Lecture to The European-
Shaping Security in the 21st Century"
by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to be here with you
this evening. Indeed, as Secretary
General of NATO, I could hardly feel
more at home than at a meeting of
the European-Atlantic Group. Since
1954, this Group has followed a principle
which guides my own organization as
well -- the fundamental requirement
for strong cooperation between Europe
and North America on the full range
of economic, political and military
issues. And through your efforts,
you have helped forge that relationship
into the strongest, most effective
partnership possible. So let me begin
by congratulating you on the work
you have done, and continue to do,
to further transatlantic cooperation.
Now, if one reads the headlines
today, one might get the feeling that
that cooperation is under threat.
The news is full of disagreements
over airplane subsidies, or beef hormones,
or genetically modified corn flakes.
Editorials suggest that new developments,
such as improving European defence
capabilities or US missile defence
plans, are undermining the common
perspective on security that has kept
the transatlantic community together
for over five decades. And as a result,
there are more than a few doomsayers
predicting that the sky will soon
fall on the Euro-Atlantic area.
My message to them is simple: relax.
Over the past five decades, the transatlantic
relationship has seen more supposedly
disastrous moments than a Hollywood
thriller -- over Suez, over Euro-missiles,
over Bosnia and countless other disagreements.
Each time, some observers predicted
NATO's demise. And each time, NATO
not only survived -- but emerged stronger,
more cohesive, and more relevant.
This pattern has not changed. Indeed,
two recent issues serve to prove once
again that our ability to agree, and
to do the right thing, has not diminished.
I am speaking, of course, of missile
defence and the European Security
and Defence Identity.
When these two issues entered our
transatlantic agenda in earnest some
time ago, they both seemed to carry
the potential for major transatlantic
controversy. Both projects implied
the notion of "distance".
For some observers, missile defence
seemed to imply a US desire to look
after its own security, regardless
of Allied concerns. For others, ESDI
seemed to suggest an exercise in European
self-assertion -- ganging up on "the
only remaining superpower", the
To be sure, much of this controversy
was the result of oversimplifications
of which parts of our media are so
fond. Still, for a while, NATO seemed
to be stuck between the proverbial
rock and the hard place -- between
an American siege mentality and a
European ego-trip. And mutual recriminations
were flying back and forth across
As I have said on other occasions,
as someone who straddles the Atlantic,
if Europe and America were moving
apart, no one would feel the pain
more acutely than I would. But, luckily,
I didn't have to be too flexible.
Because, as is customary in the long
history of our transatlantic community,
whenever we seem to be at loggerheads,
a unique mechanism kicks in -- a mechanism
called "common sense". This
common sense has gotten us out of
trouble more than once. And it has
enabled us to surmount seemingly insurmountable
In the specific case of missile
defence and ESDI, transatlantic common
sense has led us to realise three
First, ESDI is as inevitable as
is missile defence. The United States
cannot impose permanent military abstinence
on the EU, just as Europeans cannot
impose a policy of permanent vulnerability
on the US. Both issues are thus going
to remain on our transatlantic agenda,
and, hence, we need to deal with them
in a pragmatic way.
Second, those willing to take a
closer look will realise that both
issues can be made fully compatible
with Alliance interests. Once we deprive
these issues of their novelty value
and of their surrounding hype, we
will find that a large part of the
alleged "controversy" is
more about process than it is about
substance. This means that there is
much room for skilful management --
and for political leadership.
And this brings us to the third
and most important fundamental: when
it comes to skilful management and
political leadership on transatlantic
issues, NATO is key. Yes, missile
defence may seem like an issue largely
driven by Washington. And, yes, ESDI
-- or ESDP -- is in large part an
But the key to the success of these
projects lies with NATO. Because NATO
is the crucial "transmission
belt" for transatlantic defence
cooperation, and policy coordination.
It is the framework that more than
any other enjoys the trust and confidence
of Europeans and North Americans alike.
This gives NATO a unique opportunity
to coordinate, harmonise, and shape
events. And we are determined to make
full use of these opportunities.
Indeed, the last few weeks offered
some very instructive examples for
NATO's tremendous ability to push
things in the right direction. As
you know, I have recently visited
Russia and the US. In the discussions
we have had in both the White House
and the Kremlin, I could see that
things are moving -- and in the right
On missile defence, my recent meetings
in Washington made pretty clear that
our transatlantic discussions in NATO
have had a very beneficial effect.
The US Administration not only displayed
understanding for legitimate European
concerns, but it also highlighted
the need for including the Allies
in this endeavour. The fact that the
word "National" has been
dropped from "National Missile
Defence" is thus more than a
mere shift in rhetoric. It indicates
a desire to make this an Atlantic
This new common ground on missile
defence is not confined to NATO Allies.
Indeed, in my meetings in Russia I
could also detect some movement. Of
course, the Russians are still sceptical
about US plans, but they, too, admitted
their serious concern about proliferation.
They spoke about "rogue states"
and about the dangerous leakage of
missile technology and the threat
to countries close to the "rogue
states". What's more they proposed
a military response, in the form of
a shield against such missile attacks.
So there was a joint diagnosis of
the disease, and even a developing
common ground as a possible prescription.
Quite obviously, the efforts by
the US and its NATO Allies to work
towards a new consensus on missile
defence did not go unnoticed in Russia.
At worst, this signalled to Russia
that wedge-driving would be futile.
At best, this suggested that the time
might have come for doing serious
business together on a commonly perceived
Regarding ESDI, our very intense
discussions within NATO, and between
NATO and the EU, have also changed
the atmospherics of the debate. In
particular, we have reassured the
US that the project of ESDI will remain
an Atlantic project. The gist of the
message I received in Washington is
simple and straightforward: As long
as NATO is not harmed, ESDI should
go ahead. As long as NATO is not harmed
-- well, I think this is a condition
we shouldn't have trouble meeting.
Because no one wants to harm NATO.
On the contrary, ESDI will strengthen
In a nutshell, these past weeks
have revealed that when it comes to
solving problems, NATO is indispensable.
On missile defence and on ESDI, we
have buried any notion of splitting
the Alliance. What once was a dispute
over theory has now been boiled down
to a matter of practical implementation;
what once seemed like a fundamental
difference over substance has been
boiled down to discussions over process.
All this has vindicated that wonderful
German saying: "The soup won't
be eaten as hot as it is cooked".
So how will this process now move
along? Regarding missile defence,
it means that the US will continue
to brief Allies on their plans. It
means that some European NATO members
will continue to explore bilaterally
how to co-operate with the US on missile
defence technologies. It means that
NATO as a whole will remain engaged
in studying proposals for theatre
And, it means that we will look
at the proliferation challenge in
more depth. To this end, our newly
created Weapons of Mass Destruction
Centre -- a mouthful, I admit -- will
play an important role. By establishing
a database on proliferation, it will
lay the groundwork for a joint transatlantic
approach towards this challenge.
And that is not all. Should Russia's
proposals about co-operation in theatre
missile defence become a bit more
concrete, we would also have in place
the appropriate forum to deal with
such prospective cooperation: our
NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council.
On ESDI, the way ahead is equally
clear. Two issues, in particular,
must be managed correctly. First,
we must ensure that the non-EU members
of NATO are not excluded from satisfactory
participation in EU-led operations.
Over the past few months, we have
made real progress on this issue,
and I am confident we will very soon
have an agreement between the EU and
NATO that satisfies all concerned.
That will let us get on with flushing
out the important detail.
Second, we have to ensure that defence
planning between the two organizations
does not diverge. EU and NATO forces
must be capable of handling the full
range of operations they are assigned:
NATO and EU, not either-or. That is
why the Alliance is preparing to offer
access to the EU to NATO's defence
planning. This will prevent any unnecessary
duplication, and ensure that we have
the most effective pool of forces.
Once again, we are close to a deal.
And once the deal is struck, we will
have a stronger NATO and a stronger
EU. In European crisis management,
our option will no longer simply be
"NATO or nothing". Instead,
we will have a broad array of options,
tailored to the situation.
ESDI and missile defence both are
examples of the unique transatlantic
culture of pragmatic problem-solving.
We have reassured a sometimes sceptical
US about the strategic necessity of
ESDI. And we have gracefully defused
a "national" missile defence
question that could have alienated
the Europeans. In short, we have defused
potential problems, because we relied
on the common sense that is so firmly
ingrained in our transatlantic community.
Today, our transatlantic community
faces another challenge in the Balkans.
A handful of extremists are trying
to destabilise the former Yugoslav
Republic of Macedonia, in pursuit
of a nationalist pipe dream. They
will not succeed. Why? Because we
have learned the importance, and the
power, of transatlantic unity.
Some years ago, the Balkans were
pulling us apart. Some years ago,
when the war in Bosnia raged, the
US and its Allies did not see eye
to eye. As a result, we were unable
to have a decisive influence on the
situation. But when we finally saw
eye to eye, we ended the war. Common
sense should have told us much sooner
what was so obvious: that there can
be no progress in the Balkans without
transatlantic unity. We learned our
lesson late, but, as the saying goes,
better late than never.
And we internalised that lesson.
So when the Kosovo crisis heated up,
we did not let it divide us. On the
contrary: we stood firm, even in the
most challenging of circumstances.
And, in the end, over a million refugees
could return to their homes.
In managing the current crisis,
this unique transatlantic solidarity
will prevail yet again. We are increasing
security measures along the border
in Kosovo, primarily by working to
interdict any rebels or arms from
attempting to cross into the country.
This should allow the government in
Skopje to handle the crisis largely
by its own means. The rebels will
not be allowed to destabilise a country
that is an example to the region that
different ethnic communities can live
alongside and amongst each other.
All the governments of the region,
in the EU, in NATO, and across Europe
are determined to see this crisis
resolved as it should be -- peacefully,
and with no further destabilisation
in a region that has already suffered
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In reflecting about our transatlantic
community, I sometimes feel that it
resembles a self-regulating currency
market. There's frantic activity,
euphoria, gloom and doom, and then
euphoria again. Yet, at the end of
the day, after all the ups and downs,
transatlantic relations always find
back to a natural balance.
Let me be clear: I do not want to
suggest that NATO can be left on "autopilot",
because things will always set themselves
right by default. What I would like
to suggest, though, is a little more
calm and cool judgement in dealing
with the issues at hand. Whether it
is missile defence, ESDI, or the perennial
issue of the Balkans -- we can work
things out. We have the political
will, we have a deeply ingrained habit
of co-operation, and we have a toolbox
to help us solve whatever the problem
at hand. Most of all, we have NATO
-- our best-ever investment in a safer
world tomorrow, and a stable international
order for our grandkids.