Updated: 15-May-2001 NATO Speeches

15 May 2001

"Opening Remarks"

by the Rt. Hon. Lord Robertson, Secretary General of NATO, at the 50th Anniversary Meeting of the Infrastructure Committee

Members of the Infrastructure Committee,
Former Delegates and Representatives,
Past and Present Members of the International Staff,

It is a great pleasure for me to be your chairman on the 50th anniversary of the Infrastructure Committee. My first duty as Chairman is to introduce two distinguished and interesting guests both of whom served as members of this Committee.

From Norway, Mr. Soeren Somerfeldt.

Mr. Somerfeldt figures on the list of attendees at the very first meeting of the Infrastructure Committee. He served as the Norwegian representative to the Infrastructure Committee until his return to Oslo in 1952.

Mr. Somerfeldt joined the Norwegian foreign service in 1941. From his first assignment in London, he went on to a long and distinguished career which included posts as the Norwegian ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, to Bonn , to Washington, and to Rome.

From the United States, Mr. Jerome Facher

Mr Facher attended his first Infrastructure Committee meeting on 19 March 1953 and he served as the United States representative until 1954. He is a graduate of Penn State University and Harvard Law School which he attended following military service with the U.S. Army in Korea.

From NATO, Mr. Facher returned to Boston where he became a very successful litigation lawyer, a senior partner in his law firm, and lecturer at Harvard Law School. One of his more famous cases became a subject of a book entitled "A Civil Action", which was later made into a motion picture. In the case, Mr. Facher was successful in having charges against his client of causing pollution dismissed. Mr. Facher's part was played by Robert Duvall; the movie starred John Travolta.

I now turn to the Dean of the Committee for some opening remarks - Dr. Ling.

The 50th anniversary of this committee is well worth commemorating - because throughout NATO's five decades the Infrastructure Committee has been an integral and fundamental part of Euro-Atlantic security. To illustrate this, I will begin with a quote from one of my predecessors, Lord Ismay, from his book "NATO The First Five Years.. " who wrote:

"one cannot fail to be impressed by the magnitude of the co-operative achievement of NATO in the field of infrastructure …member countries have worked together for the success of an enterprise which serves each and every one of them."

That statement is as true today as it was then.

Much has changed during the last 50 years - and we can all be thankful for that. However, new times bring new challenges and today there is no escaping that NATO will be measured by how well we manage change.

On this day, 50 years ago, when eleven nations attended the very first AC/4 meeting, the world was a very different place. At the time, NATO's focus was very much on keeping the Soviet Union out of Europe as a way of ensuring the freedom and security of NATO's members. Today, NATO's agenda is very different. Today, nineteen nations are working very hard to manage Russia's entry into Europe. There is now a permanent relationship between Russia and NATO in which we work together on common threats to peace and security, arms proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, ethnic violence, and fragmented states, to cite a few. We are even exchanging views on military infrastructure in the Permanent Joint Council.

The first Infrastructure Committee meeting was fully occupied with the provision of funds for what became a massive airfield construction programme. Today, a large proportion of the airfields that NATO constructed are closed. Many of these military airfields have been given over to civilian uses, others stand vacant - a testament to our commitment to security. Of course, the changes do not end with airfields - many missile sites, ammunition depots, storage sites for reinforcing forces, and headquarters are now reminders of an earlier time.

Fifty years ago, Yugoslavia as we knew it then, was stable and not a concern in the Euro-Atlantic security equation. Today, under NATO leadership, troops from NATO member and partner countries work side-by-side in the Balkans keeping the peace while the region recovers and finds its place in Europe. I need not remind this committee of its role in the success of NATO's Balkan operations. Peace and security is a very different matter than before, and NATO is at the forefront of this change.

The history of this Committee shows a willingness to keep pace with change. When the Cold War ended, the NATO nations completely overhauled the Infrastructure Programme. What remained were only those military requirements which fully supported the new strategic objectives of the Alliance, objectives which ensured flexibility and responsiveness. When the treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe was implemented, this committee authorised funds for the disposition of Treaty Limited Equipment. When NATO took action in the Balkans, this committee provided funding for the headquarters, logistics sites, and command and control systems which are absolutely essential for the operations. In the past decade this committee has adapted - flexibly and radically - to the new realities.

Let me conclude with another quotation from Lord Ismay about infrastructure:

"Planning in this field has given rise to problems that…seemed insoluble and to arguments that seemed interminable. On the other hand, it has resulted in one of the most outstanding achievements of the Organization."

Problem solving and outstanding achievements are the fruits of the labour of talented and committed people working with a common purpose.
Present and past members of the Infrastructure Committee,
representatives of the Strategic Commands and NATO Agencies, and
members of the International Staff have all contributed to this accomplishment.

On behalf of all of NATO member states, let me say thank you and congratulations.

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