Updated: 23-Apr-2002 NATO Speeches

At the Mayflower Hotel
20 June 2001

"NATO -- Managing the Challenges of Today,
and Tomorrow"

Speech by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson

Thank you, Jacqueline. It is a great pleasure to be here today, one week after the meeting of NATO Presidents and Prime Ministers in Brussels.

I think it was an important symbolic gesture that President Bush chose to meet with his NATO colleagues in Brussels as part of his first European tour. It says a great deal about NATO's continuing central role in European security, and it says a great deal about the Administration's approach toward NATO and Europe more broadly.

I happen to be one of those who had a great deal of confidence in the direction of American policy toward Europe no matter who would win last fall's election. I met with the senior foreign policy advisors of both candidates during the summer - some of whom are here today - and I knew they were all passionately committed to NATO, and realistic about the issues before us.

But for those who had their doubts whether this Administration would succeed in keeping NATO strong and together, last week's visit by President Bush should help put those doubts to rest for good.

During my last visit to Washington, in March, I spoke on Capitol Hill, in a forum sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute, largely about efforts to strengthen the European defence. Today I am have been invited by the European Institute, and have been asked to speak largely about missile defence.

Some of you might well think my staff have it backwards - wrong message, wrong audience. But I assure you it is all part of long-standing NATO strategy - take the battles to "enemy" territory. Never wait for the trouble to come to you.

Now, speaking about the issues associated with missile defence, I want to first put them in context.

As Secretary General, I have two over-arching pre-occupations. First is keeping NATO united. Maintaining the solidarity, the level of political commitment, the orientation of our members, the foundation of our common values - this is an essential part of my job.

If Europe and North America are ever divided on matters of security, it is a recipe for disaster. But if Europe and North America are together, they represent the most important, and most effective force for good on the planet.

The meeting of NATO leaders last week in Brussels was helped reinforce NATO unity. The European leaders got to know President Bush on a personal basis and establish better understanding and connection on that level. And on all the key issues, we came out far more closely united than the press would have had us believe before going into the meeting.

On the Balkans, the President put the issue of unilateral U.S. withdrawals to rest. He repeated what Secretary Powell and Secretary Rumsfeld had said before him: "In together, and out together." And in my mind, that encompasses the key middle phase, which is "succeeding together."

This is not to say that the United States or any of the other Allies is satisfied with the status quo in the Balkans. But what it does highlight is that we will consult and decide on these issues together.

And on the one major issue before us - addressing the conflict in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia(1) - that is exactly what we are doing.

On European defence, President Bush came out squarely supporting the effort to strengthen Europe's ability to improve its defence capabilities and manage crises in cases where NATO as a whole is not engaged. All the NATO Allies welcomed the growing practical relationship between the EU and NATO - illustrated by my work with Javier Solana in the Balkans. And they welcomed the growing institutional links between NATO and the EU.

Many of the same thorny problems that we have been wrestling with for the past few years remain with us - dealing with the participation of all non-EU NATO Allies in EU-led operations, and ensuring coherent defence planning for both NATO and the EU.

But all the Allied leaders, Mr. Bush included, put these issues into the category of problems that must be solved the right way, rather than issues that put the wider project into question.

NATO also showed renewed unity and forward movement on the issue of future NATO enlargement. Allied leaders agreed as follows: NATO hopes and expects, based on current and anticipated progress by the aspiring members, to launch the process of enlargement at the Prague Summit in 2002.

In other words, the so-called "zero option" is off the table, provided the candidate countries keep up the progress they have demonstrated thus far in the Membership Action Plan.

Now I mentioned two over-arching pre-occupations as Secretary General. The first is NATO unity; the second is keeping NATO relevant. Ahead of the curve. As effective as possible.

There was once a track and field coach who had a trick question he put to all his first-year athletes. He would ask, "What is your best time in this event?" And the only correct answer was, "I don't know yet."

This same coach was once approached by a hurdler who was thrown out of a race for stepping outside the lines of his lane. The hurdler complained that the runner in the next lane had thrown his arm out while going over a hurdle and knocked the disqualified hurdler off-balance. The coach's response was, "You shouldn't have been behind him."

Tough talk, from a good coach, who knew how to keep his athletes focused on the hurdles ahead, not the ones they had already crossed.

And that is the other major aspect of my job at NATO. Keeping NATO focused on, and able to address, the security challenges of today and tomorrow, not the ones of yesterday.

That is why I am so passionately committed to pressing forward with improving NATO's defence capabilities. We know that the Cold War is over. That there is no prospect of a Soviet ground invasion. That we are more likely to be faced with regional conflicts such as in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo.

And we know that this means our Cold War forces and structures are out-of-date. As the Bulgarian Defence Minister succinctly put it, "Cold War forces are a waste of money." We need forces that are able to get to the scene of a crisis quickly, use effective force from the time they arrive, and stay in the field as long as necessary to get the job done. This means a great deal of defence restructuring for NATO nations - and, in many cases, it means spending more money, but spending it on the right things.

This is why I made a major push for improved implementation of NATO's Defence Capabilities Initiative at the meeting of NATO leaders last week. NATO is currently planning to implementing fully only half of what NATO Heads of State and Government committed to two years ago at the Washington Summit.

For NATO to be effective in the future, we must produce the right kind of capabilities. And to the extent the EU members of NATO meet this challenge, they will not only support NATO - they will also be supporting the EU's Headline Goal, which calls for a force of up to 60,000 that can be deployed within 60 days notice and stay in the field for at least a year.

But keeping NATO ahead of the game - looking at the hurdles coming up in front of us, not the ones behind - means looking at the existing and emerging challenges. The vulnerability exposed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. And the disaggregation of the security threats we face - from yesterday's monolithic and massive Soviet Union, to today's multiple actors who can present a potential threat, using flexible and highly destructive WMD and missile capabilities.

On this set of issues - new concepts of deterrence, new mixes of offensive and defensive forces, possible strategic nuclear reductions, and missile defence - the NATO meeting last week was a success in terms of both of my main criteria. We came out more united, and we came out clearly focused on the challenges of the future.

When President Bush came to Europe last week, he did not come to sell the European Allies a specific missile defence proposal. Rather, he came to challenge our collective thinking about the potential threats we face and the means of responding to them. He came to engage in genuine consultations, before decisions are made, to inform Allies of U.S. thinking, and hear their thoughts on this wider range of issues.

To be sure, President Bush also made clear that his Administration intends to move forward with missile defence. But this is down the road, based on research, testing, and the development, together with Allies and partners, of a new strategic framework, which are now only beginning to be discussed.

But in the meantime, it is the launching of these discussions themselves, and the strong commitment to such consultations that was made by President Bush, that was the hallmark of the handling of this issue at our meeting. And the other NATO Allies equally committed themselves to serious and detailed consultation in NATO on these issues.

And I would add that it is not just the United States and the other NATO Allies that are thinking about these things. Russia has also focused on the threat posed by "rogue states" - President Putin's choice of words when I saw him in February - and he named them individually.

And Russia has put forward a military response of its own - a non-strategic theatre missile defence proposal. So there is a great deal of common diagnosis of the problem, and more real common perspective on solutions than meets the eye.

So that is the state of Alliance discussion thus far. The U.S. is presenting its ideas; all the Allies are engaging in serious consultations; and these consultations will continue and deepen before any decisions are made.

Now let me, on a personal basis, put to you some further thoughts on these problems and how we need to tackle them.

To begin with, the issue is broader than just missile threats - however important they may be - in terms of both military gain and political influence. We are dealing with a rapid dispersal of high technology - computers, electronic communications, miniaturisation, deadly biological and chemical agents, and so on. And we are dealing with a global system that is more diverse and fractious than the bipolar framework of the Cold War.

The very source of our increasing wealth and modernisation - the high tech revolution - is also the source of new challenges to the safety and security of our societies.

While I believe we must fully maintain our efforts on the existing security challenges before us, we must fundamentally re-think the way we will deal with the emerging security challenges of the future.

Until now, it has been our approach to apply a heavy penalty for any military attack against a NATO member. That is what Article 5 is all about. We reserve even higher penalties - nuclear retaliation - for any use of nuclear weapons against us.

But with the new kind of challenges we face, there may never be a clear, state-to-state attack. Many non-state actors are involved. And if there is an attack - say a biological weapon in a suitcase - we may not be sure who is responsible. And we are less and less satisfied with the notion that a single terrorist or rogue state could hold one of our cities hostage.

To address these different kinds of challenges, we must think again about defensive measures. And we need to raise the penalties, raise the threshold, against this kind of attack on our societies, by whatever source.

Raising the threshold does not mean reliance solely on a military response - whether offensive or defensive. I believe we need to develop a multifaceted approach, encompassing political, economic, law-enforcement and military measures.

First, we must renew our efforts at preventing the non-proliferation of WMD and missile technologies. This is not a lost cause. We need to increase the incentives for those states who possess such technology to behave responsibly; and we need to increase the penalties against those who do not.

Second, we must look at economic efforts. This applies particularly to non-state actors - terrorist groups - whose activities are more limited; where we can trace the flow of money; and where we can disrupt their profitable activities. But we must also think in economic terms when raising the costs and reducing the benefits of proliferation for states as well.

Third - and this is related - we must see greater coordination among international organisations that can bring pressure to bear on this issue. This includes the usual mix of NATO, the EU, the UN, the OSCE and so forth. But, increasingly, there is a law enforcement dimension, and we need to do better at linking our international law enforcement efforts with our broader international security efforts.

Fourth, and tied to law enforcement, is the issue of raising the penalties to proliferators and WMD terrorists on an individual basis. In the recent wars in the Balkans, the international community established a war crimes tribunal to prosecute those who committed such ghastly crimes in that conflict. The same was done for Rwanda.

These efforts came on stream only after the conflicts were under way, so they did not succeed in having a deterrent effect. But they will do so in the future. And I would submit - as unpopular as it may be in this town - that we need to keep thinking about the pluses and minuses of the International Criminal Court.

I am familiar with the downsides perceived here in the United States. But we must also think about the downsides of not having such a tool at hand to punish WMD terrorists, just as we are punishing those who conducted ethnic cleansing in the Balkans.

Finally, we do need to think about military responses as well. Missile defence is and should be the subject of deep reflection and consultation in NATO. We have an obligation to protect our societies. And we must ensure that our own military capabilities remain relatively less vulnerable, so that they remain effective in all situations.

So this is a broad framework capturing some of my thinking on these issues. It strays well beyond official NATO policy at the moment. But as we indeed face serious challenges now and into the future, it is imperative that we think broadly about how to respond to them. And my job as NATO's coach is to help keep us focused on the hurdles ahead, not the ones we have already cleared.

As I said at the outset, NATO has already begun to engage in open-minded consultations on this full range of issues - well before any decisions have been made. These consultations will continue, deepen, and they will produce results. And one key result, no matter where we come out on the substance of the issue, will be a NATO Alliance that is unified, strong, and effective in preserving the safety of our families, and our future generations.

Thank you.

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

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