Updated: 19-Jun-2001 NATO Speeches

At Law
and National
Security Global
19 June 2001

"International Security and Law Enforcement -
A Look Ahead"

Speech by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson

Sir Paddy,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning. It is a great pleasure to speak to you today, even by such remote means. I deeply regret that I am not able to be with you in person. The events in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia - a combined law enforcement and international security problem - have required me to be here in Brussels at the time of your meeting.

As some of you may know, my family has a long-running connection with law enforcement. My grandfather, father and brother were police officers, as are my son and my nephew. I was even born in a police station. So I am familiar with the importance of law enforcement, as well as the challenges involved.

When I met with President Putin in Russia, I pointed out these family connections to him and said that I was the aberration in the family. But Putin said, "Oh no, you are no aberration - you are the Super-policeman!" An interesting comment, particularly when you consider the source. Many journalists, of course, make the same point about NATO - seeing us as some kind of "globo-cop."

NATO is not a police force - it is a military Alliance, designed to protect its public from military conflict and, increasingly, to project stability and security to a much larger area. It is by no stretch of the imagination a law enforcement organisation for its member states. And indeed, because of its nature, it is not terribly well-suited to dealing with law enforcement issues even in areas where NATO leads large peacekeeping operations.

And yet the comment by President Putin and so many journalists is understandable. Not because NATO is taking on domestic law enforcement responsibilities, but because the problems of international security and law enforcement are increasingly intertwined - or "intertwingled" as one Defence Minister recently said at a meeting in Brussels.
There are three aspects to this.

First, instead of being examples of state-to-state aggression, contemporary conflicts are most often cases where at least one of the parties is a societal group within a state. So in its origins, the conflict can be characterised as a breaking of law, rather than an attack. But the implications quickly become those of military conflict, rather than simple street crime.

Second, these conflicts - because they break down established order within a state - unleash powerful forces of lawlessness and organised crime which have an impact well beyond the borders of the fighting itself.

And third, in responding to these conflicts we need to do more than just deploy a military capability such as NATO to stop the fighting. We also need to deploy a civil administration and law enforcement capability to restore order and rebuild the underpinnings of a law-abiding and, ultimately, law-respecting society.

We also need close cooperation at an international level among security, economic, human rights, democracy-building and law enforcement organisations - NATO, the EU, OSCE, UNHCR, INTERPOL, and the whole world alphabet soup. Otherwise, the gains of military intervention will be lost as soon as the troops depart.

These trends - in which the lines between military security and police work become blurred - will continue to grow. To ensure the safety of our citizens and our wider global community effectively, we need to look at security in non-traditional ways -- and to seek what have to be very non-traditional solutions.

The wars in the Balkans serve as a perfect examples of these trends - although one could make the same case about Chechnya, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Burma or even Colombia.

The origins of fighting in the Balkans are well known: ethnic and religious division, hate-mongering, lawless oppression by the likes of Milosevic, and armed extremists seeking to break apart nations, such as in Bosnia and Herzegovina ten years ago, or the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia today.

Just as with IRA collection of funds in the pubs of Boston, these conflicts are often fueled from outside - by ethnic Albanians in the United States or Switzerland, by ethnic Serbs and Croats in Canada and Chicago, and even by unwitting publics across Europe and America who believe their charitable donations will go to supporting human rights, rather than sponsoring illegal arms purchases.

Even at this level of a conflict, the organs of law enforcement have a major role to play. They are, of course, essential to cutting off illicit funding of these conflicts.

And at a deeper level, cooperation and international police training, based on law-bound standards of police and government conduct, can help prevent some conflicts from ever occurring - such as the ethnic cleansing sponsored by Milosevic, which prompted an armed ethnic Albanian reaction.

The other major source of funding for these conflicts is organised crime. In a conflict zone, without normal domestic law enforcement, organised criminal groups can act with impunity. And this is what we see in the Balkans. Some call this the "dark side of globalisation." Drug smuggling. Gun running. People smuggling. And uncontrolled flows of people seeking safety, or, quite naturally, a better life in a place where they can live without feeling terror every time there is a knock on the door.
There may not be a "single economic market" in the Balkans - but there is a "single black market." And it exports its nefarious products right to our doorsteps.

Much of the drugs that are run through the Balkans end up on our streets and in our schools. The guns are working their way into the criminal underworld, and putting our police officers more at risk. Women tricked into prostitution are being funneled through the Balkans and forced into misery and modern-day slavery in European red-light districts. And more and more people are seeking asylum in all NATO countries, because there is neither peace nor prosperity in places riven by war and run by criminal gangs.

Here again, we must rely on law enforcement bodies to address these problems in the first instance. Collecting intelligence, blocking the flows of people and money, raising the costs of such crime in our societies. But when these activities are directed from the safe-havens of conflict zones, a broader response is also required.

Clearly, the main impetus behind NATO's intervention in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as in Kosovo, was to stop the killing of innocents. But we must be honest - we also knew that the broader effects of unchecked conflict would be damage to our own societies.

This is one of the main reasons why, over the past decade, NATO has taken on new peacekeeping missions.
Yes, we feel some obligation to stand up for our values and to help the victims of a vicious foreign conflict. But we also see very clearly that preventing instability from growing into crisis, and managing crises before they get too out of hand, are necessary tools if we wish to prevent the organised crime spawned by these conflicts from darkening our doorsteps.

Bosnia and Kosovo taught us that determined military action can make a difference. Today, both are on the road to solid peace. Both are moving to develop normal, stable societies, with normal economies. And slowly, both are taking steps to fight criminality, including organised crime.

But Bosnia and Kosovo have also taught us that we need to do better. Six years on in Bosnia, we still cannot pull out our forces without the risk of renewed conflict. In Kosovo - two years already since the end of the air campaign - the UN civil administration is hampered by the lack of an effective judicial system and criminal justice system.

On the military side, we are learning our lessons. The forces we developed to protect ourselves during the Cold War are scarcely relevant to the actual situations requiring the use of military force today. We no longer need heavy armoured forces designed for a massive tank battle in Germany.

Today, such forces are largely a waste of money. If we can't use them for the crises we actually face today then, despite their firepower, they are important only on paper -- and paper armies don't stop trouble.

Many NATO governments have therefore launched far-reaching changes to their military establishments - and those which have not are under constant pressure by me to do so.

To manage 21st Century crises, NATO needs 21st Century forces. We need forces that can move quickly to a conflict area, and that can arrive in enough force to have an immediate effect. We need forces that are high-tech enough to dominate the situation, to accomplish their mission as quickly as possible, and with the lowest possible risk to them and to innocent civilians. We need forces that are able to stay in the field for as long as it takes to accomplish their mission.

And, once we move from the more aggressive posture of stopping a fight to the peacekeeping posture of supporting civil administration, we need at least some forces which are able to work flexibly in a wide-range of peacekeeping tasks. De-mining, distribution of humanitarian relief, border control, and providing area security for more focused international and local police activity, to name a few.

What NATO's engagement in the Balkans has shown us it that - from air campaigns to peacekeeping - we do not have enough of the right kinds of forces.
The peace dividend, which we all cashed in when the Soviet Union collapsed, has been spent. And now we need to invest anew.

Defence spending is the ultimate form of insurance. Insurance against military threats, of course. This has always been the case and it remains so.

But in the 21st century, effective military forces are a part of our insurance against the kinds of threats that, in the past, only law enforcement officers had to handle. That is indeed a major change from the traditional relationship between law enforcement and national security,

But as we are learning the lessons on the military side, we must learn them on the civil and police side as well. Today, the international community needs not only deployable, mobile militaries. Increasingly, we need deployable, mobile civil adminstrators and law enforcement agents.

This is because military intervention is simply not enough. Building a self-sustaining civil society requires civilian architects. Human rights and development agencies, to help the most needy Government experts, to help build the necessary institutions. Engineers, to help reconstruct shattered infrastructure. And police, investigators, prosecutors, judges, and wardens to create a system of justice, which can allow people to trust in their own society and government again.
Of course, militaries do fill some of the gap. The NATO-led force in Kosovo, for example, has certainly worked hard to maintain law and order. KFOR soldiers patrol the streets, they investigate crimes, and they make arrests. But this is a stop-gap measure. Soldiers are not police officers. They are not trained for police work, nor are they equipped for it.

Several measures are already underway to help meet the law enforcement gap. First, progress is being made on developing an international, rapidly deployable, law enforcement capability. The United Nations, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the European Union, and the United States are all working in various ways to the capacity to deploy units of civilian police on short notice. They are creating rosters of available professionals, or recently retired officers, who could move to a crisis quickly. And they are developing the necessary training to ensure that these officers can make an instant contribution to law enforcement when they hit the ground.

Nonetheless, progress is slow. While militaries enjoy the luxury of large, standing numbers of people ready and trained to go on mission, police forces don't enjoy that same luxury. Their personnel are already deployed on the streets at home, and there is very little spare capacity to send overseas. Furthermore, police officers understandably require quite a bit of new training before they can take on the demanding tasks of international policing. These challenges can be overcome, and doing so must be made a priority by national governments.
Second, both in Bosnia and Kosovo, the UN and the OSCE are working hard to train locals to become police officers. This is important in part because the international community cannot stay there forever, and in part because the most effective law enforcement is local. Because the local people know the lie of the land, and are seen as most legitimate by their community.

The law enforcement training in Kosovo is already paying off, as more and more new police officers are taking up their duties and conducting joint, multi-ethnic patrols. Four-thousand police officers have graduated from the OSCE organised Kosovo Police Service school - a remarkable output less than 24 months after the conflict.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I know you will find it easy to walk away from this speech thinking - sure, that's easy. Just invest more in defence and more in deployable law enforcement at the same time. All we need is money.

As a Scot, speaking to a group assembled in Scotland, only a few minutes away from the home and constituency of the Scot who is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I am aware that a call for more spending on almost anything is a hard sell. Scots are more inclined to be frugal, and to manage money well.

Frugality is a must. But safety is never free. On the military side, measured in 1995 dollars, NATO nations were spending nearly four percent of GDP on defence ten years ago. Now the figure is down to just over two percent.

During the Cold War, we invested heavily in the right things because we had to. Today, we need to make the same level of commitment to addressing the existing and emerging security challenges we now face - and this means through both military and non-military means.

In the 21st century, military success for many peacekeeping missions depends critically on civilian success - and vice versa. To quote Harry Truman out of context, they are "two halves of the same walnut".

For all these reasons, this conference is very important indeed, and I congratulate the organisers for choosing so timely a topic.

I encourage you to engage in a very frank and fruitful debate, and I look forward with interest to the conclusions you will draw here.

Thank you.

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