expressed
in Europe about NMD have focused on
"de-coupling" and strategic
stability. A "national"
missile defence for the U.S., say
its critics, could risk decoupling
US and European security. And a defence
system, they claim, that tears up
the ABM Treaty but offers no coherent
concept of nuclear strategy to augment
or replace mutual deterrence, is a
But the Bush Administration's approach,
which aims to include Allies and fielded
forces in the net - in other words,
dropping the "N" from "NMD"
- and to put missile defence into
a larger strategy of nuclear and WMD
security, has helped address these
concerns. And the commitment to close
consultations with the NATO Allies
by both the Clinton and Bush Administrations
has made clear that decisions on something
that so fundamentally affects the
security of the NATO Allies will not
be made over their heads.
So I am very confident that instead
of seeing a major trans-Atlantic row
over "whether" America should
deploy a "national" missile
defence system, we are actually going
to see some very serious consultations
on "how" a broader missile
defence system and strategy will come
into effect. And this will reflect
again our commitment to common values,
common security, and shared risks
Now concerning these shared burdens,
the United States has long argued
that Europe needs to produce more
defence capability and take on more
of a role in the common defence. While
the KFOR and SFOR peacekeeping operations
are good examples of burden-sharing,
the Kosovo air campaign was conducted
squarely on the back of the United
States. Many people in Washington
resent that fact, as do many Europeans.
Europe knows it can and must do more
to take on a greater share of the
defence effort. It can never replace
NATO - and doesn't want to. But the
imbalance we have between European
and American capabilities at the moment
is simply not sustainable.
So that is the logic behind ESDI.
Europe is finally preparing to deliver
what the United Slates has quite rightly
said for so long that it wants - a
Europe that can shoulder more of the
burden and be a better partner of
the United States. As long as the
European Allies deliver on the capabilities
promised, this will be good for NATO
and good for Euro-Atlantic security
overall. And trust me: if I did not
believe this were true, I would not
support ESDI, I would oppose it.
Now bear in mind that we currently
are in a trap, which I call "NATO
or nothing." For any security
challenge in Europe larger than a
forest fire, there are only two options
- NATO, or nothing. There is no in-between.
Yet we all know that the United States
does not want to engage in every minor
European security problem. And Americans
argue, quite publicly sometimes, that
the Europeans are rich enough that
they ought to be able to take care
of problems in their own backyard.
And the Americans who say this are
right. But if the option is NATO -
including the United States - or nothing,
the pressure is automatically there
to press for the United States to
So we have to create a new option.
Building European military capabilities
has to be matched with building the
institutional role - distinct from,
but closely linked to NATO - in order
to create a European option for handling
small-scale crises. That is why ESDI
is focused on the so-called "Petersburg
tasks": humanitarian operations,
peacekeeping, and crisis management.
For bigger jobs, NATO is still the
only game in town.
Now, you will have heard that I said
"closely linked to NATO."
And that concept is truly indispensable.
Nations only have one set of forces,
so they cannot have separate and unrelated
NATO and EU systems for defence planning.
They cannot afford two multinational
centers for planning multinational
operations - one at NATO and one in
the EU. And they must find the right
ways to include and reassure NATO
Allies that are not members of the
EU that they can participate in the
European defence efforts. These are
the key challenges within ESDI, that
we are currently working hard to address.
As with missile defence, the need
to strengthen Europe's defence role
was explicitly recognised in the 1999
NATO Strategic Concept. So as with
missile defence, the question is not
"whether" but "how"
we take ESDI forward in a way that
ensures it will leave a stronger and
better balanced NATO.
In 1999, the American Enterprise
Institute published a paper on the
development of European security capabilities.
The paper was entitled, "How
To Wreck NATO." Happily, NATO
is still going strong. It is going
strong because we have moved beyond
debating whether change is necessary
- in European security, or in missile
defence. We are now managing that
change, taking advantage of change,
to strengthen our common security.
That has been the mark of NATO's success
throughout its history - and the main
reason why the trans-Atlantic relationship
will continue to remain as strong
and as vibrant as it is today, and
as it has been in the past.