Updated: 05-Oct-2001 NATO Speeches

Sofia, Bulgary
5 October 2001


by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson
at the Summit on the Contribution of New Democracies to Euro-Atlantic Security

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me begin by thanking the Bulgarian Government for hosting this meeting and to you all for attending. It is difficult for any leader to be away from home in current circumstances. Your presence here is a testament to the importance of the Euro-Atlantic security agenda.

One issue has dominated the world's attention over the past few weeks. We are still trying to come to terms with the horrific terrorist attacks in the United States on 11 September.

It has been a searing time of self-examination. A tragedy of this scale rips away illusions. It forces us all to look at hard truths, and to demonstrate, through word and deed, where we stand -- and what we stand for.

The response from the Euro-Atlantic community has been exactly what it should be: total condemnation of the attacks; an outpouring of heartfelt sympathy for the United States; and a determination by all like-minded nations to stand together against terrorism.

NATO has played a fundamental part in this response. Within 24 hours of the attacks, NATO's member states invoked Article V of the Washington Treaty. They decided that if it was determined that the attacks originated from abroad, it would be an attack on them all. This was a political symbol of immense importance. Three days ago, on 2 October, it was indeed determined that the attack had been directed from abroad and that Article 5 came into effect for the first time ever. And yesterday afternoon, NATO agreed a package of specific measures to support the broader US-led coalition against terrorism.

But NATO has been only one element of a wider Euro-Atlantic response. On 12 September, the 46 members of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council met and issued an extremely strong statement of support for the United States agreeing that these acts were an attack on their common values, and that they were all determined to combat terrorism.

Within 24 hours of the atrocities, Russia expressed her outrage and gave the pledge that the acts must not go unpunished. Ukraine followed, with its support for NATO’s Article 5.

In so doing, the new democracies have demonstrated once again that they are not fair-weather friends. They have emphasized that the Euro-Atlantic community is growing quickly from a community of shared values to a community of shared action.

You will not expect me to talk today about specific military measures. Yet we must also start to consider the longer term challenges that we now face. It is still too early to have all the answers. But we clearly must do better at finding and sharing reliable intelligence on terrorists and their networks. We must trace their money and freeze it. We must deny them safe havens, anywhere in the world. And, where necessary, we must use force to prevent them from causing further loss of innocent life.

This is a daunting project. Some people are afraid that the challenge will direct NATO’s attention and our resources away from other important issues. In particular, they fear that NATO enlargement might end up as collateral damage as the result of such a change of direction.

So let me be very clear: Yes, the events of 11 September have changed many things. Yes, they have brought into sharp and painful focus what we have been saying for some time now that the threats to international security have changed. Yes, there will be many serious implications, including for NATO. But no, they have not invalidated NATO's pre-September agenda. If anything, they have reinforced the logic of that agenda.

To tackle terrorism effectively, we must look beyond terrorism itself, to security more broadly. Instability and violence is the most fertile ground possible for terrorism. By contrast, there is no more hostile an environment for a terrorist than a stable, prosperous country in a peaceful, secure region. That is why part of our overall campaign must be to stay the course across the range of activities in which we are already engaged, to build stability and prosperity in the Euro-Atlantic area.

Supporting stable, multi-ethnic states is our best insurance against terrorism emerging in the first place. Afghanistan is a safe haven for terrorists precisely because it does not have a viable state structure. It is a "black hole". That is why NATO is engaged in South-East Europe, to prevent such "black holes" from emerging on our doorstep.

The events of last month have also reinforced the logic of NATO enlargement. As we look forward to next November's Summit, the political and military importance of NATO's Open Door is as strong as it has ever been.

The political logic is clear. The aspirant countries have demonstrated very clearly over the past weeks that they share the same values as NATO members and the same determination to defend these values. Without hesitation, they have offered their full political, moral, as well as practical support, and reinforced anew the logic of enlargement.

But what about the military logic of enlargement? Would not bringing in new members simply further drag down NATO's military capability?

Again, my answer is unambiguous: absolutely not. The experience of the three newest members is a living testimony. Certainly, in many areas they still lag behind the most advanced Allies. That was to be expected, and the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland are actively addressing their shortfalls. But where they can make a contribution, they do so -- and in the Balkans, for example, that contribution is both real and significant. Poland has over one thousand troops in Kosovo as part of KFOR. Hungary and the Czech Republic have contributed hundreds of personnel to that mission. All three countries have made significant and longstanding contributions to the NATO-led peacekeeping operation in Bosnia. And Czechs and Hungarians took part in NATO’s successful Operation Essential Harvest in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

So new members can make an immediate military contribution to NATO's operation. But the same also applies to the Aspirant Countries. All nine have contributed their forces to the peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and Kosovo.

Of course all of the prospective members need to make improvements. That is why NATO has a focused programme to work with the aspirant countries to help them attain higher standards. Through our Membership Action Plan, the Alliance is cooperating closely with aspirant Governments and militaries, to improve their ability to take care of their own defence, and their ability to perform joint missions with NATO forces. That way, by the time the aspirants join, they will be net contributors to security. The burden of managing security in Europe will then fall on more shoulders. And that is in everyone's interest. So the enlargement process also makes sense militarily.

My message is simple: the terrorist attacks have neither derailed the enlargement process, nor slammed NATO's door shut. The logic of enlargement remains as compelling today as it was on 10 September 2001.

But let me be clear: the strong logic of enlargement must be matched by the effort needed to make it happen. Solidarity with the Euro-Atlantic community and shared values are necessary benchmarks but they are not in themselves sufficient. Aspirant countries must meet NATO's political and military standards before they can join the Alliance.

I am impressed, as are all NATO's members, by the progress achieved by the nine aspirant countries to-date. The two rounds of the Membership Action Plan have clearly shown your commitment and determination.

But those two rounds have also illustrated how much is yet to be achieved. And the events of the past weeks put this message much more bluntly than any 19+1 meeting ever can. They demonstrate that internal stability and security of any member country current or prospective is an essential element of Alliance security. This means not only effective police, border guards and judiciary system, but also ensuring good relationships between different ethnic groups. It means good relations with neighbours, and tackling such difficult issues as corruption, money laundering and organized crime. And it demonstrates the importance of defence reform. It is no use having heavy metal armed forces which are structured for threats we no longer face, and which cannot contribute to the kind of Allied operations the new threats will require.

NATO’s success is based on many ingredients. But perhaps the most important is that there are no free riders in the Alliance. That is why NATO solidarity is so strong, even in times of crisis, and why the Alliance can bring so many resources to bear in times of need.

Becoming a member of NATO means developing the right capacities, making the necessary reforms, and devoting enough resources. The standards of membership cannot be ignored.

I know that meeting these standards can be onerous at times. I know because even existing NATO countries have to work very hard to meet them. But I encourage aspirant countries not to let their efforts lag. The Prague Summit is only a year away. Important decisions will be taken in the run-up to the meeting, and at the meeting itself. It is vital that all nine aspirants keep up the momentum that they have already established.

And that effort cannot end in Prague, or at any other arbitrary date. Receiving an invitation to join NATO isn't like finishing a sprint. It's more akin to earning a ticket to begin the marathon. But the rewards of these long-term efforts are very clear: more security, for new members, for NATO as a whole, and for the broader Euro-Atlantic area. All in all, a win-win situation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The terrorist attacks on 11 September hit many targets. They took thousands of innocent lives. They destroyed major landmarks. And they struck a hard blow at the global economy.

But they missed their main target: our way of life. We will go on building security, promoting democracy, protecting universal human rights, and preserving cultural and religious freedoms. And NATO will continue to play a central role in these efforts. By helping to punish those who committed this crime. By helping to root out terrorism wherever it exists. And by continuing to broaden our community of peaceful, cooperating democratic nations. Because nothing will serve better to defeat the terrorists and their sponsors than the continuing, and growing safety and prosperity of our citizens throughout the Euro-Atlantic.

Thank you.

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