Updated: 11-Oct-2001 NATO Speeches

To the NATO Parliamentary Assembly,
9 Oct. 2001


by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me begin by thanking our Canadian hosts for their very generous welcome, and by thanking everyone today for coming. By doing so, you have sent a clear message that the civilised world will not bow to terror. We will not allow men of blood to dictate our agendas, our policies or our lives.

Let me also pay tribute at the outset to the casualties of September 11; to the rescue workers in New York and Washington; and to the service men and women who have already started to take the fight back to Osama Bin Laden and his Taleban backers.

Make no mistake, however. This is not business as usual. The horrific events of September 11 have transformed completely the world in which we all live. Who now sees an airliner passing overhead without flinching? Who lives or works in a tower block without recalling, at least once a day, the terrible images of the World Trade Centre?

How many of our generals and defence ministers are focusing today on the threats and risks that preoccupied them only a month ago? How many foreign, finance and interior ministers are able to concentrate on their traditional agendas? And how many parliamentarians can say that their concerns and those of their constituents have not been fundamentally affected by New York, Washington and Pennsylvania?

It is right for us all to think afresh about the new challenges that we face. But we must not allow ourselves to adopt a victim mentality. It is the responsibility of every NATO government, and of every person in the room, to shape the future, not to be swept along by events.

That is why I welcome the measured, patient response of the United States, and of the international community as a whole. There has been neither knee-jerk retaliation, nor knee-jerk retreat. Indeed, President Bush has put in place a multi-faceted diplomatic, economic and now military campaign that mobilises our collective strengths and those of an extraordinary coalition across the world.

We have not seen such a coalition since the fight against fascism. NATO's members are determined to meet this challenge and to shape our collective future for the better.

NATO is at the heart of this international effort. No one here would expect the Alliance to lead the military action against Bin Laden and the Taleban. But we will be central to the collective response of the international community to terrorism - both now and in the longer term.

For more than 50 years, the Atlantic community has met and surmounted any challenge, no matter how difficult. It is the biggest permanent coalition on this planet. Even as the Alliance adapts to meet this new challenge, it will be guided by the same four principles that have helped to preserve the safety and security of our citizens.

First and foremost: we will stand together. Lester Pearson, a famous Canadian and one of NATO's founding fathers, put it brilliantly in 1949. He wrote that the Atlantic Alliance was based on the principle that "peace and freedom can be secured only if those who love peace and freedom pool their resources and stand together".

That principle was enshrined less elegantly in Article 5 of NATO's Charter: an attack on one Ally shall be considered an attack on them all. Of course, the Charter was written in very different times -- when Europe faced the greatest threat of attack, and relied on North American reinforcement.

But after September 11th, we know that no member of the Alliance is invulnerable. And the response of NATO governments demonstrates that these commitments on which the Alliance has been based for 52 years remain tangible, real and reciprocal. NATO's historic decision to invoke Article 5 of the Washington Treaty underscored categorically the fundamental link between two continents and among 19 nations.

What was important about this step is not only that it happened. It was equally important that it happened so swiftly. For decades, pundits had been arguing about the true meaning and value of Article 5 and whether it had lost its meaning altogether with the end of the Soviet threat.

It took only six hours, on Wednesday, 12 September, for the North Atlantic Council to put an end once and for all to these debates. The Article 5 commitment is alive and well; and it applies to North American soil just as it applies to Europe.

And let me add that the NATO Parliamentary Assembly's statement of support for that decision is very welcome indeed, because it sent a powerful signal that our Parliaments are behind us. This should leave no room for doubts or second-guessing. In the face of the new threat from terrorism, we stand as firmly together as at any time since NATO's inception.

A second principle is equally clear and simple: we are determined to act in defence of our common values.

This broad campaign will need the active engagement of the widest possible coalition, all working towards common goals. National governments, international organisations and non-governmental bodies will all have to focus their attention on combating terrorism. And we will have to use all the tools at our disposal: effective diplomacy, financial measures, intelligence activity, and where necessary, military action.

Four NATO countries - Britain, Canada, France and Germany - are already contributing forces alongside those of the United States. Others are likely to follow. They will benefit from the unique cooperation among NATO's armed forces that underpinned coalition success against Iraq and NATO success in the Balkans.

The United States has also turned to NATO itself. Last week, it asked for a range of specific measures, such as enhanced intelligence support; blanket overflight rights for US and other Allied aircraft; and access to ports and airfields.

Elements of NATO's Standing Naval Forces are also to be deployed to the Eastern Mediterranean. And some US assets in the Balkans will be replaced by European capabilities. Most significant is the move of five NATO AWACS airborne early warning aircraft from their base in Europe across the Atlantic to replace US aircraft now being transferred to Asia. This is NATO's first operational deployment in the United States. The old world coming to support the new, to misquote Winston Churchill.

All of these efforts are directed to the same ends. The terrorists responsible for these atrocities must pay the price of their deeds.

We will not be acting alone. Almost every government in the world is determined to work with the United States to combat this scourge. And NATO is helping to build that coalition. Within hours of the North Atlantic Council's historic decision, the 46 member countries of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council -- from North America, Europe and Central Asia -- issued a statement in which they agreed that these acts were an attack not only on the US, but on our common values.

In the EAPC statement, 46 countries pledged to undertake all efforts needed to combat the scourge of terrorism. And considering that many of these non-NATO countries will be crucial partners in the coming campaign, that is an important commitment indeed.

The speed with which these 46 countries agreed to act together illustrates just how much success we have had in building a new, cooperative security space in Europe over the past decade. This illustrates a third principle: that we must not be deflected from the Alliance's pre-existing agenda.

In 1991, NATO reached out to build new, positive security relations with almost every country in Europe. The basis was Article 2 of NATO's Charter, often called the "Canadian Article". This stated that NATO allies would promote peaceful and friendly international relations, including by promoting conditions of stability and well-being, and by promoting our common principles.

That element of NATO's agenda blossomed with the end of the Cold War -- and today, those new Partners are offering their political support, and in many cases, their military assistance, towards our common goals. Our partnerships are a success, and a real contribution to stability and security. We must continue to enhance them.

Perhaps even more striking is NATO's evolving relationship with Russia. There was already a spectrum of cooperation activities covering difficult but fundamental issues such as theatre missile defence and peacekeeping. NATO and Russian forces cooperate effectively on the ground in Bosnia and Kosovo. In response to 11 September, the Permanent Joint Council of NATO countries and Russia issued as robust a statement as any.
There are still important issues on which we disagree. No one can approve of human rights violations in Chechnya. But we are building better understanding and deeper trust.

My meeting with President Putin last Wednesday in Brussels was an historic milestone. Russia pledged its strong support for the international campaign against terrorism. We discussed an important range of new measures where NATO and Russia should expand their practical cooperation, in the fight against terrorism and more widely. And President Putin made it clear that he increasingly sees NATO not as a threat to Russia, but as a security partner.

The significance of these developments should not be underestimated. In Russian eyes, Article 5 has been the quintessential demonstration of NATO's Cold War orientation. Now we have invoked Article 5 -- but in an entirely different context that Russia can understand. We must build on this momentum.

This is not in any way a coded message that NATO enlargement has suffered collateral damage from the terrorist attacks on the United States. There is no zero sum equation on relations with Russia and enlargement. We will keep NATO's door open to new members.

Indeed, the nine formal applicant countries have been as steadfast as any full member since September 11. They have demonstrated that they share our values and our determination to uphold them, thereby reinforcing the logic of enlargement.

Let me be clear. NATO's summit in Prague in November 2002 will unequivocally move the enlargement process forward. I took this message to a summit of the new democracies working toward NATO membership in Sofia last Friday.

At the same time, however, I made clear that the strong logic of enlargement must be matched by the concrete effort needed to make it viable. Solidarity with the Euro-Atlantic community and shared values are necessary benchmarks, but they are not in themselves sufficient. In the run-up to Prague, aspirant countries must continue to work hard within the Membership Action Plan in order to meet NATO military and political standards before they can join the Alliance.

In Sophia, we also talked about the Balkans. Here too we must also not let ourselves be distracted. Stable, multi-ethnic states are 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". NATO is engaged in the Balkans to prevent such "black holes" from emerging right at our doorstep.

You will know that we are at a critical stage in the peace process in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (1). NATO is closely engaged with the EU and OSCE to ensure that our preventive intervention remains a success story.

Task Force Harvest, in which Canadian soldiers played a vital role, achieved a remarkable success by collecting about 4000 weapons and facilitating disbandment of the so-called NA within 30 days. We have helped to build an environment for peace. Others now have the lead in taking the process forward. But NATO will continue to play its part: Task Force Fox, under German leadership, has a limited mission to contribute to the security of the international monitors.

And I have no doubt that my personal record of engagement -- five visits in the past two months alone -- will continue. But you can share this load. As parliamentarians, you now have a key role to play in convincing your parliamentary colleagues in Skopje to meet their end of the bargain by voting in favour of the constitutional amendments negotiated in the Lake Ohrid accord. Such a vote requires courage. But it is vital to prevent the return to bloodshed and to put the country on the path to European integration.

In Skopje as elsewhere, the events of September 11th will inevitably lead to renewed discussion about the global role of the United States. American isolationists may well use the events to argue their case for a reduction of the United States' world-wide commitments. I am not suggesting that their arguments will carry the day. They won't. But it does not seem unreasonable to expect an even tougher US stance on burden sharing.

America's Allies should not fear this reaction in Washington. After all, it is in all our interests to maximize individual and collective capabilities in today's rapidly changing strategic environment.

For the Europeans, a tougher US approach to burden sharing vindicates the logic of the European Security and Defence Identity. The United States needs capable and effective forces with which to cooperate, or on which to rely in peace support missions where the Alliance as whole is not engaged.

And all allies need to show a new willingness to develop serious crisis management capabilities, with new military hardware -- and therefore, with new money.

Hence, my final principle: very simply, we must continue to invest. The safety and security we have taken for granted for so many years did not come about by accident. In the Cold War, we spent untold billions of dollars to ensure our safety and that of future generations. We must approach the new security challenges with the same vigour, the same commitment, and the same willingness to spend money on the right things.

When I took up my post as Secretary General, I said that I had three priorities: capabilities, capabilities, capabilities. At the Washington Summit, NATO's Heads of State and Government agreed. They directed that the Alliance take steps to make our forces more mobile, more effective in the field, and better able to operate for extended periods.

Nothing I have seen or read since 11 September suggests to me that these priorities are wrong. Indeed, my personal view is that the requirement is now for an even wider spectrum of capabilities delivered with even greater urgency. I am therefore determined to hold all NATO Allies to their commitments.

But keep in mind that to meet today's threats and challenges, the requirement is not only for military capabilities. We also need better intelligence, more deployable civilian police, more effective monitoring of illegal monetary transactions, and more effective ways to stop them. The list goes on and on - and certainly not all should be done in a NATO context. But for any of these essential capacities actually to be developed, they simply must have funding.

Easy to say. Much harder to achieve, as you know better than most. The global economy is in a precarious state, and government budgets are being squeezed everywhere. So let me be clear: I am not suggesting that other vital programs should be abandoned in a knee-jerk reaction to 11 September. If we did so, the terrorists would have won.

But without security, our societies will cease to function. And then the terrorists would certainly have won. We must - you must - therefore ensure that we spend what is needed to preserve that security.

And a significant part of that expenditure must be on effective military capability -- because if we have learned anything over the past few weeks, it is that we must prepare not only for what we can predict, but also for what we cannot.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Edmund Burke once wrote, "All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing." The international community, and the North Atlantic Alliance, have shown in the past month that we have understood and heeded Burke's warning.

We are standing together, in solidarity. We are taking action, together, to punish those who have committed these crimes against humanity, and to root out terrorism wherever it hides. This will be a long haul. We all know that. We will therefore invest wisely in our security. And we will redouble our efforts to build lasting peace and security across the Euro-Atlantic area. Because we know that terrorism cannot thrive in the bright light of democracy and prosperity.

You, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly have an important role to play in these efforts. It is our Parliaments that will approve or endorse military action. It is our Parliamentarians who will explain to our publics what we are doing, and why. And it is your voices that must be heard when budgets are decided, to ensure that all aspects of government spending, including defence budgets, get their proper weight.

This is a role that the NATO Parliamentarians have fulfilled successfully for decades. You will continue to do so in meeting the new challenges before us today. Your help is essential, your voice is crucial.

Thank you.

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

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