Updated: 15-Mar-2001 NATO Speeches

15 March 2001

Security and Prosperity:
Two Halves of the Same Walnut

Speech by Rt. Hon. Lord Robertson of Port Ellen,
Secretary General of NATO,
to the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here today, for a couple of reasons. First, because it is the Ides of March. This is a bad day for leaders to hang around the office, surrounded by what one thinks are trusted advisors. So I was very glad to come here to visit you, away from NATO Headquarters.

I am also pleased to be here because I believe that we too often forget a fundamental truth: that security and economics are linked. One cannot flourish without the other.

NATO has acted in accordance with this logic since its foundation, half a century ago. Indeed, from the very beginning in the late 1940s, the project of building Europe was a twin project: on the one hand, to encourage political and economic integration; on the other, to provide security. And the first concrete manifestations of that logic were the Marshall Plan and NATO.

In 1948, George Marshall's five billion dollar "European Recovery Program" -- the Marshall Plan -- was enacted. The aim of the programme was simple -- to provide seed money for the reconstruction of a Europe shattered economically by the Second World War. But there was a wider political goal as well. As General Marshall put it, the plan's purpose was to revive Europe's economy "so as to permit the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist."

One year later, almost to the day, NATO was founded. And on the eve of the signature of the Washington Treaty, the Foreign Ministers of the twelve founding nations met and discussed, in very clear terms, their vision of the purpose of the Alliance. It was not just about defence against the Soviet Union. It was also about helping to promote integration in the Euro-Atlantic area. Under the protective umbrella of NATO, trade and commerce could flourish -- and so could our common values.

Nowhere else has the link between economics and security been more explicit than in the twin project of the Marshall Plan and NATO. Indeed, as US President Truman later put it, the Marshall Plan and NATO were "two halves of the same walnut". And when you look at how far we have come, this twin project has brought spectacular dividends.

Today, the United States and Europe enjoy the strongest economic relationship in the world. Europe is the largest foreign investor in the U.S. and total U.S. investments in Europe now amount to over $250 billion. Commerce and trade support millions of jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. We thus have a huge stake in each others' prosperity - and in creating the right environment for maintaining and reinforcing this prosperity.

This brings us to the other part of the equation: security. The United States and Europe not only enjoy the world's strongest economic relationship; they also enjoy the strongest security relationship on this globe. NATO -- the core of this security relationship -- has provided the total security for its member nations within which our collective prosperity could flourish.

Some might argue that the end of the Cold War has changed that equation. They may suggest that security is no longer as relevant as in the past, and that we should focus on economics alone and spend our defence Euros, dollars or pounds on more productive purposes.

A seductive idea -- but a flawed one. Flawed not least because it looks at Western Europe and North America only, and stops there. Today, the countries that once were behind the Iron Curtain are back on the political map; but they are facing daunting challenges of political and economic transition.

We must now make their transition successful -- and irreversible. We must lock in their progress. It is in our own strategic and economic interest to do so. A divide between a secure and economically prosperous West and a less secure, less prosperous East is not sustainable. We in Europe's Western half simply cannot shield ourselves indefinitely from the negative effects of poverty and political instability in the continent's East.

Nor, for that matter, could North America. In the age of an internet stock market, the Atlantic Ocean is no longer a shield. It would only be a matter of time until political or economic turmoil in Europe would be felt in the US and Canada as well.

So the challenge ahead is clear: we need to create economic prosperity and political stability in all of Europe. We must re-apply the formula that worked so well in Europe's Western half: building stability through NATO, to help foster economic prosperity. And promoting economic prosperity, including through the European Union, to lock in stability. The very definition of mutually reinforcing processes.

Is NATO delivering on its part of the bargain? It certainly is.

We have opened NATO's doors to new members. Almost exactly two years ago, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland walked through that door. And many more want to follow. To those nations who join, NATO membership delivers the security and the Atlantic identity they seek. To those who want to join, NATO membership provides a powerful incentive to get their house in order. This strategy of the "carrot" works. Over the last few years, we have seen a strong momentum throughout Central and Eastern Europe to undertake the necessary political, economic and military reforms, and to establish good neighbourly relations. Good for stability, therefore good for investment, therefore good for prosperity. A powerful formula indeed.

In a few years time, the European Union will also open its doors and thus deliver its own part of the bargain. Once again, security and economics are two halves of the walnut -- and the new democracies in Central and Eastern Europe are hungry for both halves.

NATO has also engaged Russia, to create the very necessary bridge with that major European power. The logic behind our engagement is very clear. Russia's stability is essential to broader European security. And if we can help Russia to be, and to feel, secure, it can divert its scarce resources away from unnecessary military expenditures, towards the reforms it has to make to prosper.

That is why NATO has worked to build a relationship with Russia that does two things: first, helps break down residual barriers of mistrust and suspicion; and second, assists Russia in its post-Communist transition. Since 1997, there has been a NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council, and an agreed work plan of cooperative security activities. My recent discussions with President Putin in Moscow only reinforced our common understanding that Russia is part of Europe -- and that Europe has a stake in Russia's success. That is an inclination we have to encourage.

This will not be an easy project. In security, Russia's suspicions sometimes run deep. And the economic, fiscal and legal framework for investment in Russia can be tricky indeed. But we have to keep in mind the potential of success. A secure Russia can be a major contributor to security in Europe. And a prosperous Russia can only contribute to overall European economies. Simply put, a vibrant, free, and dynamic Russian economy will be a boon for Europe and North America alike. As with the rest of Europe, economic prosperity, political stability and military security go hand in hand

This very same logic has led NATO to develop bilateral security relationships with 27 non-NATO countries in Europe and Central Asia, including former Warsaw Pact members and neutrals. Through these partnerships, in NATO's Partnership for Peace, the Alliance is helping to create a continent-wide pool of trained and interoperable forces for crisis management. But we also seek to give assistance to those states coping with the challenge of their transition. For example, we can assist them in their defence reforms -- to help them get rid of their oversized and overpriced military establishments, to help them reduce the burdens on their still fragile economies.

This project of engagement has been a real success. The old divisions of Europe are disappearing. And even if many nations to our East are still struggling, they have embraced the basic tenets of democracy and market economy. That alone is a major success, and a harbinger of future progress.

This logic must now be extended even further: to Europe's South-Eastern region. The tragedies that have taken place in and around the former Yugoslavia remind us that there are parts of this continent that have not yet made the transition towards democracy the rule of law, and ethnic pluralism.

Indeed, the history of the collapse of the old Yugoslavia also shows the darker side of the linkage between security and economic stability. Not only does economic progress require a secure environment -- a dwindling economy can also lead to political instability. And this political instability can erupt into military conflict.

To recover from the upheavals of the past decade, and to get the peace and security it deserves, South-Eastern Europe needs the whole package: political stability and sound economic perspectives. In Bosnia, we can already see that this combined approach works. NATO and its Partners countries provide the military stability that forms the indispensable basis for the political and economic re-construction of this war-torn region. The OSCE has organised free elections. And the EU acts as a major donor and creates the economic incentives that will ultimately turn Bosnia-Herzegovina into a viable state.

In Kosovo, too, economics and security are closely interrelated. Like in Bosnia, we can see a pattern emerge: security provided by NATO and Partner countries, and broad international engagement in order to create the political and economic conditions for reconstruction.

The European Union's Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe once again highlights the logic of security and economics being linked. The Stability Pact focuses on three areas: democratisation and human rights; economic reconstruction, development and cooperation; and security issues. These are the areas in which nations and relevant organisations are concentrating to achieve long-term stability and security in the region.

Through its South-Eastern Europe Initiative, NATO is playing an important role in support of the Stability Pact, most actively in the security field. For example, we are working closely with our Partner Countries in the region to help them work with each other, and to build confidence and transparency between them. And we are working to bring them all closer to NATO, both through practical cooperation and training, and by keeping the door open to potential members. Full integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions would be, frankly, the ultimate guarantor of the security and prosperity of these countries -- and by extension, of the Euro-Atlantic area more broadly.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Economics and security remain linked -- they remain "two halves of the same walnut". During the years of the Cold War, the twin project of European integration and transatlantic security cooperation was a unique feature of the West. Since the end of the Cold War, this twin project is being extended to engage all nations throughout the Euro-Atlantic area, because it creates the secure environment for economic growth and free institutions. The logic is clear and irrefutable. To paraphrase a former NATO Secretary General, "security is the oxygen of prosperity".

Thank You.

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