Updated: 01-Jun-2001 NATO Speeches

Spring Session
31 May 2001


by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here today. In the last year and a half I have come to feel very much at home at gatherings of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. As a life-long Parliamentarian I know that you and your decisions count.

I believe that this is both an appropriate place, and an opportune moment, for us to meet. It is an appropriate place because Lithuania occupies a unique place in today's Europe of the 21st century. A country which has for neighbours a NATO member (Poland), Russia, Belarus and of course the other Baltic republics. It is a country enjoying new freedom and democracy, and moving ever closer to Euro-Atlantic institutions. Lithuania is certainly a fitting place indeed for us to meet and discuss Europe's 21st century evolution.

If it is the right place to have this discussion, I believe it is also the right moment, because today's meeting is being held just two days after the meeting of NATO's Foreign Ministers in Budapest. In just a few days, our Defence Ministers will meet, and on June 13th, NATO's Heads of State and Government will meet in Brussels taking stock of NATO's agenda, as a stepping-stone to next year's landmark Summit in Prague.

What I would like to do, therefore, is to update you on these discussions - both in terms of what is being discussed, and where the Alliance is likely to evolve in future. And I think that it is no surprise that four of the main issues on which NATO's leaders are concentrating are all areas in which the NATO PA plays an important role.

The first item discussed at the Foreign Ministers meeting was, of course, the Balkans. This is obviously no surprise to anyone here, because despite all the progress that we have made, there are still some very important challenges that we must tackle.

Ministers in Budapest expressed their strong support for the government of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (1) as it faces the challenge of armed extremists attacking government security forces and occupying villages in the north of the country. NATO fully supports the security, stability, and territorial integrity of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (1), and condemns these unjustified attacks. A band of armed thugs must not be allowed to destroy a multi-ethnic democracy. These senseless attacks must cease.

But at the same time it is vital that the legitimate concerns of the ethnic Albanian community are recognised and accommodated by the Government. The political dialogue launched by the National Unity Government - involving the democratically elected representatives of all the people of the nation - must take over. NATO and the EU, which had their first formal ministerial meeting in Budapest, have demonstrated the huge potential for a successful cooperation in practical terms. EU High Representative Solana and myself were both heavily engaged in trying to ensure that the situation in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (1) can be solved by political means. The government must show firmness and flexibility. A lasting solution can only be achieved by political means.

We are also watching carefully the situation in Southern Serbia. As of now, we believe the situation is being handled as it should be. NATO has released, to the Yugoslav authorities, the last remaining sector of the buffer zone which we established when Milosevic was in power to prevent clashes between Alliance forces and Yugoslav forces. Clearly, with the new democratic regime in place, that is no longer necessary -and the proof of that has been made very clear in the last few days. Yugoslav forces have entered the zone carefully, using targeted, proportional military force to clear the area of armed extremists, without harming any civilians. Proof that Milosevic was indeed the source of the problem in Yugoslavia - the man very clearly behind the violence. And proof that the new Yugoslavia is a country the international community can work with.

There are, of course, many other Balkan challenges to address. For example, NATO's leaders are totally opposed to any attempts by Bosnian Croat extremists to undermine peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, or the Dayton Agreements themselves. And they are looking at ways to build stronger peace and security in Kosovo, including by providing a secure environment for the elections to be held there in November.

All of these are very real challenges. But they must not obscure the overall progress being made in the region. Today, the countries of South East Europe are working together, politically, economically and militarily, to build something that their region has not had for far too long: lasting peace, lasting security and growing prosperity. NATO's leaders remain determined to support this positive trend.

I believe that the NATO PA, too, can take credit for this success. The NATO-led peacekeeping operations in the Balkans have played a key role in winning the peace, and anchoring it in rough seas. It is our Parliaments, which approved these deployments of military personnel. And our Parliaments play a vital role in explaining the importance of these missions to our publics, to the press - and sometimes even to the Government! So I congratulate you and commend you on the role you have played until now in supporting these operations. The increasing sense of safety and security that people in Balkans are feeling today is due in no small part to your efforts. Your efforts are also crucial to the success of two other projects that NATO's leaders are discussing at their meetings - projects designed to ensure that the Alliance remains capable of making a positive contribution to peace and security also in the future. First, by improving Allied defence capabilities; and second, through improvements to European capacities in particular.

The requirement for NATO to improve its defence capabilities is very clear. Military capability is the heart and soul of the Alliance. To carry out all of NATO's missions - from crisis management, to peacekeeping, to Partnership and cooperation, to collective defence - our forces must be effective, and able to work together effectively.

Our operations in the Balkans are vivid illustrations. We may speak of "crisis management" or "peace support", but these operations will still require advanced military capabilities and sometimes, as Kosovo demonstrated, the use of overwhelming force. So today, we need forces that can move fast, adjust quickly to changing requirements, hit hard, and then stay in theatre for as long as it takes to get the job done. Which means that NATO's military forces must be mobile, flexible, effective at engagement, and sustainable in theatre.

And when I say "NATO's forces", I mean the forces of all the Allies. We must avoid any division of labour within NATO, whereby the high-tech Allies provide the logistics, the smart bombs and the intelligence, and the lower-tech Allies provide the soldiers ~ what a NATO official once called "a two-class NATO, with a precision class and a bleeding class".

This would be politically unsustainable. We must ensure that the burdens, the costs and the risks are shared equally.

The purpose of the Defence Capabilities Initiative is to address these challenges. We have already made progress since the Initiative was put in place. We have identified the areas of NATO's military capabilities, which need improvement. But we need to continue our efforts to find the resources to move forward.

This is not purely an issue of finding new money for defence. It is about getting a good return on investment - literally "getting more bang for your buck". Today, the European Allies spend about 60% of what the United States spends on defence, but nobody would suggest that the European Allies have 60% of the capability.

We need to improve that return on investment, through innovative management techniques, defence industry consolidation, identification of priorities, and courageous decisions.

The NATO PA will play a crucial role here too. It is our Parliaments which approve our defence budgets. And our Parliamentarians help to explain to our publics that NATO's military capability makes an essential contribution to our security, and that we must make the necessary investments now, if that capability is to be there when it is needed.

Again, let me congratulate you on the success you have had until now - and encourage you to greater efforts in supporting investment in defence.

Investment is also the key to the success of the third major issue NATO's leaders are discussing at their meetings: the development of European security capacities.

This concept still creates some serious heartburn among some traditional Atlanticists. Many fear it will lead to Europe splitting away from North America. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Every European country in NATO recognises the vital role the United States plays in Europe.

As an essential crisis manager, as we have seen in the Balkans. As a stabilising factor in Europe on tough political issues.

And, in the final resort, as the ultimate guarantor of our collective defence. No one wants that to change.

But that cannot mean that the US must always take the lead for the rest of time or want to do so. Europe understands that in the post Cold War world, there is no reason to expect the US to manage every crisis in or around Europe, no matter how small or far away, simply because the European countries are incapable of taking the lead themselves.

That is why a European capability to lead is not only good for the transatlantic relationship -- it is absolutely necessary. It will demonstrate that Europe is serious about doing its fair share. And it will give the United States more of an opportunity to choose where and when it must take the lead.

The EU is working to create the capacity to respond to what are called the Petersberg Tasks, which comprise everything from humanitarian missions to peacekeeping to crisis management.

The EU nations have both the political and the financial means to take on these missions in their own back yard. What they lack is the capacity, the hardware, to take on these operations, and the structure to organize them, together with non-EU countries, in a way that is linked into and draws on NATO. Finding such a structure is what the current efforts are all about.

Does this mean a European mini- NATO? The answer is clear: no. The EU is not planning to assume responsibility for the collective defence of Europe. That remains NATO's job, along with all its other current missions - from conflict prevention, to crisis management, all the way up to collective defence. And NATO will retain the forces to do the job, to the highest end.

Where and when North America and Europe agree to work together, it goes without saying that the institution of choice will be NATO. But when a crisis happens to be off North American radar screens, Europe will have to have command arrangements and capacities to react if NATO is not in the lead. That is why ESDI makes sense for NATO. Because a stronger Europe makes a better partner for North America, whether through NATO-led operations, or by taking on some of the burden of leadership when NATO does not.

This evolution makes sense on both sides of the Atlantic. That is why all of NATO's governments agreed to it in the 1999 Strategic Concept.

The challenge we have today is how best to move forward. How to manage the evolution of European capacities so that they reinforce the transatlantic relationship, rather than putting strains on it. In particular, we must build the right links between NATO and the EU, to ensure that we take advantage of synergies, and at the same time, avoid unnecessary and costly duplication.

Two issues, in particular, must be managed correctly. First, we must ensure that the non-EU members of NATO are given 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 soon have an agreement between the EU and NATO that satisfies all concerned.

Second, we have to ensure that the coherence of defence planning between the two organizations. EU and NATO forces must be capable of handling the full range of operations they are assigned for: NATO and EU, not either/or. That is why the Alliance is ready to work with the EU on defence planning. This will prevent any unnecessary duplication, and ensure that we have the most effective pool of forces. After all, each nation has only one set of forces, which we have to make the best use of. And once again, we are moving forward.

There is one more challenge related to ESDI, however. Of course, the institutional arrangements are crucial, and must be established. But the success of this endeavour will be judged on whether or not Europe can deliver improved capability at the sharp end - in operations. This means, first and foremost, that European countries must make the necessary investments in defence. New institutions, committee structures and wiring diagrams can't be sent to a crisis area.

Once again, the NATO PA has an important role to play. Our Parliamentarians have to remind governments that they can't have security on the cheap, and that promises made must be kept, if Europe is to have any credibility as a security actor. Once again, I encourage you to be vocal, because the payoff is worth it: a more effective Europe, and a stronger, more flexible NATO.
NATO's leaders are also taking note, at their meetings, of a fourth prominent issue: NATO's enlargement process. And I could not come to Lithuania without addressing this very important element of NATO's broad agenda.

As you all know, NATO's Heads of State and Government will hold a Summit meeting in November 2002, in Prague. The review of the enlargement process will be at the top of the agenda of that summit meeting, but will not be the only issue. Public interest in the whole issue of enlargement is growing, however, in the nine aspirant countries and in the press.

NATO's commitment to the enlargement process remains as firm as ever. Why? Because NATO membership can "lock in reform", and contribute to stability. Because the process itself helps to erase vestigial dividing lines. Because new members make the Alliance even more effective at contributing to Euro-Atlantic peace and security.

Most of all, NATO's door remains open because the Alliance believes that one fundamental principle must be respected: that in today's Europe, every democratic country must have the right to choose its own security arrangements freely. Europe can never be fully stable and secure if countries are not in control over their own destiny, but have that destiny decided for them by others. For NATO, adhering to this principle means that when a European democracy is able and willing to make a real contribution to Euro-Atlantic security, the Alliance will consider their application for membership. And let me be very clear, and very blunt: this includes every democratic country in Europe, not just some.

In the new Europe of the 21st century, geography can no longer be destiny. The history of this region is a powerful testimony indeed of the importance of that principle.

That is why work in NATO is continuing as hard as ever. Through our Membership Action Plan, or MAP as we call it, the Alliance is working directly and closely with the Governments and militaries of aspirant countries, to improve their ability to take care of their own defence, and their ability to work with NATO forces on joint missions. That way, we will ensure that if and when they join, they will be net contributors, not simply consumers, of security.

It is, of course, too early for any NATO member, or the Alliance as a body, to discuss possible candidates. At their meeting, Foreign Ministers considered reports on the progress aspirants are making to meet NATO standards. But as we get closer to next year's Summit, these discussions will get much more focused, and inevitably much more heated as the run-up to the Madrid Summit in 1997 showed. Our Parliaments will certainly be central to these discussions as a forum for debate, and, in the end, as the bodies which will ratify any invitations to join the Alliance.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In my remarks today, I have touched on some of the most prominent issues that NATO leaders are discussing. It is certainly not a complete list - missile defence, for example, was another topic - but it indicates how complex NATO's agenda has become. As we enter the 21st Century, the Alliance is contributing to Euro-Atlantic security and stability in more ways than ever -- and while we are making real progress, there is much more work to be done.

That is why I am so pleased at the ongoing success of the NATO PA. This body has adapted so well to the changes in Euro-Atlantic security. Like the Alliance, it has become more open, more flexible, and more effective at building cooperation in Europe. The NATO PA's work with countries such as Lithuania is only one example, but it is a good one. It shows that the NATO PA is not only reacting to change - it is helping to shape change. I congratulate you on that role, and on the many other important endeavours the NATO PA carries out, in support of NATO and Euro-Atlantic security. And I wish you a very fruitful discussion indeed, at this conference.

Thank you.

  1. Turkey recognises the Republic of Macedonia by its constitutional name.

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